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Objectivist Mereology

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Hey cmd,

I appreciate you reiterating where the whole discussion came from to keep everything in the right context and to keep us on track.

But how is the at all responsive to cases like the ones I've given here? Why can't I verify whether or not "the keyboard that sits on altonhare's desk" exists or not?

I was discussing this with another objectivist. I'll give some examples to illustrate the point.

You tell me there is something round and hard in my front yard at home you call X. I'm at work. I come home and see a baseball in my front yard. Did I verify that it exists? Or did I verify that you were telling the truth? I contend that I verified if you were telling the truth or not. I observe the baseball, consistent with what you said, therefore you were telling the truth. How could I verify if *it* existed if I did not even know what *it* was before I observed it? I did not know what it was, because I had not yet perceived it.

I form a mental conception of something that is round and hard. I visualize it, imagine feeling it in my hands. I see no reason something that is both round and hard cannot exist. Now, you propose that I can "verify whether it exists". Here, "it" immediately refers to something particular, my mental conception. I already know my mental conception exists in my mind. So I cannot verify whether my mental conception exists. If "it" is referring to "something out there that is both round and hard" then, upon discovering a baseball, you did not verify whether the baseball exists or not! You *discovered* something with characteristics you have already observed in the past. Before you discovered the baseball, you were never referring to the baseball itself. You were referring to a mental conception. So you could not verify whether the baseball existed, because you were never referring to it in the first place. You never referred to the baseball itself until you observed it.

Fine, whatever. I was trying to use terminology you'd find acceptable. Just replace every instance of "perceptual determination" in my arguments with "perceptual observation". This doesn't change the actual force of the arguments in the least.

It does change. Determination is different than observation. Very different. I observe that which exists. I do not determine that what I am observing exists.

(1) "If they have not observed X then X is not something particular"

(2) "everything that exists is something particular"

(3) If something hasn't been observed, it doesn't exist. (follows from 2&1)

This is wrong, I admit. I didn't think this through enough, what I should have said is that whatever I conceptualize or observe is, of course, something particular. So X is always something particular. However X is either something I observe or something I conceptualize. I don't verify whether each of these exists. One I am conceptualizing already and the other I am observing already.

And you don't ever speak to the wax argument, btw.

Objects move. What's the big deal? I explain the event/observation by saying that some fundamental object sticks to others. When these fundamental constituents move they shake loose from each other. This is a theory to explain the event.

Uncertainty argument.

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) One grasps the existence of an object directly via perception.

(3) It is impossible to doubt a perception.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

Now the intended, epistemic reading of (2) should be plain

I still disagree with (2). I observe objects that exist. I do not grasp, determine, conceptualize, etc. their existence.

Of course, combined with your notion that the only entities are those directly grasped by perception, you put us in the remarkably awkward position of saying that all of the objects we interact with on a daily basis don't have parts. See below.

If you refer to something like a television, computer, etc. as an object you are treating it as a single thing. As soon as you talk about how it was made, what it is made of, etc. you are dealing with the concept of a TV or computer. What you pointed at was the object. Your description of it is a conceptualization.

I am not saying entities are only things that are grasped directly by perception. I am saying an entity is that which has shape.

I am also not saying that you cannot describe an entity as being made of entities.

But you don't justify or provide an argument for ANY of this! Why should I make this bizarre distinction between the table qua entity, which doesn't have parts, and the table qua furniture which does?

Any definition besides "shape" for entity qua entity cannot be used consistently. An object has shape all on its own. Other properties such as color, sharpness, roundness, roughness, etc. require the comparison/conceptualization of a conscious observer. An object in the primary sense just has shape, it is intrinsic.

I am not saying that an entity such as a music box is not made of entities. I am distinguishing in what context we can use a word to refer to an object and in what context we cannot. We can only use the word "music box" to refer to an object if we are referring to the shape which we point to. We cannot refer to conceptualizations and groups as if they were objects because, quite simply, they are conceptualizations and not objects. The music box is not 'a' group of gears. The music box is itself, it is what I pointed to. "Group of gears" is a conceptualization of the spatial proximity of entities. This avoids the absurdity of asserting that the Eiffel Tower and my left toe is an object. That kind of nonsense is right out.

What philosophical work does this do or what explanatory power does it have?

It identifies the most primitive, intrinsic quality common to all objects. It makes the word "object" unambiguous. It prevents absurdity like asserting that the Eiffel Tower and my left toe are 'a' object. Groups are not objects. A music box is NOT a group of gears. A music box is a music box is a music box. It is what I point to. It may be made of gears, this is a description of it, not a definition of it. We cannot haphazardly replace the word "music box" with the phrase "group of gears" wherever we want because one refers to an object, a shape, and the other refers to a conceptualization, the mental association of entities under some criteria. The shape criterion It is free of observers, other objects and "proof". Whether an object is big, heavy, red, soft, smooth, rough, etc. is a matter of a person's perception and comparison. An object is not identified as rough unless there is another object to compare it to that is not rough. An object is not colored unless there is at least one more object of a different color. An object is not big unless there is at least one object that is small. Shape, on the other hand, an object has shape even if it is the only object in the universe. The only alternative to shape is shapeless, i.e. nothing. There is no nothing.

