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The locality of abstractions

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Im trying to nail down something here. I know about 'separating the metaphysical from the manmade' ,and the difference between the perceptually concrete and the conceptually abstract.I know not to reify abstractions etc.

My question is if 'abstractions, as such, do not exist. Only concretes exist.' ITOE , yet :

Prof. F: Okay, taking concepts, therefore, as entities: they do not have spatial location, do they?

AR: No, I have said they are mental entities.

Prof. A: When you say a concept is a mental entity, you don't mean "entity" in the sense that a man is an entity, do you?

AR: I mean it in the same sense in which I mean a thought, an emotion, or a memory is an entity, a mental entity—or put it this way: a phenomenon of consciousness.

ITOE

AR: A mental entity standing for a certain number of concretes—a concept—is not the same as the concretes in vague form. Because some schools of philosophy did hold <ioe2_157> just that—that a concept is a memory of a concrete, only very vague. You see a concept is not a vague concrete, it is a mental entity—which means an entity of a different kind, bearing a certain specific relationship to the physical concretes.

Prof. D: But metaphysically, though, the concept is a concrete; it's a mental entity. You have a concept of "emotion." The referents are these various mental entities, this particular emotion and that particular one. And then the concept of "emotion" itself is a mental entity in actual being.

AR: Yes, you can call it that.

Prof. D: So metaphysically, not epistemologically, all we have here are concretes.

AR: If you mean: does such a thing as the concept of "emotion" in a mind really exist? Yes, it exists—mentally. And only mentally.

Prof. E: Would it be fair to say that a concept qua concept is not a concrete but an integration of concretes, but qua existent it is a concrete integration, a specific mental entity in a particular mind?

AR: That's right. But I kept saying, incidentally, that we can call them "mental entities" only metaphorically or for convenience. It is a "something." For instance, before you have a certain concept, that particular something doesn't exist in your mind. When you have formed the concept of "concept," that is a mental something; it isn't a nothing. But anything pertaining to the content of a mind always has to be treated metaphysically not as a separate existent, but only with this precondition, in effect: that it is a mental state, a mental concrete, a mental something. Actually, "mental something" is the nearest to an exact identification. Because "entity" does imply a physical thing. Nevertheless, since "something" is too vague a term, one can use the word "entity," but only to say that it is a mental something as distinguished from other mental somethings (or from nothing). But it isn't an entity in the primary, Aristotelian sense in which a primary substance exists.

We have to agree here on the terminology, because we <ioe2_158> are dealing with a very difficult subject for which no clear definitions have been established. I personally would like to have a new word for it, but I am against neologisms. Therefore I think the term "mental unit" or "mental entity" can be used, provided we understand by that: "a mental something."

ITOE

Why would concepts as 'mental entities' not be spatially located in the brain? Certainly the data recorded on a cd is on the cd. Ive read of studies of brain stimulus stimulating memories in folks consciousness. Certainly my thoughts {mental entities} exist and are located in my brain. I simply identify what context they exist in .

I realize that consciousness is an axiom. Im not trying to prove it. Im simply wondering why one would claim that thoughts do not have spatial locality in the qualified context of ' a mental entity in actual being' and in that context exist.

For the record I am not claiming Rand is invalidating concepts or consciousness.

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Well, I think you could put it like this:

When you're talking about a memory, a thought, or an emotion, you're talking about the *experience* of that mental entity. You don't *experience* any of those things as a conscious awareness of neurons firing in a specific location in your brain. The *thought* is conceptually distinct from the neurons just as the mind is conceptually distinct from the brain.

You can properly say that the neurons that trigger certain memories or sensations have a physical location, but saying that the memories and sensations have a physical location is kind of like saying that justice is *inside* the justice building.

It's a little funny, because I was reading a Heinlein novel the other day where he waxed verbose about some sort of theoretical genius language that would eliminate the possibility such semantic vagueness and thus lead to more logical thought. On paper it sounded kind of neat, but then I realized that such a language would only serve to divorce thinking from sense data because, even though in the space-time continuum sense there may not be any difference between "noun-things" and "verb-things", there *are* in the way we perceive reality. I don't think divorcing thought from sensory input (i.e. divorcing concepts from percepts) in that way would lead to any sort of cognitive improvement. I'm happy to stick with our somewhat troublesome language.

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Why would concepts as 'mental entities' not be spatially located in the brain? Certainly the data recorded on a cd is on the cd. Ive read of studies of brain stimulus stimulating memories in folks consciousness. Certainly my thoughts {mental entities} exist and are located in my brain. I simply identify what context they exist in .

