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The Nature Of Broken Units

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Also, please do not jump to conclusions. I did not say or imply that an entity or group can not have any of its parts removed without still being the whole. Paint is a part of a car but I can remove the paint and still have a functioning car, although it may not last as long. But I cannot remove the gas tank, or radiator, and still have a car.

Please see these concrete examples of cars without a gas tank and without a radiator. Have you tried to take this method of concept-building to its logical conclusion? I will...

Your claim here is that an object which cannot perform the primary function of a car is not a car. The logical conclusion is that the 3,000 lbs of metal sitting in your driveway magically becomes a car when you sit in the driver's seat and turn the key, because prior to that time it is not a "functioning car". I don't think you believe this, but it is consistent with the method of concept-formation that you are asserting.

It is customary to provide evidence and argument when making an assertion. Exactly what is the contradiction that you claim to see?
Evidence:

"Man" does not mean "all men" in any context I can think of, and it is a logical fallacy to use it that way.

...

Since the meaning of a concept is its units or referents, if any particular man can do something, then man can do it.

Argument:

It is because the meaning of a concept is its referents that "man" means all men who have been, are, and will be.

I will be more explicit. You stated both:

1) you could not think of a context where "man" means "all men", and

2) the meaning of a concept is it units or referents.

Those statements are contradictory (the 2nd is true). The units or referents of "man" are all men. "Man" means all men. You cannot claim to have digested and integrated ItOE and not agree with this.

Which concept are we discussing? Baby, child, infant? It's a logical fallacy to change the meaning of a concept in the middle of an argument. I'm not sure what it's called to change the word in the middle of an argument.

Read the definition of "baby" you posted. The primary definition was:

1 a (1) : an extremely young child; especially : infant

You asserted that "baby" refers to the very young of any animal, and I disagreed on the grounds of the etymology, definition, and connotation of "baby". You attempted to counter my assertion of the definition by pulling from Webster's. I defended my assertion by showing that the definition of "baby" relies on the concepts "child" and "infant", both of which are defined as a special case of "human" or "person". At no time did I change the concept in the middle of the argument. I only attempted to correct your misunderstanding of the word "baby".

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---------------

You asserted that "baby" refers to the very young of any animal, and I disagreed on the grounds of the etymology, definition, and connotation of "baby". You attempted to counter my assertion of the definition by pulling from Webster's. I defended my assertion by showing that the definition of "baby" relies on the concepts "child" and "infant", both of which are defined as a special case of "human" or "person". At no time did I change the concept in the middle of the argument. I only attempted to correct your misunderstanding of the word "baby".

Perhaps you missed #2 where it said "a young animal". The fact that most of the time one is referring to human babies does not change the meaning of the concept.

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-----------------

Evidence:

Argument:

I will be more explicit. You stated both:

1) you could not think of a context where "man" means "all men", and

2) the meaning of a concept is it units or referents.

Those statements are contradictory (the 2nd is true). The units or referents of "man" are all men. "Man" means all men. You cannot claim to have digested and integrated ItOE and not agree with this.

------------------

Let’s look at some facts and context rather than just arguing about statements without referents to reality.

Consider these statements:

a. Apples are fruit.

b. Apples are red.

c. Apples are eaten.

Does a contradict b or c? If you needed to specify the quantity of the subject class (apples), would you assume that each sentence should be “All apples are …”? I seriously doubt it. It would be absurd to make such an assumption on the premise that a concept refers to all of the characteristics of the units, for clearly not all units are red. If I said “apple” mean all units of apples but not all apples are red, you seem to imply that means I’m holding a contradiction. In order to know whether the sentence is universal (subject refers to all or none) or particular (subject refers to some) one must have knowledge of the predicate. The complete exclusion or inclusion, or partial exclusion or inclusion depends upon one’s knowledge of the predicate. One must know the facts about the subject. One must look at reality.

In other words, to establish a contradiction one must show that the statements contradict the facts, not that the words appear to contradict with each other, as if reality were just a word game. “I love dogs, I hate dogs” is not a contradiction if I am referring to “some” dogs in each case (and the dogs in each case are different dogs). Moreover, you have no justification for assuming a contradiction if there is a simple way to explain the sentence.

