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Does science confirm or contradict the tabula rasa theory?

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I was just thinking about this topic. 

 

I'd be interested to hear what you all have to say, but it seems to me that science (logic, reason, empirical data) has shown that we are not born with a blank state. We are born with a brain, and DNA, and evolved reflexes and concepts. Further, evolutionary psychology has proven that certain concepts, like attraction, desire, fear, anger, are pre-programmed into our brains for the sake of survival and reproduction. The brain is an organ just like the lungs, and just as the lungs are pre-programmed to function (controlled by the brain), so too the brain is pre-programmed to function, pumping out emotions and beliefs. Some pre-programmed concepts may not show up until well after birth, but that doesn't mean you wrote them onto a blank slate. The sexual desire of a heterosexual young man for healthy girls of his age was not something he decided upon, they were part of his evolved biology, and though they didn't manifest fully until a certain state of biological growth, they were pre-programmed in his DNA code. 

 

To the degree that Rand argued for a blank state, I would have to (begrudgingly) disagree with her.

secondhander,

 

After your excellent post later on, this puzzles me. Surely you must know that concepts in Objectivism have a specific meaning? Why muddy the water with "pre-programmed concepts" and "concepts like attraction desire, fear..." when you surely mean instead, genetically-inherited instincts, reflexes, etc. - 'hard-wiring' in general.

Concepts are consciously attained after sensory and perceptual stages in an infant. With minimal percepts as yet, the baby cannot possibly be conceptual.

"Since men are born tabula rasa, both cognitively and morally..."

I still think your input on EvoPsych is important. Man is rational animal - with introspection we well know and recognize all those predispositions that obviously served our ancestors well in their survival. Instincts,

as innate guides to action - largely underdeveloped in man - are self-evident, which means none of us

should be surprised by scientists newest findings. We mostly don't pay them much attention, in favor of volition, virtues, morality and reason - but should understand their evolution and ancient purposes: and certainly use them to our own benefit, or pleasure, even now.

As a sub-division of behavioral science, I think EP can be a valuable tool of identification and self-knowledge without contradiction to O'ism.

Edited by whYNOT

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secondhander,

 

After your excellent post later on, this puzzles me. Surely you must know that concepts in Objectivism have a specific meaning? Why muddy the water with "pre-programmed concepts" and "concepts like attraction desire, fear..." when you surely mean instead, genetically-inherited instincts, reflexes, etc. - 'hard-wiring' in general.

 

I do mean to refer to genetically-inherited instincts and hard wiring, and maybe they don't fit into the mix. And perhaps my understanding of objectivist epistemology is incomplete, and I'd appreciate some clarification.

 

But I think the debate depends on what is meant by tabula rasa and knowledge. Do you mean that the mind is blanked of knowledge, whereby you define knowledge (basically) as justified true belief? But yet the mind still possesses other data, such as axioms and laws of logic, that can't rightfully be viewed as "knowledge" because they aren't yet conscious beliefs? If that's the case, then I may be able to accept the idea of tabula rasa, because there can be no "belief" without cognition or consciousness. 

 

Or do you mean that the mind can only be written upon by the means of empirical investigation and reason about the world around us? If that's the case, then I don't think tabula rasa is true, because evolutionary psychology indicates that the mind is pre-programmed with the conditions for certain beliefs. Sometimes those beliefs may not manifest until later in life (at puberty for example), and while there cannot be a true belief until there is consciousness and cognition, the unrealized beliefs do exist in the DNA code, and therefore exist in the mind.

 

So can the mind be said to be a tabula rasa in that case? Those beliefs would still require a relation to the real world to be processed, but they didn't get imprinted upon a blank state from an investigation of the world. They existed wholly apart from an empirical investigation of the world -- pre-programmed in the mind via evolutionary processes.

