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patrik 7-2321

The Logical Leap by David Harriman

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Well, OK, from the comments, it looks like Harriman is focused on efficient causation, which is one thing acting on another and that other thing doing something. That is not the broadest understanding of causation (it doesn't apply to man for example), but that is the way physics took hold and he's not questioning that. I'll have to read the book, but I'm first going to listen to "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" which contain Dr. Peikoff's solution to the problem of induction.

For my example given above, I was taking the view that causation answers the question: What is it about this item of reality or this entity such that it acts the way it does (on it's own or after being acted upon)? For that perspective, the roundness of the ball leads to its rolling and the elasticity of its material leads to it bouncing. I know, a ball won't roll or bounce on its own without some outside force acting on it. I have a degree in physics and I am very familiar with efficient causation and the physicists David Harriman points out were masters of it. No doubt about it.

As to the solution, the best way I can describe it is that it is an application of Miss Rand's ideas on concept formation and measurement omission leading to a universal concept. That is, it takes a contextual range, works on the concepts derived from the observations of that contextual range, and due to the open endedness of concepts, it therefore applies to all entities within that range. So that, in my example (since I'm not familiar with Harriman's), the fact that a range of small round objects (i.e. balls) share this similarity (balls are round), the actions of those in the range (baseballs, basketballs, golf balls, etc.) have "a universal similarity" and therefore can be integrated together. With the open endedness of concepts, it applies to any small round object (any ball or all balls) because that is the defining characteristic about balls that makes it possible for them to roll and bounce.

In other words, the solution to the problem of induction is the same solution to the problem of universals -- observed similarities and measurement omission and conceptualized observations.

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First, I would ask what you believe the problem was that this book was trying to tackle. My understanding was that it was attempting to validate induction, by showing its effective use in physics.
I've been organizing my objections to the book, along with the things that I've found to be good, and I think you've identified the one real problem. The purpose of the book is not clearly identified, which makes it difficult to evaluate its success in achieving that purpose. However, it's now clear to me that this is in fact the purpose of the book. Knowing that purpose will inform the reader of what else they will need to know (and get from somewhere else).

He depends heavily (and unsurprisingly) on context, but does not explain what the proper and objective contextual standards of science are. This would be bitterly disappointing if the purpose of the book were to present a normative theory of science with a focus on identifying the logic of generalizing to universal statements (which would entail an objective identification of "the context" where the statement is true). Since that is not the purpose of the book, it is not fair to feel bitterly disappointed that the book did not do what it did not set out to do.

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The book doesn't give a unified theory of induction. It doesn't teach you how to do induction, it just gives examples of scientific theories that were reached by (supposedly) inductive means.

Also, near the front of the book, Harriman suggests that for a theory of induction to be complete, it must lead to necessary conclusions; it should be impossible from the premises to deny the conclusion, but the argument not be deductive.

1. So, how's one do this? Is there an actual system or a multiplicity of ways?

2. Must induction lead to necessary conclusions? Certainly not all of induction should be probability, but it does it not have its place?

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The book doesn't give a unified theory of induction. It doesn't teach you how to do induction, it just gives examples of scientific theories that were reached by (supposedly) inductive means.
I think that is correct, and I also think that is what it set out to do (although it is not initially clear that that was the goal). As for the issue of supposedly inductive means, I am not entirely happy with the extent to which he has demonstrated "This here is an instance of induction". If this were a normative essay in the philosophy of science or in epistemology, he would have to clearly identify what induction is and what it is not. Now, he says (p. 6) that "the primary process of gaining knowledge that goes beyond perceptual data is induction", which is not a clear identification of what induction is (and as be notes in the immediately following sentence also is not strictly true, since the primary process of gaining knowledge beyond perception is generalization, which includes but it not limited to induction; but then he seems to be claiming that generalization necessarily is an inference from some to all -- a claim I disagree with).

His description of generalization -- "the inference from some members of a class to all" -- is a reasonable identification of induction, but at least from the formal perspective, it does not clearly distinguish induction from deduction. Classical deductive inference includes inferences with no quantification at all, and it is a significant error to attempt to devise a theory of induction and deduction where induction is rigorously separated from deduction. Just as modus tollens and universal instantiation are deductive rules of logic, there is no reason to consider a universal introduction rule to be an utterly different form of logic. Thus the requirement that the argument not be deductive can only be true if you insist that induction cannot be a species of deduction (i.e. inference). I don't see that as being a productive way of approaching the matter.Once you correctly characterize deduction, I claim that will include induction.

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Once you correctly characterize deduction, I claim that will include induction.

That is a most interesting claim. Can you elaborate?

