Welcome to Objectivism Online Forum

Welcome to Objectivism Online, a forum for discussing the philosophy of Ayn Rand. For full access, register via Facebook or email.


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. [This post is not on a book I’ve studied in composing my own, but a window into the latter in progress.] Entities and Other Categories, Concrete and Abstract Philosophers often use the term entity to mean any item whatever. That is one customary usage and perfectly all right. Rand decided to take entity into her technical vocabulary as something more restricted. She went on to name some fundamental categories that cannot exist without connection to entities: action, attributes, and relationships.[1] In Rand’s view, mine too, all of those categories have some instances in concrete existents. Actions, attributes, and relationships are not entities in Rand’s sense. To qualify as an entity, I say and think Rand could have been brought around to say, an entity has to do more than be able to stand as the subject of predication (or as the argument of a propositional function). Running or oscillation can be the subjects of predicates, but they can do so as actions, not entities. Fraction and containment can be the subjects of predicates, but they can do so as relations, not entities. Twill and vesicular quality can be subjects of predicates, but they can do so as attributes, not entities. One could include the category relationship under the category attribute.[2] Rand 1966 instead called out relationship as a fourth category, adding to entity, action, and attribute of 1957. Action of course could be subsumed under attribute and relationship in their ordinary scope. Actions of a body such as its angular momentum or its internal kinetic energy could be said to be attributes of that body. Actions of a body such as its translational motion or its infrared emissions from its heat or its interference potentials denominated by its DeBroglie wavelength could be said to be relationships to other things. Rand highlights action by setting it as a category alongside the other three. In the category action, I should say, include the phenomena dealt with in kinematics, dynamics, and kinetics. Include also the phenomena of statics and strength of materials. Include the formation of stars, planets, oceans, and organisms. Include chemical reactions and phase changes. Include as actions, also, organic growth, locomotion and the activities that are consciousness. Rand’s categories of entity, action, attribute, and relationship are her broadest categories of existents articulating her broad circumstance Existence is Identity. Though consciousness is one of her axiomatic concepts, its ontology is under action and attribute, and as a concrete operating system, under entity. Rand specified a relation of entity to material substance: in specific amount, which always it is,[3] material substance is an entity. For example, an ounce-coin of gold or the earth’s atmosphere would be entities.[4] Departing from Rand, in my ontology, I take as an Entity not only particular amount of material, but the material itself regardless of amount. Material such as wood bears properties such as temperature, tensile strength, flammability, and thermal conductivity. The dimensions of the wood are irrelevant to the bearing of such characteristics.[5] A material bears some attributes independently of the material’s extent, and those attributes are factors in specific causal interactions. Such material, independently of its particular spatial dimensions, I classify as Entity, a concrete Entity. Not only matter, but physical fields too, I include under Entity. I’ll capitalize the term to indicate when I’m speaking of entity in my sense broader than Rand’s entity.[6] Notice that on my broader concept, (i) the mass-energy of the universe and (ii) spacetime are Entities whether they are found by our modern physics to be finite or infinite, constant or variable. The axis of the earth’s rotation, though it has no causal powers, is also a concrete Entity, existing in physical spacetime and having determination from material factors. (The fundamental categories in my ontology beyond Entity are three, though not the three selected by Rand. Either set of three can be distributed exhaustively among the other set. My set and the reasons for their selection are lain out in my book in progress, and I’ll not show them here.) Once in Fountainhead Rand used the phrase “concrete reality,” and this was in one of its usual senses: as a contrast to abstraction.[7] There the sort of abstraction spoken of was long-term goals with understanding of principles behind them. The concrete reality there spoken of was actual behaviors of people, at odds with their own poorly understood long-term objectives. Rand’s usage of concrete there exercised two of the specific definitions of the term in my American Heritage Dictionary: “Existing in reality or in real experience; perceptible by the senses; real.” “Designating a thing or group of things as opposed to an abstraction.” Also under those meanings, Rand used concrete in Atlas as specifics and particulars about a character’s actions and responsibilities in contrast to evasive, stale generalities people stated about him.