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Boydstun

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Posts posted by Boydstun


  1. SL maintained that there are plenty of forums for discussing general philosophy. If anyone knows of such that are online forums, I'd appreciate learning of them. I do know of one. It is called Philosophy Now. I participated there on one occasion and was personally attacked in every disrespectful way a fellow (anonymous, likely male) could think up for every thing I might say: because I mentioned and conveyed some Rand without distorting and belittling her. I've heard others (and not Rand-interested so far as I know) say they won't participate at that site because of the nastiness there.The fellow who was so disrespectful towards me there certainly achieved the purpose of shutting me up. I did not go back there. One thing I've liked about this site OO is that there is such a predominately civil exchange of views.


  2. I appreciate all the links Merlin makes to his blog entries. They are informative, and convenient for me to go to from here. I don't get to follow up with comments usually, because I'm on other things for in-depth assimilation in these years of my life. Merlin's professional background and continuing study of economics and of philosophy are a lucky stream into this site. I'm delighted to see that such an old, old man is still learning. I remember 25 years ago when he and I together studied philosopher after philosopher concerning theory of truth. I'll try to link to some of his essays on that and on other subjects naturally of interest to learners who have an interest in the span of topics Rand undertook. 

    I had not heard of this book and social theory of Walzer's until Merlin conveyed notes on it to us in this modern medium. Makes me kind of feel like being back with Merlin in hours after our business jobs, plodding our way through Spinoza. (I'm not kidding; to us that is interesting and very worthwhile.) I see that Merlin has summarized Waltzer through chapter 2 and that there are several chapters more he might think to convey notes on to folks here who might well be interested in modern theories of justice. Perhaps he will have some evaluations and Rand-comparisons at the end.

    Good research and thinking from Merlin in these finished products:

    Imagination and Cognition

    Theories of Truth I II III 

    On Probability

    Pursuing Similarity

    Perhaps some participants here would like to talk to Merlin right here in this thread about some things he wrote on these topics. 

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    PS - I first met Merlin, as I recall, listening to tape lectures being played at Northwestern in 1977. That was The Philosophy of Objectivism which had been recorded the year before in New York. (It was by Leonard Peikoff, and Ayn Rand participated, a fine experience.) It's quite possible one could get acquainted with this learned guy by attending OCON 2019. He and wife reside in that vicinity, and I know he attended OCON last year.


  3. The following is an early essay of mine published in Nomos in spring of 1984. 

     

    The Moral Value of Liberty

    According to the view that there are no objective values, there are no ways in which one ought to act; there are simply ways in which one prefers to act. One may prefer to treat others as if they were valuable, but not because they are actually valuable. One may prefer to believe the truth that there are no valid values, but not because one ought to believe the truth. One may doubt the coherence of this point of view, one may even suspect that there is something in the world of objective value—then one ought to read this essay.

    For my understanding of the nature of objective value and of the value of individual liberty, I owe much to the work of Ayn Rand and Robert Nozick. The whole view and some of the parts of the whole presented in this essay are only my own. But the view may also serve as an introduction and invitation to the recent work of Nozick on the foundations of ethics in his wonderful book Philosophical Explanations (1981).

     

    The Birthplace of Value

    A value which is valuable not purely as a means to further value beyond itself is termed by Nozick an intrinsic value. It is valuable in itself. Distinguished from intrinsic value is instrumental value. Instrumental value is instrumental to extrinsic value; it derives its value from value lying beyond itself, from the valuable end for which it is means.

    In even the simplest organism, we see intrinsic and instrumental values. The life of an organism itself is of intrinsic value; the conditions required for its life are of instrumental value. In the simpler organisms, these values merely supervene the living action. They characterize and distinguish all living action, but in the absence of sufficient consciousness they do not draw the living action forth. The values displayed in the simple organism are achieved by efficient causes quite “blind” to the value they render.

    Consider the butterfly. Butterflies of the Heliconious species H. hewitsoni deposit their eggs selectively on the shoots of the Passiflora species P. pittieri, selecting both this particular vine and the proper stage of its development. If the shoot is too young, the hatching caterpillars may devour the shoot before its leaves appear; if the shoot is too old, the leaves will be too tough. In either circumstance the young caterpillars would starve (Gilbert 1982). But the butterfly does not seek out the proper place to deposit eggs in order to produce progeny.

    The actions of a relatively simple organism such as a butterfly, vital to itself and/or its species, are performed without the operation of final causes (sufficiently global to effect the result). The lives of human beings, however, spring largely from final causes. Because of our mode of consciousness, we are capable of being drawn towards ends extensive in scope and number. If life is not among our ends, if we do not make it an operative value of ours, then we shall tend to die on that account.

    It is in a world of living things that value arises. The simple organism organizes itself into a highly interdependent system; the parts of the whole which it is produce each other reciprocally. Each part not only exists by means of the other parts but also appears to exist for the sake of the others and of the whole. In this pattern there is, as we shall see, something profoundly important for beings such as we. Organisms can operate for us as an intrinsic value; they can be of intrinsic value for us. Some things can be of intrinsic value for us, and in that very valuation we can be intrinsic value.

     

    Objective Value

    Objects of the self, including the self as object of its own reflection, can be of value for the self as subject. The self as subject and only the self as subject can be value. But just as the self cannot be the subject it is without having been subject to external objects, so the self cannot be the value it is without external objects of value to it. And just as the self cannot be the subject it is without also being the self-reflective object it is, so the self cannot the value it is without being of that value to itself.

    Which things can be of objective intrinsic value? Robert Nozick has given good reasons to think that the objective dimension of intrinsic value is degree of organic unity. An organic unity unifies a diversity of what constitutes the parts of the whole. The degree of organic unity of X (an action, entity, event, or state of affairs) is a function of the degree of unifiedness of the unified material relative to a set of unifying relations, and a function of the degree of diversity of that material relative to a set of dimensions along which the materials differ or are similar. The intrinsic value of X is the sum of the degree of organic unity of the whole it is plus the values arising from the degrees of organic unity of each of its parts (Nozick 1981, 103–4, 415–24).

    The phenomenon of organic unity appears not only in living organisms and ecological systems but also in the realm of art, in the structure of abstract theories, and in the functioning of machines and toys. A work of art, for example, by relation to its creation or contemplation, can be of intrinsic value because its organic unity contributes to the intrinsic value of the creation or contemplation.

    Our lives, our selves are capable of immense intrinsic value. A familiar passage of Ayn Rand’s can here be seen in a new light: “Happiness is a state of non-contradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values. . . . And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: “This is worth living for”—what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the fact that life is an end in itself” (Rand 1964, 29). The state of being giving rise to this happiness is not only valuable because it preserves the life of such a being; such a being is all the more valuable (and worth preserving) because highly organically unified.

    That there be an objective basis for intrinsic value is not sufficient for the operation of value in the world. Nozick has taken an approach somewhat similar to Rand’s approach to bridging the traditional gap between descriptive fact and operative value. “We choose or determine that there be values, that they exist, but their character is independent of us. . . . The choice that there be value is reflexive . . . [for] it chooses that there be value in virtue of that very choosing that there be value” (Nozick 1981, 555–60). In addition, this choice is an instance of the policy of valuing value, of responding to value as value, “a policy that is reflexively and self-subsumingly brought into effect in that very choice” (560).

