Objectivist ethics: Life as the Standard.


Victor Pross

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Daniel:

>I already know where you stand on the is-ought issue, man. Why the lecture? Come on, I wanted answers to the questions. Awww, man.

No, before we go off on any more tangents, I need to know now where you stand on the issue, now the evidence is in. It's Either/Or time.

1) Did Rand solve the problem of logically deriving "ought" from "is"?

Yes or no?

Love of Rand or love of the truth. What's it to be? :)

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Love of Rand or love of the truth. What's it to be? :)

Speaking of love of the truth. :)

Correcting something you wrote in your post #21:

Rand's emotional reluctance to accept our animal heritage accounts for a lot of her abstract rationalising about the way people behave, and her avoidance of empirical science in the study of human beings. (There is a book that I vaguely recall has been written about this subject :) )

This also accounts for her refusal to accept the theory of evolution.

I don't know where you get the "refusal" idea. As best I know, she neither accepted nor rejected the theory of evolution, saying that she didn't know enough about it to do either. I'm aware of two places where she said this. One I think was at the Ford Hall Forum, maybe in a Q&A. It was something about evolutionism versus creationism -- pertaining to the Scopes trial? or to a school case over what was to be on the curriculum? As you can see, I've lost the details. What I recall is her saying that although she didn't know enough about the theory of evolution to have an opinion as to its correctness, the issue in the particular circumstance seemed to be one of a scientific versus religious approach to truth.

The other occasion was in The Ayn Rand Letter, May 21, 1973, in an article which I believe is called "The Anti-Conceptual Mentality." (I'm copying from a Xerox which only gives a section of the article and doesn't include the title.)

She wrote:

[Rand] I am not a student of the theory of evolution and, therefore, I am neither its supporter nor its opponent. But a certain hypothesis has haunted me for years; I want to stress that it is only a hypothesis. There is an enormous breach of continuity between man and all the other living species. The difference lies in the nature of man's consciousness, in its distinctive characteristic: his conceptual faculty. It is as if, after aeons of physiological development, the evolutionary process altered its course, and the higher stages of development focused primarily on the consciousness of living species, not their bodies. But the development of a man's consciousness is volitional: no matter what the innate degree of his intelligence, he must develop it, he must learn how to use it, he must become a human being by choice. What if he does not choose to? Then he becomes a transitional phenomenon - a desperate creature that struggles frantically against his own nature, longing for the effortless "safety" of an animal's consciousness, which he cannot recapture, and rebelling against a human consciousness, which he is afraid to achieve.

For years, scientists have been looking for a "missing link" between man and animals. Perhaps that missing link is the anti-conceptual mentality.

I felt squirmingly embarrassed for her when I read that upon its appearance.

I wonder just what her idea of the theory of evolution was, if she was taught anything about it in her education in Russia. Lamarckism ended up being officially taught in Russia for a time; that was later, but maybe there was a Lamarckian tendency in Russian biology even when she was a student. I don't know.

Ellen

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I find it rather surprising that Rand was undecided about the validity of evolution as a theory. Since she obviously didn't believe in a creation event, exactly what alternative to evolution as an explanation for the existence of advanced life could there be?

Martin

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Hey Ellen

>I don't know where you get the "refusal" idea. As best I know, she neither accepted nor rejected the theory of evolution..

Well while she did not reject it, she certainly did not accept it either at any rate. :) I don't think I'm too far off the mark there.

>Rand"For years, scientists have been looking for a "missing link" between man and animals. Perhaps that missing link is the anti-conceptual mentality."

>I felt squirmingly embarrassed for her when I read that upon its appearance.

Yes. It's a shame. There are lots of more interesting theories suggested for the differences between us and other primates. The evolution of language, and its interactive role in shaping human evolution is one her theories might have had a chance of intersecting with. But she was perhaps too hung up on the ideal man thing to accept the close parallels with other primates.

Popper is interesting on this front. He has a mutlfaceted discussion of the evolution of language, and its importance as an evolutionary advantage ot humans.

Very briefly, he bases his thinking on his tutor, Karl Buhler's theory of language, which has 3 levels.

1. Expressive function (ouch!)

2. Signalling function (danger!)

3. Descriptive function (there is pollen in the field a mile away. go left, then right, then left again)

to which Popper tacked on

4. The argumentative function.

Most animals have 1-3

Humans (and maybe bees) have 3

Only humans have 4.

With 3 and 4 as well as much better communication, problems of truth and falsity strongly emerge. Thus humans can develop theories and test them in abstract. Animals, however, have to evolve new approaches to survive with their own bodies. Through debate humans can have theories live or die instead.

