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Everything posted by Vik

  1. Cognitively, propositions apply concepts to particular problems. What is the psycho-epistemological function of propositions? They seem to help "document" the nature of the mental connections one needs to make and maintain. They seem to help ensure attention and manage the crow. I'm wondering what else they do. And I'm wondering what fundamental function explains the most benefits. Any psychology majors out there?
  2. Louie, I'm thinking about the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious. I'm thinking about the subconscious as an integrating mechanism. I was specifically thinking of how propositions help maintain focus and attention, but I didn't want responses to be restricted to only that. Psychology matters to the extent that they are using epistemologically proper methods. Cognitive psychology has a bit to say about "concept learning", i.e. gaining the knowledge of how to apply a particular concept correctly, e.g. knowing what it is to be a triangle to correctly determine whether a particular thing has a qualifying aspect. But I haven't found anything in cognitive psychology on what propositions do for problem-solving, working-memory, and so on. I've only found stuff on "personal epistemology". I didn't bother with linguistics because the cognitive role of grammar is already evident to me. (BTW I recommend Leonard Peikoff's lectures on grammar and an old book entitled Writing and Thinking by Foerster and Steadman) I'm glad about how much Objectivist writings cover. Ayn Rand remarks that a concept can be said to stand for a number of propositions. And she knows that a proposition applies a concept to something particular in a "determinate" way. Harry Binswanger devotes a chapter of How We Know to the nature of propositions.
  3. Some people use "uncontrolled observation" to refer to how researchers examine responses of people without properly recording behavior. In THAT context, "empirical evidence" could include the product of guessing based on superficial similarities (non-essentials). Now obviously that woozy kind of thinking should NOT be grouped together with precisely valid conceptual identification. So I have to wonder whether "empirical evidence" is a package deal. I would want a tree of conceptual identifications. I would want to know how to move, step by step, from perceptible changes to their alleged "observations" (which are actually the end products of a long, complex process of identification). I would want to know how they used their conceptual abstractions to reach their "observations". I expect that such information would help me detect invalid concepts or errors of identification.
  4. I'm compiling a list of generic questions for examining units of attributes, processes, or relationships for the purpose of causal explanation. questions for considering a single instance of an effect in relation to the concept of the effect: Exactly which aspect of the situation was classified as an instance? What was perceived? What is the chain of concepts between perceptual concretes and interpretation of observation? Does the interpretation survive hierarchical reduction? On what basis did the classification occur? What measurement(s)? Within what range(s)? questions for considering an instance of an effect in relation to the others: What differs among instances in measure or degree? What is their Conceptual Common Denominator? How does the instance stand quantitatively with respect to other instances? How does the instance qualitatively differ from equipotent instances? questions for considering an instance in relation to previous knowledge about the effect: In relation to previously identified quantitative "thresholds" of change (e.g. phase transitions) "where" is the data in the representation space (e.g. "where" in the phase diagram) and how does it vary?
  5. I've used an idea of a quantitative "threshold" to understand some conclusions from the sciences. case 1: phases of matter. Consider water expanding before it boils. Water within a sufficiently long tube will expand as you raise the temperature. There is a proportional relationship between liquid volume of water and temperature throughout a range of temperatures and pressures. But that relationship will not hold above or below certain temperatures and pressures. There is a quantitative "threshold" between ordinary liquid and ordinary vapour. What lies beyond the quantitative "threshold" must be explained by a different concept. For example, there are several phases of water, some of which have surprising properties. It would make absolutely no sense to try to apply proportional expansion of liquid water to water vapour. case 2: electromagnetic spectrum. We united a number of "subranges" (radio, microwave, visible light, UV, X-ray) with the CCD of "electromagnetic-wavelength". Between any pair of adjacent ranges, there is a quantitative "threshold" where what happens on one side of the "threshold" doesn't happen on the other. For example, ordinary violet light doesn't damage my eyes (ionization). But UVA and UVB do. Why this interests me It has occurred to me that this idea of quantitative "threshold" could be applied to the various "subranges" within any Conceptual Common Denominator of scientific interest. Protein folding comes to mind. The idea of a "threshold" can spur pursuit of the subtle interaction giving rise to the dramatic transition from NOT to DOES. Proteins in situations "near" the quantitative "threshold" between folding and not-folding can be used to discover why protein folding occurs when it does. QUESTION: Does the discovery of a quantitative "threshold" imply the existence of parts subtler than what is perceived?