What I am presenting is not as bizarre as it sounds.

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You tell me there is something round and hard in my front yard at home you call X... I did not know what it was, because I had not yet perceived it.

Trust me, I get it. I understand your claim. But you aren't responding to my counter-argument, that there is a class of unique, particular objects - those identified via definite descriptions like "the keyboard on altonhare's desk" - which can't be captured by your account. If I go to your desk and see your keyboard, I've verified the existence of "the keyboard on altonhare's desk". Usually your answer is, no, you just had some set of properties that you threw together and found an object that resembles them, you didn't identify some particular object. But this object's particularity IS one of the properties it has by definition. If I find a single keyboard on your desk, then I've verified it's existence and it is "the keyboard on altonhare's desk", not something resembling a mental object I've been carting around.

It does change. Determination is different than observation. Very different. I observe that which exists. I do not determine that what I am observing exists.

Just answer the argument as amended.

This is wrong, I admit. I didn't think this through enough, what I should have said is that whatever I conceptualize or observe is, of course, something particular. So X is always something particular. However X is either something I observe or something I conceptualize. I don't verify whether each of these exists. One I am conceptualizing already and the other I am observing already.

OK, so you admit that there can be particular things which are not the objects of observation or conceptualization, yes?

Objects move. What's the big deal?

"My senses tell me that the object on the table has nothing in common with the object I put into the fire, but my reason tells me that it's the same one. Because I changed all my percepts of the object, but maintained my awareness of the same object's existence, I must not grasp the object's existence as a perceptual determination, but rather as a rational determination justified by percepts."

Your theory about what's happening is totally non-responsive to this argument.

I still disagree with (2). I observe objects that exist. I do not grasp, determine, conceptualize, etc. their existence.

Uncertainty argument. v.1.2

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) One comes to know that an object exists directly via perception.

(3) It is impossible to doubt that which one comes to know directly via perception.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

The terminology here is really unimportant. I'm trying to find an expression that matches your notion that the observation of an object's existence isn't a rational or intellectual process. I invite you to respond to the content of the argument.

Any definition besides "shape" for entity qua entity cannot be used consistently. An object has shape all on its own. Other properties such as color, sharpness, roundness, roughness, etc. require the comparison/conceptualization of a conscious observer. An object in the primary sense just has shape, it is intrinsic.

That seems both arbitrary and plainly false. I might as well pick any other random property, say color or duration, and assert that it is REALLY what is primary about entities. How does color require the conceptualization of a conscious observer in a way which shape does not?

I am not saying that an entity such as a music box is not made of entities.

Now you're just flagrantly contradicting yourself. You said before that an entity qua entity doesn't have parts. Earlier in discussion you said: "Groups of entities" do not consist of entities. I have no idea at this point what you're arguing for. And in the rest of this paragraph you answer my argument about the equivocations you generate in natural language by saying that you're distinguishing between different senses of the same word. But that's the problem. The distinction you're arguing for (or at least your articulation of it) creates an artificial distinction between objects qua things which have shapes and objects qua things which have all the other properties we care about which generates absurdities like my inability to kick pieces of furniture (since being a piece of furniture is a property of concepts and not entities).

It identifies the most primitive, intrinsic quality common to all objects.

That's just question begging.

It makes the word "object" unambiguous.

As noted earlier, it actually makes everyday speech ridden with ambiguities and equivocations.

It prevents absurdity like asserting that the Eiffel Tower and my left toe are 'a' object.

Only by taking the nuclear option of saying that NO groups of objects are objects. Under your account "eiffel tower + my toe" is no more absurd than "table leg + table top".

The shape criterion It is free of observers, other objects and "proof". Whether an object is big, heavy, red, soft, smooth, rough, etc. is a matter of a person's perception and comparison.

How are mass and the frequencies of light reflected by objects somehow less objective features of the universe than shape? These aren't things that require differences or human perceivers, and they are the physical characteristics of the universe that underlie color and heaviness.

Shape, on the other hand, an object has shape even if it is the only object in the universe.

The hell it does. Things have shape because they have edges, boundaries. If there were only one object in the universe, there wouldn't be any boundaries between objects and hence, no shapes.

You say that "An object is not identified as rough unless there is another object to compare it to that is not rough." But objects aren't identified as extended in space unless there's some consciousness to do the identifying. All of the qualities you discuss are equally dependent for their identification on the existence of a conscious mind. Shape isn't somehow special in this way. But they all also refer to objective features of the world around us. Objects REALLY ARE colored, rough etc. Now, they are are colored and rough with respect to human standards of these things, but that doesn't mean that these terms aren't referring to underlying objective physical properties - like frequencies of reflected light in the instance of color.

What I am presenting is not as bizarre as it sounds.

No, it's substantially wierder than it sounds.

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But this object's particularity IS one of the properties it has by definition. If I find a single keyboard on your desk, then I've verified it's existence and it is "the keyboard on altonhare's desk", not something resembling a mental object I've been carting around.