The idea is that with this evolutionary survival advantage of this extra language level, humans could develop far more quickly than animals.

>I wonder just what her idea of the theory of evolution was, if she was taught anything about it in her education in Russia. Lamarckism ended up being officially taught in Russia for a time; that was later, but maybe there was a Lamarckian tendency in Russian biology even when she was a student. I don't know.

I would be curious. It is a Chris Sciabarra-type question, I suppose.

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Martin:

>I find it rather surprising that Rand was undecided about the validity of evolution as a theory. Since she obviously didn't believe in a creation event, exactly what alternative to evolution as an explanation for the existence of advanced life could there be?

Yes, she painted herself into a corner somewhat with that. Her heroes are to all intents and purposes sui generis.

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I find it rather surprising that Rand was undecided about the validity of evolution as a theory. Since she obviously didn't believe in a creation event, exactly what alternative to evolution as an explanation for the existence of advanced life could there be?

Martin

For one thing, she obviously didn't know much about what the theory is. For another, are the only possible alternatives "a creation event" or "evolution"? And what form of evolution? Lamarckism is an evolutionary theory, but I doubt that you'd consider Lamarckism true. I don't know how much she even knew about theories of the development of earth. Where did Aristotle think species came from? Didn't he have the idea of their just appearing (somehow)? I think you're asking the question from a framework of current scientific thought wherein evolution (specifically of the Darwinian type) is so accepted as to seem "of course," and thus no other alternative occurs to you. But Rand wasn't educated in a modern science framework. It's clear that she thought that there was a radical gap between man and other animals. But she seems to have been quite vague on any details of from where and how humans appeared. She seems from everything I could ever tell not even to have been especially interested in the question of human origins. I felt unable to "vibe into" her wave length since I grew up already studying Darwin when I was in mid-grade school.

Ellen

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Daniel:

>I already know where you stand on the is-ought issue, man. Why the lecture? Come on, I wanted answers to the questions. Awww, man.

No, before we go off on any more tangents, I need to know now where you stand on the issue, now the evidence is in. It's Either/Or time.

1) Did Rand solve the problem of logically deriving "ought" from "is"?

Yes or no?

Love of Rand or love of the truth. What's it to be? :)

Daniel,

Yes, I do. This is what we have been debating---remember? That’s what has been happening here. You took one side of this issue ... and I took the other. (Incredulous good natured sarcasm here) But I do say this: I don’t think Rand set out to “disprove” Hume’s causality fallaciousness. The whole idea (and the skepticism package) is not something she figured needed special attention. The onus was not here, but rather on Hume. It was his assertion. Now then, I think I am on to something...if you would answer my questions with full philosophic sincerity. ;]

-Victor

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Victor:

>Yes, I do. This is what we have been debating---remember? That’s what has been happening here. You took one side of this issue ... and I took the other.

And you still hold to your belief, even though you have exactly zero sound logic to support it, and despite the fact that all evidence to date indicates the very opposite of your position?

Oh well, at this point it's probably best to wish you well and agree to disagree.

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Victor:

>Yes, I do. This is what we have been debating---remember? That’s what has been happening here. You took one side of this issue ... and I took the other.

And you still hold to your belief, even though you have exactly zero sound logic to support it, and despite the fact that all evidence to date indicates the very opposite of your position?

Oh well, at this point it's probably best to wish you well and agree to disagree.

Daniel, come on now. We are getting somewhere.

Okay, the questions:

I was wondering if you think that determinism (in human beings) is logically entailed by the law of causality?

And, without wishing to speculate, could you summarize your views on causality? Is it that of Hume’s?

And if so, does this (at least in part) fuel the issue of the is-ought issue of where you stand on it? (This last question is key to me).

Victor

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Victor:

>Daniel, come on now. We are getting somewhere.

I fear I do not share your optimism.

>I was wondering if you think that determinism (in human beings) is logically entailed by the law of causality?

I am not a strict determinist.

>And, without wishing to speculate, could you summarize your views on causality? Is it that of Hume’s?

In brief, it is effectively the problem of induction in other words. Because if we say such-and-such "causes" such-and-such, this is postulating a theory. But we have no way of knowing if this theory is finally true (although it may be)

>And if so, does this (at least in part) fuel the issue of the is-ought issue of where you stand on it? (This last question is key to me).

No AFAICS.

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Now do you gentlemen see the necessity of understanding what each means by terms like "logic" and "knowledge"?

You have gotten to the point of saying:

Victor: Yes I did.

Daniel: No you didn't.

Victor: Yes I did.

Daniel: No you didn't.

