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    Objectivism Is The Everyman's Philosophy

    In the universe, what you see is what you get,

    figuring it out for yourself is the way to happiness,

    and each person's independence is respected by all

  • Rand's Philosophy in Her Own Words

    • "Metaphysics: Objective Reality"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed/Wishing won’t make it so." "The universe exists independent of consciousness"
    • "Epistemology: Reason" "You can’t eat your cake and have it, too." "Thinking is man’s only basic virtue"
    • "Ethics: Self-interest" "Man is an end in himself." "Man must act for his own rational self-interest" "The purpose of morality is to teach you[...] to enjoy yourself and live"
    • "Politics: Capitalism" "Give me liberty or give me death." "If life on earth is [a man's] purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being"

    Universe as Object

    By Eiuol,
    I wrote this paper for my own purposes to explain and think more about what makes an object an object. I don't think my idea is incompatible with Objectivism, and it offers new and interesting ideas. Feel free to nit-pick, I edited it to get the exact words I want.   Might the universe be an object?   I look at something in front of me. I recognize it as a table: four legs, flat surface, wooden. Other things are placed on its surface, like a pencil and a camera. I am comfortable with these identifications. After all, I can touch them, see them, even hear them if I move them in a certain way. Furthermore, I can see edges where one thing ends and the other begins. In other words, these things are entities: things which are bounded and distinct[1]. Through their behavior, they exhibit an identity. Even more, the identity of these entities is independent of my seeing or recognizing them. The entire world in front of me is this way, filled with entities. My perception allows me to see this.   Consider that a table is made of parts which are not accessible in a perceptual way. Certainly, I can chop off the legs of the table and then have individual legs, but this is no problem because the legs still remain directly accessible to unaided perception. The parts that I am talking about are not accessible to unaided perception, that is, what the table is decomposable into and is therefore constituted of. The table is constituted of molecules, which cannot be detected just by looking. With a microscope molecules can be detected, and they would have the same distinctness I recognize when I looked at the table without any help. In order to make the distinction between things which I can see without assistance of the things I can't see without assistance, I will consider objects to be both of these, while I will consider entities to be those things that I can see without assistance. Such a distinction is important because I cannot recognize the aspects of a molecule in the same way I can recognize the aspects of a table. A different method is required in order to comprehend a molecule, that is, reliance on tools.   A related consideration for the ontology I am sketching out is the objects on the table. To put it simply, the objects share no causal identity to the extent they are distinct and unconnected. The only aspect they all have in common in relation to each other is a spatial characteristic. The camera is on the table, which is as far as the relationship between table and camera extends. I could refer to them as “objects on the table”, and treat them as a set in order to talk about statements like “I knocked over the table, so everything fell off” or “the table is full, I can't put another object on it”. However, there is nothing causal about one object to another in the set of objects on the table. They do not form a system whose constituents operate together.   So far, this ontology is nothing radical, and even common sense. Is this all there is to consider though? If I stop here, I may as well say it was sufficient for the Greeks to consider what was immediately and directly available to their perception. As soon as I recognize concrete constituents of an object, and recognize that these constituents are also objects, I need to think about the relation these constituents stand towards other constituents which are not available to unaided perception. Is the relationship only spatial? Or are they directly and causally related, despite my inability to see this possible relationship without a microscope? Intuitively, my answer is that they are causally related exactly because any further distinction I have made is based on having recognized an entity with which I could use a microscope on. The set of objects on the table on the other hand are not reduced from my having seen a larger entity. I did not see an entity and then break it down further. In this way, I have determined that the universe cannot be object. The above view I call perceptual ontology, i.e. ontology bounded and set by perceptual capacities. Important to keep in mind is that objecthood doesn’t depend upon perceptual capacities. Rather, the class of existents (e.g. ideas, concretes, actions) that qualify as objects are specified by what is perceptually detectable without aid and its decomposition.   