The Peikovian Doctrine of the Arbitrary Assertion

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It not false, because it has no referent. It's exactly like to say " God is bald( or omnipotent or infinite or eternal)". You cannot disprove such a statement because it refers to non-entity.

Leonid,

In other words, in your formulation there is no premise to the statement "God is omnipotent." Here's an example of the premise I'm talking about: "God exists." You cannot say anything about God without that as a premise. And that premise can be judged true or false. It does not have to be arbitrary.

I learned that conceptual knowledge in the Objectivist system is hierarchical. What you are suggesting is to divorce the premises from a statement and then call it arbitrary if you can't observe a referent. In other words, you are treating a statement as a primary, as the conceptual foundation of itself.

When you divorce the premise a statement is built on, but keep the statement, this is called a "stolen concept."

From what I see, your idea of "arbitrary" is based on the system of using stolen concepts--as the only kind possible--to make statements, not conceptual knowledge (based on true or false premises) in propositional form.

Michael

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It not false, because it has no referent. It's exactly like to say " God is bald( or omnipotent or infinite or eternal)". You cannot disprove such a statement because it refers to non-entity.

Leonid,

In other words, in your formulation there is no premise to the statement "God is omnipotent." Here's an example of the premise I'm talking about: "God exists." You cannot say anything about God without that as a premise. And that premise can be judged true or false. It does not have to be arbitrary.

I learned that conceptual knowledge in the Objectivist system is hierarchical. What you are suggesting is to divorce the premises from a statement and then call it arbitrary if you can't observe a referent. In other words, you are treating a statement as a primary, as the conceptual foundation of itself.

When you divorce the premise a statement is built on, but keep the statement, this is called a "stolen concept."

From what I see, your idea of "arbitrary" is based on the system of using stolen concepts--as the only kind possible--to make statements, not conceptual knowledge (based on true or false premises) in propositional form.

Michael

The premise " God exists" is not true or false but arbitrary. There is absolutely no evidence in reality to support such a statement. One also cannot prove that God doesn't exist, it would be amount to the proof of negative. Therefore all statements related to such a premise are arbitrary.

"The “stolen concept” fallacy, first identified by Ayn Rand, is the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots,"

Cannot see how that could be applicable to arbitrary assertion which has no genetic roots.

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The premise " God exists" is not true or false but arbitrary.

Leonid,

I disagree with this and I disagree that it represents Objectivist epistemology in its ITOE form. What you describe is what Rand called an "invalid concept" (ITOE, p. 49):

There are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, such as concepts originating in mysticism—or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone, such as modern "anti-concepts." Invalid concepts appear occasionally in men's languages, but are usually—though not necessarily—short-lived, since they lead to cognitive dead-ends. An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion.

While I can agree with you about the importance of whether an idea refers to something in reality and the need to attach a label to that (like "valid" and "invalid" concepts), I do not agree that an invalid proposition is the same thing as being devoid of cognitive content.

I think it's a leap to claim that since truth and falsehood must be based on reality, an invalid concept cannot be judged by that same standard. If it corresponds to reality, it is true. If it does not correspond to reality, it is false.

I think the error comes from what preceded Rand's quote above, which is misleading if not read carefully:

The truth or falsehood of all of man's conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions.

(The above applies only to valid concepts...)

Saying that truth/falsehood of propositions depend on the truth/falsehood of definitions--and that this method of reasoning applies only to valid concepts--is not the same thing as saying that invalid concepts themselves cannot be judged as true or false using reality as a standard.

To do so is is the "illogical leap" in the "arbitrary" construct.

Note that Rand's "invalid concept" is based on the proposition that it does not refer to reality. Is that proposition true or false? Wanna go down that rabbit hole?

btw - I find it cute that Rand called an invalid concept a "thing" (i.e., "there are such things as invalid concepts..."). Napoleon Hill constantly says "thoughts are things." And, in my understanding, things exist in reality and they have identity.