Victor: Yes I did.

Daniel: No you didn't.

This is one indication that this issue is deeper. This Mexican standoff is a bog honking "IS." Can we derive an "ought" from it?

The only way I see is to put the bog honking "IF" in the equation. For instance:

If you two really want to continue a rational discussion, you ought to define you terms.

If you want true understanding of the other person's view, you ought to take his definitions into account.

If you want to preach, you ought to try to humiliate the other with rhetoric and mocking.

I could go on. This ultimately boils down to what the person wants out of his own life and the "IF" still remains. For example:

If a person wants value his life to the maximum, he ought to maximize his knowledge.

If a person is satisfied with his life as it is, he ought to seek knowledge that provides serenity and avoid knowledge that creates doubts.

How about some definitions? For instance, Daniel has already stated that logic does not entail induction.

As an aside to Daniel, how does one logically account for (deduce) the existence and perception of an entity? I consider entity perception and identification as one of the fundamental bases of knowledge and logic.

Michael

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Michael

>Now do you gentlemen see the necessity of understanding what each means by terms like "logic" and "knowledge"?

No it does not fall into a "he said/she said" situation. Logic does not work like that! 2+2=4 is not a matter of opinion.

By standard logic, Victor is certainly wrong, Rand is almost certainly wrong (no-one has even been able to produce even a verbatim argument of hers!) and Hume is right.

>This is one indication that this issue is deeper.

No it is an indication that one of us is wrong, and simply won't accept it. A regrettable, but far from uncommon occurence.

>If you two really want to continue a rational discussion, you ought to define you terms.

There is only one valid logic! Deductive, classical, bi-valent common or garden logic. That's what I'm using. That's what we're talking about! It's not a matter of terminology. If someone wants to argue that 2+2=5, or 3.752, or that their arguments use "other reasoning methods" than mathematics, but are still mathematically valid, then, to borrow a line from Rand, I say goodbye!

Victor is currently arguing that 2+2=7,577.0387. So I figure it's "goodbye!" time :)

>If you want true understanding of the other person's view, you ought to take his definitions into account.

See above. People just don't get to have their own "defintions" of deductive logic, I'm sorry. You either use or you don't.

>As an aside to Daniel,l, how does one logically account for (deduce) the existence and perception of an entity? I consider entity perception and identification as one of the fundamental bases of knowledge and logic.

I'm not following this line of questioning.

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Daniel,

Let's have a little fun with this. So many protests and denial all of a sudden! Presented as absolutes, too! That's sooooooo not like you. Not even a question like "Whadya mean, McBean?"

Ah, me! Where to start? Where to start? Let's start here:

Logic does not work like that! 2+2=4 is not a matter of opinion.

There is a post I made once here on OL, but I cannot find it (it might have been destroyed in the hacker attack we had last year), so I will simply repeat what happened. A discussion started getting underway about logic, reductionism, infinity (if I remember correctly) and a few other issues. Then in the middle of all this, I got in one of my quirky moods and posted something like the following:

"Come on. Everyone knows there are cases where 1+1=3."

After receiving the traditional "ridiculous," etc., I was challenged to provide one case where this was true. I replied:

"Sex."

Paul Mawdsley replied that he burst out laughing with that and that I made his day. I mention this because this kind of thinking has bearing on what logic means to many Objectivists. And this is where you and Victor are not communicating.

By standard logic, Victor is certainly wrong, Rand is almost certainly wrong (no-one has even been able to produce even a verbatim argument of hers!) and Hume is right.

. . .

There is only one valid logic! Deductive, classical, bi-valent common or garden logic.

Standard logic? Deductive logic only? You mean something like John Stuart Mill's inductive logic? Or do you mean Aristotelean logic? Or later derivations?

Let's look at Aristotle since this provides some semblance of a a common ground between Objectivism and other systems. For easy reference, here is an article called Aristotle's Logic provided by the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (Actually, I find this site to be a pretty good source for my level of knowledge and time.) Let's see if logic is only deductive. Here is a quote from the article:

All Aristotle's logic revolves around one notion: the deduction (sullogismos). A thorough explanation of what a deduction is, and what they are composed of, will necessarily lead us through the whole of his theory. What, then, is a deduction? Aristotle says:

A deduction is speech (
logos
) in which, certain things having been supposed, something different from those supposed results of necessity because of their being so. (
Prior Analytics
I.2, 24b18-20)

Each of the "things supposed" is a premise (protasis) of the argument, and what "results of necessity" is the conclusion (sumperasma).