  6. I wonder whether anyone here in the forum has gathered material for producing a better definition of "quality" than what I've seen elsewhere: The ordinary dictionary definition of "quality" is a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something. Latin scholastics translated Aristotle's "poion" as "quality" but Joe Sachs translates poion as "of-this-kind" and emphasizes that poion should NOT be thought of as synonymous with "quality". Anything along these lines would be helpful.
  7. I haven't thought much about "quality". I wonder whether anyone here in the forum has gathered material for producing a better definition of "quality" than what I've seen elsewhere: The ordinary dictionary definition of "quality" is a distinctive attribute or characteristic possessed by someone or something. Latin scholastics translated Aristotle's "poion" as "quality". Joe Sachs translates poion as "of-this-kind" and emphasizes that poion should NOT be thought of as synonymous with "quality".
  8. She answered that it is possible for an entity to be composed of constituents which are themselves also entities. That does NOT say whether there are imperceptible entities. And seconds later, she said that an entity is that which you perceive and which can exist by itself. As for her remarks on ultimate constituents, I think you should look over these: Pg. 291: Pg. 293: In the face of that, what do you now think she's saying below? pg. 264:
  9. http://www.nature.com/news/quantum-gas-goes-below-absolute-zero-1.12146 This sort of thing is why we shouldn't try to apply an equation outside of its conceptual context. (Kelvin scale was established in part by the Ideal Gas Law, which was formulated on the basis of knowledge of matter under MUCH warmer conditions) Whatever CCD unites what's "above" and "below" the theoretical "Absolute Zero", we need to form concepts appropriate to THAT sub-range of temperatures. I would like to see more people trying to figure out what happens near the theoretical "Absolute Zero".
  10. Bricks are perceptible. They are NOT imperceptible. What you quoted says nothing about whether "entity" can be imperceptible.
  11. At NO point in those quotes did Rand say that there are imperceptible entities. And again, on page 246, Rand stated explicitly that an entity is what you can perceive. We have every philosophical right I told you several things about electrons that are NOT true of tables. You CANNOT apply everything you know of tables to "electrons". Rand advocated showing how "electron" acts in such a manner on atoms which act in such a way on molecules and so on ultimately resulting in perceptible entities -- which is EXACTLY what I advocate. I never said that an electron was a concept of method. Furthermore, not all abstractions from abstractions produce concepts of method. Rand was crystal clear on how concepts of method work in Concepts of Consciousness. I said that we cannot blindly attribute to electrons what we attribute to perceptible entities because they are on different levels of abstraction. If you want to re-define the concept of physics, you're going to have to show me how this is a characteristic, let alone the fundamental one. Is this your definition of "theoretical entities"? I'm not going to bother debating whether Objectivism implies a realist philosophy of science. It seems like there are as many versions of realism as there are realists and anti-realists. But I'm happy to name some contentions which might make discussion more productive. I hold that the concept of "electron" has referents in reality. I hold that we can discover an aspect of what it is to be an effect under investigation. I hold that the concept of "electron" can be used to identify an aspect of a perceptible change under investigation. I hold that conceptual identification involves a process of measurement-inclusion. I hold that the concept of "electron" can be used to explain macro-scale change by identifying an aspect of the macro-scale change through a process of measurement-inclusion. Objectivism holds to an "Entity based causation" Of course. This needs clarification and support. You need to concretize this. I noticed you didn't quote the essential phrase "perceptible or not". I'm going to put it back: If you think Rand advocated using "entity" to mean ANY "primary" physical existent, perceptible or not, you will need to show me the exact context in which you think she used the term that way, you will need to convince me that your interpretation is right, and you will need to convince me that it is more appropriate for philosophy of science than what she stated above Why? Every valid concept is derived meaningfully from perception. I have no desire to use invalid concepts. Do you think it's necessary to talk about a non-material entity? I have yet to see why we would need such a concept. Are you trying to bring up wave-particle duality? I never said that we do. I have repeatedly referred to Rand's definition: What I said was that we shouldn't be in a hurry to call every imperceptible existent an entity. An existent is something that exists, be it a thing, an attribute, or an action. I emphasize: Attributes DO exist in reality. Can you demonstrate that some concept we form about something imperceptible implies an imperceptible entity with all the properties that perceptible ones do? Because that's what under discussion. NOT causality as the law of identity applied to action.
  12. By "universal", I am referring to the object of the problem of universals. I'm looking at how one could use Ayn Rand's solution to clarify some issues. preliminaries "An entity is that which you perceive and which can exist by itself. Characteristics, qualities, attributes, actions, relationships do not exist by themselves." [Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, workshops, "What is an entity?"] Whether or not the entities responsible for a specific effect are known, there is something acting in a certain manner. Any concept we form on the basis of concepts of entities can be applied to those kinds of entities going forward. Causality is the law of identity applied to action. Not every "universal" is suitable for scientific investigation: Invalid concepts arrest further advancement. They directly lead to false theories, such as "phlogiston" or Cartesian "vortices". Particulars must qualify as units of a valid concept. The concept of the universal must be such that one can objectively determine (i.e. through a process of measurement-inclusion) whether some particular thing qualifies as a member. Leonard Peikoff, David Harriman, and others have touched on this. Explicit knowledge of conceptual context can help reach true conclusions about the nature of the causation, thus providing a solid basis for induction. If you have valid concepts, what makes one "universal" more suitable for investigation than another? What is not attributable to entities does not easily offer generalization. The more abstract a concept is, the more levels of abstraction one must traverse in order to interpret factual data about perceptual concretes. The more room there is for error, the more easily one can misinterpret factual data or jump beyond what the evidence affords. Is it better to focus on concepts "closer" to the perceptual level? Is it better to focus on concepts of perceivable attributes, actions, processes, relationships, etc.? Distinguishing a substance from entities yields definition but few generalizations. Investigation of a specific kind of attribute, action, process, or relationship provides necessary foundation for explanation. The history from the gas laws to statistical mechanics and atomic theory come to mind. In the 1500s, people knew that liquid water became steam but little else. With the gas laws and the concept of constituents of matter, we could explain boiling as the activity of the constituents overcoming atmospheric pressure. What is not measurable cannot be quantitatively compared to other instances. This severely limits the range of what can be discovered. It would be better to find the Conceptual Common Denominator, such as what was done for heat, for sound, and for electromagnetism. What is measurable in more than one dimension requires more work to explain. Some scientists who encountered a pair or triple of attributes attempted to separate them experimentally, as Galileo did with horizontal/vertical motion and Francis Bacon did in his scientific work. Other scientists found themselves unable to separate certain measurements so they looked for quantitative relationship(s) instead, such as Boyle, Amontons, Charles, and Gay-Lussac did when investigating gases.
  13. Rand said: This is what I mean by having to "traverse a suspension bridge of knowledge" every time you try to interpret an observation.
  14. I said that I was using "entity" to mean what Rand meant. If you try to use "entity" to mean something else, you're going to have to tell me what you're talking about.
  15. Rand explicitly stated that an entity is perceptible.
  16. If one side of the quantitative "threshold" cannot be explained by what is currently known, must there be some sort of activity responsible, regardless of whether or not there are subtler constituents than those observed? What does it take to conclude that some activity unites both sides?
  17. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology 2nd edition pg. 264: Rand is absolutely right to ground concepts of entities in what is perceptible within the context in which this quote appears. All other concepts are traceable to concepts of perceptible entities so she MUST advocate this definition here. Historically, many false scientific theories have resulted from people trying to treat imperceptible constituents of matter as if they had the same properties as perceptible entities. I have no desire for anyone to repeat such a blunder. Furthermore, we know of things that are too different from perceptible entities for us to dare use the concept. If you try to fire electrons one after another at a double slit, you get a wavelike pattern of arrival sites on the screen behind the double-slit. If you shine a light on whatever has just passed through the slits, you get two dense rectangles of arrival sites on the screen. If you feel really perverse, you can condense valence electrons into a certain state by means of a magnetic field at low temperatures. Then you have to say that you did NOT find whole-number charged things but instead found things with fractional electron charges. The concept of electron is an abstraction from abstractions. We have no right to act as if electrons are like the separable parts of a table. As for scholarship: If you think Rand advocated using "entity" to mean ANY "primary" physical existent, perceptible or not, you will need to show me the exact context in which you think she used the term that way, you will need to convince me that your interpretation is right, and you will need to convince me that it is more appropriate for philosophy of science than what she stated above.
  18. I do NOT dispute that every valid concept is reducible to perceptual-concretes. I do NOT dispute that all concepts rest ultimately on a concept of entity. I'll re-cap before going forward: Every time you try to interpret an observation, you have to traverse a suspension bridge of knowledge until you reach the concept of the effect you're trying to learn about. Man is NOT immune to error at any level of abstraction. It takes time to validate a link. The longer the suspension bridge, the more links you have to validate. Man can only hold so much in his mind at once, despite the unit-economy gains from concepts. My question is about efficiency. If you're trying to select an effect to investigate, is it better cognitively to focus on concepts as close to the perceptual level as possible to minimize the time spent validating links?
  19. Consider the concept of quantitative relationship. The concept of quantitative relationship was formed by leaving unspecified such aspects as shape, composition, etc. Weight is invariant with respect to shape. Also two things can weigh exactly the same despite being composed of different materials. Is that sufficient grounds for concluding that the effect depends on a quantitative relationship? If not, what is missing? Consider the concept of action. The concept of action was formed by leaving unspecified the kind and degree/intensity of the action and the entities performing the action. The temperature of mercury within a thermometer can be equal to the temperature of what it's in contact with. Two things can be the same temperature despite variation in composition (i.e. what is hot?). Is that sufficient grounds for concluding that the effect depends on similar behaviour of dissimilar constituents? If not, what is missing?
  20. The concept of weight is a concept of a relationship.
  21. A volume of mercury in a tube having uniform cross-section records temperature expands or contracts to some level. We know WHAT is moving: the mercury. We know that two things can be equal in measure of temperature despite their different compositions, And let's pretend we don't know about chemical atoms. We'll pretend our conceptual context goes as far as "pure substance" and "subdivision". So we'll say we know mercury is divisible on the perceptible scale, but we don't know what happens if you keep trying to divide a sample of the stuff. Do we have sufficient grounds for applying the concept of "activity" in some small way even if we don't know what pure substances were made of or how they gave rise to expansive motion? For example, is it proper to ask: "What imperceptible activity is giving rise to perceptible motion?" In other words, is it proper to conclude: "We know there is SOME kind of activity giving rise to the expansive motion, but we do NOT know what is happening on an imperceptible level."
  22. The use of "shared" is throwing me off. I wouldn't say that two things "share" weight or "temperature". I'd say they are equal in weight or equal in temperature. Is there a better term for this?
  23. For additional clarity: We have concepts of constituents BECAUSE we have concepts of entities.
  24. Ordinary liquid phase of water and ordinary gas phase of water are separated by a mere degree. That's a dramatic qualitative difference for the price of a tiny quantitative difference. If you plot that special temperature for every ordinary pressure, you will find a sharp boundary between liquid phase and gas phase. That is a quantitative "threshold". In order to explain how liquid can become gas, you'll have to find some characteristic (of the constituents) differing quantitatively between the two phases. Question: Does the discovery of a quantitative "threshold" imply the existence of parts subtler than what is perceived? Towards an answer: In order to determine that, we will have to know something about what it is to be made of parts subtler than entities and what that means for causal inference. After all, we take great pains not to neglect this in our thinking:
  25. > It looks to me you're wondering if two things share a measurement of a particular type, is it sufficient to say that the same measurement reflects a quantitative relationship that both things share. So, if object A is measured as 10 degrees celsius, and object B is measured as 10 degrees, it is sufficient to say both objects share a quantitative relationship. No, I'm saying that you apply a concept through a process of measurement-inclusion.