Michael

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Invalid concepts are not the same as arbitrary. They are result of misintegration or disintegration, faulty logics etc...as Rand indicated. Communism or public ownership for example are invalid concepts.Observe that Rand discussed " the truth or falsehood of his definitions", in other words definitions which pertain to reality in a positive or negative way, not arbitrary definitions. Arbitrary has nothing to do with any conceptual process.

" The term arbitrary describes a course of action or a decision that is not based on reason or judgment but on personal will or discretion without regard to rules or standards.An arbitrary decision is one made without regard for the facts and circumstances presented, and it connotes a disregard of the evidence." ( The free dictionary).

If a believer asked " Why is God?", the honest answer would be " because I believe in Him. I just feel so." since there is nothing in reality which could be a basis for such a concept. It is important to distinguish between false, invalid or arbitrary because in Objectivism arbitrary has no epistemological status whatsoever. One cannot argue or disprove the arbitrary assertion by rational means of cognition.

". . . there is no room for the arbitrary in any activity of man, least of all in his method of cognition—and just as he has learned to be guided by objective criteria in making his physical tools, so he must be guided by objective criteria in forming his tools of cognition: his concepts." ( ITOE)

Observe that Rand never said that there is no room for mistakes, wrong conclusions, invalid concepts, false assertions. Man by nature is not omniscient. Doctors could make a wrong diagnosis. Philosopher could come with invalid concepts. However as long as man actions and thinking pertain to objective reality even in a negative way, he could be proved wrong and his mistakes corrected. Arbitrary assertions are different matter. They are rather subjective concepts with no relation to reality, they deny the very foundation of rational cognition, the Law of identity and causality and therefore couldn't be corrected by any rational epistemic tools. As Ayn Rand observed:

"Pure or “extreme” subjectivism does not recognize the concept of identity, i.e., the fact ... The subjective means the arbitrary, the irrational, the blindly emotional." (Who Is the Final Authority in Ethics? The Objectivist Newsletter, Feb. 1965, 7)

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Michael Stuart Kelly

Note that Rand's "invalid concept" is based on the proposition that it does not refer to reality. Is that proposition true or false? Wanna go down that rabbit hole?"

How did you conclude that "Rand's "invalid concept" is based on the proposition that it does not refer to reality."?

Invalid concept is a result of poor, contradictory integration of perceptual input or previous concepts. In Ayn Rand words "No concept man forms is valid unless he integrates it without contradiction into the total sum of his knowledge." (GS)

However, if concept based on proposition which doesn't pertain to reality, like God for example, there is nothing to integrate. It would be not an invalid but an arbitrary concept, that is-outside of the realm of human rational thinking.

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Why create another category? The outstanding characteristic of a nonsense statement is

that it's self-evidently false - first. Secondly, it's also random,

incidental or "arbitrary".

And we need no doctrine on what to do with blatant nonsense.

Tony,

There is a gossipy reason this came about.

At the time Rand passed away, Peikoff was not aware that she had been involved in an affair with NB. So it was a major blow when he found out and his wife confirmed she found documents written by Rand that proved it (while going through her inherited papers). It's not hard to imagine what he thought. How could she leave me, her heir, out of the loop up to the very end? Didn't she trust me? This literally rocked his world in the worst way possible.

Then out came the bio of Rand from his cuz (The Passion of Ayn Rand by Barbara Branden) that spilled the beans all over the news. And it went on to become a bestseller.

He couldn't deny it and he couldn't accept it. What to do? What to do?

Discredit the source!

Now there's a hell of an idea.

But how?

Enter the arbitrary non-concept.

With this epistemological tool (or, more precisely, rationalization parading as a tool), you can look at Barbara's tell-all and simply say that since she has proven to be false before by her own admission, anything she says is arbitrary. That's kind of a forced syllogism, but you get the idea. Thus, you literally can't know what to think about that book. You can have an opinion, but it would be the same thing as claiming unicorns exist. Anything Barbara says has no cognitive import. Don't worry about true of false.