 

For example, a belief that healthy women of child-bearing years and who are good at nurturing happen to be sexually attractive is not a belief that is arrived at through empirical and rational investigation of the world. It is a belief that is "hard wired" onto the slate of the mind, embedded into the evolved human DNA code. The reason it is there is because the women who were healthy and nurturing, and of child-bearing years, were the ones who ended up having a greater number of healthier children, compared with women who were sickly, and cruel, and older in age (thus having a higher propensity for children with health problems). And the fathers who sexually desired those healthy women, ended up had more offspring (who happened to be healthier with higher survival rates). Therefore, those fathers' propensity to desire the types of women who were able to produce more and healthier offspring was passed along, and that propensity, over time, edged out the propensity to be sexually desirous of women who had fewer survivability traits. This shows that there are certain beliefs (if they can be called that) that do not come from a rational, empirical study. They came prepackaged.

 

Does this fit with tabula rasa? I don't know. Again, I think it depends on how you define tabula rasa, and how you define "knowledge." 

 

To be clear, Locke and others who talked about tabula rasa were drawing a contrast to the Platonic idea of the forms and the particulars -- that to Plato, knowledge was the act of recalling the truth of the forms that exist already in the mind. To those who advocated tabula rasa, there was no innate knowledge in the sense of abstract forms that are merely being recalled when we take in sensory data. No, the knowledge comes from experience of sensory data itself. Locke also argued against Descartes' view of epistemology. Descartes of course rejected the senses as unreliable by themselves, and tried to strip away any information that could be doubted, until he arrived at a fundamental axiom that could not be doubted: "I think, therefore I am."

 

Descartes therefore believed that logical propositions were innate ideas, and while they are used to make deductions using sense perceptions, the deductive logic itself did not come from the senses. It is not learned through empirical investigation. Locke argued against the view that logical propositions were innate ideas. It seems to me then, that the idea of a tabula rasa rejects axioms and laws of logic as a default condition of the mind. I fail to see how an axiom can be known by empirical investigation and inductive logic. That would seem to me to defeat the very idea of an axiom. So I don't understand why Rand would want to hold to a view of tabula rasa, and yet still hold to a belief in axioms and a belief in objective truth. It seems to me that tabula rasa is antithetical to objective truth.

Edited by secondhander

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Just about any sane and functional human being alive  knows what a contradiction is and rejects the possibility of contradictions actually being fact. 

 

There must be something "hard wired"  genetically into members of our species which account to that.

 

O.K.  It is not instinct (Rand forbid!),  so what is it?

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Just about any sane and functional human being alive  knows what a contradiction is and rejects the possibility of contradictions actually being fact. 

 

There must be something "hard wired"  genetically into members of our species which account to that.

 

O.K.  It is not instinct (Rand forbid!),  so what is it?

 

If I read you right, you are asking how a person "knows" the laws of logic. And you say there must be something "hard-wired" in us that lets us know them. I don't think the knowledge of the laws of logic are "hard-wired" into us the way I mean when I talk about beliefs that come via evolutionary adaption. 

 

I think we "know" laws of logic axiomatically, by a sort of transcendental reasoning -- or that we know them presuppositionally. In other words,  We know that the laws of logic exist, because in order to argue against them, you would have to first affirm them, thus rendering any argument against them to be self-referentially incoherent. Therefore, you know that they necessarily exist, in order for all other knowledge to exist. 

 

In other words, If I maintained that there were a multitude of viewpoints in the world, and if you were to come to me and say that "contrary viewpoints do not exist," your statement would be nonsensical, because you would have to first hold to the truth of the position that "contrary opinions do exist" in order to argue contrarily to it. Your very argument refutes itself.

 

Therefore, the laws of logic (law of identity, law of non-contradiction, law of secluded middle) are known axiomatically because you must presuppose the truth of them in order to even argue against them -- in fact you must presuppose the truth of them in order to argue anything, or to hold to any truth whatsoever.

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I think we "know" laws of logic axiomatically, by a sort of transcendental reasoning -- or that we know them presuppositionally. In other words,  We know that the laws of logic exist, because in order to argue against them, you would have to first affirm them, thus rendering any argument against them to be self-referentially incoherent. Therefore, you know that they necessarily exist, in order for all other knowledge to exist. 