You need to distinguish between the concept of a keyboard, something this long, this color, this shape, etc. and *this* keyboard on my desk. When you simply utter "the keyboard on altonhare's desk", unless you perceive it, you're not referring to *this* keyboard on my desk. You never verified its existence because you never identified it in the first place. You may have verified a claim i.e. there is something this long, this shape, etc. at this location. You verify whether this statement is true or not.

Uncertainty argument. v.1.2

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) One comes to know that an object exists directly via perception.

(3) It is impossible to doubt that which one comes to know directly via perception.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

The terminology here is really unimportant. I'm trying to find an expression that matches your notion that the observation of an object's existence isn't a rational or intellectual process. I invite you to respond to the content of the argument.

Since 2 and 3 contradict 1, we must discard 1. It is not possible to doubt if a particular object exists since I am perceiving it.

That seems both arbitrary and plainly false. I might as well pick any other random property, say color or duration, and assert that it is REALLY what is primary about entities. How does color require the conceptualization of a conscious observer in a way which shape does not?

First of all, color is an awful counterexample. Color is a dynamic concept, it requires motion to observe and conceptualize color. Since no object IS what it DOES, we immediately discard all dynamic attributes as primitive, intrinsic characteristics common to all objects.

How is there color without a consciousness to name something yellow and another thing blue? How is there color without a consciousness to conceptualize "color"? Certainly you don't propose that one atom identifies another as blue.

Shape does not require a consious observer. Shape, in the primitive sense, has nothing to do with conscious identification or comparison. Objects have shape whether you're looking or not, even if all humans (or life for that matter) die off. With no life, no consciousness, there is no "color" or "rough". There are only shapes at locations.

Now you're just flagrantly contradicting yourself. You said before that an entity qua entity doesn't have parts. Earlier in discussion you said: "Groups of entities" do not consist of entities. I have no idea at this point what you're arguing for.

The concept "group of entities" does not consist of any entities because... it's conceptual. Entities may be described as consisting of entities, but not concepts. Also, since "made of" is a description by a conscious observer, entity in the primary sense refers to a single, discrete unit. In the moment where you point to it and name it, it is just itself. You have not begun to describe it in any way. This thing you are pointing at is associated with this sound you utter. So yes, at that moment, entity in the primary sense is referring to a single unit.

The distinction you're arguing for (or at least your articulation of it) creates an artificial distinction between objects qua things which have shapes and objects qua things which have all the other properties we care about which generates absurdities like my inability to kick pieces of furniture (since being a piece of furniture is a property of concepts and not entities).

The distinction is not artificial in the least. People make this equivocation all the time and it's the source of a lot of confusion and absurdity. You can certainly kick a table or a chair. Technically you cannot say that you kicked a piece of furniture, but we know what you mean. In everyday casual language this distinction is generally unimportant because we all have similar ideas about furniture and baseballs. But in deeper discussions, especially in science, the distinction is absolutely crucial.

So no, no absurdity is present except insofar as one feels comfortable in using loose, casual speech and uncomfortable otherwise. You're used to saying that you can kick concepts because everyday concepts are widely agreed upon and well understood. You've become so used to it that you think it's absurd not to be able to speak this way. What you mean by "I kicked a piece of furniture" is "I kicked an object that is either a chair, a table, a cabinet, .... etc." In casual speech we don't have time for this kind of precision and it's just not necessary. But scientific language demands more precision than everyday speech.

As noted earlier, it actually makes everyday speech ridden with ambiguities and equivocations.

And indeed everyday speech is riddled with imprecision! That's why we call it "casual" instead of "scientific". In casual language we can speak of actions as causal primaries! i.e. her jumping caused the boat to rock. But we know only entities are causal primaries, not actions or attributes. In casual speech we can say completely ridiculous things like "anger took him over" or "love brought them together" or "parliament voted". All of these casual sentences speak of action, but what's acting? An entity? Do you really propose everday, casual speech as the standard by which we should decide the matters we are debating? If it leads to an absurdity in everyday speech, no good, not allowed?

In more rigorous terms we say she hit the boat repeatedly then the boat rocked. Here "she" is the subject of the sentence, which must be an entity with shape (unlike love and jumping). "Hit" is the action she performs, boat is the entity she performs the action on, and "repeatedly" is an adverb that qualifies her action. "She" is the causal primary, boat is the entity being acted upon, and rocking is the resulting action.

If you want to communicate with the ET, what will you say? A concept caused the boat to rock? An action? If an action, an action of what? You will have to point at the entity and illustrate the action. "Jumping caused the boat to rock" absolutely will not do it for the ET. You can't show the ET 'a' jumping.

Groups seem to be where we're having the most friction. Mental groupings are concepts though, just as love and anger are. Therefore it is just as irrational to say that 'a' group hit you as it is to say that anger hit you.

Only by taking the nuclear option of saying that NO groups of objects are objects. Under your account "eiffel tower + my toe" is no more absurd than "table leg + table top".

No group of objects is an object. "Group" is summarily conceptual.