Nobody but the fundies bought it, but there it is.

It's a breathtaking thing to behold: a complicated Kantian-type philosophical idea based on twisting the premises into a Gordian knot with the underlying meaning of "Mommy loved me best."

To fully understand Peikoff's notion of "the arbitrary," I think of the Scientology jargon term, "suppressive person."

They are different in appearance, but they both serve the same purpose: to try to discredit enemies as grounds for demonizing them.

Michael

Michael, Double-'whew'! I've caught up on much O'ist early history, but this is stranger and stranger. Trouble is, it has a ring of truth to it.

As with Peikoff's AA Doctrine, judge before you have sufficient facts.

Further, do not inquire about the evidence.

Ahh, ARI. It brings to mind this scene in a Ferrari showroom:

Joe: I like that model over there- how much is it?

Snooty salesman: Pff. 'Sir' - if you have to ask, you obviously can't afford it.

Joe: Mmm, well. But I have to know what figure to enter on the cheque!

Salesman: 'Sir', that's not how it works - if you want the car, you hand us a blank cheque...

If Peikoff had insisted on one carefully verifying the 'arbitrary assertor's' corpus of knowledge (of the truthful statement, not the nonsensical one) I'd have agreed with his Doctrine. (With a quibble about the need for 'the arbitrary'.)

As it stands, we should dismiss the assertion - and one assumes the assertor too, although that is implied, not stated - out of hand.

The connection to Barbara's Bombshell is credible, even if conjectural.

(Now I'm off to see what Leon and you have been debating: should be interesting, but not excessively, I hope. )

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"Arbitrary assertion" is at its core argumentum ad hominem dressed up for church.

--Brant

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"Arbitrary assertion" is at its core argumentum ad hominem dressed up for church.

Brant,

Amen.

And it's a wickedly clever trap to get a person to feel guilt just for thinking about certain things.

I'll go into this later, but, essentially, it is grafting a description of a mental process (arbitrary or whim) on the product of the process (the assertion or conclusion). It works like this:

1. You inject a hidden command to obey* into the assertion (the product) as a Trojan Horse and call it "referent" and/or "correspondence to reality,"

3. You muddy the difference between "arbitrary" and "non-correspondence to reality" and treat them as synonyms, then

4. You imply (emphatically) that a person has no business performing ANY mental process to begin with about forbidden products (topics), that is, those assertions that have no referents in reality according to the standards of the person laying down the rules.

It is literally a hidden command to not think when certain issues are involved, and a way to demonize those who do think about them.

It's the mother of all blank-outs and a moral guilt-inducing whip to boot.

Michael

EDIT-Note: * This "command to obey" is based on a presupposition that you are one of the smart people in life who has full control over his or her rational faculty. You are above the rest of mankind in this respect. (This feeds a hidden mental addiction, but that issue is for another discussion.) However, since you are following this particular line of reasoning (as evidenced by your familiarity with the "arbitrary = without cognitive content" concept), you basically agree with the authority. In fact, that's what gives you your superiority (so you think). But that also leads to the hidden command: you must not use your mind in a form differently than such authority considers as rational--on pain of being demoted to a lower level of moral intellect. To becoming one of... th... th... them...

Since you are human, you can't stop thinking. You can't turn it off. And the inner voice in your head sometimes goes off in directions that are not what you agree with on a fully conceptual level. Horror of horrors! In a weak moment, you even wonder if God exists! Graaaak! Blank out, blank out, blank out. Slam that frigging thing shut! It's a sin to even think a question like that. That's arbitrary. There's no referent. What the hell is wrong with you? Now your mind is a cesspool of thoughts without "cognitive content"? Guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt guilt... Gotta make damn sure nobody every finds out...

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(I appreciate your "time-saver" explanation, but it seems to me that so much effort can be expended establishing the arbitrary, that could be far better spent in sorting the truth from falsity.)