[8] And in the “About the Author” of Atlas, she wrote that concretes differ between (i) her characters’ lives lived by her philosophy and (ii) her own life lived by that philosophy. “The abstractions are the same.” There is another, closely related sense of concrete set out in my dictionary: “Relation to an actual specific thing or instance; not general, particular.” Do not neglect that word instance. Rand began to use concrete in her public writings under this third meaning—instanced particular of an abstraction—in “The Objectivist Ethics” (1961), in which she began to expose some of her view of the character of concepts. There she spoke of “perceptual concretes” being isolated from other particulars by abstraction which can then be integrated into the mental unity that is a concept. She most fully worked out her theory on the instance-relation of concretes to abstractions in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (1966–67). She remarked in oral exchange, around 1970: “Abstractions as such do not exist. Only concretes exist” (ITOE App., 173). I should not go along with that, at least at face value. Potentials, as well as actuals, are part of existence in my own view. My recipe for brownies exists not only in cookbook text and in thoughts and in occasions of past makings of brownies, but in potential makings. Even if I could not get Rand to go along with my placement of potentials as such in existence together with my mixing of potentials into all abstractions, she could easily go along with adding the qualification “apart from thought” to her two statements, yielding: “Abstractions as such do not exist apart from thought. Only concretes exist apart from thought.” Leonard Peikoff writes in 1991 that abstraction “is the power of selective focus and treatment; it is the power to separate mentally and make cognitive use of an aspect of reality that cannot exist apart from thought” (OPAR 78).[9] I shall take it as the Objectivist view, as well as the fact of the matter, that only concretes exist apart from thought. Additionally, I maintain that potentials apart from thought, like actuals apart from thought, are only concrete. Peikoff continues, however, by saying that integration of a group of items similar in an aspect grasped in abstraction results in a concept, which he calls “a mental entity.” Perhaps he means only “a mental item,” which is what I should say of that what. Perhaps he means there are not only concrete entities, but abstract entities, abstractions having the ontological standing entity. It is tempting to think of mathematical items, such as a complex number, a right triangle, or a vector space, as abstract entities (or abstract Entities). And if not physically, concretely instantiated, then purely abstract entities. The complex number (3 +7i) would be a purely abstract particular entity, purely a possibility for exemplification in concretes. The purely abstract entity has its mathematical characteristic suite of possibilities, which, if the abstract entity is also exemplified concretely, are also concrete potentials. That picture is mine, not expressly Rand’s, but mine fully only if we replace abstract entity with abstract item (or with something better yet to come). The status of mathematical items as abstract is not merely on account of requiring a process of abstraction to be comprehended. After all, there are concretes that also require abstraction to grasp. Such would be neutrinos, electromagnetic fields, physical spacetime, and economic demand at a price. Mathematical items are abstract fundamentally (i) because they consist of set-membership relations or other relations that are only abstract and (ii) because of their temporal standing and their relation to concretes in their very different temporal standing. I restrict entity or Entity to ontology of only concrete existence. Purely mathematical existence, Yes. Purely mathematical entities, No. Rather, purely mathematical items. We prove that on certain suppositions certain mathematical items, attributes, or relations exist and that certain others do not exist. Mathematical existence per se is only an obtaining, a certain fitness in an abstract scheme. That is why mathematical existence requires deductive proof and why deductive proof suffices. We have two roads, developed from the world in two different ways and affording access to the world and its aspects in two different ways. One is the empirical road, the other the purely mathematical. On the first, we continue to measure ever more finely whether there is any difference in magnitude of the inertial and the gravitational mass of a body. On the second, we do not measure squares and their diagonals to gain further assurance that a diagonal is incommensurable with the sides of the perfect square. Existence (or non-existence) of mathematical items and their attributes and relations are creatively discovered, although not created in a radically originative way by the human intellect attaining them. Kant was correct in rejecting as a human intellectual power any such radically originative intellect (intellectual intuition, in his parlance). However, we should go further than Kant on this point and recognize that no such power could exist for any sort of intellect whatever, call it divine intellect or what you will. The notion of intellectual intuition with that creative sense is only a chimera, a slip into the falsehood of the primacy of consciousness over existence. We should reject as well Kant’s notion of any human faculty at all that is radically originative of Euclidean space in the concrete, physical world. That too, had been a slip into the primacy of consciousness over existence. [1] AS 1016; ITOE 7, 264–79. [2] Bolzano did that. [3] Cf. Aristotle, Phy. 188b9–20; Metaph. 1033a5–22. [4] ITOE 15; Aristotle, Metaph. 1003b16–19, 1028b3–5, 1043b13–14. [5] Among such characteristics are the intensive variables of classical statistical mechanics. [6] Heidegger’s technical sense of entity, descendent of Kant’s object, far from Rand’s entity or my Entity, is pulled together by Béatrice Han-Pile in “Early Heidegger’s Appropriation of Kant” in Blackwell’s A Companion to Heidegger (2005). [7] ET XII, 369. [8] AS 879. [9] See further, David Kelley (1984), “A Theory of Abstraction” in Cognition and Brain Theory 7:329–57; David Kelley and Janet Krueger (1984), “The Psychology of Abstraction” in Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 14(1):43–67.