 

In other words, If I maintained that there were a multitude of viewpoints in the world, and if you were to come to me and say that "contrary viewpoints do not exist," your statement would be nonsensical, because you would have to first hold to the truth of the position that "contrary opinions do exist" in order to argue contrarily to it. Your very argument refutes itself.

 

Therefore, the laws of logic (law of identity, law of non-contradiction, law of secluded middle) are known axiomatically because you must presuppose the truth of them in order to even argue against them -- in fact you must presuppose the truth of them in order to argue anything, or to hold to any truth whatsoever.

The Law of Identity is axiomatic, in the second paragraph you give an example of what axiomatic means. An axiom is an irreducible primary and any attempt to deny it would imply it, or be based on it. I do not understand what you mean by "knowing something axiomatically". The gist of what you are saying seems to imply that axioms exist based on consciousness.

You stated that the laws of logic are somehow hard wired in the brain/mind(not sure which one or if you maintain a difference) and that this is their genesis. The laws of logic are based on the axiom of identity , but they are not

the same as the axiom. They are a method to determine if reason is being used in accordance with noncontradictory identification in an ongoing manner , so to speak.

Axioms are the irreducible primaries that are implicit in all reason and knowledge, but they are in no way hardwired or innate.

In other posts you talked of behaviours residing in the dna waiting to be expressed. This too seems to be an arguement for innate ideas, in that actions of volitionally conscious beings are preceded by thought. If what makes a potential mate desirous is purely driven by innate urges, does this mean that given the current context of human knowledge we can now relegate them to vestigual status? But keep in mind the status of the appendix and why it may not be as vestigual as previously thought.

Evo/psych may provide a useful tool to explore , but can fall prey to the same dangers of investigation as any other discipline.

Edited by tadmjones

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 The Law of Identity is axiomatic, in the second paragraph you give an example of what axiomatic means. An axiom is an irreducible primary and any attempt to deny it would imply it, or be based on it. I do not understand what you mean by "knowing something axiomatically". The gist of what you are saying seems to imply that axioms exist based on consciousness.

You stated that the laws of logic are somehow hard wired in the brain/mind(not sure which one or if you maintain a difference) and that this is their genesis. The laws of logic are based on the axiom of identity , but they are not

the same as the axiom. They are a method to determine if reason is being used in accordance with noncontradictory identification in an ongoing manner , so to speak.

Axioms are the irreducible primaries that are implicit in all reason and knowledge, but they are in no way hardwired or innate.

In other posts you talked of behaviours residing in the dna waiting to be expressed. This too seems to be an arguement for innate ideas, in that actions of volitionally conscious beings are preceded by thought. If what makes a potential mate desirous is purely driven by innate urges, does this mean that given the current context of human knowledge we can now relegate them to vestigual status? But keep in mind the status of the appendix and why it may not be as vestigual as previously thought.

Evo/psych may provide a useful tool to explore , but can fall prey to the same dangers of investigation as any other discipline.

 

 

Unfortunately I don't have much time to reply to you in full right now, but a couple quick points: It seems to me that you've misunderstood or misread at least some of what I've said.

 

You said of my post: "You stated that the laws of logic are somehow hard wired in the brain/mind(not sure which one or if you maintain a difference) and that this is their genesis."

 

And yet that's exactly opposite of what I actually said: "I don't think the knowledge of the laws of logic are "hard-wired" into us ..." (added emphasis).

 

And then you said: "The gist of what you are saying seems to imply that axioms exist based on consciousness."

 

And that is exactly the opposite of what I've argued, although perhaps I could have made things a bit more clear. Laws of logic have their ontological foundation based in the reality of the world. They are objective, because the world is objective. They do not get their ontological existence from a person's consciousness. However, in terms of epistemology, they are known to be true axiomatically, or said another way, by a sort of transcendental reasoning, or presuppositionally. This does not mean that their existence is predicated on consciousness, only that they are known to be true because of their axiomatic nature. 

 

And you confuse me when you say, "The laws of logic are based on the axiom of identity , but they are not the same as the axiom."