Well, that's that. Aristotelean logic is deductive logic. Period

There is no sense in arguing about it. Everyone is forced to agree on this point because it is that way by Aristotle's own definition. (Aside to Victor: Please take note of this. This is really, really important when discussing logic with someone philosophically knowledgeable outside of Objectivism.)

But there is a little devil in these details, and it applies directly to Hume's problem and to the "man qua man" thingie that is driving this thread (going on the premise that it is OK to apply Aristotelean logic for both sides). The devilish little detail is the phrase "things supposed" or "premise." You see, deductive logic starts from a position of prior knowledge.

Always.

By definition.

Deductive logic is not fit for direct observation and the cognitive processing of that. It is only fit to test and/or manipulate the epistemological result such direct observation and cognitive processing.

There is another thing. Deductive logic needs at least two premises ("things supposed") in order to operate correctly.

So with Hume's problem of deriving "ought" from "is," but excluding the reality of the agent, you are committing two errors within the methodology of deductive logic alone:

1. You are supposing prior knowledge ("premise," "thing supposed") of only on half of the problem. To be clear, there can be no "ought" without an "oughter." (Erggggh!!! What a horrible word! I don't believe I just wrote that!) This means that there are always two "is's" to consider before even considering an "ought": (1) what is traditionally referred to by "is" (and that could mean man himself), and (2) the "is" of the agent who will act on the "ought." You cannot ignore that and claim logical validity. An act always need an actor. A want always needs a wanter. (Erggggh! Dayaamm! Another one!) Even a moral command always needs someone (or something) who issues it. So the first error, deductive logic-wise, is that the content of one of the premises is missing.

2. The second error is even more methodological. If the content of a premise is missing, the premise is actually missing for all effects but semantics. This means that a fundamental part of the syllogism is missing. You only have one premise and you need at least two for deduction to take place.

I believe these are the reasons for Rand's dismissal of the problem (although I doubt she would have used the language I just did). The problem in itself does not stand logic-wise as a valid problem to be included in an operation of deduction. To borrow from a novelist I like, Trevanian, it is nigh impossible to enter an ass-kicking contest if you are a one-legged man.

So this leads to where the prior knowledge (something deduction needs in order to exist) comes from. Obviously this is observation and identification. I know that Popper denies that induction even exists, but somehow for him observation and identification do exist, otherwise there is no way to verify falsifiability. ("Verify falsifiability"? LOL. Now there a phrase for you. But that's what it is.)

It doesn't matter what you call it, though, the fact is that observing something and making a mental category for it is one of our basic mental processes. Later this might be done deductively, but not with first concepts. Let's go back to our article on Aristotle and see what it says about induction.

Deductions are one of two species of argument recognized by Aristotle. The other species is induction (epagôgê). He has far less to say about this than deduction, doing little more than characterize it as "argument from the particular to the universal". However, induction (or something very much like it) plays a crucial role in the theory of scientific knowledge in the Posterior Analytics: it is induction, or at any rate a cognitive process that moves from particulars to their generalizations, that is the basis of knowledge of the indemonstrable first principles of sciences.

Now here we come to the crux of the issue with Objectivism. Objectivism includes axiomatic concepts as the conceptual base for all deductive logic. But the only way to arrive at an axiomatic concept is through induction. Logic in Objectivist thought is a system of deduction predicated on induction. Logic includes both both types of reasoning: one species (induction) coming before the other species (deduction).

You cannot deduce a primary fact because one of the premises will be missing, and that means it will no longer be deduction. You can only observe a primary fact and make a mental note of it. Later, you can test the validity of that observation with deduction, but you cannot deduce the original concept. You can only create it. That's what induction is all about.

There is a danger in this, though. Since we are all different people with different perspectives and contexts and even have varying quality in our equipment for observing things, what makes one person's observation valid and another person's observation invalid? For example, one person observes God (so to speak) and another does not. Or one person is near-sighted and the other has perfect vision, so one sees a blob and another sees a distant tree. By the nature of induction, both could be valid. And here is where I think Rand's genius came in. She wedded induction to deduction so there was a standard to make it valid for all. I don't know if the following observation is unique to her (since my knowledge of the history of philosophy is limited), but she certainly touted it enough.

The main characteristic of an axiomatic concept is that it must be used as one of the premises in its own refutation, thus entailing a contradiction. You have to exist in order to prove non-existence, etc. I am sure you know the arguments, so I will not simply regurgitate her examples.