Tony, please keep in mind that I'm not using the term "arbitrary" in a Peikovian sense at all but instead in the way it's used in legal and scientific investigations.

I'd agree that with simple assertions, it could be faster just to go look instead of spending time asking if there's enough evidence presented to justify an examination.

For instance, if someone tells me that there's an elephant in my back yard, to use an example which has come up on this thread, I could ascertain that the statement is false with little bother. There's no place an elephant could hide in our back yard, and, except in extremely bad visibility weather circumstances, the whole back yard is visible from the house, even at night (with floodlights turned on if there isn't adequate light from the moon). All I'd have to do is go to one of the back windows and look in the daylight -- or on a dark night, go to the back room where I can switch on the floodlights and look.

Suppose, however, that someone told me that there's a valuable cache of jewelry buried in the back yard. I couldn't easily find out if the assertion was true or false, and I'd need lots of reason presented for suspecting it might be true before I'd do any digging.

In legal and scientific contexts, the issue of whether there's good reason for investigating can be much more complex. Consider, for example, the famous Michelson and Morley experiment. A lot of effort went into constructing the apparatus, in that circumstance with good reason for making the attempt.

By contrast, consider a current-day situation in which loads of research money is being spent, regulations are being enacted, bad economic decisions are being made -- and all without remotely enough evidence for believing that there's a scientific basis for the proceedings. I imagine you can quess what current-day situation I mean. ;-)

Ellen

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"Arbitrary assertion" is at its core argumentum ad hominem dressed up for church.

--Brant

Peikoff never said that one doesn't have to think in order to identify an arbitrary assertion, that one can do it by knee-jerk reflex or by using some innate knowledge. In fact such identification requires a deep understanding of Objectivist metaphysics and epistemology. However when one identified a statement as arbitrary, no further investigation is possible because the very nature of such a statement. It also very important to know how to distinguish between arbitrary and false because not every case is as simple as my example of doctor and sangoma. Some very complicated philosophical constructions are based on arbitrary assertions. For example all rationalist systems based on separation of concepts from reality by nature are arbitrary, no matter how complicated and logical they are. The same applies to any kind of transcendental philosophy based on assertion of some otherworldly dimension. In non-philosophical world there is a proliferation of beliefs based on arbitrary assertions, and some of them are very popular-like Scientology, for example. So, in many instances the concept of arbitrary is not a time saver but mind saver device.

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Hi Leon:

My puzzle still remains in Peikoff making a leap from the epistemic

to the normative.

Let's say someone you barely know, or a stranger, makes this statement:

"The moon is the second densest satellite in the solar system after Io,

a satellite of Jupiter."

True? - false? - arbitrary? - true, but arbitrary? - false and arbitrary?

All referents in it are reality-correspondent:

"Moon", density", "satellite", "Io" etc., which satisfies the first requirement of truth, imo. It is not nonsense.

Now it so happens the above assertion is true. But Peikoff won't leave it here, as I understand him.

He goes further: that if you know (somehow) that the person making it 'obviously' does not understand the concepts of orbiting bodies, gravity, density and so on - then, you should reject it as "arbitrary". Baby out with the bathwater.

So, he branches in two directions: One is pertinence to objective reality; the other, pertaining to the knowledge of the speaker.

If both are satisfied, then we have truth. (I suppose.)

(One could call it the "take it from whence it comes" doctrine.)

Therefore, we have to (somehow) make a pre-judgment of the person's

knowledge and faculty of reason.

I can see one case of making a valid lightning-judgment, which is if a young child rattles off that statement ("The moon is..."etc) - then one would rightly consider it - "True, but arbitrary".

But how - and why - should we conflate an objective fact with the perceived intellectual pedigree of the adult person stating it?

So making two identifications, epistemological - and normative?

It seems a bit like shooting the messenger!

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When I said "at its core" I was referring to the "Peikovian doctrine of" not "arbitrary assertion" per se. I was relying on the thread's context. I might have cut it too thin.