  2. . Avdiivka Is Being Evacuated by the Ukrainians Putin wins.
  3. . Eastern Ukraine Combat Resumes “The US and EU imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its actions in eastern Ukraine. Russia has denied backing the rebels. “The renewed violence coincided with President Donald Trump’s first phone-call with Russian President Vladimir Putin since he took office.” Putin wins.
  4. . Who needs Aristotle or Plato for realism at our present stage of science and philosophy, whether the realism is in philosophy of perception, philosophy of mathematics, theory of concepts, or philosophy of physics? I wasn’t sure SK to whom you wanted to address your question. Perhaps to each of the contributors so far to this thread. I’m also not sure to which of those areas of philosophy just named you wonder about some sort of realism perhaps on offer by me (or Budd or Grames). I hope, at any rate, you do not give Plato/Aristotle a corner on what may count as realism in any of those areas. That would not be true to the varieties of realisms on offer by the philosophy-profession leaders in those areas today. In philosophy of perception, I tend towards the realism of A. D. Smith. http://rebirthofreason.com/Forum/ArticleDiscussions/2141_2.shtml#49 In theory of concepts, Ayn Rand gets some favor from me. http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?/topic/13542-thought-and-measurement/#comment-199701 My variety of realism in philosophy of mathematics and in philosophy of physics is still in development. But of note for the latter would be my essay “Space, Rotation, Relativity.” http://www.objectivity-archive.com/abstracts.html Like most philosophers today (me too), Rand and her leading expositors, reject Aristotle’s mechanics; method of science; overextension of teleology; overdone substance, essence, and formal causation; matter-form hylomorphism; as well as his version of moderate realism in universals. In his Ph.D. dissertation (1964), Leonard Peikoff argued for the inadequacy of Aristotle’s ontological rendition (and Plato’s, of course) of the principle of non-contradiction.
  5. . I earned a B.S. degree in Physics (minor in Philosophy) and did some grad school in Physics. I then earned a B.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering, from which I made money. Cross-sectional area of a beam is a physical thing and has the magnitude it has regardless of whether we measure it and regardless of our method of measuring it or our units of measure or whether we use base 8 or base 10 in the numerical expression of the area magnitude. Set theory we employ (at least implicitly) in our measurement scales are abstract, not concrete and therefore not physical. Similarly, the choices of coordinate systems available in an engineering mathematics text do not yield different physical magnitude results of the calculations we perform with those various coordinate systems. Which coordinate system for calculation we use is a free choice not affecting the concrete magnitude, and we select a coordinate system that will be most convenient for us. Physical magnitudes exist independently of our measurement of them. The span of my hand has a certain ratio to my height. That ratio is nothing depending on our choice of scales or our undertaking to ascertain what the ratio is. That ratio is a concrete existent, specifically a concrete relation, not an abstract one. Similarly it goes with the relation of geometry as in Euclid, where we use no scales, to Descartes' analytic correspondence set over that geometry. It is what we call synthetic geometry (as in Euclid) that is physical structure independently of us. Descartes' analytic geometry uses (at least implicitly) set-membership relations, which is abstract not concrete. Analytic geometry depends on our special facility with abstract sets, but it also depends on the synthetic geometric structure to which it is being overlain and which makes it useful to us in engineering or in physics. Force and its degree is physical and independent of us; force per unit area and its degree, such as a torsional shearing stress and its degree, is physical and independent of our coming to those appropriate concepts and our discernments of the existence and magnitudes of those physical referents. Coming up with widest distinctions such as abstract v. concrete and refining more and more what is that distinction and which depends on which in what ways are good work for theoretical philosophy, and results there will have ramifications for theory of practical value, such as moral value, as well as have the loveliness of its own wide vista assimilating all science, mathematics, common experience, everyday knowledge, and the having and making of life.
