Examples of the 'Stolen Concept'.


Victor Pross

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The 'Stolen Concept'

Here’s an intellectual exercise to hone some brain cells: Give your example of a “stolen Concept.” Why is it important to know what a “stolen concept” is? This is a question I would like to answer, and maybe you have your own answer...

As a reminder: The ‘stolen concept’ fallacy is the canard of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends.*(1) The “stolen concept” is easy enough to understand.**(2.1) Let’s concretize this concept.

As Rand said: “You cannot prove that you exist or that you’re conscious, they chatter, blanking out the fact proof presupposes existence---and the concepts ‘proof’ and ‘existence’ only makes sense if one is conscious”

Note from MSK: The two parts of the above quote by Rand do not belong together. The first part was written by Rand in Galt's speech in Atlas Shrugged. The second part starting with "and the concepts..." were not written by Rand, but falsely attributed to her.

Above, Rand is citing an example of a stolen concept, and she asked a good question: When a universal sceptic blabbers on--is his conversation being conducted from non-existence? One must logically exist to even discuss (or disagree) with this intellectual larceny artist---and must also, incidentally, be conscious to realize that this creature is perpetrating the stolen concept fallacy.

Imagine a so-called intellectual stating that one cannot evaluate ideas. “There is no right or wrong, good or bad,” he declares.**(2.2) “I don’t think it’s appropriate to tell people what’s right or wrong.” His position amounts to this: “It’s wrong to believe in wrong and right.” And who are you, he huffs, to judge what is good or bad? The culprit “stole” and is using the same concepts he seeks to discredit, namely, the concepts “right” and “wrong.” **(2.3)

Try this one on for size: “Since reason is fallible,” some people assert, “man can’t be certain of anything,” Your response: “How then are you so certain of reason’s fallibility?” Detecting a mistake stems from grasping a truth. One doesn’t need infallibility in order to possess certainty. The alternative to omniscience is not scepticism.**(2.4)

One more elaborate example: God Exists. How does 'God'....'exist'? The whole concept of “god”---as an article of faith---is a floating abstraction. “God” as traditionally defined--as a supernatural being--is a systematic contradiction of a primacy of existence orientation***(3)---and yet, it is declared, God exists! But existence is a self-sufficient primary. It is not a product a supernatural realm. There is nothing antecedent to existence, noting apart from it---and no alternative to it.****(4) And yet the use of the word “exists” is being stolen to attribute it to “god”---a being that openly contradicts the very concept of existence. It is “stealing” the word “exists” while denying the validity of its genetic roots: perception.

***

Now, why is it important to know what a “stolen concept” is?

Particularly since Kant, it as been said, the philosophical technique of concept stealing--of attempting to negate reason by means of reason--has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin.****(5) Why is it important to know what a “stolen concept” is? Stolen concepts are, I think, perpetrated by people who are either irrational, intellectually dishonest---or, less drastically, possess an unidentified contradiction in their thinking.

As you evaluate the validity of people’s assertions, remember that ideas matter. Bad ideas undercut life and the efficiency of one’s intellectual capabilities to deal with life. Good ideas promote life and self-esteem. That’s why adopting a rational, demonstrable, non-contradictory, comprehensive, integrated set of ideas---that is, a philosophy based on reason---is an urgent necessity for anyone concerned with the pursuit of happiness and the business of living.**(2.5)

What are your examples of the stolen concept in action?

-

NOTE FROM ADMINISTRATOR:

Plagiary first identified here.

* Plagiarized from Footnote by Leonard Peikoff to "Philosophical Detection" by Ayn Rand in Philosophy: Who Needs It (p. 22). The original passage reads as follows:

(1)

The "stolen concept" fallacy, first identified by Ayn Rand, is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends.

** Plagiarized from How to Catch a Concept Thief by Wayne Dunn. The original passages read as follows:

(2.1)

The stolen concept fallacy is easy to understand.

(2.2)

Imagine one of your professors or fellow students disagrees with the premise of this article-- that ideas need evaluation. "There is no right or wrong, good or bad," he insists, "everything is relative."

(2.3)

The culprit "stole" and is using the same concepts he seeks to discredit, namely, the concepts "right" and "wrong."

(2.4)

Try this one: "Since reason is fallible, man can't be certain of anything?" Your response: "How then are you so
certain
of reason's fallibility?" Detecting a mistake stems from grasping a truth. One doesn't need infallibility in order to possess certainty. The alternative to omniscience is not skepticism.

(2.5)

As you evaluate the validity of people's assertions, remember that ideas matter. Bad ideas undercut life; good ideas promote life. That's why adopting a rationally demonstrable, non-contradictory, comprehensive, integrated set of ideas --i.e., a philosophy based on reason -- is an urgent necessity for anyone concerned with living.