    Although the character of the value so willed is not up to us, there is no one objectively correct set or weighting of values to be realized. The choice that there be value is made in the valuation of particular things, and not all values are compossible. We see, then, that within objective limits there remains room for creativity “in the weighting and balancing of different values, in forming a life embodying a new and original organic unity of diverse constituent values” (565).

     

    Ethical Conduct

    Utilizing the hypothesis that degree of organic unity is the objective dimension of intrinsic value, Nozick is able to explain how responsiveness to intrinsic value is intrinsically valuable. He further suggests that we might understand the notion of an act one prima facie ought to do, as an act that is responsive to some value. He holds, however, that value is also to be pursued because one is thereby being responsive to it as value. This suggests that value might be characterized as that to which one prima facieought to be responsive. In Nozick’s theory, value and ought each require support from the other notion (529­–31).

    The moral ought is distinguished within the wider concept of ought by the kind of value giving rise to it. The characteristic of ourselves and of others in virtue of which both are owed ethical behavior is being a value-seeking I. This fundamental characteristic, an end in itself, is intrinsically and highly valuable.

    From this characteristic arises the fundamental principle of ethics: Treat one who is a value-seeking I as a value-seeking I. Treat her as (or in accordance with her closeness to being) that value. Such responsiveness is only possible to one in one’s capacity as a value-seeking I. Only a value-seeking self can adequately queue and shape his behavior to another’s being one; only by exercising his own basic moral characteristic can he respond to that characteristic as that characteristic in another (or in himself). In treating another in ways morally responsive, he unifies himself with the intrinsic value she is; the intrinsic value of his life is thereby magnified. The person who treats another immorally places himself in a relation of disunity with her intrinsic value, thereby rendering the self he is less valuable (451–69).

    In ethical interpersonal relationships which are not close, one must respond

    “to the fact of another’s subjectivity, to her being a self, a value-seeking entity, a choice-making and meaning-seeking entity, but one need not respond to every modulation in the content or focus of these characteristics. Ethics responds to the fact that these characteristics are there, perhaps also to some general traits of their content, while more intimate relationships respond to the particular way these characteristics specify and express themselves. . . .

    “But if, as I believe, there is a general principle calling for responsiveness to value as such, not merely the value embodied in the basic moral characteristic, then there will be differences in how we (are to) appropriately respond to different people. While these differences will not involve violating the rights all share in virtue of being value-seeking I’s, they might involve choosing to aid or save some rather than others in situations where not all can be helped.” (470–72)

     

    The Right to Liberty

    Individual rights are a class of moral claims for which enforcement is morally permissible. The deliberate use of force is prima facie anti-responsive to the basic moral characteristic of the recipient; there is a moral presumption against its use—any use. The true rights of individuals must be based upon moral claims sufficient to overcome this presumption, and force must be used only to effect these rights.

    Since the rule of law entails the existence of general standing orders backed by credible coercive threats, we identify the activities of government (agents as government agents) which are morally permissible when we identify individual rights. A delineation of the morally proper sphere of individual liberty delineates also the morally permissible uses of deliberate force. Elsewhere I have presented the view that the proper sphere of liberty of interacting individuals may be discerned by reference to the circumstances of individuals presently incapable of interaction (Boydstun 1983). From that view it was seen that the fundamental right of each interacting individual is the right to full formal liberty.

    Material liberty was defined as the extent of what an individual can in fact do independently of another. The right of full formal liberty was specified as the right of each against the reduction of his material liberty by another. It was then seen that from this fundamental right there flow rights against personal injury, rights to private property, and rights to privacy.

    Were the legal uses of force restricted to the enforcement of these rights, individuals would be left fully free, within the realm of the possible, to respond to value and to become value. The life of each would be his own—his alone to destroy, his with others to love, to nurture, to glorify.

     

    References

    Boydstun, S. C. 1983, June. Political Liberty and Property Rights. Illinois Libertarian.

    Gilbert, L. E. 1982, Aug. The Coevolution of a Butterfly and a Vine. Scientific American.

    Nozick, R. 1981. Philosophical Explanations. Harvard.

    Rand, A. 1964. The Virtue of Selfishness. NAL.

     

     

     


  4. Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1169b29-1170a3 (Joe Sachs, translator)

    "If being happy consists in living and being-at-work, and the being-at-work of a good person is serious and pleasant in itself, as was said at the beginning, and if what is one’s own also belongs among things that are pleasant, and we are better able to contemplate those around us than ourselves, and their actions better than our own, and the actions of serious people who are their friends are pleasant to those who are good (since they have both the attributes of things that are pleasant by nature), then a blessed person will have need of friends of this sort, if indeed he chooses to contemplate actions that are decent and his own, and the actions of a good person who is a friend are of that kind."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Leibniz, from Prefaces he wrote for collections of medieval state documents. (From Loemker 1956.)

    1693 - "To love or cherish is to find pleasure in the happiness of another, or what amounts to the same thing, to accept the happiness of another as one’s own. Thus the knotty question of how there can be a disinterested love which is free from hope and fear, and from every consideration of utility, is solved, and in a way that is also of great importance in theology. For happiness of those whose happiness pleases us is obviously built into our own, since things which please us are desired for their own sake. Thus the contemplation of beautiful things is itself pleasant, and a painting of Raphael affects him who understands it, even if it offers no material gains, so that he keeps it in his sight and takes delight in it, in a kind of image of love. But when the beautiful object is at the same time itself capable of happiness, this affection passes over to true love. The divine love moreover . . . ."

    1700 - "It seems desirable, however, to reply to one objection which has been made to me, on an issue upon which I touched . . . before it was openly discussed, and which recently excited much argument in France, until it was suppressed by authority of the king and the supreme pontiff. This is the controversy about whether love which is disinterested, and seeks the well-being of the beloved, nevertheless depends upon the impulsion towards one’s own well-being. Somewhat the same question, namely, had occurred to me when I prefaced [1693] . . . . For how can love be bestowed upon others? Who seeks the well-being of the beloved for its own sake, since we will nothing except for the sake of our own good?

    "I should answer that whatever is pleasant is sought for itself, as opposed, that is, to what is useful to the good ends of producing the well-being of another. I observed that such is the object of true love, since to love or to cherish is to be delighted by the happiness of the beloved and his perfections. I understood the following objection to have been made against this—that it is more perfect so to submit to God that you are moved by his will alone and not by your own delight. But we must recognize that this conflicts with the nature of things, for the impulse to action arises from a striving toward perfection, the sense of which is pleasure, and there is no action or will on any other basis. . . . Nor can anyone renounce (except merely verbally) being impelled by his own good, without renouncing his own nature. And so it is to be feared that the negation of self which certain false mystics teach, and the suspension of action and thought by which they assume that we find supreme union with God [are incorrect] . . . ."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Blake America a Prophecy (1793)

    “Life delights in life.”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Hölderlin Hyperion (1794)

    “Where is the being that knew her as mine did? In what mirror did the rays of this light converge as they did in me? Was she not joyfully frightened by her own gloriousness when she first became aware of it in my joy?”

    “. . . when the dear being, more faithfully than a mirror, betrayed to me every change in my cheek . . . .”

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Rand We the Living (1936)

    “Her face was a mirror for the beauty of his” (58).

    “He looked into her flaming eyes with eyes that were like mirrors which could reflect a flame no longer” (445).