 

What do you mean that they are not the same as the axiom of identity? The primary law of logic is the law of identity: A=A. The axiom that "existence exists" is based on the law of identity. So the axiom that existence exists is true because the law of identity, which is its foundation, is true and is an irreducible primary that must be true transcendentally. And yes, laws of logic are not "hard-wired" in a genetic sense, as I have said, but they are "innate" from an epistemological sense, meaning they are known a priori. You cannot "know" the law of identity to be true a posteriori, because you would have to examine every single "A" in the universe to know for sure that "A=A" in all cases, which would be an impossibility.

Edited by secondhander

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Second hander:

Can you define "transcendental"?

Do you claim that one would have the "a priori" without sensory input? That is, that it is not dependent on the sensory perceptual at all.

Edited by Plasmatic

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And you confuse me when you say, "The laws of logic are based on the axiom of identity , but they are not the same as the axiom."

 

What do you mean that they are not the same as the axiom of identity? The primary law of logic is the law of identity: A=A. The axiom that "existence exists" is based on the law of identity. So the axiom that existence exists is true because the law of identity, which is its foundation, is true and is an irreducible primary that must be true transcendentally. And yes, laws of logic are not "hard-wired" in a genetic sense, as I have said, but they are "innate" from an epistemological sense, meaning they are known a priori. You cannot "know" the law of identity to be true a posteriori, because you would have to examine every single "A" in the universe to know for sure that "A=A" in all cases, which would be an impossibility.

O'ism holds the primacy of existence. Something is , and that existent has an identity. The Law of Identity is axiomatic, but it is a corollary of existence exists. Existence exists is not proved by nor based on the laws of logic. This is probably the gist I sensed in your posts that led me to think you posit the primacy of consciousness.

 

Edited by tadmjones

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Second hander:

Can you define "transcendental"?

Do you claim that one would have the "a priori" without sensory input? That is, that it is not dependent on the sensory perceptual at all.

 

Second question first: "Do you claim that one would have the "a priori" without sensory input? That is, that it is not dependent on the sensory perceptual at all."

 

No. And I think this is one of the common confusions of what a priori knowledge is. A priori, for all but the most extreme rationalists, does not mean that there is no relation whatsoever to the world of sensory perception. It means that the justification for knowledge is independent of sensory input. The emphasis on "justification" is important. Kant said, "although all our knowledge begins with experience, it does not follow that it arises from experience." He argued that while experience is fundamentally necessary for knowledge, reason is necessary for processing that experience into coherent thought. (Not unlike what Ayn Rand has said. And I think the confusion here is that Rand and others are conflating "source of knowledge" with "justification of knowledge," and slightly misunderstanding what is generally meant by a priori.)

 

A priori means that there is knowledge that is justified using deduction, not induction alone; that you can deduce that something is true without having to use sensory perception in each and every case for the justification of the knowledge. An example: Lisa was born after Bart. Therefore, Bart is older than Lisa. If you know the first premise to be true, then you can hold a justified belief that Bart is older than Lisa. Note that you don't have to go do an empirical investigation of Bart and Lisa to determine their ages empirically in order to know which one is older. So long as you know that one was born before the other, then you can deduce that one is older than the other, without using your senses in an empirical investigation whatsoever. 

 

Now of course you still have used sensory input to "know" Bart and Lisa in the first place, to know what birth is, to know what age is, to know what humans are. But when you want to know which one of them is older, in this case, you can gain the justification for knowing that Bart is older purely by using deduction, apart from sense experience. Keep in mind that a priori and a posteriori aren't concerned with what comes first chronologically, but what is needed logically in the justification of some statement of true belief. In other words, yes we first (chronologically) had to have some empirical knowledge of the world around us and of Bart and Lisa, but when it comes to the specific statement that "Bart is older than Lisa," what we have for the justification of that knowledge is the proposition that Lisa was born after Bart, and then if that proposition is true, the deduction is made about which one is older. That justification does not rely on sense experience, so therefore is a priori knowledge. We can make the belief statement that Bart is older than Lisa, and we can justify it purely from deduction, not induction, without having to physically examine the bodies of Bart and Lisa. 