*** Plagiarized from the entry, "God," by Leonard Peikoff in The Ayn Rand Lexicon (p. 187), originally part of "The Philosophy of Objectivism" lecture series (1976). The original passage reads as follows:

(3)

“God” as traditionally defined is a systematic contradiction of every valid metaphysical principle.

**** Plagiarized from A Sunday morning invitation by Peter Cresswell. The original passage reads as follows:

(4)

... existence is a self-sufficient primary: it is not a product of a supernatural dimension or of a supernatural being or of anything else or anyone else. Existence is not a why, it's an is.

Existence itself is simply all that exists -- there is nothing prior to it; nothing antecedent to it; nothing apart from it --
and no alternative to it
.

***** Plagiarized from Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (2nd Expanded Edition), "Axiomatic Concepts," (p. 61) by Ayn Rand. The original passage reads as follows:

(5)

... particularly since Kant, the philosophical technique of concept stealing, of attempting to negate reason by means of reason, has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin.

OL extends its deepest apologies to Leonard Peikoff as both author and Ayn Rand's heir, Wayne Dunn and Peter Cresswell.

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Victor; My favorite is "Who created the universe."

I’m not too sure of this one, Chris. But it’s late (or early) and my thinking cap was hung up long ago, but let me give it a shot.

Consider what Rand wrote:

"[...] "the stolen concept" is the other side, the reverse, of "petitio principii." If this last is "begging the question" or "assuming that which you are attempting to prove," then "the stolen concept" is "begging the answer" or "assuming that which you are attempting to disprove." - Ayn Rand (Journals of Ayn Rand, pg 704)

Let’s take a look at this statement “assuming that which you are attempting to disprove” sentence. Is the theist doing that by positing ‘god’ as the creator of the universe? So “who created the universe” is assuming the existence of God as creator of the universe to provide an answer for existence—not to argue it away. So as to the alleged origins of the universe (as a separate question) I’m not sure the ‘stolen concept’ applies here. But to assert, as I have said, "God exists", yes it does apply there. The origins of the universe as presented the question 'who created the universe’ is begging the question. Thus:

"Who created the universe?"

"God did!"

"That begs the question--who created God?"

That's a basic example.

Victor

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Victor; As I remember the concept being stolen is existence . The universe is the sum total of what exists. Only existence exists and you can not step outside of existence. You can not create that which has always existed.

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Victor; As I remember the concept being stolen is existence . The universe is the sum total of what exists. Only existence exists and you can not step outside of existence. You can not create that which has always existed.

Chris, when you put it that way, I agree. (Now I know I was tired when I responded; I was very tired). I look forward to other examples by anyone---ones they can think of. Brain power.

-Victor

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"Property Is Theft" (taken literally)

"Physics has proven that empiricism is false" (i.e. physics depends on science depends on empiricism)

"We know we can know nothing" (possibly an oxymoron rather than a stolen concept)

"Economics is not a social science" (possibly a categorization error rather than a stolen concept: economics IS a social science, but in a case where someone uses economics to attack the concept of social science, you DO have a stolen concept)

"Psychology has proven that people are not rational" (without rationality, there can be no "-ologies")

"Philosophy has proven that we do not exist" (philosophy, proof, 'we' all presuppose existence)

"Reality is an illusion" (without reality, there can be no illusions)

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More:

"The Law of Non-Contradiction is illogical"

"Words communicate no concepts" (How can you say or write or type this without communicating a concept? But this may be a contradiction rather than a stolen concept (difference: contradictions occur when an argument denies itself, a stolen concept is when an argument denies its logical prerequisites, so hence a stolen concept is a contradiction by implication but not directly))

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"Property Is Theft" (taken literally)

Well, "taken literally" that is the problem, you shouldn't always take a statement literally, but try to find out what's really meant. For example this slogan has probably been deliberately made paradoxical, it's meant to catch your attention. In this case, and in other cases as well, the so-called "stolen concept" is a concept that has been given a new meaning (whether you agree with that new meaning is not relevant here). That is in itself not an illogical step. Again: whether it is a valuable change is not relevant, that has to be determined separately, but it cannot be refuted merely by shouting "stolen concept". Some concept changes are valid.

"Physics has proven that empiricism is false" (i.e. physics depends on science depends on empiricism)

A strange statement. Do you have any source for it? Empiricism is one of the cornerstones of physics. Now when I hear Peikoff utter the word "empiricism" it's clear that it's something bad in his eyes, but it's not clear to me why.

"We know we can know nothing" (possibly an oxymoron rather than a stolen concept)

Again the formulation of this statement is probably deliberately paradoxical, which can be solved when we realize that "know" is here used in two different senses. This is in fact some kind of trope. Another famous example is "less is more".