Now, let’s get back to “"Man" does not mean "all men" in any context I can think of, and it is a logical fallacy to use it that way.” (S1) And “"Man" means all men.” (S2) Are these a contradiction? In what context did I make these statements? I said it in the context of distinguishing between the Objectivist view of concepts and the theory put forth in the first post by DPW: “If a concept does not mean its definition, but its referents, including all the characteristics of its referents” (Post 1, my bold). This is important to remember: a concept means its units not all its characteristics. There is nothing in Objectivist epistemology to justify the inclusion of characteristics that are particular (and different) to individual units into the meaning of the concept. (I’ll say a little more about this later.) I said S1 clearly in the context of man’s characteristics that differ: “Man can see color, man can murder, man can build skyscrapers, man can dig ditches, man can live on farms, man cannot see color” “On what justification would you conclude than any of these generalizations apply to all men?” (Post 84). Thus, “man does not mean all men” means not all men’s characteristics. That is the context of my statement: as a refutation of the views that concepts include all characteristics, and that anyone should assume that “man is x” means “all men are x” when different characteristics are under discussion. “Broken units” are the result of such an error.

So, when I hold S2, I mean the concept, man, refers to the units of the concept. What is a unit? “A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members.” (ITOE, my bold). A two-legged creature and a four-legged creature are not similar members. A creature with lungs and a creature with gills are not similar members. A surgeon and a mechanic are not similar members. A person who uses his mind to save people’s lives and a person who uses his mind to fix automobiles are similar in a significant respect: they use their minds for survival and achievement of values. They both possess reason, a rational faculty, which is the fundamental characteristic: the common characteristic that distinguishes the units from other units that have different characteristics and fall, therefore, under a different concept. Within the Objectivist framework, Man does mean “all men”: all units: all similar members: all common fundamental characteristics. A surgeon and a mechanic are similar in that both possess the faculty of reason (as well as other similar essential characteristics). The characteristics that differ among existents are not the basis for regarding them as units of a concept.

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Please see these concrete examples of cars without a gas tank and without a radiator. Have you tried to take this method of concept-building to its logical conclusion? I will...

Your claim here is that an object which cannot perform the primary function of a car is not a car. The logical conclusion is that the 3,000 lbs of metal sitting in your driveway magically becomes a car when you sit in the driver's seat and turn the key, because prior to that time it is not a "functioning car". I don't think you believe this, but it is consistent with the method of concept-formation that you are asserting.

------------------

You got me. A lawn mower with doors that can ride on a highway is definitely a car. And the bug throws my theory out the window.

That's a pretty wild conclusion and yes, I don't believe it. What theory am I asserting?

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In what context did I make these statements? I said it in the context of distinguishing between the Objectivist view of concepts and the theory put forth in the first post by DPW: “If a concept does not mean its definition, but its referents, including all the characteristics of its referents” (Post 1, my bold). This is important to remember: a concept means its units not all its characteristics. There is nothing in Objectivist epistemology to justify the inclusion of characteristics that are particular (and different) to individual units into the meaning of the concept. (I’ll say a little more about this later.) I said S1 clearly in the context of man’s characteristics that differ: “Man can see color, man can murder, man can build skyscrapers, man can dig ditches, man can live on farms, man cannot see color” “On what justification would you conclude than any of these generalizations apply to all men?” (Post 84). Thus, “man does not mean all men” means not all men’s characteristics. That is the context of my statement: as a refutation of the views that concepts include all characteristics, and that anyone should assume that “man is x” means “all men are x” when different characteristics are under discussion. “Broken units” are the result of such an error.

So, when I hold S2, I mean the concept, man, refers to the units of the concept. What is a unit? “A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members.” (ITOE, my bold). A two-legged creature and a four-legged creature are not similar members. A creature with lungs and a creature with gills are not similar members. A surgeon and a mechanic are not similar members. A person who uses his mind to save people’s lives and a person who uses his mind to fix automobiles are similar in a significant respect: they use their minds for survival and achievement of values. They both possess reason, a rational faculty, which is the fundamental characteristic: the common characteristic that distinguishes the units from other units that have different characteristics and fall, therefore, under a different concept. Within the Objectivist framework, Man does mean “all men”: all units: all similar members: all common fundamental characteristics. A surgeon and a mechanic are similar in that both possess the faculty of reason (as well as other similar essential characteristics). The characteristics that differ among existents are not the basis for regarding them as units of a concept.

From ITOE, appendices:

Meaning and Referent

Prof. B:
Someone once raised the following objection to the idea that the meaning of a concept is its referents. Take the concept "glass," meaning drinking glasses. Suppose one person has seen millions of glasses in his life, but only those of one particular type. A second person has seen only a few dozen glasses, but of a wide variety of different types. The question is: who would know more of the meaning of the concept "glass"? Even though the first man has seen many more referents of the concept "glass," it seems that the second man, who has seen fewer of the referents, knows more of the meaning.

AR:
When you ask, "Who knows better the meaning of the concept?"—the answer is: both equally, because the concept doesn't include the non-essential variations. To have the concept "glass" means you can differentiate a glass <ioe2_236> from all other objects. Therefore their knowledge is exactly the same.