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Rand The Foutainhead(1943)

    The steel frame of Howard Roark’s house for Austen Heller has been erected. On site the workers notice that Roark’s hands “reach out and run slowly down the beams and joints.” Workers say “‘That guy’s in love with the thing. He can’t keep his hands off’.” Absorbed in work at the site, Roark’s “own person vanished,” but “there were moments when something rose within him, not a thought nor a feeling, but a wave of some physical violence, and then he wanted to stop, to lean back, to feel the reality of his person heightened by the frame of steel that rose dimly about the bright, outstanding existence of his body at its center” (138). 

    Proceed from the literary foreplay at the Heller house to Dominique’s visits to Roark’s room and bed. “In his room, there was no necessity to . . . erase herself out of being. Here she was free to resist, to see her resistance welcomed by an adversary too strong to fear a contest, strong enough to need it; she found a will granting her the recognition of her own entity . . . . / . . . . It was an act of tension, as the great things on earth are things in tension. It was tense as electricity, the force fed on resistance . . .” (301).

    On their last time, before they are separated for years, Roark says “‘I love you, Dominique. As selfishly as the fact that I exist. . . . I’ve given you . . . my ego and my naked need. This is the only way you can wish to be loved. This is the only way I can want you to love me’” (400; see also Wynand and Dominique, 539). 

    Roark and Dominique are definite entities, definite selves, exposed to each other. Their tensed sexual occasions heighten awareness of their selves, awareness of each to own-self and to other-self. (Cf. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness 1943, 505–14 in the translation by Hazel Barnes.)

    In her marriage to Keating, Dominique is a non-entity. (No tension, strength, resistance, or ecstasy in bed.) Keating is a non-entity in most of his existence. Most all of his desires and candidate desires and most all of his opinions receive their value to him by their potential for impressing others. Dominique is a mirror to him, and she makes herself not more than a mirror (452–55). She says to Keating: “‘You wanted a mirror. People want nothing but mirrors around them. To reflect them while they’re reflecting too. You know, like the senseless infinity you get from two mirrors facing each other across a narrow passage. . . . Reflections of reflections . . . . No beginning and no end. No center and no purpose’” (455).

    —Wynand and Dominique—

    “She sat at her dressing-table. He came in and stood leaning against the wall beside her. He looked at her hands, at her naked shoulders, but she felt as if he did not see her; he was looking at something greater than the beauty of her body, greater than his love for her; he was looking at himself—and this, she knew, was the one incomparable tribute (GW IX 537–38).

    —Roark the morning after first time with Dominique—

    “In some unstated way, last night had been what building was to him; in some quality of reaction within him, in what it gave to his consciousness of existence” (ET II 231–32). 

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Rand Atlas Shrugged (1957)

    “. . . her pride in herself and that it should be she whom he had chosen as his mirror, that it should be her body which was now giving him the sum of his existence, as his body was giving her the sum of hers” (957).

    “She saw the reflection of her smile in his. / . . . / But the sum included the knowledge of all that had had to be earned, before the person of another being could come to embody the value of one’s existence” (1159).

    Also 

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Nathaniel Branden “Self-Esteem and Romantic Love”

    In The Objectivist1967 December, 1968 Jan. and Feb.

    Likewise in The Psychology of Self-Esteem (1969, Chap. XI)

    Also


  5. I had meant to mention in the preceding post that Peikoff 1964 notes that not all classical philosophers subscribed to a metaphysical distinction between the necessary and the contingent. He helpfully mentions John Scotus Erigena, Spinoza, and Hegel.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Links to the sections of this essay so far:

    Plato

    Aristotle I  II   

    Kant I  II  III

    Conventionalism I  II  III


  6. I concur with the distinction Merlin draws between physical and formal necessity in the preceding post. That’s a good example from mathematics, and I should note additionally that (i) it is a fact—ascertained in the way one does for mathematics—that there are some continuous functions that are nowhere differentiable, and it remains a fact even if it is the case that there simply is nothing physical to which some such function applies and that (ii) we find great success in technology and in extending comprehension of the physical by applying many functions, each one both continuous and differentiable, to electricity, to fluids, and to solids, yet understanding perfectly well that such things are discontinuous at small enough scales. 

    SL, I should not want to equate the physical with the metaphysical. When Rand claims that only living things can have values or when philosophers from time immemorial say nothing comes from nothing, those claims are consonant with modern physical science, but the claims are made in what I’d call a metaphysical perspective, not a scientific one.

    In his 1967 essay “The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy” Peikoff has a section on the traditional distinction within metaphysics between necessary and contingent facts (and how this feeds into the A-S distinction). The meaning of metaphysical necessary/contingent has changed over the centuries, but there is family-descendant resemblance under the continuing distinction. Peikoff did not think such a distinction is correct to make within metaphysics. However, he there drew a distinction between the metaphysical and the manmade (in tune with Rand’s later elaboration). Human free will is the root fact for this distinction. Unfortunately, Peikoff and Rand thought that the rule of Identity in metaphysics entailed complete determinism throughout metaphysics as contrasted with the realm of free will. Furthermore, Rand thought that such metaphysics rightly constrains (a bit) what physical science might find, but that the reverse flow does not soundly occur. That is, she thought metaphysical fundamentals could not be changed in light of advances in science. So for example, the development of chaos theory in the classical regime of physics (starting in the 1970’s as I recall) and the distinction within physics between a classical system in its regular regime as opposed to being in its chaotic regime could not suggest any reformation of general metaphysics. Really, the total determinism that Rand-Peikoff attached to metaphysics under identity was an inheritance from modern physics (Laplace et al.) and is not properly part of right metaphysics, rather should be left open for physics to settle. In his book OPAR, Peikoff does acknowledge that when it comes to value theory, biology supplies the characterized phenomena, pertinent for philosophical fundamentals concerning value.

    In his dissertation, Merlin, Peikoff included Blanshard’s books The Nature of Thoughtand Reason and Analysis. He does not cite the former in his text or notes. He cites and makes specific explicit use of the latter from its pages 252–54 and 271–75. The former stretch lays out the traditional view that necessity (the one, as it happens, to be most often sainted by philosophers traditionally) arises only at the level of universals and essences; discerned at the level of conception, not perception. The latter stretch concerns conventionalist theories of logic.

    Merlin, I’ve inclined to the view of logic put forth by Rand (1957) and Branden (c. 1968) and Peikoff (1967, 1991) in their orientation towards logic as tool for successful thinking. (I reject Rand’s definition of logic in its differentia. I expect she was misled by a remark in Aristotle’s Metaphysics, which seems oblivious to his great achievement, theory of the syllogism, in Prior Analytics.) It has seemed plain that on the Objectivist orientation towards logic, material implication should not be incorporated. A lot of other thinkers have thought material implication off the mark for deficiency in the relevance factor, as had Blanshard. They developed Relevance Logic (also called Relevant Logic) as replacement for classical modern logic, and I think that the way to go and a way consonant with Objectivism also. I have books telling the history, concerns, and purposes that brought on material implication, but I’ll have to open them. I’ll let you know on your blog what I find.


  7. PNC Ground Shifts to the Side of the Subject– Conventionalism III

    To set myself the task “weed this patch of periwinkles” I may need to use language.  The two popular weeds there at this season are dog violets and a native vine I don’t know the name of. Getting to the nub of that weed-vine among the thicket of periwinkle vines and pulling out the former without pulling out the latter is a challenge. Names and language do not seem to be enlisted in executing the task; they enable only my report of this work. The weed-vine and the periwinkle are of different leaf shape and color. Tug gently on the end of the weed-vine reaching for the sun. You won’t be able to see the weed-vine you’re tugging but a few inches before it disappears (leafless in this portion of it) among the thicket of periwinkle vines hugging the earth and putting down their roots continually along their way. But as you tug on the weed-vine, you’ll be able to find with your other hand that single vine being tugged. It is tightly tensed and in synchrony with any rhythm of tugs you apply with the other hand. Repeat from there, and eventually you arrive at the nub of the weed-vine and pull out that vine by the root.  