Rand essentially took Hume's problem one level further. You not only cannot deduce an "ought" from a single "is" because one of the premises is missing, you cannot deduce the "is" itself! The implication is that deduction cannot be placed before reality. It must follow reality, i.e., it must be based on reality. There can be no "prior knowledge" without knowledge in the first place. (How's that last comment for a tautology? It seems that I am developing some heavy-duty tautological chops. :) )

All knowledge comes from awareness. This means identification. This means differentiation and integration. There is no way to deduce these mental operations. You need them before you can deduce anything at all.

Now, I know Victor has not developed his thinking in these words, but basically, as an Objectivist, when he says logic, he is including induction as the method of obtaining primary knowledge. From what I know of the "logic as deduction only" position, the issue of primary knowledge is not dealt with, except to call it an hypothesis or something like that.

The point is that when you both use the term "logic," there is this fundamental difference that leads you to talk past each other. Both agree that the deductive logic part is included, but the Objectivist view adds something to it. It includes induction as a starting point, a premise of deduction so to speak, whereas your definition does not.

So when you said, "people just don't get to have their own 'definitions' of deductive logic," it is clear that no one is trying to redefine "deductive logic." Both are using it. The issue is whether deductive logic is all there is to logic.

Victor is currently arguing that 2+2=7,577.0387.

There is more truth to this than you might imagine. And this brings me to your perplexity, where you quoted me.

>As an aside to Daniel, how does one logically account for (deduce) the existence and perception of an entity? I consider entity perception and identification as one of the fundamental bases of knowledge and logic.

I'm not following this line of questioning.

As this post is getting really long, let me be brief. The issue can be best stated as "the whole is more than the sum of its parts." Here we get into the nature of entities. The start of induction could be said to be the initial categorizing of entities based on observation and identification. This categorizing is what is usually called the "universal principle" that induction arrives at.

The thing about entities is that they are made up of parts. This being the case, an entity can be used with other entities to make an new one. Or an entity can be dismantled into its own parts and each of those parts becomes a separate entity. Entities are metaphysical facts and they are represented by epistemological constructs to identify and process the knowledge of them.

Regardless of whether we say that entities emerge from the subatomic level or that they are top-down existents that bring together subatomic particles, or they are both operating jointly (which is my position), the fact is that a single "thing" made up of parts is what exists. It is not just a collection of subatomic particles. It is a unique existent with a particular identity and set of attributes. These aspects (being a unique integrated collection of parts, having a particular identity and a set of attributes) are the added numbers in the equation: 2+2=7,577.0387. (I am being metaphorical, obviously.)

But try to bear with me to see this line of reasoning. You can never arrive at 7,573.0387 from 2+2 only. You have to look and see it. Only then can you factor it in. So when you look at the parts only, you see that 2+2=4 and that never changes. But when you see the entity created from those parts, you see there is a whole lot more involved. And then, when that entity is a living being, its very metaphysical condition changes. It is no longer permanent and unconditional. It is temporary and even that part can be cut short by specific conditions. Now add self awareness and volition on top of that.

The 7,573.0387 corresponding to all this is observed and identified, not deduced.

Yet the system of deductive reasoning allows for 2+2=4 only. So in order to align your observations with this kind of reasoning, you get 2+2=7,577.0387.

And that sucks. Something has to give.

I know the metaphor was a bit sloppy, but can you see the reasoning behind all this? If so, then you will understand my question, "how does one logically account for (deduce) the existence and perception of an entity?" The answer is that you can't. You have to observe and identify that part. Only then are you able to deduce anything at all about the entity.

Michael

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Yes, she painted herself into a corner somewhat with that. Her heroes are to all intents and purposes sui generis.

Sui generis? No, no, I wouldn’t go that far. Having studied ancient Greek philosophy, I can see Rand exemplified in her characters—especially Roark—many of the Greek identifications of “personality types” (for want of a better word) and espoused traits, such as “virtue” and “the good” But they were real life observations for the Greeks, not sui generis. [You know, on the side here, many people take my art to be sui generis, but I am fast to inform them that I draw upon the world]. :turned:

For other examples about Rand’s characters: we see in Roark many attributes of the “cynic”—although I hesitate to say this because the word has taken on a much different connotation, a sour one, but if you know your Greek philosophy…then you should know what I mean. But I’m glad to say that when it came to Roark’s work, he is the perfect embodiment of Euphoria, joy and exuberance. The Greeks touched on that a lot.

Anyway, these are a few detoured points to your post.

-Victor

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Michael, that was a kick-ass post, for the most part (if you'll pardon the expression :) )

So this leads to where the prior knowledge (something deduction needs in order to exist) comes from. Obviously this is observation and identification. I know that Popper denies that induction even exists, but somehow for him observation and identification do exist, otherwise there is no way to verify falsifiability. ("Verify falsifiability"? LOL. Now there a phrase for you. But that's what it is.)