Prof. B:
But the meaning isn't just the essential characteristic.

AR:
The essential characteristic and lesser characteristics also. But now if one man has observed more characteristics than another, he knows more about the referents of the concept, which doesn't mean that he understands the meaning of the concept better.

Prof. B:
The meaning of the concept is the entities which it integrates, and you know the meaning when you know which entities it integrates.

AR:
That's right.

Prof. B:
So if they both have the same standards for integration, they both know the meaning equally.

AR:
Exactly.

Prof. B:
So, the meaning is the referents; the form in which we hold our knowledge of the meaning is the essential characteristics.

AR:
That's right. But the important distinction here is understanding the meaning of a concept versus knowing more about its referents. A simpler example of the same kind would be: who knows more about the concept "man," a layman or a doctor? Well, they both understand the concept equally, but the doctor may know more about the referents of the concept "man"—namely, about his physiology. Or a psychologist will know more about the type of consciousness of the referent.

Prof. B:
So "knowing more about the meaning" is equivocal. It could mean knowing more about the objects or knowing more about what makes those objects glasses.

AR:
Exactly. About what differentiates those objects from all others.

Prof. A:
Now I'm totally confused. Because I thought the meaning is the referent.

AR:
The meaning is the referent, but your understanding of the meaning of a concept and your knowledge about the referent aren't the same thing. <ioe2_237>

Prof. A:
By "understanding the meaning of the concept" you mean understanding what a concept means?

AR:
Yes, understanding which existents it refers to in reality. So that if you can distinguish the referents from all other existents in your knowledge, you have fully understood the meaning of the concept. But then if you study various aspects of these referents, you may come to know more about them than someone else, but that is an issue irrelevant to understanding the meaning of the concept.

Prof. A:
Then would it be correct to describe the person who goes into more intensive study as learning more about—

AR:
About the referents. Not about the meaning of the concept. That's the important thing. He knows more about the units, but not about the concept.

Understanding the meaning of a concept is an epistemological issue. It is understanding to what in reality that concept refers. It's being able to distinguish the referents from all other existents. That's understanding the meaning of a concept. How much you know about the referents is something that varies from man to man. But the understanding of the concept is the same once you can distinguish the referents from all other things.

In that sense the understanding of the concept "man" was the same a hundred years ago as it is today, or is the same today for a savage and a scientist. They both understand the concept, but one knows more about the referents than does the other.

And, incidentally, the concept subsumes all the characteristics of the referents,
known or yet to be discovered. And in that sense, what we know today—if we took the total sum of knowledge about a given concept, like "man"—would still apply a hundred years from now, when, let's assume, men will know much more. But they won't know more about the concept, they will know more about the referent of the concept.

Prof. A:
So in the argument against the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, when you say that newly discovered characteristics <ioe2_238> are included in the concept's meaning, you mean they belong to the same units.

AR:
Yes. But it doesn't change the concept.

Prof. A:
Some philosophers raise this objection: how could you mean by a concept more than you know at a given time? So the answer is: well, you don't know every aspect of the referents, but you do know fully which referents you are talking about.

AR:
And you know what you do know about these referents and by what characteristic you distinguish them from other referents, which is all that concerns you in regard to concept-formation.

Prof. B:
You do know fully now what you mean.

AR:
Exactly.

Prof. A:
The concept is fully meaningful if you can isolate validly a group of referents—

AR:
From all other referents, yes.

And from this discussion of implicit concepts:

Prof. G:
Why do you identify this type of awareness as an implicit concept? There seems to be an obvious objection that the notion of "implicit concept" is a contradiction in terms. For you to have a concept, there must be some form of integration, and you are speaking here only of an awareness which is avowedly not integrated; it is just an awareness of the units themselves.

Prof. E:
May I make one brief observation? If I follow the drift of your comment, you would also say that it is a self-contradiction to describe a fertilized egg in the womb as a "potential man," because a man is defined as a rational animal and the egg is not yet a rational animal; so we are applying an adjective to a noun where the adjective, out of context, doesn't allow for the defining characteristic of the noun. Is that the drift of your argument? Because on the face of it that seems awfully linguistic-analytical to me. That is, you just observe the conjunction of an adjective and a noun, and divorce it altogether from the content of the two concepts.

AR:
I am afraid so.

A is A makes the same mistake as Prof. G. Although he may not know the nature of his mistake, apparently the theory with which it is consistent is linguistic analysis.

Edited by Grames

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This is important to remember: a concept means its units not all its characteristics. There is nothing in Objectivist epistemology to justify the inclusion of characteristics that are particular (and different) to individual units into the meaning of the concept.