--Brant

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Hi Leon:

My puzzle still remains in Peikoff making a leap from the epistemic

to the normative.

For example, someone you barely know, or a stranger makes this statement:

"The moon is the second densest satellite in the solar system after Io,

a satellite of Jupiter."

True? - false? - arbitrary? - true, but arbitrary? - false and arbitrary?

All referents in it are reality-congruent: "Moon", density", "satellite",

"Io" etc. which satisfies the first requirement of truth, imo. It is not nonsense.

Now it so happens the above assertion is true. But Peikoff won't leave it here, as I understand him.

He goes further: that if you know (somehow) that the person making it 'obviously' does not understand the concepts of orbiting bodies, gravity, density and so on - then, you should reject it as "arbitrary". Baby out with the bathwater.

So, he branches in two directions: One is pertinence to objective reality; the other, pertaining to the knowledge of the speaker.

If both are satisfied, then we have truth. (I suppose.)

(One could call it the "take it from whence it comes" doctrine.)

Therefore, we have to (somehow) make a pre-judgment of the person's

knowledge and faculty of reason.

I can see one case of making a valid lightning-judgment, which is if a young child rattles off that statement ("The moon is..."etc) - then one would rightly consider it: "True, but arbitrary".

But how - and why - should we conflate an objective fact with the perceived intellectual pedigree of the person stating it?

So making two identifications, epistemological - and normative?

It seems a bit like shooting the messenger!

Hi Tony,

I don't know what would be Peikoff's answer, so I only can tell what is my position. If you don't know who is the author of statement, you judge the statement itself. Suppose you see a wall graffiti reads " E=MC2", which is obviously written by man. Within context of your knowledge you'd say that it's true. If it's " E=MC3", you'd say that it's false. If it reads " God is great", you'd judge it as arbitrary. However if any of these statements made by 2 years old child you shouldn't regard them as statements at all since in the child's mind these words don't designate any concepts. They are not different from parroting. They are not "true arbitrary" , false or true but simply outside of the realm of rational cognition. To regard them as statements would be stolen concept. Does it heal your dichotomy between an objective fact and intellectual pedigree?

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(I appreciate your "time-saver" explanation, but it seems to me that so much effort can be expended establishing the arbitrary, that could be far better spent in sorting the truth from falsity.)

Tony, please keep in mind that I'm not using the term "arbitrary" in a Peikovian sense at all but instead in the way it's used in legal and scientific investigations.

I'd agree that with simple assertions, it could be faster just to go look instead of spending time asking if there's enough evidence presented to justify an examination.

For instance, if someone tells me that there's an elephant in my back yard, to use an example which has come up on this thread, I could ascertain that the statement is false with little bother. There's no place an elephant could hide in our back yard, and, except in extremely bad visibility weather circumstances, the whole back yard is visible from the house, even at night (with floodlights turned on if there isn't adequate light from the moon). All I'd have to do is go to one of the back windows and look in the daylight -- or on a dark night, go to the back room where I can switch on the floodlights and look.

Suppose, however, that someone told me that there's a valuable cache of jewelry buried in the back yard. I couldn't easily find out if the assertion was true or false, and I'd need lots of reason presented for suspecting it might be true before I'd do any digging.

In legal and scientific contexts, the issue of whether there's good reason for investigating can be much more complex. Consider, for example, the famous Michelson and Morley experiment. A lot of effort went into constructing the apparatus, in that circumstance with good reason for making the attempt.