It doesn't matter what you call it, though, the fact is that observing something and making a mental category for it is one of our basic mental processes. Later this might be done deductively, but not with first concepts. Let's go back to our article on Aristotle and see what it says about induction.

...

The main characteristic of an axiomatic concept is that it must be used as one of the premises in its own refutation, thus entailing a contradiction. You have to exist in order to prove non-existence, etc. I am sure you know the arguments, so I will not simply regurgitate her examples.

Rand essentially took Hume's problem one level further. You not only cannot deduce an "ought" from a single "is" because one of the premises is missing, you cannot deduce the "is" itself! The implication is that deduction cannot be placed before reality. It must follow reality, i.e., it must be based on reality. There can be no "prior knowledge" without knowledge in the first place. (How's that last comment for a tautology? It seems that I am developing some heavy-duty tautological chops. :) )

All knowledge comes from awareness. This means identification. This means differentiation and integration. There is no way to deduce these mental operations. You need them before you can deduce anything at all.

Remember the idea of the Stolen Concept? It seems Popper, and Daniel, are stealing the very concept of "concept"!

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Michael:

>"Come on. Everyone knows there are cases where 1+1=3."

After receiving the traditional "ridiculous," etc., I was challenged to provide one case where this was true. I replied:"Sex."

But this is a perfectly reasonable objection, at least prima facie, and one made by Popper himself against deductive logic,you willl be happy to know. Another one is putting 5 drops of water in a test tube, which makes 1+1+1+1+1=1!

But these do not in themselves invalidate logic. (arguments are required as well as examples) They only demonstrate that even logic itself - at least in the mathematical sense - is open to question and challenge.

But this is all quite beside the point.

Deductive logic is the rules for making valid inferences between statements. It's like the rules of a game, though obviously far more important, and like other human rule-bound games it has been subject to millenia of refinement to the point where, while not perfect, it's still damn useful. Now, using the game analogy, Hume is playing chess. Hume's problem is a chess problem. I have been talking about chess. The "other philosophers" Rand mentions are talking about chess. Now chess is not an "absolute." But I fail to see a. how Victor's solution succeeds as chess or b. why it would be any better if, as you suggest below, he is actually playing Scrabble! :)

>Well, that's that. Aristotelean logic is deductive logic. Period. There is no sense in arguing about it. Everyone is forced to agree on this point because it is that way by Aristotle's own definition. (Aside to Victor: Please take note of this. This is really, really important when discussing logic with someone philosophically knowledgeable outside of Objectivism.)But there is a little devil in these details, and it applies directly to Hume's problem and to the "man qua man" thingie that is driving this thread (going on the premise that it is OK to apply Aristotelean logic for both sides). The devilish little detail is the phrase "things supposed" or "premise." You see, deductive logic starts from a position of prior knowledge.

Yes, that is why even logic is not an absolute. But we have to agree we are playing chess, not Scrabble! And if we are playing chess, we have to play by the rules.

>There is another thing. Deductive logic needs at least two premises ("things supposed") in order to operate correctly....So with Hume's problem of deriving "ought" from "is," but excluding the reality of the agent, you are committing two errors within the methodology of deductive logic alone:

Not necessarily. You can introduce as many factual premises as you like. But at any rate, all you are saying here is that you can't logically derive an "ought" from an "is"!

I agree! Hume agrees! Victor doesn't! Rand doesn't! It seems apparent from her claim(ie from the fact that man is determines what he ought to do) she thinks she's solved it. She doesn't merely "dismiss" it as unsolveable.

>The point is that when you both use the term "logic," there is this fundamental difference that leads you to talk past each other. Both agree that the deductive logic part is included, but the Objectivist view adds something to it. It includes induction as a starting point, a premise of deduction so to speak, whereas your definition does not.

Look,we are not talking past each other. We are trying to solve a famous chess problem, if you like, and what is the point of considering an argument which so vague it might quite possibly be talking about Scrabble?(it is clearly incorrect as chess!) Plus, making an observation is not "induction". Let's get clear on that. Induction is a separate theory of truth from deduction. Induction is the attempt to predict the future based on past occurences.

And the problem is exactly that you can't have both! Induction is deductively false. The two methods clash. You can't just wave your hand and say it's magically "included". It's actually an either/or.

This is problem of induction: that you can't have your cake and eat it too!

>Yet the system of deductive reasoning allows for 2+2=4 only. So in order to align your observations with this kind of reasoning, you get 2+2=7,577.0387. And that sucks. Something has to give.