    Pause at a step in which you have the single obscured weed-vine in each hand. Pull with the one hand, feel the pull in the other. That is a perceived connection between two distinct events. At this point, philosophers from Plato and Aristotle to Hume and Kant stick up their noses. Not Locke.

    That applied force can be conveyed along a vine is a physical necessity. That different things in general (as example, weed-vines and periwinkle vines) are not same things is another type of necessity, logical necessity, however neatly it coincides with physical necessity. Logical necessity holds unconditionally and in all contexts. What I’ve called physical necessity is traditionally taken to be necessity under some sort of limiting conditions, and this necessity has been called a contingent connection, reserving necessary connectionfor logical (and other formal) necessity. The real distinction, I think contrariwise, should be in what aspects of things we are accessing and the different ways these two aspects are accessed.

    Peikoff 1964 points out that Locke avoided the contingent/necessaryterminology. Locke instead applied probable/certainto the division. We have seen in my section Aristotle II that Locke maintained we have by sensory perception instances of the general fact that different things are not same things and that a thing is never both A and not A at the same time and in the same respect. Philosophers, including Peikoff in 1964, are correct to fault Locke’s blurring under probable/certaina clear understanding that ampliative inductive generalizations over perceived instances do not suffice to land the absolute necessity in general principles of logic or pure mathematics. Peikoff notes on page 218 the parallel criticism in Hume’s famous dictum that we do not find in sense perception any necessary connection between distinct events (distinct impressions,in Hume’s own parlance and perspective). Countering Hume’s quandary, Kant attempted a radical subject-sided formulation of necessities such as the necessity in a principle of causality, a reformulation in which Kant would have objective temporal order of distinct events get the necessity of that order from a necessity of causal structure demanded by human mind. (Cf. Peikoff 2012, 32–33.)

    Locke had fogged up by his softening of the distinction between (i) the physical necessities one can sense and manipulate with the weed-vine in one’s hands and (ii) formal and metaphysical necessities. Nevertheless, I maintain Locke right in taking (i) to be the driver of (ii) and not the other way around, as philosophers from Plato to Kant and beyond would have it. British empiricism has its good sense even if it was never good enough.

    Locke was not really of one mind in this. Peikoff lays out an opposite strand also inAn Essay Concerning Human Understanding: IV 3.31, 4.6, 4.8, 9.1, 11.13–14. “What is Locke doing in such passages as these? He is now contrastingeternal truths and existential truths. The former are to be discovered only by ‘the examining of our own ideas’, and ‘concern not existence’ . . .” (222). Peikoff points out that the likes of platonist Cudworth or Leibniz had also maintained such a division, but for them consideration of our own ideas accesses the eternal truths as immutable relations in the divine understanding. Eternal truths such as the laws of identity and noncontradiction, as well as the essences of existing things, are givens to the human mind, independently of our self-examinations accessing them. But for an empiricist such as Locke, rejecting that rationalism, and joining considerable nominalism (the conceptualist wing of nominalism) concerning universal ideas to the empiricism, the divide between matters of fact and the eternal, formal truths can make conventionalism concerning the ground of logic “almost inevitable” (223).

    The leading German spokesman for conventionalism in science, geometry, and logic in the early years of the twentieth century was Hugo Dingler: “The application of the law of contradiction rests on my free will. . . and this is just what is called a stipulation [Festsetzung]” (1919, 14-15; quoted in Carus 2007, 120n14). “There is no other way to guarantee the general validity of a law other than its stipulation by the will” (1919, 13; Carus 119). Peikoff would not likely have known much about this history in 1964, much beyond, that is, what Popper wrote against it in his 1934 The Logic of Scientific Discovery. I want to point it out because although Dingler rejected as unfounded Kant’s basis of the necessity in geometry as arising from synthetic a priori judgments and Kant’s picture of how certain laws are a priori conditions of the possibility of any experience (Wolters 1988). Dingler is nonetheless a redo of Kant, of the first Critique,with conscious choice (of alleged conventions) replacing Kant’s mandatory structure in any sensory intuition and in any conceptualization of things external to mind. Though crucial, fundamental organization of mind on Dingler’s view is voluntary, and although Kant would shake his head over such free play as that, it remains that the organization is an a priori condition for the possibility of any experience or knowledge.

    Carnap will resist such radical conventionalism in the 20’s and 30’s. I’ll return in the next installment to the course of Logical Empiricism and the role of (still overextended) conventionalism in their characterization of logic and in the characterization by Dewey and by C. I. Lewis. I expect to yet dig into the fate of conventionalism concerning logic to the present day. Jumping out of chronological order, just now I want to be sure to mention—to show that conventionalism in logic remains a current and a concern in philosophy today—the section 6.5 “Logical Conventionalism” in Theodore Sider’s Writing the Book of the World (2011 Oxford).

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Carus, A. W. 2007. Carnap and Twentieth-Century Thought – Explication as Enlightenment.Cambridge.

    Dingler, H. 1919. The Foundations of Physics: Synthetic Principles of Mathematical Natural Philosophy.Union for Scientific Publishing, Berlin and Leipzig. (In German.) 

    Peikoff, L. 2012. The DIM Hypothesis.New American Library.

    Wolters, G. 1988. Hugo Dingler. Science in Context2(2):359–67. 


  8. Veritas, why can't Dr. Binswanger and others working within Rand's system take consciousness as awareness to be a first-person standpoint and fundamentally in contrast to a third-person standpoint such as when they say that consciousness is some sort of brain processing, which is to say physiological, which is to say physical? In other words, couldn't one say that in certain sorts of contexts it is sensible to say consciousness is physical and in other sorts of contexts consciousness is in stark contrast to the physical?

    Does what Binswanger writes rule out that option for him?

     


  9. This question of William’s has been very fertile.

    In his Intermediate Logic (1997), David Bostock argues there is a circumstance to be mentally entertained, a circumstance that has as its result that Modus Ponens would not be a valid rule of inference. Because of that result, he concludes that that circumstance is illogical (350–54). Because the circumstance pertains to empty referent for referring terms in logical relations, I incline to think all the more that knowing Modus Ponens is contained within and should be isolated within knowing consciousness is identification, where logic is understood to be a certain subdivision of verbal consciousness as identification. What then are the particulars of how we know the logic subdivision of such consciousness? Among those particulars should be how we know validity of Modus Ponens.

    As observational givens that William mentions, I think for Rand’s epistemology as it leads to knowledge of logical principles, we must start with verbal reports of observation such as “this pen still has ink” and “this board is less bowed than that one.” How we know such observational reports of ours are true when they are true is one layer of epistemology. How we know logic is a further layer of epistemology, and how we know Modus Ponens has to be part of that further layer of hows.