"Psychology has proven that people are not rational" (without rationality, there can be no "-ologies")

Again a literal interpretation. The meaning is not that people never can be rational, that rationality does not exist, but that they in general are not behaving rationally. Whether this is true is a different question, but you can't just sweep it away by calling it a "stolen concept".

"Reality is an illusion" (without reality, there can be no illusions)

See my post here.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Victor; My favorite is "Who created the universe."

When stated correctly, the question becomes "what non-physical entity (if any), created the physical cosmos". There is no inherent contradiction living in this form of the question.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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"Economics is not a social science" (possibly a categorization error rather than a stolen concept: economics IS a social science, but in a case where someone uses economics to attack the concept of social science, you DO have a stolen concept)

"Psychology has proven that people are not rational" (without rationality, there can be no "-ologies")

Economics is NOT any kind of science. It is right up their with psychoanalysis, psychology and phrenology. If you laid all the economics who ever were in a straight line head to foot you could not reach a conclusion.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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The 'Stolen Concept'

What are your examples of the stolen concept in action?

-

Induction works. How do I know? It always has worked in the past.

Ba'al Chatzaf

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  • 2 months later...

Victor Pross, Replying to Examples of the Stolen Concept:

"But existence is a self-sufficient primary. It is not a product a supernatural realm. There is nothing antecedent to existence, noting apart from it---and no alternative to it."

Peter Cresswell, A Sunday Morning Invitation:

"...existence is a self-sufficient primary: it is not a product of a supernatural dimension or of a supernatural being or of anything else or anyone else. Existence is not a why, it's an is.

Existence itself is simply all that exists -- there is nothing prior to it; nothing antecedent to it; nothing apart from it -- and no alternative to it."

------------------------

Victor Pross, Replying to Examples of the Stolen Concept:

"Particularly since Kant, it as been said, the philosophical technique of concept stealing--of attempting to negate reason by means of reason--has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (Chptr 6, pg 61):

"...particularly since Kant, the philosophical technique of concept stealing, of attempting to negate reason by means of reason, has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

-------------------------

I think you go to a special level of hell when you plagiarize Ayn Rand on a Rand-related message board.

Michael, you risk much by allowing any of Pross's posts on Objectivist Living to stand, particularly those that contain plagiarism. As usual, I will notify the victims of Pross's plagiary, this time including Dr. Peikoff, who I believe owns the rights to ITOE. I realize that you are not aware of all of the individual instances of Pross's crimes, but in my opinion you are abetting his plagiary by leaving his posts up.

--Dan Edge

(Note from MSK: Thank you, Dan. Duly edited. The small corrections Ellen mentioned in the Rand quote have been made since this post is being used for reference links.)

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Victor Pross, Replying to Examples of the Stolen Concept:

"Particularly since Kant, it as been said, the philosophical technique of concept stealing--of attempting to negate reason by means of reason--has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (Chptr 6, pg 86):

"...particularly since Kant, the philosophical concept of stealing, of attempting to negate reason by means of reason, has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

--Dan Edge

Dan, you somewhat miscopied the Rand quote. She wrote:

"...particularly since Kant, the philosophical technique of concept stealing, of attempting to negate reason by means of reason, has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

Also, you might have given the wrong page number for the quote. I don't know what edition of ITOE you have, but in the First Meridian Printing (Expanded Second Edition), April, 1990, the passage quoted is on page 61.

Ellen

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This is kinda fun...;-)

Having busted Victor a coupla-three times myself - in fact, I think I might have been the one who first reactivated the issue when I detected his plagiarism of Nick Dykes back in March - it's actually pretty easy to spot. As Barbara Branden has also pointed out, all you need to do is see if his post is coherent and literate. If it is, it's probably a plagiarism. If it isn't, it's probably Victor.

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Victor Pross, Replying to Examples of the Stolen Concept:

"But existence is a self-sufficient primary. It is not a product a supernatural realm. There is nothing antecedent to existence, noting apart from it---and no alternative to it."

Peter Cresswell, A Sunday Morning Invitation:

"...existence is a self-sufficient primary: it is not a product of a supernatural dimension or of a supernatural being or of anything else or anyone else. Existence is not a why, it's an is.

Existence itself is simply all that exists -- there is nothing prior to it; nothing antecedent to it; nothing apart from it -- and no alternative to it."

------------------------

Victor Pross, Replying to Examples of the Stolen Concept:

"Particularly since Kant, it as been said, the philosophical technique of concept stealing--of attempting to negate reason by means of reason--has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (Chptr 6, pg 86):

"...particularly since Kant, the philosophical concept of stealing, of attempting to negate reason by means of reason, has become a general bromide, a gimmick worn transparently thin."