Rand here is just being very careful about not reifying abstractions and not being cornered into a materialist reductionism. The primary sense in which entities exist is as material things which we become aware of by sensation and perception. Mental entities are not like those entities because they do not exist out in the world, but inside your head. They do not seem to take up space or have mass, and you can have contradictory ideas in your head and even ideas which contradict reality. Mental entities don't seem to obey all the same rules as regular entities, or not in the same way. She did agree that a thought "qua existent it is a concrete integration, a specific mental entity in a particular mind" which is conceding your point if the mind is in the brain. Where else could it be? But qua concept location is not even applicable.

Certainly the data recorded on a cd is on the cd. But where is the music? The combination of cd and a player produces sound, but like a parrot repeating a memorized phrase the sound has no intrinsic meaning. Music comes from the full context of cd and player and listener. It is wrong to say the music is just on the cd, just in the player or just in the listener; it is all of these. But how can an entity have multiple locations? It can't qua existent, but qua concept this is not a problem.

Saying "qua existent" is speaking metaphysically. Saying "qua concept" is speaking epistemologically. There is a danger of committing the fallacy of equivocation by improperly switching between the contexts. For example, the fact that metaphysically a thought is a particular state of a particular brain does not justify materialist reductionism.

Materialist reductionism would deny there is such a thing as consciousness at all. After all, the brain is only composed of atoms, molecules and neurons and none of those have consciousness. The fallacy of composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole (or even of every proper part). The argument that if the brain consists only of neurons, molecules and atoms none of which have consciousness, then the brain as a whole cannot have consciousness is an instance of the fallacy of composition. (Because of the context switching from the parts to the whole, this is a type of equivocation.)

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You don't *experience* any of those things as a conscious awareness of neurons firing in a specific location in your brain. The *thought* is conceptually distinct from the neurons just as the mind is conceptually distinct from the brain.

"Dragon Lady"

The distinction Dragon Lady makes is the difference between Objectivism and scientific naturalism. The website Center for Naturalism states, "More and more, biology and neuroscience show that the brain and body do everything that the soul was supposed to do. [ ] Your thoughts, experiences, feelings, decisions, and behavior are all things your brain and body does. [ ] Naturalism says we are completely physical, material creatures, a complex, highly organized collection of atoms, molecules, cells, neurons, muscles, bone, etc., produced by evolution."

The owner of the Center for Naturalism is Tom Clark, who is opposed to Ayn Rand and had debated her with myself via email, and with Tibor Machan and others on the web. [see "Round Four"] To further the statements made by Clark in my second paragraph, in "Round Five" he begins a sentence by saying, "In a world in which all behavior is understood to be fully caused..." This is the kind of language that scientific naturalists use to indicate that behavior is caused by environment, biology and brain physiology, "memes," and anything but free will, which they they dismiss, not suprisingly, as a myth.

Clark's "advisors" who are named on his website are Susan Blackmore, Paul Bloom, Paul Broks, Daniel Dennett, Sheldon Drobny, Owen Flanagan, Ursula Goodenough, Joseph Hilb, Nicholas Humphrey, Brian Leiter, Thomas Metzinger, Tamler Sommers, and John Symons. Then he has another longer list of "allies" and another list of "contributors." They are all of the same school in one way or another--they are anti-Objectivists, anti-capitalists, anti-free-will philosophers. Many of them have good contributions to make here and there, but overall they are subjectivists.

But the overall similarity between them is that they maintain we are not "self-made" creatures, that we are "fully caused," and they invent the most metaphysically horrid things like "memes" to describe why we act the way we act.

In other words, they "spatially position" who and what we are in the firing of neruons and the resultant "reactions" we call emotions. Clark's sister website Naturalism.Org has all the technical ideas explained in great detail. Check it out. You won't like what you read.

For my own online critique of some of these authors, see Memes, Free Will, Strong Naturalism, and Toilet Paper.

Edited by Curtis Edward Clark

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Nice responses all, thanks .

When you're talking about a memory, a thought, or an emotion, you're talking about the *experience* of that mental entity. You don't *experience* any of those things as a conscious awareness of neurons firing in a specific location in your brain. The *thought* is conceptually distinct from the neurons just as the mind is conceptually distinct from the brain.

You can properly say that the neurons that trigger certain memories or sensations have a physical location, but saying that the memories and sensations have a physical location is kind of like saying that justice is *inside* the justice building.

