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Found 8 results

  1. Instances of colour seem to have nothing in common with one another but the colours themselves. The perceptible parts of coloured things are static with respect to one another. A prism can show how white light can be separated into various colours based on angle. A pair of prisms can be used to show how the resulting colours cannot be further subdivided by use of the second prism. Is this sufficient grounds for concluding that colour is the result of what matter does? If not, why not?
  2. 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?
  3. 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 quantity of heat is invariant with respect to 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?
  4. case 1: Neodymium magnets (Nd2Fe14B magnets) are much stronger (ferromagnetically) than other commercially available permanent magnets. Neodymium and boron aren't ferromagnetic by themselves, but they make the material ferromagnetic. In this manner, they "steal the scene" of the neodymium magnet. It turns out that the ferromagnetic effect arises from the crystalline structure which makes it a certain type of material object. We explain that ferromagnetism with reference to structural properties. case 2: Hydrogen peroxide decomposes into atmospheric oxygen and water. But if you add manganese dioxide, the recombinations of chemical constituents happens faster. What's interesting is that the manganese dioxide is not actually consumed. The manganese dioxide "steals the scene" by increasing the rate of a reaction without being consumed. We explain that "acceleration" with reference to chemical properties. In both cases, something perceptible "steals the scene". We use our conceptual faculty to discover the important change happening at the level of imperceptible constituents. But are all such "scene-stealers" indicative of subtle aspects? I'd like to hear a counter-example from any field of science.
  5. One way an instance of an effect can seem unique is that it appears to change without cause. That unexplained change demonstrates the existence of some factor not presently accounted for or the lack of something you were counting on. As a child, I noticed that after turning off a CRT, I could see a thick layer of dust that had been interfering with my enjoyment. So I started to collect and lift it off with my finger when I noticed that the clumps of dust would dance across the screen. This amused me greatly and served as my first experiment in electrostatics. When I found that other materials would ruin my fun by causing the dust to fall uselessly to the ground, I realized that the dust had lost something I was counting on. Another way an instance can seem unique is that it deviates from the expected course. What deviates from the expected course either involves something you didn't expect or lacks something you expected. As a child, I noticed a spider with an extra "foot" coming out of one its legs. Some time later, I noticed a young spider with the same extra "foot". I later identified that trait as "mutation". Yet another way an instance can seem unique is that it does not obviously share a Conceptual Common Denominator with anything presently known. This demonstrates that the cause differs significantly from what is familiar. For a long time, I didn't see a common denominator between liquid water and boiling water. I would have to learn about phase transition and statistical mechanics for that. In all three cases, some (comparatively) unique instance depended on peculiar circumstances which I had to discover and identify in conceptual terms. Can we formulate a general rule of causal inference? Can we say that what seems unique MUST involve or lack something we haven't thought of? Is that really what "unique" objectively means?
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. Here are some things I've noticed. Where applicable, I have mentioned relevant philosophical works in the Objectivist literature. Can you think of something else that concepts do for scientists? Investigation of a universal to be explained depends on a concept of that universal. Consider "heat". Without a concept of heat, it would not have been possible to investigate its referents. One cannot investigate without first mentally isolating something that can be investigated. One cannot hope to explain something without first mentally isolating what is to be explained. What exists is classified as a particular instance of a universal on the basis of conceptual identification. For example, when one classifies something as "hot", the mind subsumes an aspect of a perceptual concrete under the concept of heat. In order to explain heat as an effect, scientists had to discover what it is to be heat. Since the concept of heat is an abstraction from abstractions, it was necessary to examine instances of heat. The process of conceptual identification is clarified by Harry Binswanger in Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation. The process of discovery is guided by other concepts besides the concept of the universal investigated. Scientists had to apply numerous concepts to factual data about the instances of heat: the concept of concentration, the concept of confining and enclosing, the concept of friction, the concept of chemical reaction, the methodological concept of comparative measurement, the concept of rarity of gas, the concept of motion, the concept of tendency, the concept of surface, the concept of particle, etc. The validity of an investigation depends in part on the validity of the concepts used throughout the process. Every concept applied during the course of a scientific investigation must be a valid concept. And every identification depends on correctly isolating a characteristic of the subject from all the other characteristics of that subject. A study of the history of the investigation of heat will reveal how an invalid concept can interfere with causal understanding and produce erroneous theories (e.g. phlogiston, which David Harriman mentions in Logical Leap). Valid concepts enable the application of antecedent knowledge. The concept of friction can be hierarchically reduced to earlier knowledge of motion and surface impediments to motion. The concept of motion, the concept of surface, and the concept of impediment were abstracted from entities. Thus it is perfectly valid to pursue the discovery of constituents and their interactions. The concept of chemical reaction can be hierarchically reduced to the knowledge of combinations of pure substances and the concept of change. Concepts of substances were formed by distinguishing entities according to constituents. Thus it is perfectly valid to pursue the discovery of the constituents of chemical substances. The methodological concept of experimental confinement can be traced back to the knowledge that man is not omniscient and to the concept of causality. This methodological concept can be activated to carefully exclude irrelevant, interfering factors. Leonard Peikoff and Harry Binswanger have tips on performing hierarchical reduction scattered throughout their lectures and books. Some instances of a universal can be used to demonstrate propositions applicable to more than one instance. Consider the expansion of liquid mercury and liquid alcohol when heated by fire. This demonstrates that the expansion of liquids quantifies the net effect of the behaviour of their constituents. Consider the fact that metal heated by the fire can produce the same amount of expansion. Consider the fact that a metal bar can be expanded by fire. Consider the fact that a metal bar is shorter in the coldest part of winter than in the hottest part of summer. Therefore we make measurements in reference to the net effect of the behaviour of the constituents. Concepts of characteristics provide a context for identifying the fundamental characteristic. After you have identified a number of characteristics distinguishing the universal of inductive interest, you can determine which characteristic of the concept's units is the characteristic that causes or explains the most others known. The designation of the fundamental can be altered with the growth of human knowledge. It took centuries of discovery to proceed from the aspect of motion of particles to the more fundamental aspect known as the energy of the particles. Ayn Rand discusses the contextual nature of definitions in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, chapter 5. Definitions, pg. 43-45 of the English 2nd edition
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