Mindy

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I figured Harriman's historical account was a [over?]simplified version of what really happened. Does that indicate that there were irrational moments on the part of Galileo and Newton, or does it indicate that there is something wrong with Harriman's presentation of how induction in physics actually occurs?

Simply observing the past examples of scientific discoveries indicates that scientists have acted much more like Norsen and McCaskey describe, than like Harriman describes. But can't it be said that Harriman is attempting to assert how a scientist should act, and not simply describe how others have acted? If so, then it makes sense for him to present idealized examples, in order to clearly show what they all have in common. It would not make sense, if this were his goal, to discuss how Newton went back and forth between accepting impetus and inertia, except maybe to highlight an example of irrationality on the part of Newton (assuming that it could actually be demonstrated that impetus was an irrational concept given Newton's context of knowledge).

Obviously that resignation letter does not give the full context of what discussions occurred between the board, Harriman, and Peikoff, but it seems odd that Peikoff would not have had any discussions directly with McCaskey about the book before writing that letter.

Edited by brian0918

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From Prof. Mccaskeys review on Amazon:

The theory of induction proposed here is potentially seminal; a theory that grounds inductive inference in concept-formation is welcome indeed. But the theory is still inchoate. If it is to be widely adopted, it will need to be better reconciled with the historical record as the theory gets fleshed out and refined.
Edited by Plasmatic

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Peikoff writes:

"When a great book sponsored by the Institute and championed by me --I hope you still know who I am and what my intellectual status is in Objectivism--is denounced by a member of the Board of the Institute, which I founded, someone has to go and someone will go."

I find this unbelievable, this is a pure argument from authority. No word about the question whether the (at the time internal) criticisms by a highly qualified member of the Board of Directors of ARI might perhaps be valid (these imply that Harriman has rewritten history, a practice not uncommon within ARI), no, the fact that a criticism of the book implies criticism of Peikoff because he's recommended and praised the book is enough to kick McCaskey out. The only conclusion that we can draw is that ARI is morally corrupt.

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The only conclusion that we can draw is that ARI is morally corrupt.

That is a hasty generalization, ARI was denied the opportunity to act by McCaskey's resignation. The only justified conclusion based on the evidence is that Peikoff is unprofessional when dealing with criticism of a work which is not a part of Objectivism and criticized based on facts not an alternate philosophy.

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That is a hasty generalization, ARI was denied the opportunity to act by McCaskey's resignation. The only justified conclusion based on the evidence is that Peikoff is unprofessional when dealing with criticism of a work which is not a part of Objectivism and criticized based on facts not an alternate philosophy.

I agree here that McCaskeys resignation precludes knowing how ARI would have dealt with this. It would be nice to see what Peikoff actually used to determine his moral judgement. The note says he didn't even talk to Mccaskey personally.

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Thanks for the links to the resignation page, it is an interesting development indeed. What I find interesting is that McCasky seems to be dismissive of the theory of induction because Harriman skipped a few steps in the reasoning of the scientists he discusses. McCaskey doesn't say anything about the theory of induction that Harriman's book is based upon, so I have to wonder if he accepts it or rejects it. Rejecting the theory on the grounds that Harriman skipped a few steps that might have been logically necessitated by the scientist's context of knowledge would not invalidate the overall theory of induction that Dr.Peikoff and Harriman are presenting. It just meas that Harriman didn't go into the full detail of the historic record. And sometimes rejecting conventional views is crucial in the development of a scientific breakthrough. In Galileo's time, it was widely thought that a heavy body falls more rapidly that a lighter body, which he could have disproved simply by dropping two different round things from the tower and observing that they fall at the same rate. Harriman may have thought that the buoyancy issue was irrelevant to that observation. Besides, it is not just the buoyancy force acting on the bodies in question, it is air resistance as well, and both these considerations is why Galileo made the objects the same shape and size -- so that everything else was equal. So I think the crucial issue between McCaskey and Dr. Peikoff is does McCasky accept the inductive theory that Peikoff presents, and if not, why is he rejecting it? If he is rejecting it due to mere details in the historic record, then he's wanting a very minutely step by step account, which isn't necessary. I'd like to see more from McCaskey on this issue of induction, which his book review doesn't go into.

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the fact that a criticism of the book implies criticism of Peikoff because he's recommended and praised the book is enough to kick McCaskey out.

Enough for whom? We do not know if that would have been enough for anyone to make such a decision. McCaskey was not kicked out, but chose to resign so to prevent such a decision from having to be made by the ARI.

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Thanks for the links to the resignation page, it is an interesting development indeed. What I find interesting is that McCasky seems to be dismissive of the theory of induction because Harriman skipped a few steps in the reasoning of the scientists he discusses.