All that is required is not for logic to be some perfect method of knowing reality - it is not - but for people who want to use logic to, by the same token, have the strength to accept its conclusions, even when they conflict with their most dearly held beliefs.

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Daniel,

The idea that we cannot derive “is” from an “ought” is a self-contradictory philosophical fiction. In fact, all of us make is-ought derivations every day in the normal course of our lives.

Such derivations are inescapable and examples are innumerable. Every time you act from a volitional choice---you have expressed (at least implicitly) the conclusion, "I ought to take this action." And that the normative conclusion is always based on your observations of what you ARE, and of what the conditions of your environment ARE.

The fact that what reality IS determines how one OUGHT to deal with it—and this seems so simple to grasp. Any assertion to the contrary implies that reality is not objective but necessarily subjective in its fundamental nature. The only people who can take such nonsense seriously are those who believe that philosophy is merely a word game, having no practical application to real life.

The fact that “action results from identity” is universally accepted and used in the fields of physics, chemistry, and the other realms of science. Do you disagree?

The fact that a human being IS a being of volitional consciousness is the direct source of all normative behavior; moral instruction is necessary because human beings do not live by instinct as animals do. Our consciousness is not hardwired to know automatically and infallibly what is good for us and what is bad for us. Yet in order to survive we MUST choose between these things. This is the fact of human nature that makes morality possible---and the reason we need the science of morality. The attempt to split "ought" from "is"--the attempt to sever normative propositions from cognitive propositions--is merely a cheap shot to separate morality from the real world.

-Victor

ps

David Hume, in intellectual loon mode, had contended that neither inductive nor deductive reasoning can supply men with real, certain, and necessary knowledge. He asserted that he has never seen “causality” nor experienced “self” or “consciousness.” According to Hume, men merely experience a fleeting flow of sensations and feelings. He also argues that the apparent existence of something did not guarantee that it would be there an instant later. Hume thus surmised that consciousness was limited to the perceptual level of awareness. Very good--not!

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Plus, making an observation is not "induction". Let's get clear on that. Induction is a separate theory of truth from deduction. Induction is the attempt to predict the future based on past occurences.

We disagree on limiting induction to this one meaning (and there is oodles of literature on this proving my case). Induction is making the initial category, the initial concept. Not just predicting the future.

In your chess example, I think that the analogy with Scrabble is not so good. It comes off better by saying that Hume's problem is trying to play chess with only the pieces of one side. There can't be a game that way, although the rules of the game can stay the same.

Michael

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I find it rather surprising that Rand was undecided about the validity of evolution as a theory. Since she obviously didn't believe in a creation event, exactly what alternative to evolution as an explanation for the existence of advanced life could there be?

Martin

For one thing, she obviously didn't know much about what the theory is. For another, are the only possible alternatives "a creation event" or "evolution"? And what form of evolution? Lamarckism is an evolutionary theory, but I doubt that you'd consider Lamarckism true. I don't know how much she even knew about theories of the development of earth. Where did Aristotle think species came from? Didn't he have the idea of their just appearing (somehow)? I think you're asking the question from a framework of current scientific thought wherein evolution (specifically of the Darwinian type) is so accepted as to seem "of course," and thus no other alternative occurs to you. But Rand wasn't educated in a modern science framework. It's clear that she thought that there was a radical gap between man and other animals. But she seems to have been quite vague on any details of from where and how humans appeared. She seems from everything I could ever tell not even to have been especially interested in the question of human origins. I felt unable to "vibe into" her wave length since I grew up already studying Darwin when I was in mid-grade school.

Ellen

___

I hadn't considered the "just appearing (somehow)" alternative that you mention, because when does this ever happen in reality? Complex entities do not just pop into existence out of nowhere. But perhaps in a pre-scientific age, this was considered a possible explanation. I have no idea what Aristotle's beliefs were pertaining to the origin of species. Perhaps he did think that they just appeared spontaneously, somehow. I can think of four possible explanations for the origin of species that might have occurred to someone living in the epoch of Aristotle, only one of which is plausible given our present scientific knowledge:

1) All species of life have always existed

2) All species of life were created at once by a creator

3) All species of life just appeared sponteneously

4) All species of life evolved through a series of steps from simpler life forms

Of course, one may believe in evolution without necessarily understanding the mechanism of evolution or agreeing that a particular mechanism is the correct explanation. As you said, Lamarckism was a proposed evolutionary mechanism that was subsequently displaced by Darwinian evolution. But even if Rand was unsure of Darwinian evolution as a mechanism, due to the fact that she never really studied it, how could she be unsure of the validity of any kind of evolution as an explanation for the origin of species? Alternatives 1-3 are not really plausible to anyone who doesn't believe in magic or religion.