And what are the units of a concept, if not their characteristics? An entity is its attributes. Existence is Identity. You can't have units without all of their characteristics.

A thing is—what it is; its characteristics constitute its identity. An existent apart from its characteristics, would be an existent apart from its identity, which means: a nothing, a non-existent.

A characteristic is an aspect of an existent. It is not a disembodied, Platonic universal. Just as a concept cannot mean existents apart from their identity, so it cannot mean identities apart from that which exists. Existence is Identity.

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That is the context of my statement: as a refutation of the views that concepts include all characteristics, and that anyone should assume that “man is x” means “all men are x” when different characteristics are under discussion. “Broken units” are the result of such an error.

Concepts of physical forces, elementary particles, chemicals etc. are exactly like this because the referents are all identical in exhibiting the essence. "Electrons are x" always means "all electrons are x" because the intrinsic characteristics of all electrons are the same. Only biological entities and artifacts, teleological things, can differ with respect to the essence yet still be identified by the same concept.

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Concepts of physical forces, elementary particles, chemicals etc. are exactly like this because the referents are all identical in exhibiting the essence. "Electrons are x" always means "all electrons are x" because the intrinsic characteristics of all electrons are the same. Only biological entities and artifacts, teleological things, can differ with respect to the essence yet still be identified by the same concept.

  1. Electrons are in metallic materials
  2. Electrons are in non-metallic materials
  3. Electrons are in living organisms
  4. Electrons surround atomic nuclei in orbitals.
  5. Electrons ejected from the L-shell yield X-rays with q energy.
  6. Electrons conduct electricity.

Are you really prepared to tell me

  1. All electrons are in metallic materials
  2. All electrons are in non-metallic material
  3. All electrons are in living organisms
  4. All electrons surround atomic nuclei in orbitals.
  5. All electrons ejected from the L-shell yield X-rays with q energy.
  6. All electrons conduct electricity.

The examples are endless refutations of "Electrons are x" always means "all electrons are x". Not to mention the enormous complex scientific theories that have been developed just to explain what an electron is. Is it a particle, a wave, a cloud?

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And what are the units of a concept, if not their characteristics? An entity is its attributes. Existence is Identity. You can't have units without all of their characteristics.

Now you're really exhibiting confusion. Don't confuse existents with units. I'm not going to teach ITOE. Please read it carefully. I have stated numerous times what a unit is: the SIMILAR characteristics. It's in ITOE.

Edited by A is A

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The intrinsic characteristics (the electric charge, the rest mass, the magnetic moment, etc.) of all electrons are the same, a phrase I included because I anticipated you would make this kind of objection. It didn't help.

You have serious reading comprehension difficulties directly resulting from your context-dropping linguistic interpretation of words. This is not just a mistake in this particular thread, it is systematic. This same idiosyncratic word-twisting leads you to the idea of 'objective emotions' in another thread.

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--------

A is A makes the same mistake as Prof. G. Although he may not know the nature of his mistake, apparently the theory with which it is consistent is linguistic analysis.

Cherry picking quotes without context or demonstration of application to an issue will not yield any response from me. Your "bold and enlarged" highlight is clearly out of context of what Rand states about concepts. Which characteristics is she referring to in your highlight? Again, you are making the same mistake of inserting "all" when it should be "some," and the "some" clearly refers to similar characteristics from her definitions of unit and concept.

Prof. A: So in the argument against the analytic-synthetic dichotomy, when you say that newly discovered characteristics are included in the concept's meaning, you mean they belong to the same units.

AR: Yes. But it doesn't change the concept.

Edited by A is A

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Cherry picking quotes without context or demonstration of application to an issue will not yield any response from me. Your "bold and enlarged" highlight is clearly out of context of what Rand states about concepts. Which characteristics is she referring to in your highlight? Again, you are making the same mistake of inserting "all" when it should be "some," and the "some" clearly refers to similar characteristics from her definitions of unit and concept.

I quoted the entire passage on Meaning and Referent, there is no additional context available to be dropped. She specifically states ALL characteristics. Now that you've been cornered, you are just flat evading.

And, incidentally, the concept subsumes all the characteristics of the referents, known or yet to be discovered.

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The intrinsic characteristics (the electric charge, the rest mass, the magnetic moment, etc.) of all electrons are the same, a phrase I included because I anticipated you would make this kind of objection. It didn't help.

You have serious reading comprehension difficulties directly resulting from your context-dropping linguistic interpretation of words. This is not just a mistake in this particular thread, it is systematic. This same idiosyncratic word-twisting leads you to the idea of 'objective emotions' in another thread.