    Rand gestured in her epistemology that there are significant relations between (i) observation and elementary conceptual processes concerning observations and (ii) processes of induction and deduction (ITOE 28). That variety of induction would be most plausibly the sort of induction we know as abstractive induction (also known as intuitive induction). There was an attempt to expand on this gesture of Rand’s in the first chapter of David Harriman’s book The Logical Leap (2010), but it discussed the relation of observation, conceptualization, and ampliative induction, not abstractive induction. And the latter is what is relevant to how we know deductive logic.


  10. The distinguished linguist James McCawley wrote:

    “I know of no one in linguistics who accepts the idea that the structure of one’s native language imposes limits on what thoughts one can think.”

    For example, “all languages have simple ways of referring to the future, but they don’t necessarily use tenses of verbs for that purpose. Speakers of English are no better at thinking in terms of the future than are speakers of Chinese, which has no tense forms at all, nor any worse than speakers of Kikuyu, which has distinct near future and remote future tenses.”

    These are excerpts from a letter on page 6 here.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Joseph Conrad and Ayn Rand were two excellent novelists in the English language, even though it was not their native language. Rand was also able to express philosophical ideas well in English. However, among people I've personally known, I've found that if English was not their native language, they have trouble understanding and expressing philosophical ideas with precision in English. So although grasp and expression of some ideas might be inherently more direct or more roundabout in one language or another as one navigates reality with it, I suggest that one's greatest competence for grasping reality is, for most of us, our own native language.


  11. PNC Ground Shifts to the Side of the Subject – Conventionalism II 

    Logical empiricists rejected Kant’s synthetic a priori as a class of propositions, and they rejected as well Kant’s role of intuition in arithmetic and geometry. All a priori propositions were analytic for these twentieth century philosophers. Having taken that position, they took some modern philosophers before Kant, such as Leibniz or Hume, to have been on the right track; they saw Kant as a derailment. I should note that none of these twentieth century philosophers giving a significant nod to convention in logical principles, such as PNC, were epistemological skeptics. They found attractive Hume’s wall between abstract reasoning and matters of fact, which was similar to epistemological dipoles of their own. They could applaud his clipping wings of metaphysics. They treasured mathematics and modern empirical science, and they did not give an inch to religion. 

    L. E. J. Brouwer threw a Kantian intuitionist spanner into the logical empiricist program in the late 1920’s. He formulated an intuitionist, constructivist, and finitary conception of mathematics which implied the invalidity of a significant portion of classical mathematics that had been developed by that time. Carnap proclaimed legitimate in broad perspective both the Brouwer system and classical mathematics by characterizing them as devoid of factual content and by leaving them to win the day according to which could best serve the formal deductive needs of empirical science.[1]

    The selection between Brouwer’s intuitionist mathematics and classical mathematics for the boosting of empirical science is not arbitrary. What is better suited or best suited to some end, such as boosting empirical science, is a matter of objective fact. The following, I notice, share nothing with the arbitrariness that enters convention (just as the need for a left-or-right-side driving rule shares nothing with the arbitrariness that enters the choice of which side): what is more rather than less convenient, what is more rather than less simple, and what is more rather than less practical. One slip into a subject-siding error in this neighborhood would be to say that because a model or a theory is more convenient or simple or practical, it is more likely to be true (or, stepping with Protagoras, it is what truth is). 

    Within pure, unapplied geometry, it is false to say there is no correctness or incorrectness concerning hyperbolic geometry, elliptical geometry, and Euclidean geometry; all three are true within the discipline of pure mathematics. The impulse to consider these geometries as somehow not only distinct from, but as opposed to each other within pure geometry is wrong thinking. There is some truth to the conclusion of Poincaré and, later, the logical empiricists that question of which, between hyperbolic, elliptical, or Euclidean, within pure geometry is true (concerning their differences, not their commonalities) is a meaningless question. The context, I say, that makes such a question meaningless is a context in which there are facts, albeit facts not empirical. So Carnap was wrong to say additionally that purely formal disciplines and their systems are themselves devoid of factual content. It is misleading to confine usage of fact to empirical fact, just as it would be misleading to confine circumstance or form to empirical circumstance or empirical form. 

    (My own view is that there are formal lays of the physical and ways of ours with the physical that are not empirical lays of the physical and not our empirical ways with the physical. Specifics are reserved for my book in progress.) 

    Henri Poincaré died in 1912. He lived long enough to assimilate modern geometry and special relativity, and the Minkowskian geometric character of SR spacetime into his epistemological views on physics and on mathematics. Poincaré did not live to see the advent of general relativity (1915), with its condensations of the principle of inertia into spacetime geometry and gravitational force into inertial force, its spacetime structure affecting motions of mass-energy, and its distribution of mass-energy dictating spacetime structure, all at play in one super-fertile physical equation, Einstein’s field equation. Poincaré had over-extended the role of convention in both physical theory (kinematics and dynamics, including SR) and modern geometry. Those over-extensions have been soundly refuted, even without setting that much physics and physical geometry within general relativity. Those repudiations aside, general relativity was utterly devastating to the roles Poincaré had purported for conventions in physics and physical geometry.[2] The logical empiricists sometimes situated conventions in logical truths in ways self-consciously similar to ways Poincaré had (mistakenly) thought he found sturdy niches for convention in physics and geometry. 

    That does not mean that every such mimic of Poincaré mistaken. I should say only beware, for separating what is conventional and what is not is not always easy, within one’s present context of knowledge. But the more important point I want to make for our present examination of possible connection of PNC ontological and epistemological character from Kant to conventionalism is that Poincaré held a generalized version of Kant’s synthetic a priori status for arithmetic, geometry, and fundamental mechanics. This generalized version with its niches for convention possessed those niches only due to advances in mathematics and science since the time of Kant. No shifting of ontology to the side of the subject nor deflation of ontology by Kant, in his specific ways, seems to be required for Poincaré to have made his conventionalist moves. And the logical empiricists made their conventionalist moves on logical truths, including PNC, without any reliance on, indeed in flat denial of the Kantian class of the a priori that is also synthetic. Kant’s critical philosophy further sealed the tomb of logical ontologism, but in my assessment thus far, Kant prepared no ground and planted no seeds for the spring of twentieth-century conventionalisms in the character of logic or its applications.

    But what about Kant via tributaries from neo-Kantians (viz., Marburg ones) into logical empiricism?

    (To be continued.)

     

    [1] Friedman 2010, 669–76.

    [2] Ben-Menahem 2006, 40–68; Friedman 2010, 642–64; Gray 2013, 525–33.

    ~~~~

    Ben-Menahem, Y. 2006. Conventionalism. Cambridge. 

    Friedman, M. 2010. Synthetic History Reconsidered. In Discourse on a New Method. M. Domski and M. Dickson, editors. Open Court.

    Gray, J. 2013. Henri Poincaré – A Scientific Biography. Princeton.


  12. SL,

    I don’t think that Rand’s character of categories requires that all concrete existents belong to one of those four categories and not to the other three. Those four are entity, action, attribute, and relationship. Firstly, one could take angular momentum, for example, to be truly an action but also an attribute, and a relation. Her way with categories is simply different than Aristotle’s way of absolutely unique categorization of a thing. (Please, anyone, correct me if I’m wrong about that point on Aristotle.) But secondly, and pertinent to the spacetime/mass-energy characterizations into Rand’s categories, it has seemed to me that anytime a concrete existent is understood as a system, one can rightly take it as an entity. For example, in AS 1016, Rand takes the solar system to be an entity. One could also take it as “this particular matter with such-and-such orbital angular momentum about the sun, also this other particular matter with such-and-such other orbital angular momentum about the sun, also . . .” Then we’ve a summation of actions of entities, not an entity. I’m comfortable with that sort of multiple categorization of a thing where it is true to a thing.