 

By the way, a priori deductive knowledge is the only way to have universally true knowledge, which is why I think it's odd for Rand to uphold objectivism, and yet deny a priori knowledge. If you don't have a priori knowledge, then I don't see how you can hold any kind of knowledge to be objectively true in all cases. For example, if I know that today is Sunday, then I can say that today is not Monday. How can I know that? Can I know that only about this Sunday, since I am in it right now, and so far it hasn't been Sunday and Monday at the same time today? I know that sounds odd to even suggest it, but the reason it sounds odd is because you already accept, a priori, the law of non-contradiction. You accept that A cannot be ~A at the same time and in the same sense. Therefore, you can know that today is not Monday, if today is Sunday. And you not only know it for this Sunday and every other Sunday you have lived through and used your sensory perception in, you can know it for every future Sunday for all time, because the justification for that knowledge doesn't rest on empirical, sense perception investigation of each individual case, it rests on logical deduction based on laws of logic that are known a priori.

 

Your first question: Can you define "transcendental?"

 

Yes. Don't confuse the term "transcendental" with the term "transcendent." Those are two different things. A transcendental argument is an argument that shows that something is true because you would have to accept it as true in order to try to make a refutation of it. Another way to give an example is: The statement "A is not true" requires "A is true" as a necessary precondition. Therefore, A is true.

 

That may be confusing, but here's a practical example: Let's say someone walks up to you and says, "Spoken words do not exist!" And you respond, "But in order for you to speak that claim to me, you are implicitly accepting the truth that spoken words DO exist. Spoken words are a necessary precondition for your spoken statement that they don't exist. Therefore, your statement is logically incoherent."

 

So that's what I mean when I say that we can know the laws of logic presuppositionally, through transcendental reasoning. The laws of logic must be held as a true presupposition in order to know anything else, and if anyone says "the laws of logic are not true," that person is relying on the laws of logic as a necessary precondition of the world in order to even make that claim, therefore their claim is logically incoherent, and the laws are logic can be known to be true. 

 

This is actually what Ayn Rand says herself, when she discusses axioms!

Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two—existence and consciousness—are axioms you cannot escape, these two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum, from the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble or the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same: that it exists and that you know it. 

...

When he declares that an axiom is a matter of arbitrary choice and he doesn’t choose to accept the axiom that he exists, he blanks out the fact that he has accepted it by uttering that sentence, that the only way to reject it is to shut one’s mouth, expound no theories and die.

 

-- From Galt's Speech

 

So, Rand puts it beautifully well, here. What boggles my mind, then, is how she can believe that "Whatever the degree of your knowledge" these axioms are "irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake," and yet try to deny a priori knowledge. I don't see how you can know axioms in that way, transcendentally, go on to say that they are known to be universally true without the need to first examine sense perceptions of individual events, and then say they aren't known a priori

Edited by secondhander

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secondhander said in #35

A priori means that there is knowledge that is justified using deduction, not induction alone; that you can deduce that something is true without having to use sensory perception in each and every case for the justification of the knowledge. An example: Lisa was born after Bart. Therefore, Bart is older than Lisa. If you know the first premise to be true, then you can hold a justified belief that Bart is older than Lisa. Note that you don't have to go do an empirical investigation of Bart and Lisa to determine their ages empirically in order to know which one is older. So long as you know that one was born before the other, then you can deduce that one is older than the other, without using your senses in an empirical investigation whatsoever.

How does using the word therefore mean new knowledge was apprehended? Your example does not yield anything beyond which individual was born first. You do not deduce that one is older than the other if you know which was born first, it is just a restatement of the same fact. Is this the proof of a priori knowledge, or just not a good example of what you mean? Also I do not understand what you mean by a 'justification for knowledge'.

You have stated that you are not that familiar with Rand's epistemology, while I really only know her epistemology so i may be handicapped in understanding a response if it is couched solely in formal logic proofs.

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You seem to be conflating two types of context into your application of "transcendental". In one case, you are claiming it is the way axiomatic truths are known to be axiomatic via the reaffirm through denial test. But then you apply it to a particular deduction applicable to only one context, as in the Bart and Lisa age scenario......

It's not clear why then you claim it is the only way to have universal justified "belief"...?