Martin

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Victor:

>The idea that we cannot derive “is” from an “ought” is a self-contradictory philosophical fiction. In fact, all of us make is-ought derivations every day in the normal course of our lives....David Hume, in intellectual loon mode, had contended that neither inductive nor deductive reasoning can supply men with real, certain, and necessary knowledge.

Victor, look: don't you be giving us lectures on Hume and logic. You are the man who had never even heard of the modus tollens till last week! Please.

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Michael:

>We disagree on limiting induction to this one meaning (and there is oodles of literature on this proving my case). Induction is making the initial category, the initial concept. Not just predicting the future.

Michael, what everyone usually means by "induction" in the philosophical sense is here.

1. generalizing about the properties of a class of objects based on some number of observations of particular instances of that class of objects (for example, "All swans we have seen are white, and therefore all swans are white", Hume's Problem of Induction, 18th century, before the discovery of Cygnus atratus in Australia); or

2. presupposing that a sequence of events in the future will occur as it always has in the past (for example, the attractive force described by Isaac Newton's law of universal gravitation, or Albert Einstein's revision in general relativity).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Problem_of_induction

Now, you can use whatever meaning for the word you like. You can have it refer to a particular way of boiling crayfish if you want. I don't mind. But if you are going to use it to mean this:

"Induction is making the initial category, the initial concept."

...then there is no problem!

>In your chess example, I think that the analogy with Scrabble is not so good. It comes off better by saying that Hume's problem is trying to play chess with only the pieces of one side. There can't be a game that way, although the rules of the game can stay the same.

Well, whatever, you still don't get "ought" from "is" though do you?

Anyway, it's been fun. :) Thanks for letting me crash your party. I'm off for a few more weeks overseas. I'll stay in touch from time to time. I'll be back at my own blog in about a month, so feel free to drop by some time. Thanks everyone else for participating in the discussion, hope you got something out of it even if it just strengthened your existing opinions! Debate is always productive even when nothing is finally resolved.

regards

Daniel

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Martin,

I don't know what Rand thought about issues of biology and evolution, beyond what I've cited. I've never been able to make sense of her supposed "biological" basis, from the first time I read Atlas Shrugged, in early June 1961, when I was 18 1/2, since I was so well familiar with Darwinism by then, she seemed to me outmoded.

Re Aristotle himself, though, it is well to keep in mind how different our current scientific picture of the world is from anything a person of his time would have imagined. Even Newton I think would more accurately be described -- and I've seen him thus described -- as "the last alchemist." (He was steeped in alchemy and wrote a major text on the subject.) It's hard, today, to understand the mental frame from which pre-17th-century thinkers asked questions

That's the best I can do, in a quick post, on the issues you raise, and (1) I'm desirous for other reasons -- see the "Inconvenient Truth..." thread -- of departing the precincts; plus (2) there's a personal emergency occupying my attention -- impending death of a close family member, now days ahead. So please understand if I don't respond to further reflections on the, to me definitely puzzling, subject of AR vis-a-vis evolutionary thought.

Ellen

PS: Daniel, I've certainly been interested by your posts. Bon voyage on your current travels.

___

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The fact that what reality IS determines how one OUGHT to deal with it—and this seems so simple to grasp.

Then why aren't you getting it? The problem is not that there's no connection between the two. The problem is that you CANNOT proceed from an IS to an OUGHT without an overt or implied OUGHT as part of the chain of reasoning. The smuggled OUGHT is always open to question because it is NOT an IS.

"and this seems so simple to grasp."

Yes, yes it does.

Bob

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I don't know what Rand thought about issues of biology and evolution, beyond what I've cited. I've never been able to make sense of her supposed "biological" basis, from the first time I read Atlas Shrugged, in early June 1961, when I was 18 1/2, since I was so well familiar with Darwinism by then, she seemed to me outmoded.

I've also found Rand's attitude with regard to evolution puzzling, it's as if she was uncomfortable with the idea. I think that her outlook was in essence religious, only did she replace the supernatural God by "Man", and she probably preferred to think that the existence of man was just a metaphysical given, some primary fact not to be probed deeper. One of her arguments against a God was the fact that the concept of God is insulting and degrading to man, it implies that the highest possible is not to be reached by man, that he is an inferior being who can only worship an ideal he will never achieve. This is of course not a rational argument, it is a religious argument, even if her god is not a supernatural being, but "man". On the other hand she must somehow have realized that explicit rejection of evolution would make her look bad as a proponent of rational thinking, which might explain her wishy-washy attitude with regard to evolution.

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