    So I’d think it fine to take spacetime in its global structures to be an entity even if locally it were not an entity, but a relationship. And in GR we’d take this room I’m in to be, over very short, shorter, . . . periods of time, as asymptotically an inertial frame of motion. I’m fine with taking the space contained by these walls and containing me as not only an entity containing other sorts of entities, and the spacetime entity I’ve here as asymptotically of zero curvature; but as well, as a collection of a certain kind of relationships between other sorts of entities.

    Probably the most important multiplicity of category that Rand employed was the ontological status of mind. As an operating system, an instrumentation and control system, it’s an entity. But it’s also a process and activity, that is, it falls in the category action.

    The utility of Rand’s categories seem somewhat like the utility of a certain easy network understanding of a thing, a hand-over-hand sort of comprehension of a thing (although this easy network is an alternation staying outside entity): “A pear is a kind of fruit which is a part of a pear tree which is a kind of plant which (with others) is a part of the biosphere.” (30)

    None of this entails, I should mention, that entity is a category not having primacy over other categories of existents, primacy in acquisition of language, in conceptual dependencies, and in ontological relations.

    [I notice that Kant's categories do seem to require no dual memberships. Perhaps that is because they are lifted from distinct logical forms of judgment. The latter could reflect basic ontological standings (contrary to Kant's conception of their ultimate source and justification). Kant's categories seem, however, less readily useful than a freer and more accessible set of categories such as Rand's.]


  13. First Earth-Based Radio-Wave Image of Galactic Black Hole  (4/10/19)

    In general relativity, including in its combine with quantum field theory at the event horizon of a black hole (Hawking radiation), mass-energy is one thing and spacetime with all its curvatures is another thing. Mass-energy is an entity. Distribution of mass-energy in spacetime determines how spacetime will curve. A thing susceptible to such a dynamics is an entity, I'd say, or at least it is some sort of concrete existent. So I think of spacetime---even empty spacetime, i.e., even spacetime if it had no vacuum energy---as an entity. Spacetime curvature is a causal factor in how mass-energy moves. This too supports the classification of physical spacetime as an entity.

    In talking of entity and of concrete existent, I'm talking of some philosophical, metaphysical categories, specifically some categories in Ayn Rand's metaphysical scheme. That sort of broad framework is useful for assimilating and keeping somewhat unified all the areas of one's experience and learning. Methods of successful science are in part from rational philosophy (rational epistemology) down the ages as the discipline of philosophy assimilated and analyzed such success in science and mathematics as had been attained. However, in the mature sciences such as modern relativity physics, astrophysics, and astronomy, additional methods for success have also been forged by some scientists themselves (under their epistemology thinking cap, we might say) as they hunted what is in nature.

    .


  14. The Stoics were the first to develop an explicit theory of propositional connectives. An example they used of what now we call modus ponens: If it is day, then it is light. It is day. Therefore, it is light.

    The basic unit of Stoic logic is not the term, as in Aristotle, but the proposition.

    Modus ponens is a form of valid argument that students in a first logic course say Yes to right off. They see its validity, and it’s as if one had already known it was a valid form of reasoning before seeing it in the course. Not so with material implication, which is a more contrived creature of modern logic.

    William O,  John Stuart Mills is the one most famous for giving an empiricist answer to how we come to know logical principles such as modus ponens. The logical empiricists (also called logical positivists) thought such principles are somehow gotten from experience, though it could not be gotten as Mills proposed. Aristotle and Rand/Peikoff also suppose learning of basic logical principles must come from experience (in the present life of an individual), but not in the empiricist way of Mills or in the experiential ways we learn unsupported bodies fall or learn that we have receptors in the skin that guage coolness or warmth by rate and direction of heat transfer.

    I do not think that questions of origins of any of the various sorts of knowledge that individuals attain, from infancy to a first course in geometry, can be answered in the finest way without assimilation of the pertinent results of cognitive developmental psychology of the last 70 years.


  15. “If p, then q” is taken in logic texts to be identically equivalent to “Not (p and not-q).” “Not (there is a naturally evolved bird with talons, and it is not a bird of prey)” is identically equivalent to “If there is a naturally evolved bird with talons, then it is a bird of prey.” It seems that we know up front that this “identically equivalent” relation holds however much our knowledge of birds increases; it cannot be found false. Whether there are presently unknown conditions under which this particular “If p, then q” can be found false is open, though until specific prima facie plausible conditions of that sort are proposed (at least in a sketchy way), that open possibility is a vacuous possibility, a degenerate, impotent sort of possibility, whether the if-then concerns nature or mathematics. The nature of birds is a matter of identity, but it seems a wider sort of identity than that in the “identically equivalent” relation. And the latter would seem to be something one learns about later than the former, although maybe the latter is already present in a precursor way in prelinguistic action schemata (eg. there’s more than one way to get attention, more than one form under the schema get attention).

    In his book How We Know, Harry Binswanger takes syllogistic inference to be a case in which what is already implicit in the premises is drawn out and made explicit in the conclusion. That is a common perspective on deductive inference. The syllogism is a form of “If p, then q” in which p is a conjunction of two propositions: “If r and s, then q.” For r and s to be true and to bear implicit truths, of course, r and s both have to express awareness of facts (254–55). This viewpoint is smooth with the views of Rand that logic is a form of identification and that existence is identity.

    In his book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff remarked: “The method of logic . . . does reflect the nature and needs of consciousness. It also reflects the other factor essential to a proper method: the facts of external reality. The principle which logic provides to guide man’s mental steps is the fundamental law of reality” (120–21). There are no contradictory facts in reality, I should add, to be thought in conjunction if thought is aimed at fact. To put forth without evidence or design for evidence the thesis that there are naturally evolved birds with talons that are not birds of prey contradicts evident facts without resolving the purported contradiction with other (not-adduced) evident facts. I suggest that denials of modus ponens should be understood as that sort of denial under the basic conception of logic in Objectivism. Logical validities are never independent of all facts of reality.

    Some excerpts from Nathaniel Branden’s lectures The Basic Principles of Objectivism: “Logic is the tool of reason. Logic is based on facts, on the fact that that which is, is; but it is not a science of facts. It is a science of method (75).” “One proves a proposition by demonstrating that it is logically necessitated, that its denial would contradict facts already known to exist. . . . . “Until one has grasped that A is A, and that contradictions cannot exist, there can be neither proof nor the concept of ‘proof’. . . . “The Law of Identity is a genetic root of the concept of ‘proof’. . . . (73, transcription in The Vision of Ayn Rand)


  16. 2046,

    I’ll hold off remarking on pragmatism until we get to Dewey and Lewis.

    Concerning the classical ontologists, “they regarded the laws of logic as themselves matters of fact (i.e. ontological in character, not ‘mere’ matters of fact)” (Peikoff 1964, 13).

    The classical philosophers basing logic in ontology (such as Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Leibniz) would want to have PNC both as an ontological fact of the world and as a norm, a consciously followed constraint, for ascertaining any fact, whether itself or other facts, whether facts empirical or mathematical. With the variations in ontology between various theories basing logic in ontology are variations in what is ontological form. I think it is always what philosophers say about the ontology of form that is key to their ontology of PNC and their account of how PNC is also a norm.