By contrast, consider a current-day situation in which loads of research money is being spent, regulations are being enacted, bad economic decisions are being made -- and all without remotely enough evidence for believing that there's a scientific basis for the proceedings. I imagine you can quess what current-day situation I mean. ;-)

Ellen

Suppose you are not at home and you've got SMS from your neighbor " There is an elephant in your backyard". First of all, there is no ground whatsoever to qualify such an assertion as arbitrary. It doesn't violate any of philosophical axioms, laws of nature or body of knowledge. However, considering a very low probability of such an eventuality you'd dismiss such a statement as false. Yet you see on TV break news " Elephant escaped a Zoo" and you live just next to it. That would make a possibility to find an elephant in your backyard much more higher. You rash home and see an elephant in your backyard. The assertion is true. In all three occasions your judgement was right within context of your current knowledge.

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So, in many instances the concept of arbitrary is not a time saver but mind saver device.

Leonid, in case you didn't understand this, I wasn't describing the Peikovian notion of "arbitrary" as a time-saver. I think that the Peikovian notion is so confused, its only pay-off is as a means of artificially discrediting sources one doesn't want to consider.

Re your post 114, it doesn't describe the way I'd process, it uses your definition of "arbitrary," not mine, and besides it posits counterfactuals. I wouldn't get a message when I'm not home on a device I don't use, there isn't a zoo in the area.

Ellen

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So, in many instances the concept of arbitrary is not a time saver but mind saver device.

Leonid, in case you didn't understand this, I wasn't describing the Peikovian notion of "arbitrary" as a time-saver. I think that the Peikovian notion is so confused, its only pay-off is as a means of artificially discrediting sources one doesn't want to consider.

Re your post 114, it doesn't describe the way I'd process, it uses your definition of "arbitrary," not mine, and besides it posits counterfactuals. I wouldn't get a message when I'm not home on a device I don't use, there isn't a zoo in the area.

Ellen

In regard to time-saver I responded to whYNOT post, not yours. And I just slightly modified the fictional situation you described in order to show the difference between false, true and arbitrary.

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...

(One could call it the "take it from whence it comes" doctrine.)

Therefore, we have to (somehow) make a pre-judgment of the person's

knowledge and faculty of reason.

Lovely old phrase of caution, of an appeal to reason. From Robin J Elliott, "You take it from whence it comes. Losers generally hate winners. So when you're attacked and discredited by a loser, take it as a well-deserved ..."

I can see one case of making a valid lightning-judgment, which is if a young child rattles off that statement ("The moon is..."etc) - then one would rightly consider it - "True, but arbitrary".

Don't forget the goal and tactics of information patrol. In most cases of active daily cognition we evaluate incoming information happily on the fly, using rules and procedure hammered into place by habit. We make snap judgments in each hour. We must -- we are under siege by information. It must be sorted. It ought to be sorted efficiently. Bad sorting is deadly to the enterprise, however, as exemplified by Leonard Peikoff in the laundromat of life, letting all and sundry know, declaiming the precise way in which one must fold an 'artibrary nonsertion' correctly.

I would rather die than think too long about the warty add-ons Peikoff has left on the body of Randian thought. Some are more gruesome than others. Warty growths of uncertain usefulness for daily patrols and confrontations with information, with the barrage. A category uncalled for, in my opinion, are these theses, these extrusions of the Heir. He falls victim to hasty sorting and slotting. I say shoot his message if we must shoot something.

But how - and why - should we conflate an objective fact with the perceived intellectual pedigree of the adult person stating it?

So making two identifications, epistemological - and normative?

It seems a bit like shooting the messenger!

It is worse than shooting the messenger. It is like shooting up DHL, Post Fffice, Purolator etc, and the janitors. Needlessly aggressive and out of proportion to the offence.

Robert Campbell has amply demonstrated that 'arbitrary assertion' is over-determined, a hasty generalization, of limited utility -- as is the practice of 'charity refutation.' This is, in my opinion, a cul-de-sac of thought, a no-exit zone for the unwary. It does no good work to replace one shitty over-generalization with another, to my mind. Indulging Peikoff too much on his blunders is like walking in the ditch: the sidewalk is more comfortable and efficient. Why we need follow him down his occasional sucking rabbit-hole has not been adequately explained to me so far.