As characterized, perceptual ontology is immediately vulnerable to subjectivity in metaphysics. Indeed, in terms of epistemology, perceptual capacities need not imply a subjectivist epistemology -- there could still be definitive and objective rules to recognizing or knowing that an object is in fact an object. Even more, entities can be considered primary or fundamental to comprehending metaphysics. However, since what qualifies as an object is a direct consequence of a physical reduction from the entity level, I begin to wonder about creatures smaller than humans and what they can see as entities [2]. A microscopic bacteria could detect molecules unaided, that is, molecules would be entities to a microscopic bacteria. Anything too much larger may as well be like the set of objects on the table -- perhaps connected but not complete and entirely contained. Going the other direction, in principle, a massive creature could detect groups of planets like a person detects a dog. The group of planets could plausibly be an entity specifically to that creature. By this reasoning, to a human the group of planets is a set of planets yet not an object because they were not a reduction from the entity level, while the massive creature sees the group of planets on the entity level so the group would qualify as an object. If the very category of existents that qualify as objects in the first place vary based on perceptual differences, the resulting metaphysics would be a direct consequence of the given subject and not a direct consequence of reality.   The schema of this problem is easily illustrated: 1. a = {c1, c2, c…, cn}; the constituents of Cx are united as a single abstraction a 2. e = {c1, c2, c…, cn} = {o1, o2, o…, on}; the constituents of Cx are united as entity e. Any element of Cx or unification within Cx is an object. 3. Per(Cx) = e; the function, i.e. the faculty of perception, which recognizes some aspect of the world as bounded and distinct as opposed to an abstraction. The perception of set Cx is sufficient and necessary for set Cx to be an entity and all its elements to be objects.   1 is equivalent to the earlier “objects on the table”. Each constituent is an element of the abstraction. 2 is equivalent to a table constituted by molecules and follows a pattern similar to 1. All constituents of entities are objects. 3 means that what qualifies as an entity will be different for any variation of perceptual faculties.    4. The whole set C being an object or not therefore depends on the perceptual capacities of the creature in question. The unity is an object if and only if the constituents are already a division of an entity. Otherwise, it is an abstraction or mental object, which is by definition neither physical nor independent of one’s awareness.   One solution to the problem is that efforts to define objects are inherently subjective, that there is in fact no way to objectively state what is or is not an object in any circumstance. More specifically, there is not a multiplicity of objects in reality. Thus, the word “object” ceases to have meaning - there is either exactly one object, or no objects. With Hindu philosophy, there is singular “object” called Brahman, the underlying nature of reality[3]. Any further distinction is considered  “maya”, illusion[4]. At worst, maya is human conceit attempting to satisfy a constant desire to label and categorize, a cause of suffering. At best, it is the world of appearances that the subject acknowledges, which need not determine how the world really is. Brahman is in fact a singularity of all, the only “object” which really counts. So on it goes, towards the denial of one's own ego, towards passive acceptance of existence. Such a consequence is hardly worthwhile.   Argument by consequence, however, is not reason to reject a metaphysical claim. If existence is exactly one object, then that’s how it is, for better or worse. The consequence only alters my response to the fact; it may impact the epistemology I develop, or my ethical theories, but disliking the consequences is not a counterargument. The idea of a singularity is wrong because it is parasitic upon more fundamental premises: to speak of a singularity requires having already defined or conceptualized a variety of objects. Denying a multiplicity of objects would just as well deny the means to conceptualize or witness Brahman – denying perception. Ultimately, then, the “solution” is to wipe away a perceiver, such that perceptual faculties are ignored. While metaphysics does not take into account a perceiver for a claim to be valid, coming to understand metaphysical claims takes addressing how one is conscious of reality. It seems that rather than reality being a singularity, there is a threshold on the number of objects one is able to grasp[5]. So, perception’s limits leave me unable to determine which things qualify as objects - besides what I see as an entity, and its constituents.   Accepting that there is a threshold on the number of qualifiable objects due to one’s perceptual faculties is no solution, either. This would be taking a stance in favor of maya instead of a singularity. I’d be saying there are an unknown and ungraspable set of objects in reality[6]. If the set of all objects in reality include these “invisible” objects, then all the criteria for an object to fit into the set of all objects are unknown. By this point, it would not be determinable if the known objects really qualify as objects. I would not be able to say if they should be disqualified as objects – for I would be admitting no one will ever find out all the necessary criteria of objecthood. Some currently-known objects may turn out to be non-objects. Unfortunately, no one would ever be able to find out. As a result, no objects in reality are graspable.   