    Below is Peikoff’s representation of Aristotle’s ontology at work in a syllogistic inference. I should like to mention that this text is my personal favorite in Peikoff’s dissertation. Also, I’d like to mention that, as Jonathan Lear showed from Prior Analytics, the certitude of the validity of the syllogism below, and the other first-figure ones, is the base certitude of validity by which Aristotle, using some self-evident logical conversions, certified validity of the syllogisms of the other figures. Lastly, in their lectures and writings concerted with Rand; Branden and Peikoff point to contradictions that occur if one denies the conclusion of this syllogism below while affirming its premises. It is a good assignment for the future to work out the moments of Aristotelian form in rendering those contradictions.
     

    Quote

     

    All A is B. [major premise]

    This is an A. [minor premise]

    Therefore, this A is B.

    The major premise here represents a necessary connection learned on the level of apprehension of a separated formal structure; the minor premise represents the recognition of that structure in (or, as the structure of) a given particular stuff or material. (And the conclusion, derived from combining the two premises, represents our recognition that any property necessarily attaching to the “separated” structure will thus necessarily attach to the particular thing in question which possesses that structure.) Each premise then—and this is the key point for our present purposes—represents an apprehension of particulars, but in quite different ways. The difference is difficult to state simply; here are some possible formulations of it: the major represents an apprehension of the structure of particulars, the minor, of the structure in particulars; the major, of the particular qua possessed of a certain formal character, the minor, of the particular qua particular; the major, of an aspect, feature or element of the particular, the minor of the particular itself; the major, of form, the minor, of form in matter.*

    * This apprehension of form in matter, which follows the apprehension of the separated structure, is to be distinguished from a quite different apprehension of the form-matter amalgam which precedes the apprehension of separated structure, viz., the initial sensory perceptions of particulars qua particulars which occur as the prerequisite of the performance of the abstracting process. There are actually three stages in the process for Aristotle: a) Sense-apprehension of the particular qua particular prior to any abstracting process. This is an undiscriminating apprehension of the form-matter amalgam as a whole, and thus “accidentally” of the formal element of the particular . . . . b) At some point, after repeated experiences and memorial retention, we come to discriminate the form from the matter and “separate it out” in thought; we are then able, by contemplating the separated structure, to apprehend the necessary connections among its features. This is the level of rational cognition. c) Finally, we return to the particular and reintegrate the form with the matter, once again, as in stage a, perceiving the form-matter amalgam as a whole. Only we are now able to apprehend the form in the matter; i.e., to apprehend it as a distinctly discerned structure in this particular stuff. The perception of form in matter at this stage is thus authentic, not accidental; and we are thus able to apply to the particular the knowledge of necessary connection gained in stage b.

    (Peikoff 1964, 134–35)

     

    Under Aristotle’s account, we learn the truth of PNC by observing instances of it and performing an intuitive induction to it (also called an abstractive induction). PNC has to be a law prior to the operation of thought in order to be discovered by such observation and abstraction. The normativity of PNC in Aristotle’s account is from the purpose of thought, which is the comprehension of existence. To serve as guide to that purpose in the way PNC serves, PNC must, in Aristotle’s view, be a first principle in existence. We must not think a thing has and has not a certain character at the same time because, as Joseph puts it, “we see that a thing cannot have and not have at once the same character; and the so-called necessity of thought is really the apprehension of a necessity in the being of things’” (Peikoff 1964, 162).

    I’ll be looking at Dewey’s expansive notion of logic in turn when we come to it in this series. Looking also at Lewis and at Peikoff’s extractions from both of them. I don’t expect to take up Wittgenstein, and Peikoff also did not. But I thought I’d mention just now a book from Penelope Maddy The Logical Must – Wittgenstein on Logic (2014).


  17. PNC Ground Shifts to the Side of the Subject – Conventionalism I 

    Peikoff addressed logical conventionalism in a sense broad enough to include the various approaches to logical truth within what he took to be the most influential movements of Anglo-American philosophy in the twentieth century to the time of his dissertation (1964, 165n). Those would be pragmatism, logical empiricism, and the analytic movement. For exemplification of philosophies upholding conventionalism in fundamental character of logical truths, Peikoff delves into Dewey’s Logic: The Theory of Inquiry (1938); C. I. Lewis’ Mind and the World Order (1929) and An Analysis of Knowledge and Evaluation (1946); A. J. Ayer’s Language, Truth, and Logic (1946 [1936]); and E. Nagel’s Logic without Metaphysics (1956).

    There had been an analogue of conventionalism in logical and mathematical principles within a minority of earlier thinkers who, wanting to guard doctrine of the omnipotence of God and taking the truth and necessity of formal principles to emanate from divine selection of them, endowed formal principles with an ultimate arbitrariness. Those principles would be perfectly unchanging, however, as far as human thought is concerned. Anyway, such an ultimate situation was from a brew of theology with an extra-heavy dose of vacuum imagination.

    The conventionalisms Peikoff addressed took shape and took hold in part and in some sense due to inadequacies of the various forms of logical ontologism that had been on offer (186–87, 210–11, 235–36, 239). The rejection of those logical ontologisms was reasonable, as Peikoff illustrated, even if we consider them only from within the discipline of classical philosophy from Plato to Kant.

    The conventionalist replacements for logical ontologism were presaged by (i) nominalist strands in epistemology,* and (ii) substantial additions to logic itself and to geometry in the latter part of the nineteenth century. To those two in the vista of Peikoff 1964, I should add (iii) the spectacular empirical success—from Maxwell to Einstein (GR) and Schrodinger (wave QM) / Heisenberg (matrix QM)—won by casting physical relations in terms of portions of modern analytic mathematics. In my own assessment, it is (ii) and (iii), against the background of (i) and inadequacy of old-time logical ontologism that are the main and sufficient preparations for the crop of conventionalist characterizations of logical truth by logical empiricists to mid-twentieth century. 

    “My concern has not, of course, been to maintain a primarily causal thesis; it has not been my intention to argue, for instance, that Cudworth’s difficulties with God or Locke’s problems with Aristotle’s forms were the causal factors centrally responsible for the dominance in our century of the conventionalist approach to logical truth. Such a thesis would hardly be tenable; the creation of non-Euclidean geometries, to cite just one example, was undoubtedly more influential in this connection than the sort of difficulties I have discussed. . . . My concern has been rather, by considering a few aspects of the question, to suggest that, as a matter of fact, the seeds of conventionalism were implicitly present in the formulations of the classical logical ontologists, and that there was a logic to this presence.” (Peikoff 1964, 240)

    Peikoff took Kant to be “the philosopher most responsible for the demise of logical ontologism in the history of philosophy” (165). In a roundabout way, I concur. The demise of ontological essences, Platonic forms, and Aristotelian forms and formal causes had transpired before Kant, as far as the modern stream of philosophy was concerned. In that fall was also the fall of logical ontologism. Kant’s weight on the demise was through his own imposing, positive system of theoretical philosophy replacing Aristotle’s (and replacing modern systems such as the system of Leibniz). Kant weight on that demise and Kant shadows on the future saliently include: His success in bringing to much attention a philosophical division of sense and understanding and of the synthetic and the analytic (not what we mean by synthetic/analytic in geometry); his subject-rooted theory of how geometry is possible; his replacement of Aristotle’s categories as in the world with categories as belonging to human understanding in its approach to sensory experience of the world; lastly and most profoundly, in my estimation, his particular replacement of Aristotelian ontological form with subject-side form.**