My impression was simply that he didn't want the historical explanation to be incorrect, and he believed Harriman's account was incorrect. He has no comments about the theory of induction itself.

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Does not the historical analysis being inaccurate to a large degree effect the theory itself?

Harriman's main tool of argument in this book is not logical proof but proof by demonstration of prior success of experimentation. If the accounts Harriman gives are inaccurate in the way McCaskey says they are, does it not deal a harsh blow to the theory? As stated earlier in this thread, the lack of a very coherent schema or model of induction here is a big weak point in the book. If the history contained within happens to also not be faithful with the set historical accounts, what point does the book serve? Why would one read it, let alone call it groundbreaking? The introduction from Peikoff seems to deal the book a death blow if we are to find out that something in the book is inaccurate. I do not have a direct citation now, but he states that Harriman puts in no non-essential detail in order to demonstrate the validity of the theory. If that's true, it seems McCaskey has brought up rather substantive criticisms that require attention and not derision or dismissal from Peikoff.

Let it be known to those people who have not read his criticism on amazon (Not the criticism referred to by Peikoff, since McCaskey rightly kept it to himself and the forum members until now) that he is in no way contradicting any tenet of Objectivism. In fact, to even disagree with some theory Harriman does posit would not be criticizing Objectivism either. Harriman's theory is one based on Objectivism and cannot ever be considered any kind of canon. So, there's no reason to claim McCaskey is speaking against Objectivism. If that were the case, there would be grounds for dismissal from the ARI.

I know McCaskey is not as well known to Objectivism as Harriman is and certainly as Peikoff is, but if you did not goto the home page of his website then you might not be aware that McCaskey is a historian of science and philosophy at Stanford University and has published many papers on this very topic, the history of the inductive method. This is a Ph.D, on the side of Objectivism and the ARI mind you, that has offered up criticisms worth response. I do not have full context of the situation. McCaskey may have in some way been disrespectful or criticized an actual doctrine of the Objectivist philosophy, but I have no proof of that. McCaskey does have proof of his claim that Peikoff is acting unjustly and hastily. He has not spoken with McCaskey, as he should. He seems to be taking personal insult to Harriman and himself where there is no personal insult but merely intellectual criticism. It was my sincerest hope that that this book would be put under the microscope from intelligent men like McCaskey. All work in philosophy and science ought to be harshly criticized and cut to ribbons, and Harriman should have to respond to the valid criticisms made. Unfortunately, it seems one of the earliest criticisms is being dealt with in an unprofessional and frankly childish manner.

I have great respect for Dr. Peikoff. I have great respect for Dr. McCaskey. I hope this can ultimately be resolved by other means then total disconnect.

EDIT: Grammar.

Edited by TheEgoist

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According to Peikoff's ultimatum, McCaskey has fundamental disagreements with "the philosophic principles at issue." He states that disagreement with the ideas presented in the book is disagreement with Objectivism. Then he equivocates disagreement with "denouncement." The only evidence of McCaskey's criticism we have is McCaskey's review, which does not disagree with the philosophic ideas of the book at all, but questions the historical claims.

My conclusions:

On the issue of the factual errors in the book: McCaskey is very likely correct here, given his credentials and reputation. Anyway, this issue is a red herring, since disagreement on the factual claims of the book is not mentioned in Peikoff's letter - it is the philosophical ideas that Peikoff claims were attacked.

On the nature of McCaskey's "denouncing" Peikoff/Harriman:

Of course, it's possible that McCaskey denounced Peikoff and Harriman in private. This would be grounds for Peikoff to make a personal judgment about McCaskey. But to demand that a public organization to take his claims on faith, while refusing (as he does in the letter) to discuss them is irrational and unjust.

Furthermore, disagreement with some of a person's ideas is course not the same as denouncing that person.

Finally, this kind of behavior seems to be a pattern with Peikoff. I have had conversations with some of the people Peikoff denounced, and whatever their flaws, his characterization of their views and character are obviously false.

To conclude, Peikoff is acting irrationally on this matter, and ARI should kick him out and ask McCaskey to return. While it's premature to conclude that ARI is a "corrupt" organization, I would not expect much intellectual progress to come from ARI affiliated intellectuals as long as people like Peikoff dominate their policy. Their intolerance for disagreement is incompatible with intellectual innovation.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
correction

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Regardless of the intellectual debate, an organization like ARI must have a consistent stance and a chain of command. ARI might be making the right or the wrong decision, but having no unified, official stance and issue like this will always be wrong. So I agree with Peikoff's email that one of them had to go.

As to my personal opinion on The Logical Leap, I have not had a chance to check it out yet.