  6. . Also of possible interest for Phylo or others would be Objectivism in One Lesson – An Introduction to the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (Andrew Bernstein, 2008). From the Preface: “This book . . . assumes that the reader has some familiarity with Ayn Rand’s novels—especially Anthem, The Fountainhead, and/or Atlas Shrugged—and now seeks to further explore Ayn Rand’s distinctive ideas.” “Ayn Rand wrote many non-fiction books and essays, as well, but no comprehensive theoretical presentation of her philosophy. The definitive treatment of her thought is Leonard Peikoff’s Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). . . . , an in-depth work . . . [although] never intended as an introduction to Objectivism. Consequently, a bridge is needed, an introductory text for the millions of readers who love Ayn Rand’s novels and who want to take the next step in understanding her philosophy . . . . / Objectivism in One Lesson is that text.”
  7. . Policy of Truth Check Your Premises Correspondence and Coherence
  8. . Welcome to OBJECTIVISM ONLINE, Phylo! In ATLAS SHRUGGED, did you read through all of Galt's radio speech? Was that pretty much all of interest to you? Do you have areas within the topics that come up in Rand's fiction that are especially of interest to you? A lot of Rand's readers have found her ideas helpful in making a life and finding happiness. Some of us additionally just really love some areas of philosophy, and pursue them with great passion and enjoyment. I like the big picture of philosophy for one thing, and I like making my own big picture ever more full and precise. I think the presentation of Rand's philosophy in a systematic way by Leonard Peikoff in his OBJECTIVISM: THE PHILOSOPHY OF AYN RAND is excellent. It is not more technical or difficult than the presentation in Galt's Speech. It does round out what was in the Speech with further issues that Rand and associates refined in the years from ATLAS to the end of her life. That Peikoff book, known by the acronym OPAR, was based very much on Peikoff's 1976 lectures laying out Rand's philosophy, and Rand was present at those lectures, and anyway knew what was to be in them, and she proclaimed them to be an accurate representation of her philosophy. One nice thing about his book is that he has citations to Rand's own writings pretty much all along the way. I have some formal training in physics and in mathematics and in philosophy. I study many sorts and areas of philosophy from ancient to now. I advise, for serious study of the major figures in philosophy, not only study of elementary logic, as Dallas recommended, but the study of Euclid's geometry. But it depends on your interests and life situation whether you would want to study philosophers much besides Rand. One does understand hers better in some ways (endless additional ways, really) by studying others' and comparing to hers. You can see some of my own writings resulting from such studies in my 'Books to Mind' sector at this site and at the 'Stephen Boydstun Corner' over here (I am the author who accidentally ended up with the name Guyau there): http://www.objectivistliving.com/forums/index.php?/forum/126-stephen-boydstun-corner/ .
  9. . Who Is Ayn Rand? Ayn Rand in Her Own Words
  10. . Roderick Long has lately tracked down the song “John Gray” that Rand employed in We the Living. He reports it was written in 1923 by Matvei Blanter (1903–1990). The lyrics coincide with those translated by Rand. They are by Vladimir Mass (1876–1979). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LX7bF5mEBnA “Petrograd had known sweeping epidemics of cholera; it had known epidemics of typhus, which were worse; the worst of its epidemics was that of ‘John Gray’. “Men stood in line at the co-operatives—and whistled ‘John Gray’. At recreation hour in schools, young couples danced in the big hall, and an obliging pupil played ‘John Gray’. Men hung on the steps of speeding tramways, humming desperately ‘John Gray’. Workers’ clubs listened attentively to a lecture on Marxism, then relaxed while a comrade showed his skill on a piano out of tune, playing ‘John Gray’." (1936, 178)
  11. . These Words These words we read from some desire . . that someone live . . the this entire. Read is our reach, . . our grasp, our be . . life that is know . . wings that are free. Copyright Stephen C. Boydstun 2016
  12. Newly issued: The Ways and Means of Painting Joan Mitchell Blumenthal
  13. The preceding painting by JMB is titled 'The Kingdom of Earth' (1972). Below is her drawing 'The Possessor'.
  14. .
  15. . In May of 1964, Rand wrote a letter to Prof. John O. Nelson at the University of Colorado. The letter includes the following paragraph: “I must mention that Galt’s Gulch is not an organized society, but a private club whose members share the same philosophy. It exemplifies the basic moral principles of social relationships among rational men, the principles on which a proper political system should be built. It does not deal with questions of political organization, with the details of a legal framework needed to establish and maintain a free society open to all, including dissenters. It does not deal with specifically political principles, only with their moral base. (I indicate that the proper political framework is to be found in the Constitution, with its contradictions removed.)” Letters of Ayn Rand, Michael Berliner, editor (1995, 626)
  16. "The Young Gleaner" - Paul Peel
  17. . Beauty, Goodness, Life - a work of mine with future completion, I hope.