Imagine the set of all known fruits, then also yet-to-be-discovered fruits. Both sets are graspable, the criteria for qualifying as a fruit can be understood differently in the future, perhaps leading me to recategorize. But if there are a set of extra-dimensional fruits that are unknowable and ungraspable because of the limits to perception, then the set of all fruits would lack any definable criteria. Apples qualify, as do bananas, but I would never know about gooblegorks. If I will never know of gooblegorks, nor why they qualify as fruits, likewise, I won’t know why apples or bananas qualify. So, the entire category of fruit becomes arbitrary or merely nominal - maya. There would be no basis to say what fruits are or are not besides a subjective impression. The same form of reasoning would apply to “invisible” objects.   Of course, the above paragraph is a discussion of epistemology. At the same time, any solution to a problem can only be reached by referring to the thinking required. The greater point is to emphasize that all solutions so far are parasitic upon defining objecthood already by means of my awareness and consciousness. A solution requires keeping the idea that entities are distinct and bounded - explaining objecthood any other way is parasitic.   The solution I see is to say that objects are also the things entities supercompose into. Just as a table decomposes into molecules, certain entities may supercompose[7] into greater objects. In this way, all things that are objects depend on composability. Entities help with a starting point for qualifying objects; composability as a principle makes use of entities; entities are not a threshold for objecthood. Thus I avoid parasitism issues. I am maintaining premises 1 and 2, the premises pertaining to entities as a basis to qualifying an ontology. Explicitly, I am denying that function 3 expressed as perception (and the tools to extend perception) and decomposability expressed as 2 are sufficient to determine objecthood. Rather, I am proposing that composability is needed – decomposition only works because of composition.   Stated generally for any object: 5. Comp(c1 + c2 + c… + cn) = o; the function, i.e. the composing, of a set of constituents. The composibility of set Cx is sufficient and necessary for set Cx to be an object and all its elements to be objects.   Stated for any object greater than an entity: 6. SuperComp(e1 + e2 + e… + en) = o; the function, i.e. the supercomposing, of a set of entities. The supercomposibility of set Ex is sufficient and necessary for set Ex to be an object and all its elements to be objects.   Why not instead suppose that composition extends infinitely? Because a supercomposition is a combination of entities. If the cardinality of E is 30, then the possible number of supercompositions is 30c30. Each round of compositions will be fewer, and so on until the resulting combination in a single object. A number of the proceeding arguments are why compositions end at a single object as opposed to two or more.   If tables decompose into molecules, then molecules compose into tables. In principle, there is no reason to say nothing composes from entities like tables into “supertable”. There is no necessity to stop composition at the level of entity. All that can be said is that determining composition is difficult. Certainly, “supertable” is not an object, because a group of tables have no causal relation, only a spatial relation like objects on a table. Yet if a group of entities have a causal relation, the group is just as much an object as a table composed of molecules. Not just any causal relation will work, though. Two balls bouncing off each other is a direct causal relation, but they still are not singular. They need to be a bounded and distinct unity to be a singular “ballcluster” object as well as two balls. Similarly as an example, two molecules passing through one another doesn’t alone render them into a table.    Three necessary conditions are robust enough for a group of objects to be a composition. Among the group’s elements, there would need to be causal relation strong enough to be called an object as opposed to an abstraction.   Systematic   The elements in a group of objects operate together simultaneously and affect one another. A loss of one constituent will affect how the group behaves. Taking flour out of a cake recipe will radically alter all aspects of a cake, including texture, shape, baking time, and more. Flour itself will not alter the nature of eggs, but the unity of flour and eggs along with the rest of the ingredients make a specific cake. The nature of the group is different if any element is taken out.   Relational   A function exists which binds the elements in a group of objects. Being relational makes explicit that the elements are connected. “Next to” is a relation, as is “X > Y” and “the moon orbited the earth”.    Emergence   The resulting group possesses one or more attributes which none of the individual elements possess. For example, people are volitional, but their constituents are not volitional – a single neuron is not volitional. Likewise, the process of life and the resulting attribute of being alive don’t make all of a creature’s constituent elements alive. The fact that properly arranging constituents in just the right way (the right mix of carbon molecules, the right external conditions like temperature, etc.) results in a living creature suggests that the constituents form a causal unity with each other.     There are no good examples of a supercomposition aside from science fiction. However, one particular candidate may qualify as a supercomposition: the universe, the unification of all objects that exist. If true, there would be interesting clarifications and ideas regarding identity. First, I need to determine if the universe is an object.   