Edited by william.scherk
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Peikoff is the natural and logical Rand follow-on, except she had guts. When Objectivism needed a dog-leg, it got tied to its intellectual and cultural tracks with--choo! choo!--reality bearing down.

--Brant

it didn't stop, it never slowed down

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In regard to time-saver I responded to whYNOT post, not yours.

Leonid,

The sentence of yours -- "So, in many instances the concept of arbitrary is not a time saver but mind saver device" -- which I quoted in my post #115 was the last sentence of your post #110, in which you responded to a one-liner post (#107) by Brant -- "'Arbitrary assertion' is at its core argumentum ad hominem dressed up for church."

Since I'm the one who brought up the idea that "arbitrary," albeit not in Peikoff's meaning, is sometimes useful as a time saver, you appeared to have been referring to what I'd said.

And I just slightly modified the fictional situation you described in order to show the difference between false, true and arbitrary.

I'd say that your post #114 significantly modified the fictional situation I described.

You posit someone who lives next door to a zoo. Presumably such a person would know that there are elephants in that zoo. If the person got a message from a neighbor saying that an elephant is in the message recipient's back yard, I'd consider the message recipient foolish if he or she dismissed the statement as false instead of immediately inquiring further -- unless there was some pre-existing reason for distrusting a report from that particular neighbor (say, if the neighbor had a reputation for raising false alarms, or was someone known by the message recipient to be prone to hallucinations).

If you want a comparable real-life example from my circumstances, suppose I were at a local restaurant or convenience store where I saw one of my neighbors who told me that a deer or bear had been sighted in my back yard. I'd take as the first hypothesis that the report was true and I'd be asking questions about details -- fearfully if a bear had been sighted. There have been bear sightings uncomfortably close to where I live, in one case at a small park not half a mile from our house, in other cases within less than two miles. A deer was actually seen bounding through our back yard by my husband. He called out to me, "There's a deer!" and I scurried to see it, but I didn't get there quickly enough.

Both your fictional example and the comparable ones adjusted to my geographical circumstances are different from a person making an assertion to me, "There's an elephant in your back yard." Without a lot of further information being provided, I would consider that assertion arbitrary (as I use the term "arbitrary" when applied to assertions or hypotheses, meaning, not adequately grounded in evidence to require checking out for truth or falsity). Or possibly it could be a joke -- or a ploy in a philosophy discussion -- depending on context.

Ellen

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Long as it's possible, it is probable.

I visited an elephant 'orphanage' on the edge of the Great Rift Valley in the Kenyan bush several years ago - owned by a remarkable Englishwoman. Seeing as the calves roamed quite freely close to her house it would have surprised her if she'd been told "There is no elephant in your back yard!"

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Long as it's possible, it is probable.

I hope you meant that as a joke.

Ellen

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Long as it's possible, it is probable.

I hope you meant that as a joke.

Ellen

No. If certain conditions exist, certain consequences can occur.

Why should that be a joke?

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Long as it's possible, it is probable.

I hope you meant that as a joke.

Ellen

It seems whYNOT is not familiar with the usual distinction between possible and probable. See here. I don't agree they are unrelated now, though their origins were.

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Long as it's possible, it is probable.

I hope you meant that as a joke.

Ellen

It seems whYNOT is not familiar with the usual distinction between possible and probable. See here. I don't agree they are unrelated now, though their origins were.

Thanks Merlin. This is helpful, although I'm not sure it doesn't

just push things back another level: possible, "having the potential"

and probable, "likely".

Something may only be likely if it already has potentiality.

So possibiity is always the antecedent of probability.

Which indicates a relation - to me. But certainly you and Ellen will have

a mathematical explanation to confound me!

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" Without a lot of further information being provided, I would consider that assertion arbitrary "

Why arbitrary? Elephants exists, your backyard exists, it is some probability that elephant could be found in your backyard. The low probability of an event doesn't make it arbitrary. When I was on holidays in nature resort, I've seen elephants next to my lodge every day.