I agree with the above,however I think if we take Grames comment

Certainly the data recorded on a cd is on the cd. But where is the music? The combination of cd and a player produces sound, but like a parrot repeating a memorized phrase the sound has no intrinsic meaning. Music comes from the full context of cd and player and listener. It is wrong to say the music is just on the cd, just in the player or just in the listener; it is all of these. But how can an entity have multiple locations? It can't qua existent, but qua concept this is not a problem.

Which I agree with 100 % ,we resolve the justice question. music EMERGES from the full interplay of the cd and player along with the speakers.

anything pertaining to the content of a mind always has to be treated metaphysically not as a separate existent

We can affirm this qualification and still use the word exist consistently. We can also affirm the spacial locality or primary physical origin of abstractions without denying consciousness as such.

The naturalism Curtis mentions is denying the direct observation of introspection.We directly hear music when the requisite components are interacting. We directly observe the results of our biological identity in consciousness. Im reminded of the Lecture where Peikoff says he is listening to a Opera and ask where is the music?

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The distinction Dragon Lady makes is the difference between Objectivism and scientific naturalism.

Don't forget Platonism, the fallacy of treating ideas as some sort of physical objects isn't unique to scientific naturalism, although they probably apply it in a different way.

Plato's particular error was a result of his failure to solve the problem of universals, so he very weirdly manufactured another dimension where concepts (universals) have *physical form*.

One of the major things I'm grateful to Ayn Rand for is in helping me see just how ridiculous most philosophizing actually is. B.S. of this nature no longer elicits a vacuous "wow, that's deep" from me. :P

Which I agree with 100 % ,we resolve the justice question. music EMERGES from the full interplay of the cd and player along with the speakers.

Right, you could say that justice is a name for a certain relationship between people and the results of their actions, which would make it an emergent property of a complex system. But since all the physical objects involved in that system move around, you can't ever say "Justice is inside this box".

The case is the same for all concepts that refer to *attributes*. Where is "red"? Where is "length"? Ayn Rand's solution to the problem of universals is really the major and fundamental innovation of Objectivism and what makes it so very different from all other philosophies.

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Rand here is just being very careful about not reifying abstractions and not being cornered into a materialist reductionism. The primary sense in which entities exist is as material things which we become aware of by sensation and perception. Mental entities are not like those entities because they do not exist out in the world, but inside your head. They do not seem to take up space or have mass, and you can have contradictory ideas in your head and even ideas which contradict reality. Mental entities don't seem to obey all the same rules as regular entities, or not in the same way. She did agree that a thought "qua existent it is a concrete integration, a specific mental entity in a particular mind" which is conceding your point if the mind is in the brain. Where else could it be? But qua concept location is not even applicable.

Would it be fair to say that mental entities while real aren't causative? I.e., they have no effect on existents in the phenomenal world? I know it sounds strange but this is how one school of Buddhism puts it.

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Would it be fair to say that mental entities while real aren't causative? I.e., they have no effect on existents in the phenomenal world? I know it sounds strange but this is how one school of Buddhism puts it.

But ideas and other mental entities are causative -- a man is motivated by the ideas that he accepts. For example, the idea that if you post something to oo.net you will get a reply is causative to you posting something to oo.net. Also, for example, if one has the idea of man's individual rights, then that idea is causative to you fighting for your rights as opposed to just accepting what others do to you. The idea of writing a short story is causative to you actually writing it out. The idea that if you go to work you will get paid is causative to you going to work to earn your living. Feeling an emotional reaction to your team winning is causative to you cheering them on. Feeling sadness is causative to you crying. Feeling elated that you just met the woman of your dreams is causative to you pursuing her for romance.

Ideas or mental entities are not causative to the world at large, in the sense that you having the idea of individual rights will do anything to anyone else, so long as it is not expressed, but it was the idea of individual rights that brought about the United States of America.

So, it all depends on what you mean by causative. An idea is not going to leap out of you mind and do anything to physical entities, but you acting on an idea will.

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It's a little funny, because I was reading a Heinlein novel the other day where he waxed verbose about some sort of theoretical genius language that would eliminate the possibility such semantic vagueness and thus lead to more logical thought. On paper it sounded kind of neat, but then I realized that such a language would only serve to divorce thinking from sense data because, even though in the space-time continuum sense there may not be any difference between "noun-things" and "verb-things", there *are* in the way we perceive reality. I don't think divorcing thought from sensory input (i.e. divorcing concepts from percepts) in that way would lead to any sort of cognitive improvement. I'm happy to stick with our somewhat troublesome language.

Actually, you could test whether or not you're correct

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban

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