And exactly, in both your examples you are naming TWO entities. TWO entities is not ONE entity. No GROUP of objects is ONE object.

How are mass and the frequencies of light reflected by objects somehow less objective features of the universe than shape? These aren't things that require differences or human perceivers, and they are the physical characteristics of the universe that underlie color and heaviness.

You already said it, they are "physical characteristics". They are comparisons/conceptualizations that humans have made. An object, all by itself, just "sees" shape. An atom does not recognize mass or frequency. You absolutely need a human being to make observations and take measurements and then conceptualize "mass" and "frequency". I did not say they are "less objective". I am identifying the most primitive characteristic intrinsic to *all* objects. The table has shape *before* you point to it and name it. It is not brown, mahogony, hard, flat, etc. until you compare it to something else. The table doesn't have shape only when you're looking at it.

The hell it does. Things have shape because they have edges, boundaries. If there were only one object in the universe, there wouldn't be any boundaries between objects and hence, no shapes.

edge, boundary, those are synonyms.

boundary, as a synonym of shape, has nothing to do with an interface between two objects. With shape, there is no comparison taking place. Certainly an object doesn't spring into being when another object comes along.

But objects aren't identified as extended in space unless there's some consciousness to do the identifying. All of the qualities you discuss are equally dependent for their identification on the existence of a conscious mind. Shape isn't somehow special in this way.

You're saying an object has no shape, no extent, unless we're looking at it!? Does my infamous keyboard disintegrate when I leave then reform when I come back?

Objects REALLY ARE colored, rough etc. Now, they are are colored and rough with respect to human standards of these things, but that doesn't mean that these terms aren't referring to underlying objective physical properties - like frequencies of reflected light in the instance of color.

Right, you said it, human standards. Now again I'm not saying these characteristics can't be objective. However I am identifying that characteristic of an object that it had before humans ever came about. Even when nobody is around with a tape measurer, a camera, a retina, etc. This characteristic is absolutely critical to identify and maintain rigorously in scientific discussion.

No, it's substantially wierder than it sounds.

Again only because you're comfortable with loose, casual speech and uncomfortable with the opposite. Your level of comfort with using almost any term in the capacity of "object" is bizarre to me. Object means something very specific. Its this loose language, especially with regards to objects, that leads to huge meaningless debates, circular reasoning, absurd questions, and lots of wasted time. The question of "Is X an object? is not a matter of anyone's opnion, it is not up for debate. If it has shape, it's an object. If someone wants to propose that X is an object, they can point.

"My senses tell me that the object on the table has nothing in common with the object I put into the fire, but my reason tells me that it's the same one. Because I changed all my percepts of the object, but maintained my awareness of the same object's existence, I must not grasp the object's existence as a perceptual determination, but rather as a rational determination justified by percepts."

Your theory about what's happening is totally non-responsive to this argument.

Whether you name the object before you with the same name that you used before is irrelevant. How narrow (or wide) you decide to make your criteria for categories such as "chicken" or "candle" is entirely up to you. As far as I'm concerned it's a candle, then it's a puddle. They are not the same. You may decide that it's a candle, then it's still a candle. Perhaps your criteria for naming something "candle" is "whatever is made of wax".

My proposal is not without precedent. Euclid more or less said this, but ultimately failed to actually implement the shape criterion:

A boundary is that which is an extremity of anything.(Bk. I, Def. 13)…

A figure is that which is contained by any boundary or boundaries.(Bk. I, Def. 14)

Edited by altonhare

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You need to distinguish between the concept of a keyboard, something this long, this color, this shape, etc. and *this* keyboard on my desk. When you simply utter "the keyboard on altonhare's desk", unless you perceive it, you're not referring to *this* keyboard on my desk.

Stunning. So when I say "The current president of the United States", it doesn't actually refer to Barack Obama unless I'm in his physical presence. You can add this to the list of objections to your epistemology - it totally disconnects the referents of concepts from reality.

Since 2 and 3 contradict 1, we must discard 1. It is not possible to doubt if a particular object exists since I am perceiving it.

Thank you for the substantive answer. One man's modus ponens is another man's modus tollens, I guess. The question is which set of premises we should give up. You can refer to the discussion of illusions I had with Grames (and if you're reading this, I promise I'll return to our discussion after this business with altonhare winds down. I just can't keep up this volume of posts with my schedule right now). It seems manifestly true that we can doubt the existence of objects we perceive, for instance the illusory lake on the horizon in the desert. Your reply will probably be something like: since it has shape it's an object, I just happen to be misidentifying it conceptually as a lake instead of something else. But this just shows how wrongheaded this reduction of objecthood to shape is. If I close my eyes, I see shapes. Clearly defined shapes against my field of vision. But to say that I am perceiving existents/objects when I do is an absurdity. At best I'm perceiving objects whose existence I doubt. So simply perceiving a shape cannot be tantamount to directly perceiving an object's existence. Given that, we should endorse (1) and reject either (2) or (3).

First of all, color is an awful counterexample. Color is a dynamic concept, it requires motion to observe and conceptualize color. Since no object IS what it DOES, we immediately discard all dynamic attributes as primitive, intrinsic characteristics common to all objects.