-------------------------

I think you go to a special level of hell when you plagiarize Ayn Rand on a Rand-related message board.

Michael, you risk much by allowing any of Pross's posts on Objectivist Living to stand, particularly those that contain plagiarism. As usual, I will notify the victims of Pross's plagiary, this time including Dr. Peikoff, who I believe owns the rights to ITOE. I realize that you are not aware of all of the individual instances of Pross's crimes, but in my opinion you are abetting his plagiary by leaving his posts up.

You've done a great job, Dan, exposing this skunk here and elsewhere. I think ALL his posts should be deleted and some of the replies to him that extensively quoted him. At least, to start, ALL his articles should be deleted. I'm going to the SOLO HQ archives to see what he might have done there. I wonder if his motive might be to attack Objectivism, but only because I find it so hard to believe the existence of such a complete phoney.

--Brant

edit: only one post/article from a year ago on R of R.

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You've done a great job, Dan, exposing this skunk here and elsewhere. I think ALL his posts should be deleted and some of the replies to him that extensively quoted him. At least, to start, ALL his articles should be deleted. I'm going to the SOLO HQ archives to see what he might have done there. I wonder if his motive might be to attack Objectivism, but only because I find it so hard to believe the existence of such a complete phoney.

--Brant

edit: only one post/article from a year ago on R of R.

Brant, no, his motive isn't to attack Objectivism. He wants to look like a big man intellectual and has very little idea even of the "ropes" of intellectual protocol.

I hope Michael exercises care in selective deleting. There is lots of good stuff by other people on threads where Victor posted extensively, and there are many, many links on the art threads which I'd hate to see lost.

Ellen

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Michael, you risk much by allowing any of Pross's posts on Objectivist Living to stand, particularly those that contain plagiarism. As usual, I will notify the victims of Pross's plagiary, this time including Dr. Peikoff, who I believe owns the rights to ITOE. I realize that you are not aware of all of the individual instances of Pross's crimes, but in my opinion you are abetting his plagiary by leaving his posts up.

Dan,

If only Victor were involved, I would have no problem deleting everything. See Ellen's point.

I hope Michael exercises care in selective deleting. There is lots of good stuff by other people on threads where Victor posted extensively, and there are many, many links on the art threads which I'd hate to see lost.

Unfortunately wholesale deletion makes hash out of the posts of people of good will who participated in the discussion, so my procedure for detected plagiaries in Victor Pross's posts will be as follows:

  • Where no discussion is compromised, the text will be deleted and a small note from me will be inserted with a link to the post that detected and identified the plagiary.
  • Where a discussion is compromised, the text will be highlighted and linked to the post that detected and identified the plagiary. A small note from me will be given at the end identifying the original authors.
  • In all cases, an apology from OL to the person plagiarized will be presented within the post field.
  • A thank you will be issued to the whistle-blower.

I want to personally thank you for your efforts in detecting and identifying the several plagiaries so far, and for any others you may find. I am in full agreement with you notifying the original authors. I request you provide them with links.

Having busted Victor a coupla-three times myself - in fact, I think I might have been the one who first reactivated the issue when I detected his plagiarism of Nick Dykes back in March - it's actually pretty easy to spot. As Barbara Branden has also pointed out, all you need to do is see if his post is coherent and literate. If it is, it's probably a plagiarism. If it isn't, it's probably Victor.

Daniel,

You deserve credit for being the initial main whistle-blower, but I inadvertently took the wind out of your sails. Sorry. It was not intentional. As I told you off line at the time, I took the thread down shortly after it went up because plagiary was evident and I had hopes for improvement.

Michael

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Economics is NOT any kind of science. It is right up their with psychoanalysis, psychology and phrenology. If you laid all the economics who ever were in a straight line head to foot you could not reach a conclusion.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Its certainly not a physical science. However it is a social science. Just because Economists disagree with eachother does not make it absolutely unscientific. Physical scientists disagree with eachother too.

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[snip]

(Note from MSK:

* Phrase plagiarized from Peter Cresswell. See here.

** Phrase plagiarized from Ayn Rand. See here.

The plagiarized passages are identified in bold and linked to their detection and disclosure. The article is left up out of respect to the posters on this thread, so as not to make hash out of their discussion. OL extends its deepest apologies to Peter Cresswell and the Estate of Ayn Rand.)

Michael, see my post immediately following the post from Dan in which he called attention to the plagiary. Dan had picked up the wording he used in quoting Rand from a website which had somewhat miscopied her actual wording. (In fact, Victor's wording was identically lifted from hers, not somewhat altered.) I suggest editing the post of Dan's to which you've linked so as to render the Rand quote as she wrote it.

Also, the page number he picked up from the website may have been in error. (I think it should be pg. 61.) Again, see my note to Dan.

Ellen

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