The universe is systematic. All objects that exist make up the nature of the universe. The actions of a planet orbiting a star impacts other stars and other stars’ planets. It is possible to focus on planets as singulars, but the idea is planets and impacted stars, and so on, operate as a system. The more alterations within a system, the more each element will be altered. Taking into account all objects at once is only an expansion of this. Moreover, given that causality never ceases at some ultimate point in time[8], the effects of one object will necessarily continue eternally within the system to the degree the system is complete and bounded. In terms of the universe, it is bounded by all that exists. The universe is the most complete system there is, and its bounds are definite. There is nothing to remove from the universe, and there is nothing to add. Otherwise, the system is incomplete, meaning that it is something different than the universe as defined.   The universe is all related. At minimum, by virtue of being physical, there is a spatial relation between all objects. Two asteroids, or two atoms, placed at opposite ends of the universe bear a spatial relation. The spatial relation makes it possible in principle for any two objects to effect a causal relation. There is always a chronological relation as well, as any group of objects will be acting in some manner.     The universe has emergent attributes. Exactly the emergent properties of the universe are for cosmologists to discover through science. Cosmology, however, is not the only way to figure out in general attributes unique to the universe. As a complete whole, time holds between all objects at once, which requires a unique time standard. A universal time standard cannot be identical to time standards of more narrow systems. If it were identical, it would be part of an identical system – identical standards would mean using a standard not defined by the context of all objects. So, a time attribute of the universe is emergent, assuming the universe’s systematicity is true. This leads to saying all objects operate together; the actions of one object affect the rest because time applies equally. This is why knowledge of one fact affects how all knowledge is structured.   Many more examples of all three are possible. The main idea is that causality spreads in a systematically related way across a system with emergent attributes, or for all constituents of a given object. Applied to the whole universe, causality is eternal and will not cease as long as the universe exists. Eternal causality entails a systematically related universe with at least one emergent attribute.   Thus, the universe is an object.   A similar idea is that the universe is plenum[9], a continuous substance that connects all things that exist. To be clear, a theory of compositionality is not compatible with universe-as-plenum. Plenum would be a theory that the universe is an object because all objects are directly related spatially - the universe is a Jell-O slab with pieces of fruit suspended inside. But as I argued before, a spatial relation is insufficient for a group of objects to be an object. The added “closeness” of plenum does not help. Instead, compositionality is a theory that the universe is perpetuum[10], a total expanse of all that exists linked by causality.   I call it perpetual ontology.   <<>>     [1] This sense of the word entity is intended to be the same as Rand: "The first concepts man forms are concepts of entities—since entities are the only primary existents. (Attributes cannot exist by themselves, they are merely the characteristics of entities; motions are motions of entities; relationships are relationships among entities.)" -ITOE, page 15.   [2] I'm reminded of Peikoff's thought experiment on meta-energy puffs. OPAR, pages 45-47.   [3] The Brahman is not apprehendable by human means. A yogi may feel being one with the Brahman, but not through their perceptual faculties to see or grasp it. C.f. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahman   [4] Maya is not just perceptual illusion, but all ways of conceiving of the world whether through perception or cognition. C.f.  http://www.davar.net/EXTRACTS/FICTION/INDIAN.HTM   [5] To grasp is used here as a term to cover any form of grasping from mere perceptual awareness to conceptualization. Knowledge is a grasp, as well as perception. Witnessing Brahman would be a grasp, but something distinct from knowledge and perception.   [6] Unknown objects are not necessarily ungraspable, just as atoms were not always known. Atoms were always possibly graspable. The issue is proposing that a theoretical, yet-to-be-demonstrated object that cannot ever be grasped.   [7]The prefix super- is used to convey that the composition is a composition at or above the level of entity. A supercomposition is not a special form of composition with unique attributes.   [8] Time is itself a relation between two actions, so a time which lacks a coinciding action is no time at all. Furthermore, a causal-free point in time implies regions of reality which lack causality. In both ways, the absolute end to any causal chain would be an absolute end to the universe, or at least the universe would be in a frozen state. I’d argue that a frozen state is identical to nothingness, i.e. is nonexistence.   [9] Latin - (with genitive, or ablative in later Latin) full (of), filled, plump; https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/plenus#Latin   [10] Latin -  perpetual, continuous, uninterrupted; https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/perpetuus#Latin