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Regardless of the intellectual debate, an organization like ARI must have a consistent stance and a chain of command. ARI might be making the right or the wrong decision, but having no unified, official stance and issue like this will always be wrong. So I agree with Peikoff's email that one of them had to go.

"Having a consistent stance" should not mean "no disagreement whatsoever is to be tolerated." Nor does it mean that ARI must take an "official" side on every disagreement.

It should mean that the leadership should be consistent in their fundamental views. The issue is that Peikoff claims that McCaskey's disagreement is fundamental, but refuses to provide any evidence.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist

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According to Peikoff's ultimatum, McCaskey has fundamental disagreements with "the philosophic principles at issue." He states that disagreement with the ideas presented in the book is disagreement with Objectivism. Then he equivocates disagreement with "denouncement." The only evidence of McCaskey's criticism we have is McCaskey's review, which does not disagree with the philosophic ideas of the book at all, but questions the historical claims.

My conclusions:

On the issue of the factual errors in the book: McCaskey is very likely correct here, given his credentials and reputation. Anyway, this issue is a red herring, since disagreement on the factual claims of the book is not mentioned in Peikoff's letter - it is the philosophical ideas that Peikoff claims were attacked.

On the nature of McCaskey's "denouncing" Peikoff/Harriman:

Of course, it's possible that McCaskey denounced Peikoff and Harriman in private. This would be grounds for Peikoff to make a personal judgment about McCaskey. But to demand that a public organization to take his claims on faith, while refusing (as he does in the letter) to discuss them is irrational and unjust.

Furthermore, disagreement with some of a person's ideas is course not the same as denouncing that person.

Finally, this kind of behavior seems to be a pattern with Peikoff. I have had conversations with some of the people Peikoff denounced, and whatever their flaws, his characterization of their views and character are obviously false.

To conclude, Peikoff is acting irrationally on this matter, and ARI should kick him out and ask McCaskey to return. While it's premature to conclude that ARI is a "corrupt" organization, I would not expect much intellectual progress to come from ARI affiliated intellectuals as long as people like Peikoff dominate their policy. Their intolerance for disagreement is incompatible with intellectual innovation.

GC, you're correct in most of your analysis. Your post seems to be almost a clone of mine, in fact. However, I think you are too fast in saying that Peikoff is acting irrationally. As you said, it's very possible McCaskey DID take issue with Objectivism itself. That isn't what his comments indicate, however, and it's right to I think give a strong favoring to him in this situation. However, to claim action should be taken against Peikoff is to commit the same error in judgment that I think you and I agree Peikoff displayed. If this issue gets hot enough, I think we will see further dialog on the matter.

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Does not the historical analysis being inaccurate to a large degree effect the theory itself?

Only if the inaccuracies are relevant to the theory. If he flat-out made up examples of inductions that didn't actually occur, then yes, I would agree. If he simply left out bits where Newton went back-and-forth between certain concepts, that is not necessarily relevant to the theory, and could simply illustrate irrationalities on the part of Newton.

Is Harriman trying to describe how scientific discoveries have occurred (in which case McCaskey's objection is quite relevant), or is he trying to explain how they should (and could) occur, based on idealized examples from history? What is Harriman's overall goal, and how do these historical examples relate to that goal?

Edited by brian0918

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At this point, we don't have the evidence that McCaskey has rejected some aspect of Objectivism. However, if the theory of induction proposed by Peikoff is an accurate application of the Objectivist epistemology, then rejecting his ideas on induction is an implied rejection of Objectivist epistemology, which is an implied rejection of Objectivism. We don't have the evidence to come to this conclusion yet, but in all of the times someone has been kicked out of ARI, they and Dr. Peikoff have proven to be right in the long run. That is, those kicked out or who resigned in a similar fashion were shown not to have agreed with some key elements of Objectivism. I don't know much about McCaskey or Harriman, but I judge Dr. Peikoff of having been fair in the other schisms that have taken place. So, I'd like to know McCaskey's supposed rejection of the theory of induction and see if that concurs with an implied rejection of the Objectivist epistemology. I hasten to add that none of us so far has the total context, so I ask you not to jump to conclusions about Dr. Peikoff or McCaskey. We'll have to wait and see what McCaskey thinks of the theory of induction. The details McCaskey mentions about historical accuracy may not have been relevant to Harriman's point about induction. I haven't read Harriman's book nor have I taken Dr.Peikoff's course on induction, so I can't speak to that. But I do think there is more to it than what has been made available to us at this point.

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However, to claim action should be taken against Peikoff is to commit the same error in judgment that I think you and I agree Peikoff displayed.

Sorry, I was unclear. I don't think Peikoff should be literally "kicked out." I just don't think ARI should act against McCaskey.

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