I noticed "intrinsic" and ignored it because it has nothing to do with concept formation. There are many intrinsic properties of many existents in nature. It is not the intrinsic properties but their similarity of characteristics that allows for concepts to be formed. "Charge" and "mass" are intrinsic properties of electrons and protons, yet we do not group electrons and protons under one concept because they have charge and mass: they have different charges and masses! Not to mention a whole host of different intrinsic properties in other applications.

Edited by A is A

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I quoted the entire passage on Meaning and Referent, there is no additional context available to be dropped. She specifically states ALL characteristics. Now that you've been cornered, you are just flat evading.

And, incidentally, the concept subsumes all the characteristics of the referents, known or yet to be discovered.

NO ADDITIONAL CONTEXT????????

You mean like her definition of concept and unit? And the quote that is within the same quote you gave where she says characteristics refer to units?

And one more thing. She does NOT say "all characteristics." The quote is "all THE characteristics." The term 'characteristics are modified and qualified, clearly leaving the implication of which class of characteristics she is referring to.

And more from your own quote: "because the concept doesn't include the non-essential variations."

Edited by A is A

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I have grown tired of arguing against misinterpretations, misrepresentations, misapplications, and lack of understanding of Objectivist epistemology in this thread. I think that both ewv and myself have demolished all of the arguments against ITOE and in favor of "broken units." There is no point in my continuing at this point unless anything of real substance is mentioned. I leave now for anyone else to continue if they so choose. On to bigger and better things.

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In what context did I make these statements? I said it in the context of distinguishing between the Objectivist view of concepts and the theory put forth in the first post by DPW: “If a concept does not mean its definition, but its referents, including all the characteristics of its referents” (Post 1, my bold). This is important to remember: a concept means its units not all its characteristics. There is nothing in Objectivist epistemology to justify the inclusion of characteristics that are particular (and different) to individual units into the meaning of the concept. (I’ll say a little more about this later.)

I know that "A is A" has abandoned this thread, but I just found the authoritative quote which shows his misunderstanding of Objectivist epistemology...

...the concept "man" does not consist merely of "rational faculty" (if it did, the two would be equivalent, which they are not), but includes all the characteristics of "man", with "rational faculty" serving as the distinguishing characteristic

...

An error of this kind is possible only on the basis of assuming that man learns concepts by memorizing their definitions, i.e., on the basis of studying the epistemology of a parrot.

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I know that "A is A" has abandoned this thread, but I just found the authoritative quote which shows his misunderstanding of Objectivist epistemology...
I haven't the thread that closely, so perhaps it addresses some particular point that AisA raised. However, that quote does not explicitly address the main point raised by evw and AisA about what it means for a characteristic to be 'essential'.

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I know that "A is A" has abandoned this thread, but I just found the authoritative quote which shows his misunderstanding of Objectivist epistemology...

I haven't abandoned the thread. I said, "There is no point in my continuing at this point unless anything of real substance is mentioned." You are making the same error that Grames makes in your argumentation. You assert without demonstration of connection to anything I've stated.

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Now you're really exhibiting confusion. Don't confuse existents with units. I'm not going to teach ITOE. Please read it carefully. I have stated numerous times what a unit is: the SIMILAR characteristics. It's in ITOE.

I really hope you're not teaching anyone ITOE, because you've got it wrong. A unit is not the "similar characteristic." From page 6: "A unit is an existence regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members." A little later on page 7: "units do not exist qua units, what exists are things, but units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships." The units are the things, viewed a certain way, but they're still the things.

Everyone should read Gotthelf's paper (linked to in my previous post). It's good, and relevant, and supports a lot of what Grames has been saying.

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I really hope you're not teaching anyone ITOE, because you've got it wrong. A unit is not the "similar characteristic." From page 6: "A unit is an existence regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members." A little later on page 7: "units do not exist qua units, what exists are things, but units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships." The units are the things, viewed a certain way, but they're still the things.

--------------------------

I think that implication is easily grasped from the context after all of my arguments. In what way are members that are regarded as being similar actually similar if not in their characteristics? Are not two chairs similar to each other because of their shape and function, yet different from a table because of its shape and function? Your criticism would have some merit if the context that I was presenting the ideas was dropped. But since I didn't do that, I can see where you misinterpret my meaning, but your implications that I am wrong is plainly incorrect. The units are the things: those with similar characteristics allow us to regard things as units. Show me a unit for things with non-commensurate characteristics. And what is the relationship between a unit and a concept? "A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated according to a specific characteristic(s) and united by a specific definition." (ITOE) (my bold)

Edited by A is A

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