I don't see any reason to reject all dispositional properties as necessarily not common to all objects. "No object IS what it DOES" - that's a slogan, not an argument. Regardless, what an objects DOES is completely dependent on what it IS. Like Rand says, things act in accordance with their natures. Even if I only come to know some fact about an object's nature via the manifestation of dispositional properties, that doesn't somehow make that fact illegitimately derived.

Admittedly, duration is the better counterexample. Which is probably why you don't address it.

How is there color without a consciousness to name something yellow and another thing blue? How is there color without a consciousness to conceptualize "color"? Certainly you don't propose that one atom identifies another as blue.

Of course I don't. But objects reflect light in different ways, and this is an objective feature of the world. This is the property which undergirds our phenomenal experience of color. The fact that we identify certain ranges of this difference with measurements and terminology doesn't mean that somehow color is all in our heads.

Shape does not require a consious observer.

CERTAINLY YOU DON'T PROPOSE THAT ONE SHAPE IDENTIFIES ANOTHER AS TRIANGULAR! I really just don't see how you're distinguishing between shape and other properties in a meaningful way.

Shape, in the primitive sense, has nothing to do with conscious identification or comparison. Objects have shape whether you're looking or not, even if all humans (or life for that matter) die off. With no life, no consciousness, there is no "color" or "rough". There are only shapes at locations.

Existents would have properties - even properties other than shape - in the absence of human interaction with them. Without humans to measure mass, massive objects would still attract other objects through gravitation. Without humans to measure heat, stars would still incinerate anything that fell into them. And if a tree falls in the forest, but nobody is around to hear it, it still makes a sound. You're committing a deep error, that of thinking that our descriptions and conceptualizations of properties are somehow totally disconnected from reality. Admittedly, they are abstractions from reality. That this apple is red isn't some objective feature of the universe per se. But it does MAP ONTO objective features of the universe (in this case the particular way in which the object reflects light) which we identify via reason, which our conceptual faculties allow us to grasp and articulate. And shape is exactly the same.

What I'm not getting from you is an argument for the special status of shape. You just keep asserting that it doesn't require conscious identification and every other property does.

The distinction is not artificial in the least... Do you really propose everday, casual speech as the standard by which we should decide the matters we are debating? If it leads to an absurdity in everyday speech, no good, not allowed?

There should be a presumption in favor of the notion that people say meaningful, intelligible things most of the time. After all, communication happens. Obviously our ordinary ways of speaking about things can be flawed, but to show this you need to provide, you know, arguments. Honestly, looking back at our discussion, in every single dispute we're having you justify position via your fetishization of shape. The special metaphysical/epistemic status of shape is at the basis of your claims about groups, your account of the distinction between concepts and objects, and your description of perception.

boundary, as a synonym of shape, has nothing to do with an interface between two objects. With shape, there is no comparison taking place. Certainly an object doesn't spring into being when another object comes along.

In order for something to be demarcated with a boundary, there must exist something that it is demarcated from or against. If the universe consisted of just a single shape, it would be without boundaries.

(1) Either there is something outside of a bounded space/shape x, or there is nothing outside of a bounded shape x.

(2) "There is no nothing."

(3) There is some object y outside of any bounded shape x. (by 1 & 2)

(4) Assumption: Object y is bounded shape x.

(5) Bounded shape x is outside of bounded shape x. (an absurdity which follows from 4 & 1 and falsifies assumption (4))

(6) Object y is not bounded shape x. (5 & 4)

Therefore if there exists one object, there must exist at least one other object.

You're saying an object has no shape, no extent, unless we're looking at it!? Does my infamous keyboard disintegrate when I leave then reform when I come back?

I said objects aren't identified as extended in space without a consciousness to do so because identification is by definition a conscious act. I'm not saying that an object has no shape when you're not looking at it - I'm saying that objects have color, tastes, textures etc even when we're NOT sensing them. YOU'RE the one who thinks that objects lose practically all of their properties when they aren't being perceived. Though I suppose that it's more accurate to say you don't think they have any of those properties even when they are being perceived, since those properties belong to concepts and not objects.

Whether you name the object before you with the same name that you used before is irrelevant.

It's not about the name. It's about it being the SAME OBJECT - despite the change in shape.

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Stunning. So when I say "The current president of the United States", it doesn't actually refer to Barack Obama unless I'm in his physical presence. You can add this to the list of objections to your epistemology - it totally disconnects the referents of concepts from reality.

If you have never perceived Barack, then when you say "the current president of the United States", you are using a floating abstraction. You have no idea what you're referring to. On the other hand, if I perceive this keyboard on my desk, *then* talk about it, then I am dealing with *this* keyboard on my desk.

If I close my eyes, I see shapes. Clearly defined shapes against my field of vision. But to say that I am perceiving existents/objects when I do is an absurdity.