    Reblogged:McArdle on the United Airlines Fiasco

    Gus Van Horn blog
    By Gus Van Horn blog,
    Finally, thanks to Megan McArdle, there is an even-handed take on the United Airlines incident I heard about every time I happened upon the news while I was away last week. Three things stand out to me. First, the flight wasn't oversold. (This piece explains how we benefit from overbooking, anyway.) Some blogs have mentioned this, but it bears repeating. Second, McArdle notes a misdirection of attention, which is quite curious in these days of media-fanned, anti-cop hysteria: "t was the cops, not United, who made [the passenger] bleed." Third, McArdle outlines how United could have easily handled this situation better:
    This bad publicity, cynically magnified by our anti-capitalist media, is bad in the short-term, but I appreciate McArdle seeing and taking the opportunity it presents to help the public understand some of the more annoying aspects of air travel in light of (a) how they beat alternatives and (b) how airlines can easily improve some of them.

    -- CAV

    P.S. The Cranky Flier (linked above) notes that the other air crew showed up at the gate. If this is the case, then United couldn't have avoided having to get a passenger off its plane after boarding, but her solution of offering more money to volunteers remains an option. Link to Original

    Reblogged:Death by Leisure Deficit

    Gus Van Horn blog
    By Gus Van Horn blog,
    Living in a quintessential suburb so soon after being in the thick of things in Boston (and close to it in Houston and St. Louis), the very title of the following piece had me saying Amen. In "A Leisure Deficit Is Killing Off the Suburbs," Leonid Bershidsky considers a study with pretty good controls about why "the relationship between housing prices and distance from the center of major U.S. cities has reversed since 1980."
    Another thing Bershidsky considers as a possible solution is telecommuting, whose wider adoption he correctly notes faces cultural inertia. Although I'd caution that telecommuting is no panacea, I think that wise use of remote work could greatly alleviate the burden of commuting.

    That said, I'd add that suburban living is worse for leisure time than the obvious culprit Bershidsky discusses. Thanks to government planning, the layout of most suburbs is horrendous. I have found that doing almost anything somewhere besides home almost always entails at least twenty minutes of driving time before and after. (Don't be fooled: even a so-called "five minute drive" includes getting into and out of a car, finding parking, and often, gratuitous traffic delays.) So, driving eats away at what little time a suburbanite isn't at work, commuting, or asleep. And walking or biking? My own experience has been that walking, once an integral and enjoyable part of my routine, is now something I have to go out of my way to do.

    As far as I'm concerned, the suburbs can't die off fast enough.

    -- CAV Link to Original

    Reblogged:GOP to Emit Carbon Tax

    Gus Van Horn blog
    By Gus Van Horn blog,
    Leave it to conservativesto resurrect an idea that had been regarded as "dead on arrival," according to the Wall Street Journal: a carbon tax. This "group of prominent conservative Republicans" hopes the resurrection will come about because they have found a way to make the less-than-observant think they are getting something for nothing:
    Further reading reveals that this tax will disproportionately affect those who use the most energy -- i.e., the most productive -- in order to toss crumbs to the less well-off. The World Resources Institute provides the following bullet points about this new proposal (bolded, below), which would make the likes of FDR and Bernie Sanders envious. I provide my own quick takes after each:
    Significantly reduces emissions. -- This will happen when energy costs go through the roof due to these taxes increasing on a schedule. We won't need to add "energy poverty" to our lexicon, because we'll have good, old-fashioned, plain poverty to deal with once the prices for everything start going up with the energy prices -- I mean, carbon taxes -- needed for production and transport. Benefits for poor and middle classes. -- As long as you (deep breath): (1) don't value your freedom (or that of others you trade with); (2) don't care about what activity the government might decide to tax next; (3) ignore the fact that the hidden costs of this policy will exceed your pittance; and (4) assume that global warming is: (a) real, (b) primarily caused by human activities, (c) has zero upside (including the continued use of the cheapest and most portable energy source there is), and (d) can be averted by this method -- then I guess this is true, in the sense that stealing "benefits" the thief. Addresses concerns about U.S. competitiveness and international action. -- If you don't understand how tariffs reduce the taxing nation's productivity -- See Henry Hazlitt -- you'll love this. As for me, I'd rather come in dead last in a race and walk away, than win one in which all participants have to hobble themselves, first. (This isn't the best analogy since trade isn't a zero-sum game, but involves both sides winning.) Cost-effectively reduces emissions. -- See Item 2 above. Also note that the tax amounts to a government-decreed price. Why not declare that the diesel used to drive carbon-belching farm equipment costs $1000 a gallon, to discourage use, and wheat is now a penny a bushel, so as to drive those ecologically benighted farmers out of business? Oh, wait. That would be too obvious... Offers potential for bipartisan support. -- Hey! Here's one I actually agree with. Both parties are full of panderers, and too many voters are looking for a free lunch, even if consists of seed corn and meat from stud animals. Many of the worst ideas floating around in politics appeal to members of both parties. It astounds me that there is so much wailing and gnashing of teeth on the left: With enemies like these, who needs useful idiots?

    -- CAV Link to Original

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