    “Although many—but not all—classic philosophers subscribed to the necessary-contingent or rational-empirical dichotomies in their classification of propositions, this was not for them the equivalent of the logical-factual dichotomy; to this latter the vast majority did not subscribe, nor could they have, since they regarded the laws of logic as themselves matters of fact (i.e., ontological in character, not ‘mere’ matters of fact).” (13) 

    The philosophers Peikoff examines in their conventionality of logical principles do not regard these salutary principles as arbitrarily selected, although, as with Kant, their basis is not some fact(s) holding independently of human existence and consciousness. Peikoff quotes logical empiricist Ayer denying that analytic propositions “provide any information about any matter of fact. In other words, they are entirely devoid of factual content” (Ayer 79; Peikoff 170). Ayer does not follow Kant’s proposal that analytic patterns are from invariant organization of the human mind. Rather, granted various linguistic conventions, “the laws of logic which flow from them are necessary and incontestable truths” (Peikoff 174).*** 

    From what we have seen of Kant in previous segments of this essay, he would take conditioning truth and necessity of logical principles such as PNC on any conventional structure of language as inadequate to deliver the necessity logical truths possess. Any indebtedness of logic to structure of language cannot be indebtedness to anything conventional in language, because conventionality is contingency, not absolute necessity, not the necessity Kant attached to the a priori.

    Ayer and Kant agree that logical truths are a priori and analytic. An example of an analytic statement from Ayer is: “Either some ants are parasitic or none are” (79). “Either some are or none are” is so no matter what facts of the world it is being applied to. And no observation in experience could refute this logical truth. On that much Kant and Ayer could agree.

    Kant famously did not think that analytic truths are the only sort of a priori truths. The other sort of a priori truths, he called synthetic. He took the analytic and the synthetic to exhaust the sorts of a priori truth. The exemplar of synthetic a priori truths was geometry of Euclidean space, the only structure of physical space known until Einstein’s general relativity (1916). That space (spatial slices of the four-dimensional [semi-] Riemannian spacetime manifold of variable curvature) is not intuitive in the ready-to-hand way that Euclidean space is intuitive (in carpentry or, differently, in Euclid), thus not congenial to Kant’s conception of space as pure form of outer, sensory intuition (in Kant’s technical sense of intuition). Logical empiricism arose in an intellectual scene in which Kant’s exemplar of synthetic a priori truth lay in shambles. Moreover, by that time, David Hilbert had staked pure geometry as purely abstract and independent of any physical application or sensory experience.

    Hans Reichenbach in 1920 correctly observed that Kant had held a priori truth to be not only necessary and unrevisable, but constitutive of the concept of the object as object of knowledge. That last character of the a priori was not toppled by Einstein’s revolution. At least it was not toppled in the obvious way that universality and unrevisability were toppled with respect to physical Euclidean geometry. At first Reichenbach thought such constitutive principles were at hand in modern application of mathematics to physics, but he soon became persuaded that those principles of application were neither true nor false. They were simplicity- and tractability-based conventions. By the 1920’s, the last toeholds of Kant’s intuitive, synthetic a priori in geometry and in geometry’s physical exemplification had been dissolved by Reichenbach, Schlick, and Carnap.****

    (To be continued.)

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    * In the installment “Aristotle II”, I conveyed Peikoff 1964 on inadequacies of nominalism in provisioning a theory of logic. See also Paul Forster’s Peirce and the Threat of Nominalism (2011, 24–28, 38).

    ** On transformation of Aristotle’s matter-form distinction from Leibniz to Kant, see Marco Sgarbi’s Kant and Aristotle – Epistemology, Logic, and Method (2016, 79–94).

    *** Cf. Herder c.1767 and 1772 in Michael Forster’s Johann Gottfried von Herder – Philosophical Writings (2002, 48, 100).

    **** Michael Friedman’s “The Evolution of the A Priori in Logical Empiricism” in The Cambridge Companion to Logical Empiricism, Richardson and Uebel, editors (2007, 95–108).


  18. .

    Hi Nell,

    If I recall Roe correctly, the 6-month mark was taken as significant not because at that point the fetus passed into being a human, but because of your other feature of that time: the fetus will have reached a development such that it could live outside the womb, live independently of its mother if supported by modern medicine and whomever pays for that. Roe’s mark there had two built-in considerations making the 6-month time not exact and not fixed against future contraction: (i) when a particular fetus might be viable outside the womb (judgment of viability in the case being made by attending physicians), with present technology, can vary somewhat from one fetus to another, though around 6 months was typical and (ii) with medical technological progress, the typical time at which viability outside the womb is reached could be pulled in to earlier and earlier times.

    I suppose that if entirely “test-tube babies” become a reality in the future, then any fetus or conceptus could be removed and grown to infancy independently of further support from the mother’s body.

    I’ve always supported Roe. It looks like the opponents have finally gotten enough anti-abortionists on the Court to overturn it, that is, to let each State determine the question within its own State boundaries. Here are a law professor’s brief and informative remarks on the recent moves on third trimester and their connection to preparations from the freedom-of-the-mother-to-abort side for the post-Roe legal situation in States in which abortions are not made illegal throughout pregnancy.

    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/state-battles-over-abortion-policy-anticipate-a-post-roe-world


  19. PNC Ground Shifts to Side of the Subject – On to Conventionalism

    Peikoff laid out the varieties of logical ontologism, these being the various ways in which it had been thought that principles of logic, such as PNC, are general ways the world is. The principle of noncontradiction (PNC) is a guide for us to adhere to in thinking, and under ontology-based theories of logic—Plato to Leibniz—PNC is right to follow in one’s thought because it is a fact of the world independently of human mind, an everywhere fact of the world. If our aim in thought is grasp of the world, PNC is a fact of the world we must hold onto for success in that aim. 

    Let us notice that in claiming (not-A and B ) both the not and the and can be in the world. An object not having support and that object’s falling to the floor is a fact of the world. If our aim is keeping objects from falling, we must see to it that they are adequately supported. For that A and B, in usual household life, do not (not-A and B). In the formula (not-A and A), we move to what Peikoff called a formal aspect of the world. Logical ontologism would have it: do not (not-A and A) in thought if our pursuit is getting and keeping a grip on the world, because [not (not-A and A)] is an everywhere formal fact of the world, a necessity given, regardless of our aims.

    I had written in “Aristotle I” that for my own part I thought that, notwithstanding its objectivity, PNC has some dependency on thought which 2R (the fact that the angles of a triangle in the Euclidean plane sum to two right angles) does not have. That was because cases of noncontradiction run arbitrarily far afield, as far as our free imaginations: a five-fingered hand is not an opera, and so forth for anything at all not a five-fingered hand. That composition was nearly two years ago, and I’ve changed my mind. PNC is not partly dependent at root on operations of mind, notwithstanding PNC’s unlimited scenes of pertinence. 

    Peikoff’s 1964 dissertation talk of formal aspects to the empirical world, without embrace of Aristotelian or Kantian schemes of form, is talk and conception that has proven valuable to me in development of my own metaphysics in my book in progress. Independently of Peikoff 1964, it is also talk and conception now taking hold and developing in philosophy of logic and mathematics by Gila Sher, as in Epistemic Friction (2016). As of mid-20th Century, however, as Peikoff 1964 observed, principles of logic in modern philosophy had become sourced no longer in the world, but in the subject.

    (To be continued right away.)

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