It's the opposite of absurdity, to deny what you see right before you is absurd! There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that you are perceiving an object. If you see a shape, you are obviously perceiving that shape. Now, whether you conclude that there is an object *there* (at some location), that it is wet (like a lake), or any other of a number of characteristics about it is up to your prior experiences with similar shapes. Your prior experience being limited, you could be wrong.

However, obviously if there is a shape there, there is a shape there. If you see a shape, you see a shape. That you deny this is beyond me.

I don't see any reason to reject all dispositional properties as necessarily not common to all objects. "No object IS what it DOES" - that's a slogan, not an argument. Regardless, what an objects DOES is completely dependent on what it IS. Like Rand says, things act in accordance with their natures. Even if I only come to know some fact about an object's nature via the manifestation of dispositional properties, that doesn't somehow make that fact illegitimately derived.

All irrelevant. An object is not what it does, which is all I said, and which you did not argue against.

Of course I don't. But objects reflect light in different ways, and this is an objective feature of the world. This is the property which undergirds our phenomenal experience of color. The fact that we identify certain ranges of this difference with measurements and terminology doesn't mean that somehow color is all in our heads.

Okay now we're moving from color to interaction with light. Does an entity have to interact with light to be considered an entity? The argument here is that there is only a single criterion for entity-hood: shape. An entity doesn't have to emit or absorb light to be considered an entity. All it needs is shape.

CERTAINLY YOU DON'T PROPOSE THAT ONE SHAPE IDENTIFIES ANOTHER AS TRIANGULAR! I really just don't see how you're distinguishing between shape and other properties in a meaningful way.

Of course not. Shape doesn't refer to a specific shape. It simply refers to the quality of having shape. This quality is static. Unlike color/light, which is dynamic, i.e. 'a' photon must be emitted or absorbed. Also unlike "mass", which involves acceleration. Also unlike "tangible", which involves the action of touching.

What I'm not getting from you is an argument for the special status of shape. You just keep asserting that it doesn't require conscious identification and every other property does.

An object doesn't have to move, make a sound, emit light, etc. to be an object. Do you agree? Does the apple have to emit red light to be an entity? Does it have to fall off the tree? An entity would still be an entity, even if it never did anything. What makes it an entity in the absence of conscious observation and actions? The fact that it has shape. Without shape, there is nothing. We are not visualizing an entity anymore. In our minds we can strip away photon emission, inertia, etc. and there is still shape.

The shape is what you point to and name. Its ALL the ET sees. Everything that comes after is treating the word as a concept. It's an entity before you ever pointed to it and named it. It was an entity not because it had color or weight, but because it had shape. By shape I don't mean it was triangular or pyramidal or whatever. By shape I mean it does not spontaneously spread out and become infinite, i.e. shapeless. It remains a finite, discrete thing.

There should be a presumption in favor of the notion that people say meaningful, intelligible things most of the time.

Intelligible, usually. Meaningful, almost never.

Therefore if there exists one object, there must exist at least one other object.

Flawed logic. Let me translate:

(1) Either there is something outside of a bounded space/shape x, or there is nothing outside of a bounded shape x.

As:

(1) Either there is an object outside another object x, or there is not an object outside another object x.

This is all "nothing" means, it means "no object".

When you say "there is no nothing" it is implied that you are saying "there is no nothing that exists". This just means "there is no no object that exists" which means "there is an object that exists". This is the only way to make this statement meaningful, avoiding contradiction.

3 does not follow from 1 and 2. There's either a 2nd object or not. Either way, an object is that which has shape. Surely an object doesn't spontaneously acquire shape only by virtue of rubbing shoulders with another object.

I said objects aren't identified as extended in space without a consciousness to do so because identification is by definition a conscious act. I'm not saying that an object has no shape when you're not looking at it - I'm saying that objects have color, tastes, textures etc even when we're NOT sensing them.

Let's take this a different route. An object does not have to have taste, color, etc. to qualify as an object. It needs shape as a minimum. Without shape, how will you see it, touch it, taste it, visualize it, etc.? Without shape none of the others are possible. Without shape, what is coming up against your tongue? What hits your eyeball?

It's not about the name. It's about it being the SAME OBJECT - despite the change in shape

Obviously a puddle is not a candle and they are not the same object.

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...

All irrelevant. An object is not what it does, which is all I said, and which you did not argue against.

...

An object doesn't have to move, make a sound, emit light, etc. to be an object. Do you agree? Does the apple have to emit red light to be an entity? Does it have to fall off the tree? An entity would still be an entity, even if it never did anything. What makes it an entity in the absence of conscious observation and actions? The fact that it has shape. Without shape, there is nothing. We are not visualizing an entity anymore. In our minds we can strip away photon emission, inertia, etc. and there is still shape.

I'll argue against it. As neither altonhare or cmdownes are debating from an Objectivist perspective, someone needs to keep the thread on track or it will have to be moved.

An entity is what it does because action is the only means by which identity matters. Even in sitting still and "doing nothing" from a superficial human perspective (and without a human present), it is reflecting and refracting all manners of electromagnetic radiation, and attracting and being attracted by all of the mass in the universe. "Doing nothing" is as much an impossibility as "being nothing". Considering identity as though it were a contextless absolute is a mistake. No single thing that actually exists is without its relationships and interactions with everything else that exists. Relationships are what make identity real and absolutes possible.