  18. 'Iris' by Capuletti
  19. . Neera Badhwar was a past presenter at the Ayn Rand Society as well as at David Kelley’s summer seminar. Her 2014 book Well-Being: Happiness in a Worthwhile Life has received two notable reviews: In Ethics and in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Thanks to Stephen Hicks for notice of these reviews. Prof. Badhwar does not mention Ayn Rand in this book. Aristotle is the sage here, filled out by modern experimental psychology, with new perspective and argumentation by the author.
  20. . I see from the Name Index for my journal Objectivity (1990–1998) that authors referred to something or other by N. Branden on the following pages. I’m curious what were the topics for which these authors had found something useful in his works. I’ll fill that in here in the Name Index entry for him. Branden, Nathaniel V1N2 68, 72, 74 “Why Man Needs Approval” – Marsha Enright V1N5 43, 59, 70, 161 “Intricate Consciousness” – Jay Friedenberg “On the Physical Meaning of Volition” – Ronald E. Merrill “Finitude and Meaning” – James Henderson V1N6 31, 163 “Formation of the Concept of Mind” – Paul Vanderveen “A Philosophy for Living on Earth” – Peter Saint-Andre V2N1 112, 120 “Volitional Synapses” – Stephen Boydstun V2N2 9 “Axioms: The Eightfold Way” – Ronald E. Merrill V2N3 110, 146 “Compatibility of Determinism and Free Will” – George Lyons “Con Molto Sentimento” – Marsha Enright V2N5 35–36, 45, 69, 71, 73, 78, 86 “The Essence of Art” – Roger E. Bissell “Objectivist Ethics: A Biological Critique” – Ronald E. Merrill V2N6 193–94, 202, 204–5 “Ayn Rand: Literary Portraiture v. Philosophic Explication of Ideal Man and Woman” – Charles Wieder
  21. . The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 16(1,2) – 2016 Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy The last time I saw Nathaniel Branden, he also saw me. There are some things I’m quick on. One is quickness in catching objects falling unexpectedly, another is quickness in catching some kinds of jokes. It was 2005 at the last of David Kelley’s summer seminars I had the pleasure of attending. Branden was there, not to give a lecture, but a live interview, hosted by Duncan Scott. They called the interview-session “On Ayn Rand and Objectivism.” I had not intended to attend the session, but had ended up too exhausted to walk back to my motel across the Union campus and then return for my next big session. So I plopped myself down in the interview session. I’d not prepared any question. (I certainly wish I’d prepared and had asked him about his and Rand’s collaborations [and Continental precursors], up to the completion of Atlas Shrugged, on their concepts of self-esteem and on what he would come to call The Visibility Principle in their joint journal a decade later.) So I contributed nothing to the interview, except for one lightning laugh. Some audience members had been asking about his personal romantic relationship with Ayn Rand and its eventual bust-up of their wider relationship. At one point, he said of some recent writing or other, by others, on those things, “I will say this, if I’d done half the things they claim I did to Ayn Rand, she’d had to have been an idiot.” We both knew well that consequent was an absurdity, and he flashed those blues and grin over to my instant burst. There are some recollections in this JARS issue from persons who (unlike me) knew Nathaniel Branden personally. Pages 115-243 are especially susbstantive on Branden's ideas in psychology as he developed them after his years with Rand.
  22. . The Perfectionist Turn - From Metanorms to Metaethics Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl (Edinburgh University Press, 2016) This new work is available at half-price until 1/8/17. There will be two Authors-Meet-Critics sessions of this book at the American Philosophical Association Meeting in Baltimore next month. “The Perfectionist Turn offers a defense of perfectionism itself, and demonstrates how ethics can be independent of yet in rapport with politics.” –Fred D. Miller, University of Arizona
  23. Gravity Probe B A drag-free satellite equipped with exquisite monitoring of spin axis of superconducting gyroscopes brings confirmation of two effects of GR. More on final results of the experiment will be posted soon here at the Stanford site.
  24. . Probing data from the LIGO black hole merger events for Planck-scale structure at event horizon of classical general relativity: December 2016 (Associates of the distinguished Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics)