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  1. Introduction: By "epiphenomenonal" I do not mean those perfectly valid descriptions appropriate to the context of physics and biology to articulate those phenomena which can be termed non-primary insofar as their effects are correlated with some relevant primary effects, but are not suspected to be their cause (see: Epiphenomenon subsections "Medicine" and "Electromagnetism"). Instead I mean the usage common to materialist theories of mind, i.e. the doctrine that consciousness exists, but is fundamentally acausal in the physical sense (as though there could exist some rupture between physicality and causality). In this sense consciousness does not affect the brain in any meaningful way, but is "epiphenomenal" - an illusory and metaphysically impotent byproduct of our third-person ontology. Argument: "Epiphenomenon" in this sense is an anti-concept, and more specifically, a stolen concept. When speaking to the referents of the concept of "nothing" in the appendix to Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Ayn Rand describes such negative concepts as "purely relative". She remarks later on that "[n]on-existence - apart from what it is that doesn't exist - is an impossible concept. It's a hole - a literal blank, a zero". In our case of the concept "epiphenomenon", the relative distinction has been collapsed - the referent in question is both "non existent" and the "what it is". The omissions relevant to the formation of the concept "nothing" are the totality of the measurements belonging to the existents whose absence is being signified. The omissions relevant to the the formation of the concept "being" are the the totality of the measurements of the measurements belonging to the existents whose existence is being signified. In collapsing the just-mentioned distinction, the measurements and the measurement's measurements become one, absolving the relative character needed to produce anything of sense about an absence of being. This "sense" derives from the existent (read: causal) nature of all productions of knowledge and principles known. Put very simply, the attribution of acausality contradicts the requirements of knowing an existent to attribute. The absoluteness of reality and the principle of no metaphysical hierarchies guarantees the nonexistence of any gradations of existence, including the gradations of existence relative to putatively known existents. Conclusion: The adjectival form of "epiphenomenon" common to those materialist fetishizations of the human mind's nonexistence is an anti-concept, and just another poor way (albeit a fashionable one) of attempting to side-step the axiom of consciousness.
  2. This should probably be in Laboratory section, but I haven't found a way to post there, so I am posting to the next most related forum, which is one concerned with epistemology and metaphysics. I've recently been fascinated by David Kelley's philosophy of mind described in Diana Mertz Hsieh's "Mind in Objectivism: A Survey of Objectivist Commentary on Philosophy of Mind" (2003). Here is an excerpt: The idea of upward and downward causation in terms of brain-consciousness interface is really interesting and, I think, can be applied to a deeper understanding of epistemology. It would be helpful if anyone knows where Kelley elaborates on this idea, if he ever did so. Maybe since 2003 he touched upon it in any of his articles or books? Maybe it can be applied if we consider downward causation a stimulation done by consciousness in the manner of focusing as in Harry Binswanger's understanding of perception. Let me first explain some things before I go into further details. Sensation, as I define it, is a thought that is externally stimulated or excited. There are five kinds of sensation in two groups: electromagnetically stimulated (sight - photons, touch - electric force) and molecularly stimulated (taste and smell - chemical, hearing - vibrational). We may be not aware of these thoughts, such as when we sit we may not be aware of the chair and our body pushing against each other or when we close our eyes we may not be aware of all the photons that are continuously sensed in our eyes. We may be aware of these thoughts but still not focused on them. I think that focus is directly related to our consciousness, and it is the stimulation that is caused by our consciousness internally and in a downward manner. When we focus on a sensation we are more than aware of it - we are also affecting it consciously. Here is the idea: it depends on the strength of sensation whether it would directly get into our consciousness. So if we feel very strong pain, we focus on it, so it becomes a conscious experience. This can be called an upward causation. Upward causation can also occur when we think about something internally (conceptually) and we get a random thought or even a related thought but one we didn't cause with our consciousness but rather that came from a stimulation of some adjacent neurons, thus entering our consciousness from our brain, like other sensation does. I think these ideas can be related to how we perceive. If perception is an integration or synthesis of sensations, then it is also an integration of thoughts. But the question is: what thoughts are being integrated? Are we aware of these thoughts or not, are we conscious of them or not, and are they only internally or only externally stimulated? Moreover, can we have a pure perception, that is from only externally stimulated thoughts, pure sensations? I think this question directly relates to the epistemological questions academically posed: namely by Thomas Reid. Are perceptions conceptually manipulated? Kant took this important point and basically reduced perceptions into his categories and forms of intuition, whose content is sensation. An interesting point is that sensation in Reid, Kant, and also Rand is considered to be pure empiricism and not related to thought per se. But I think that by understanding sensation as thought we are not necessarily mixing it with conscious thought, as I explained. Moreover, this picture becomes more complex when we consider how sensation is synthesized by our brain and consciousness. If we are to form percepts or concepts, all agree that we must somehow synthesize sense data, that is, we need to take multiple sensations as they are co-occurring or coexistent. But how does this synthesis occurs? I think this synthesis is formed by particular processes in our consciousness. First, we focus. The focus implies limitation to what enters our consciousness. We cannot focus on all thoughts that are constantly happening in our consciousness or in the tissues of our body. Instead, we like to work optimally, so we don't go insane. However, we do not know what to focus on if we haven't had enough experience. So how we focus depends on our prior experience. We learn to focus through trial and error in order to know what are the essential areas to focus upon. But this means that concepts that we have formed affect what we focus on, and a lack of concepts affects our ability to focus efficiently and correctly. For example, American Indians never experienced ships before and so hadn't formed a concept of a ship. When Europeans were approaching in ships, Indians had a hard time of focusing on them right away. Instead, they were only able to perceive the ships when those were already near land. Moreover, they didn't even necessarily try to focus, but could have just been unaware of the ships when those were on the horizon. This issue of when our perceptions are affected conceptually can be likened to downward causation affecting our thoughts. For example, the better our concepts are of an object, the more expertly we can perceive and understand it. This also applies to external stimulation from reading. When we read a word we first get sight sensation of which we are aware, and when we focus on the word with our consciousness we start stimulating its thought inside our consciousness which relates to our memory of concepts. The accuracy of our knowledge of the concept that is expressed by this word depends on how many integrations of these thoughts we'd experienced before and thus how proficient we are in isolating essential concepts, which means the same process of focus happens not only on sensation and perception but also in conception. The second process that happens when we focus is our volition or will combining areas that we accept as essential. This is the tricky part that could lead to mixing make-believe hallucinations (upward causation) with our own ideas of what we perceive (downward causation as in Binswanger's explanation of how our concepts affect seeing a pencil bent in water). So can we purify our perception by ignoring our internal stimulation of the externally stimulated thoughts? I think this depends on practice and experience, as mentioned before. The more we learn what are essential characteristics for us to focus on (and this depends on what we do in life, what profession we choose, what we perceive more than anything), the better our essentials become. This means that our concepts change based on practice because we change what essentials we focus on. When we are children we do not yet know what areas of sensation we need to focus on, so we may focus on things that we later deem to be not essential. Education also helps us (if not just inculcates us) to form better concepts, which condition how we perceive the related objects later on. The point that our concepts affect our percepts is very important. It shows that concepts are required for us to be better observers (this especially applies in art). With concepts internally stimulated, we can become more efficient and knowledgeable concerning our interactions with environment and other people. In a way, concepts precondition our percepts, if we accept that there is evolution of our consciousness in terms of how we 'grasp' things by focusing on them and using our will to synthesize or integrate thoughts to better connect with external things. So in order for external things to be reflected better in our consciousness, we need to have a developed internal 'environment.' That is, we need to have our own concepts to help us better integrate sensations and perceptions. An interesting consequence of this is that sensations (S) and perceptions (P) that we experience vary from person to person. Additionally, concepts also vary through conception (C), depending on what your area of expertise is. Because of variations of S, P, and C, we may presume that all three are infinite in possibilities. So the next question becomes is there some area that is limited to all people, regardless of what they do or how they conceive. One way to answer this question is no, we are all conceptual beings and thus are different because we all conceive of things differently and relate them to different words. However, we find in this answer a hint that something is still shared in this infinity besides even the trivial understanding of us as human beings. Or perhaps it indeed helps that we as human beings share something that is limited for our purposes of more efficient conceptualization. We call this categories. Categories are not concepts, but instead they are preconceptual conditions. Categories are in all concepts and also beyond concepts as metaconcepts. We use categories to think more concisely, like we use concepts to perceive better. Categories are filled with concepts like containers with objects or rivers with water. In this case, categories can be viewed as the stage of epistemological development after C. All philosophers, and perhaps most people, use categories of thought. Rand's category, what she called an implicit concept, was existence. She used existence as a precondition for all concepts. Categories thus metaphysically necessitate particular ways we conceive. When we focus upon many concepts that we can summon to our minds from memory encoded in neurons, we learn that we cannot focus on all of them but only on specific ones, as the amount of units we can be conscious of from memory is limited and based on what we are dealing with or thinking about. Categories help with this as essential features of concepts that we pick out when we focus conceptually. In contrast to S and P stages, or stages of externally stimulated and internally/externally - mixed - stimulated thoughts, C and categories (C2) are purely internal stimulations, whether of downward or upward causation. In any major philosophy, C2 plays a pivotal role in structuring what we conceive. In Kant, for example, C2 are the conditions of deriving knowledge from experience (S, to which P is also reduced). To describe C2 Kant uses a lot of abstract C, which makes it hard to understand. Because there is not one C2 chosen by Kant but instead a bunch (but not all!), we can become kind of lost in his realm of C2. Perhaps what is needed is to simplify C2 further like we had in Rand. Because C2 have a limited number in contrast to the units of S, P, and C, we may think right away that why can't we simplify this number to, say, a single C2. And Rand's way shows that it can be done. However, it also shows that there can be other ways to simplify C2, based on our experience with this internal realm. I will mention how I categorize categories metaphysically just to complete the whole picture of my discussion. To select a unity among categories you need to conceive (select a word with some conceptual connotations, of course, and not a mere idea) a metacategory that can structure other categories and contain them precategorically. Such a metacategory also needs to organize other categories. For me, existence is a metacategory of choice, but not the only one. Perhaps it would help if we think not of C2 per se but C in terms of infinity of concepts. Since all concepts are organized by categories, they can also be used to understand how we can organize categories themselves. An infinity of concepts involves taking all concepts there are and trying to find basic distinctions among them. Once we think of infinity (which is a daunting task requiring much abstract thought) we cannot help ourselves but think of something singular, like a line, a unity, or singularity. To think of all concepts becomes easy when we think of just one or two. Or three, when we also include infinitesimally small and infinitely large in C. These three ways of thinking of C is how I think of metacategories. The infinitesimally small is nonexistence and infinitely large is existence, but both at the same time, as in singularity, is APEIRON, which cannot be comprehended as it becomes meaningless from the metaphysical equation of nonexistence and existence, thus continually mixed, spread through all space and time, containing all that is conceptually physical but themselves are categorically metaphysical. Nonetheless this fifth stage, let's call it A, provides a condition for C2 that is based on belief, since we already know that all our C2 are internally stimulated and condition our internal stimulation retroactively. To understand A, we reduce it to C2, to understand C2, we reduce it to C, C to P, P to S. Once we grasp each stage, we can understand how epistemology, through David Kelley's two causations, works in both directions. Any thoughts?
  3. In the recently published "A Companion to Ayn Rand", in chapter 12, Gregory Salmieri takes on the task, and successfully so, of exploring and summarizing (with clarity and accuracy) Rand's Objectivist Epistemology. At page 293 Dr. Salmieri discusses "Rand's rule of fundamentality" and her concept of "essential characteristics" and the related concept of an existent's "kind": "The "essential characteristic" is the one "without which the units would not be the kind of existents they are" (42). Rand reinterprets this traditional Aristotelian idea in light of her view that concepts are objective rather than intrinsic. If kinds are not intrinsic features of reality, but objective products of human cognition, then the status of an existent as a member of a kind (i.e., as a unit of a concept) is not intrinsic but objective, and so there cannot be any characteristic of the units that, wholly independent of the mind and its needs, makes them members of the kind. Essences in Rand's view are epistemological rather than metaphysical. A person properly forms a concept that classifies the existents into a kind when he has observed that they are similar to one another. This initially observed similarity will typically be complex: it will include many related respects in which the units are like one another as opposed to other things..."[Emphases in Bold Added] This is just an example of the high quality, clarity, and accuracy of the work of its many contributors, and I encourage anyone interested in an academic treatment of Objectivism, Ayn Rand, and her ideas and works, to buy the book, and learn from its wealth of scholarship.
  4. On the next episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I will answer questions on the good in American culture, romance between an atheist and a believer, the limits of humor, and more. This episode of internet radio airs on Sunday morning, 30 December 2012, at 8 PT / 9 MT / 10 CT / 11 ET in our live studio. If you miss that live broadcast, you can listen to the podcast later. This week's questions are: Question 1: The Good in American Culture: How is American culture better today better than people think? I've heard lots of depressing claims about the abysmal state of American culture lately, particularly since Obama won the election. You've disputed that, arguing that America is better in its fundamentals that many people think. What are some of those overlooked but positive American values? How can they be leveraged for cultural and political change? Question 2: Romance Between an Atheist and a Believer: Can a romance between an atheist and a religious believer work? What are the major obstacles? Should the atheist attend church or church socials with his spouse? Should they have a religious wedding ceremony? Should they send their children to religious schools? Do the particular beliefs – or strength of beliefs – of the religious person matter? Question 3: The Limits of Humor: When does humor work against my values? Sometimes I wonder whether my jokes work against what I value. (For example, what's the most selfish sea creature? An Objectifish!) How do I draw the line? After that, we'll tackle some impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions." To join the live broadcast and its chat, just point your browser to Philosophy in Action's Live Studio a few minutes before the show is scheduled to start. By listening live, you can share your thoughts with other listeners and ask us follow-up questions in the text chat. Again, if you miss the live broadcast, you'll find the audio podcast from the episode posted in the archive: Radio Archive: 30 December 2012. Philosophy in Action Radio applies rational principles to the challenges of real life in live internet radio shows on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings. For information on upcoming shows, visit the Episodes on Tap. For podcasts of past shows, visit the Show Archives. Be sure to follow Philosopy in Action via our blog, RSS feeds, and Facebook too. P.S. I've started a new thread because the old thread had "webcast" in the title, but I'm now purely on radio.
  5. As of late, most conversations about politics have led me to believe there is something severely wrong in the way people think about politics. Most conversations involve two or more people who have spent hours and hours reading material that argues for their narrative or policy. These websites, books, and documentaries present facts and arguments that support their ideas. After having read the material of various groups I have found that a lot of this propaganda is actually very convincing. What I mean by this is not that they are right, but that I could imagine myself writing a character in a novel with those beliefs who was able to represent those beliefs and still seem reasonable. It seems very easy for someone to become convinced of a narrative, and have no idea that there narrative could be wrong. It seems like people are just telling themselves stories and using whatever "information" they get a hold of to fit into their narrative. You may think that the easy response is "well show them counter examples that prove their theory wrong". Somehow this doesn't work though. When people are shown contradictory information, they usually do one of two things. They readjust the narrative without rejecting the original premise or fundamental ideas, or they demonstrate a way in which that information is irrelevant or consistent to that narrative. This makes arguments about politics seem little more than arguments about theology. This has me thinking that I am susceptible to the same bias, While I have a firm belief in some basic political ideas, it seems that mostly what I have are hunches, stories and biases. Mises pointed out this problem in his works Human Action and Theory and History. He argued that what most people would do is that if the data did not correlate with the success of their policy they would just argue that their policy was working, but that other factors caused the data not to change in the correct direction. Making debates about political philosophy pointless. Mises responded to this problem by forming a deductive philosophy that defended capitalism through a rationalism and subjectivism. However Mises really only made an economics system, and deducing political ideas from his works seems unreasonable. I think that his response to this problem and the way Libertarians have used his work is one of the contributing factors to their ideology today. tl:dr Hypothetical Question: If someone brings up Israel and condemns their country for being a racist terror state, do I need to be knowledgeable to correct them and what exactly do I need to know to show that they are wrong?
  6. What is value? Value is an abstract concept. A value as such is a place within a particular hierarchy. To value something is to judge where within a particular hierarchy a particular thing is. Ayn Rand asserted that a value is that which one acts to gain or keep however she confuses “value” here with a few other concepts. Her confusion is innocent however ironic. I say it is ironic because it was she who discovered precisely how to define a concept. “When in doubt about the meaning or the definition of a concept, the best method of clarification is to look for its referents-i.e., to ask oneself: What fact or facts of reality gave rise to this concept? What distinguishes it from all other concepts? ” (Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology) So indeed, what facts give rise to the concept “value”? “Value” is used in many contexts and yet always holds the same characteristic in each context. It is used in all numerical contexts. A numerical value is always positive or negative. “1” is a “value”. “-17,000,000,000,000” is also a “value.” “Value” is used also in philosophical contexts. If something is moral, i.e., in one’s rational self interest, it is of positive “value” to one’s life; it is highly valuable. If something is immoral it is of negative value to one’s life; it is destructive. What then distinguishes the primary use of “value” from all other concepts? ... (Clean here To finish reading "On The Definition Of Value")
  7. The Rationally Selfish Webcast has a new name and new web site: Philosophy in Action! (The web site won't be available until the morning of the webcast.) Here's this week's announcement. I hope to see you on Sunday morning! — DMH In my live "Philosophy in Action" Webcast on Sunday morning, I'll answer questions on the morality of working for a minister, giving away unhealthy food, voting for horrible politicians, celebrating holidays, and more. Please join us for this hour of lively discussion, where we'll apply rational principles to the challenges of living virtuous, happy, and free lives! What: Live Philosophy in Action Webcast Who: Diana Hsieh (Ph.D, Philosophy) and Greg Perkins When: Sunday, 6 November 2011 at 8 am PT / 9 am MT / 10 am CT / 11 am ET Where: www.PhilosophyInAction.com Here are this week's questions: Question 1: The Morality of Working for a Minister: Is working for a minister giving religion moral sanction? As an atheist, I once worked for an ordained minster who was the owner of a gallery. I became his manager when I made it clear that I was an atheist, but that I was a good framing manager. I don't think I gave him a moral sanction for his irrationality by working for him under those terms. What do you think? Question 2: Giving Away Unhealthy Food: Is it immoral to give away food that you regard as unhealthy? Assuming that one believes (as I do) that candy and sweets are harmful to health (especially in quantity), is it immoral to participate in trick-or-treat by giving children candy when they come to your door? Or, is it immoral to "dispose" of an unwanted gift of, say, a rich chocolate cake by leaving it by the coffee machine at work to be quickly scarfed up by one's co-workers (as an alternative to simply discarding it)? Is the morality of these two cases different because in one case the recipients are children while in the other case they are adults? Question 3: Voting for Horrible Politicians: All the candidates are nearly perfectly horrid, just in different ways. Why should I even bother to vote? Question 4: Celebrating Holidays: What is the value of celebrating holidays? How do you think holidays should or should not be celebrated? Also, what is your favorite holiday and how do you like to celebrate it? After that, we'll do a round of totally impromptu "Rapid Fire Questions."
  8. Virtually everyone today considers himself to be rational. Reason was discovered and invented by the Greeks 2600 years ago, and few serious thinkers -- historically and currently -- reject reason to any considerable degree. But just because essentially everybody fancies himself to possess rational beliefs, and to manifest rational behaviors, doesn't make it so. Irrationality is rife throughout human society, culture, history, and philosophy. A person isn't rational if he holds a profound or wide-ranging skepticism about the power of the human mind to comprehend reality, or to generate a meaningful, worthwhile, successful life. This type of fundamental Skepticism is massively irrational and the root of all evil. Doubting or disbelieving in the practicality, efficacy, and authority of reason is, by defintion, irrational. So too is rejecting the evidence of the senses, and of personal experience, in one's lifestyle -- and then declining to apply logic to it. People are irrational who are a relativist/subjectivist or a dogmatist/faithist in their epistemology or reasoning. Truth-seeking and problem-solving requires reason uncorrupted by emotion, intuition, drives, instincts, revelation, and authority. To be solidly rational, complicated, contradictory, nonsensical claims and propositions can't be a significant part of one's thoughts, words, and deeds. And mystical, superstitious ideas, along with mythical, supernatural beings, can't be a significant part of one's life.
  9. Where does epistemology end and where does metaphysics start? Also what counts as philosophy of science and what does not, and what can be used to define the scientific method or science and what not? that would be all ty
  10. Can you name some that you've tried and have had actual success with them? I wouldn't say caffeine actually accelerates concept-formation per se; I would argue that it simply speeds up the thinking that has already been done in the past (remembering something, performing some mental operation etc.). Besides caffeine, the only other thing that I could really call a nootropic (and one that actually did help with my learning), and which can be the first entry of this list, is: 1. Creatine 2. Care to add any of your own?
  11. What is the Epistemological ground for believing the universal validity of the basic laws of logic (Identity, Non-Contradiction, Excluded Middle). How does one properly validate that "A is A", universally? Can one know that it is true universally or is it only possible to know it about that which one has perceived? If it is only possible to know it concerning that which has been perceived, then how can one know that "contradictions do not exist"? I do not question the validity of logic. However, the ground upon which one validates an idea is crucially important and it seems that Objectivists tend to ground the validity of logic in very intellectual dangerous territory-- such that if one takes Objectivist Epistemology seriously (or, at least, that which is professed by many parts of Oist Epistemology), one cannot also consistently take the laws of logic seriously. So, I want to test that out and reveal what is and is not the proper epistemological grounding for the validity of logic. Many (if not all) Objectivists hold that the validity of logic is grounded in perception (along with all other knowledge). However, if this is the case, one can only know it's validity concerning that which one has perceived. If one can know that it is valid concerning that which has not been perceived, where did this knowledge come from and upon what is it grounded? Is it simply believed as a pragmatic necessity? Is it assumed by whim or by faith? OR is there some other form of validating knowledge aside from perception? I obviously would argue that there is. I want to ask everyone who participates in this conversation to attempt to accurately understand what is (and is NOT) being said in order to avoid straw men, and that everyone attempt to be CONSISTENT with their professed views. I predict that most (if not all) objections will be the result of failing to do one of the above.
  12. On Objectivity -- The Method of Thought By Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. 04/06/2012 I just finished re-reading the chapter in “Objectivism: The philosophy of Ayn Rand” by Leonard Peikoff on “Objectivity” and this essay concerns that topic in a shortened form. Dr. Peikoff says that objectivity at root is a relationship between man’s mind and existence with regard to knowledge, neither coming only from reality (intrinsicism) nor coming only from man’s consciousness (subjectivism) – it is a relationship between the facts and consciousness necessitated by the fact that man has no automatic form of knowledge and therefore must volitionally adhere to existence in his thinking in order to be able to comprehend existence, and to live his life in existence. While Dr. Peikoff doesn’t mention it from the following perspective, I think the term “objectivity” comes from the word “object” – as in an entity or a thing one can directly observe (its attributes and its actions); it also comes from the term “objective” as in “taking specific actions to pursue a purpose.” So, at root, to remain objective one must be focused on the facts (entities, objects, things, their attributes, and their actions) in a purposeful manner to obtain knowledge of existence – to think in terms of identity and causality. But because man has no automatic guide in the pursuit of knowledge, and must develop a volitional / free will based methodology, this method must be clearly identified for a man’s mental contents to be based upon reality. The most fundamental component of being objective is to use logic, the art of non-contradictory identification. Contradictions cannot exist in reality, but are only evident in a man’s improper thinking or lack thereof. While Aristotle clearly identified the method and workings of logic (non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality as given by observation), Ayn Rand added two other components to objectivity that were only implicit in Aristotle’s work: context and hierarchy. Thinking in terms of logic implies context, because in order to not be involved in mental contradictions one must take all the facts into account with regard to one’s topic of consideration. For example, if one is thinking about or talking about an apple, it is important to keep in mind that they are edible and grow on trees; whereas if one is thinking or talking about money, it is not edible and does not grow on trees, but is rather a medium of exchange of values in voluntary trade. Thinking in terms of logic regarding all of the relevant facts is a means of remaining consistent with what one already knows, and therefore to avoid contradictions. So keeping the context is a recognition of the fact that reality is one and that everything is relatable to everything else; that to isolate a thought from all others is to belittle this fundamental fact and to create the potential to have contradictions, which would be contrary to the facts of reality – i.e. of thinking that apples are poisonous to man or that money does grow on trees; neither of which would be helpful to one’s living on earth. Hierarchy is a type of context, and refers to the fact that not all knowledge is graspable on the perceptual level. We can see apples on trees or one’s parents giving money to receive groceries, but grasping “farming” or “working for a living” are not immediately graspable or understandable to a young child. In order to reach the stage where someone can understand farming or capitalism requires a long chain of non-contradictory and contextual knowledge building up on previously understood knowledge; this is the role of being hierarchical – of starting with the perceptually self-evident and building up one’s knowledge. For example, a boy can grasp that things can be cut up – like cutting up the apple for a snack – but he cannot grasp that the apple is made of cells, molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles until after he has learned to organize his concepts into wider and wider concepts – concepts that are logically dependent on the perceptually self-evident, but not possible to directly point to as he can point to the apple. However, to remain objective, it is necessary to be able to trace the hierarchy of concepts and knowledge down to the perceptually self-evident; a process Dr. Peikoff refers to as "reduction." By using logic, keeping the context, and developing his concepts into wider and wider abstractions, a man can rationally understand any aspect of existence as a single sum of knowledge, a single whole that is his guide to living on earth and enjoying his own life. Note: Thinking in terms of principles is an application of being objective; and so long as one follows the general guidance of objectivity above, one’s principles will be in accordance with existence and will represent a sub-set of one’s knowledge applied to specific cases of the facts.