This dualism between what an object is and what an object does is false. It is an example of intrinsicism.

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I'll argue against it. As neither altonhare or cmdownes are debating from an Objectivist perspective, someone needs to keep the thread on track or it will have to be moved.

An entity is what it does because action is the only means by which identity matters. Even in sitting still and "doing nothing" from a superficial human perspective (and without a human present), it is reflecting and refracting all manners of electromagnetic radiation, and attracting and being attracted by all of the mass in the universe. "Doing nothing" is as much an impossibility as "being nothing". Considering identity as though it were a contextless absolute is a mistake. No single thing that actually exists is without its relationships and interactions with everything else that exists. Relationships are what make identity real and absolutes possible.

This dualism between what an object is and what an object does is false. It is an example of intrinsicism.

None of what you said addresses the incident issue. What is the attribute which is intrinsic to all entities? Do all entities emit light? Do they all have inertial mass? When we strip away these attributes, what is left? What is the last attribute which, if we strip it away, we no longer have an entity?

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I think I'm quite finished here. These eight absurd implications of your view:

1. Proper nouns and definite descriptions never refer to actual entities unless those entities are objects of perception at the time of utterance.

2. The dots left on my eyes by staring at the sun are entities in a metaphysically strong sense.

3. There does not exist an entity such that it has parts.

4. Objects are incapable of changing shape.

5. Things don't have color, duration, mass, motion or texture when we look away from them. But they have shapes.

6. Shape is an objective property. All other properties are irreducibly subjective.

7. Entities have no properties other than shape.

8. Vast amounts of our everyday discourse are wholly meaningless.

...are in themselves sufficient reason to discard your epistemology. I don't think we'll get any closer to agreement by continuing to hammer back and forth.

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1. Proper nouns and definite descriptions never refer to actual entities unless those entities are objects of perception at the time of utterance.

What will you refer to, if not something that exists? How will you refer to it before you observe it? How will you communicate with the ET?

2. The dots left on my eyes by staring at the sun are entities in a metaphysically strong sense.

An entity is an entity. There is no "strong sense". When we're being rigorous it's either an entity or not.

If it has shape, it's an object. It may not exist because it lacks location. I am visualizing a unicorn. The unicorn I am visualizing has shape, it is an object, but it lacks location. I am visualizing a spot, it has shape, but it also lacks location.

The lake you "see" at the desert has shape, it's an object, but it lacks location (assuming the lack is not actually there).

The distinction between objects that exist and objects that do not is location. The distinction between that which is something and that which isn't, i.e. what we can refer to as the subject of a sentence, is shape.

3. There does not exist an entity such that it has parts.

I said earlier that of course we can describe this entity as being made of this or that. But we cannot define the word "entity" nor define "music box" as "made of parts". This begs the question, what are the parts? The entity itself is the shape you see before you, a single discrete unit.

4. Objects are incapable of changing shape.

I never even said this.

Whether you call a ball that's been squeezed "Ball2" and the original unsqueezed ball "Ball1" or you call them both "ball" is a personal choice. A person is justified in classifying them separately on the basis that one is oblong and the other is spherical. Another person is justified in classifying them together based on being round.

5. Things don't have color, duration, mass, motion or texture when we look away from them. But they have shapes.

They have shape *and* location.

What's color to a blind man? What's color to Nature, when no humans have ever been born? What's duration or mass? What's sound to a deaf man? Or again to Nature? Nature doesn't recognize these.

It's important to distinguish between two definitions of "sound", the vibration of entities and the human act of perceiving and identifying "sound". If a tree falls it vibrates the atoms of air around it. If there is a human present they perceive "sound".

Now apply this to "color". An atom by itself may emit light. If there is a human present they may compare their perception of it to their perception of another atom emitting light differently and call the difference "color".

In general when people say sound or color I interpret this as the human experience of hearing and sight. If I'm not referring to these human experiences I usually talk simply about motion and light. But there is no *guarantee* that every single entity that exist emits light, so light emission cannot be a fundamental, primitive aspect of all entities. As far as motion is concerned, we cannot even conceptualize or talk about motion without talking about *that* which is moving. So again motion cannot be a primitive aspect because it begs the question of what is moving? What distinguishes it?

6. Shape is an objective property. All other properties are irreducibly subjective.

I never said this either. Shape is *primitive*. By this I mean that, in order to perceive, identify, conceptualize, and talk about any of the other properties we first need a shape before us. We cannot conceptualize motion without *that* which is moving. We cannot conceptualize light emission without *that* which is emitting light, or without visualizing light. What is doing all these things, what is vibrating, emitting, etc.? To answer this question you will irrevocably have to point at a shape.

7. Entities have no properties other than shape.

The property that is intrinsic to ALL entities is shape. An entity may have more characteristics, but shape is the bare minimum to qualify as an entity.

Additionally entities that exist have location.

8. Vast amounts of our everyday discourse are wholly meaningless.

What typically happens is the person listening has an association with the words you're using. The imbue your statement with their own meaning. When talking about mundane or everyday things we all tend to imagine or mean the same things and this works fine. In other kinds of discourse it is catastrophic. The person listening takes your statements to mean what THEY would mean if THEY said it. The end result is that you neither conveyed any meaning to them and they did not learn anything from you. The only way around this is to point at the entities that serve as the subject of your statements. At a bare minimum, what you point at will have shape. It will have to.

...are in themselves sufficient reason to discard your epistemology. I don't think we'll get any closer to agreement by continuing to hammer back and forth.

You offer a lot of criticism, although it's clear you don't yet fully understand. But I have not seen anyone provide a definition of "entity" other than as a "self evident primary". But this is unacceptable, this means that what qualifies as an entity is a matter of personal opinion. X is something for me but not for you, and that's okay cuz everyone's different and special. Nature doesn't care about your personal opinion. Shape does not make provisions for opinion, it restricts the word "entity" to that which you can point at. This leaves it clear, rigorous, and non-circular.

Other definitions, such as that which you can see/touch, are circular because they invoke another entity to do the seeing/touching. It's not a definition, it's a proof. An entity was an entity before you saw it or touched it, what qualified it as an entity before then? Another definition, an entity is "made of X", is also circular because it says an entity is that which is made of entities.

So, can you offer better the circular see/touch and made off criteria or the useless "self evident primary"?

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So, can you offer better the circular see/touch and made off criteria or the useless "self evident primary"?

I'll give you the last word with regards to our discussion.

I'm wary of making positive claims about the nature of objects, on account of them probably not comporting with Objectivism. The mods get unhappy with that.

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I'll give you the last word with regards to our discussion.

I'm wary of making positive claims about the nature of objects, on account of them probably not comporting with Objectivism. The mods get unhappy with that.

Understood. Hopefully this discussion got us both to think a little harder and possibly even learn something, even if neither of us is any closer to agreement.

I'll close by making a statement based on my limited reading and knowledge of Oism. Rand seems to have said, on a number of occasions, that an entity is that which is "bounded" or "finite" or many other such synonyms. This would rule out "groups", since each unit in a group is bounded. However I believe it is also true that she never formally laid this down as part of Oism.

I would also point out that, in addition to Euclid, Aristotle's Metaphysics speaks of "form" and other such synonyms for shape in reference to what an entity is:

“...by form I mean the essence of each thing, and its primary substance”

from Aristotle's Metaphysics

Also, in general, substance ontologists focus on "that which is common to all". Shape, form, boundedness, etc. is common to all entities. This is exactly the criterion by which we distinguish physical objects from conceptualizations and avoids ambiguity, circularity, or individual opinion.

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Was wondering if anyone familiar with topics in mereology knows any good introductory texts, famous/valuable papers on the topic or important figures. I'm taking a class and want to get primed on it first.

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I'm going to assume by "matter" you mean "objects", if not please correct. Space cannot be the same as objects because space is conceptually the antithesis of an object, of a thing. Space is an absence, a 0. 0 is not a number, it is strictly a placeholder. An object is a something, a 1. Putting "time" next to the word space does not change this, since time can only be the observation of relative motion, not a thing itself.

Are the fundamental constituents discrete or continuous? Are you asking if the universe is composed of disconnected, separate entities or of interconnected ones?

In this regard it seems the empirical evidence is pretty clear that entities are continuously connected to each other. In particular I have not heard of a rational explanation for most phenomena of light in terms of the discrete corpuscular hypothesis.

In this regard it seems that Nature has indicated the affirmative. Whatever entity is responsible for light does not seem to interact with itself, even if it is colocal. Whatever entity is responsible for magnetism seems also to pass right through other entities, although it does seem to interact with them at least. The most compelling phenomenon of Nature is, I think, that light does not seem to interact with itself.

What do you mean?

Uh....Hello! Light does interact with itself! If you shoot one photon at a time through a double slit it will interfere with itself and produce an interference pattern. Here is the expected response from you: You will refuse to believe it despite this being a very famous experiment. I don't know why but a lot of Oist's are very ignorant about physics.

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Uh....Hello! Light does interact with itself! If you shoot one photon at a time through a double slit it will interfere with itself and produce an interference pattern. Here is the expected response from you: You will refuse to believe it despite this being a very famous experiment. I don't know why but a lot of Oist's are very ignorant about physics.

Alton is not an Oist but he is a physicist.

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Uh....Hello! Light does interact with itself! If you shoot one photon at a time through a double slit it will interfere with itself and produce an interference pattern. Here is the expected response from you: You will refuse to believe it despite this being a very famous experiment. I don't know why but a lot of Oist's are very ignorant about physics.

Photons do not emit photons to attract other photons or to 'interact' in the kinematic sense. Gluons (strong force) on the other hand can "emit" gluons to attract other gluons creating a 'strongly' nonlinear effect and making the strong force the beast that it is.

The effect in the double slit experiment is the superposition of two (or more) photons occupying the same regions of space.

Edited by Q.E.D.

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