Edited by Plasmatic

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Secondhander said:

" If you don't have a priori knowledge, then I don't see how you can hold any kind of knowledge to be objectively true in all cases"

Another thing. Here you are conflating objectivity with universal (or absolute.) Objectivity does not = universal. When the subject-object relation of a person identifying a particular, such as Bart, obtains, it is an example of objectivity.

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@tadmjones

 

You do not deduce that one is older than the other if you know which was born first, it is just a restatement of the same fact.

 

 

Yes in one sense. No in another sense.

 

The statement is an analytic proposition: A proposition whereby the predicate concept is contained in the subject concept. This is contrasted with a synthetic proposition, whereby the predicate concept is not contained in the subject concept. There is a lot of philosophical debate over the issue, the wikipedia article on it is pretty good.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic–synthetic_distinction 

 

Now to my example of Bart and Lisa:

 

Notice that I am making a truth statement about which person has a greater age. All that was known beforehand is which person was born first. Those are, in a certain way, two different concepts. It is apparent that the definition of "age" is something like, "the amount of time that has passed since a person's birth."

 

To show that "order of birth" is one concept, and "age" is a different, albeit related, concept, let's try a thought puzzle. Let's say that Bart was born a year before Lisa, but he was also the first astronaut to fly aboard a spacecraft that could achieve the speed of light, and he took a voyage that lasted three Earth years. Because of the theory of relativity, when Bart returns only a small amount of time has passed, but for Lisa, three years have passed. Thus in that case it can be true that Bart can be born before Lisa, and yet Lisa could be older than Bart. All I'm trying to show with this thought experiment, and nothing more, is that order of birth is not exactly the same concept as order of age in one sense. That the predicate concept, in the thought experiment, is not contained in the subject concept. But of course, the idea of time changes due to relativity and the speed of light is not the norm, and if it were it would render my deduction null and void, because we could no longer rely on the analytic quality of it to make the deduction. So the thought experiment was a bit of an aside, I hope you don't mind. I thought it was an interesting way to show how birth order and age order could be two different concepts in a certain way.

 

So let's get to the sense in which you are absolutely right.

 

When I argue, "Lisa was born after Bart; therefore, Bart is older than Lisa," I really am not saying anything "new." All I am doing is using different language to say the same thing. Because if the very definition of "age" is "the amount of time that has passed since a person's birth," then to say that someone is older than another person, is to say that someone was born before another person. And when you break it down, all I am really saying is A=A, the primary law of logic.

 

So do I attain any knowledge when I use reason when A=A? Yes, actually I do. When I accept the laws of logic a priori, I can attain the knowledge of a cause-effect relationship a priori. Empiricism cannot do this. All empiricism can do is know effects. It can only know what has happened in the past and what is happening now, but it cannot truly know what will happen in the future, because the future is not within the realm of sensory perception.

 

To illustrate this: If I say I have two oranges in a basket, and then I add two more oranges to the basket, I can know that I will have four oranges in the basket. How do I know this? I don't have a literal basket and literal oranges in front of me, so I can't use sense perceptions. I'm only thinking of oranges in my mind, and yet I know that I will have four oranges in the basket if I were to do this in real life.

 

It's not a conjecture that I will have four oranges, it's justified knowledge. But how can I justify it? I have yet to investigate it with my senses. And notice that all that is being said here, when you break it down, is A=A. One of the very definitions of "four" is two sets of two. So to say that I put one set of two oranges together with another set of two oranges, and I can know I will have four oranges, is, as you said, "just a restatement of the same fact." Yes, in a way. Because "2+2" is another way to say "4." But notice that the predicate concept (4) is not found in either of the subject concepts (2). It is only when those two subject concepts are combined, and their cause-effect relationship can be known, that we can see that together, they are a definition of the predicate. The knowledge we can have, that empiricism can't give us, is the cause-effect relationship. The same is true in much more complex math formulas.

 

Again, an aside for sake of example: If I give: "3x+1=10, find x." I can determine that x=3. When I plug that back into the equation, I find that 3(3)+1=10. calculating the left side of that equation, I find that 10=10, which is nothing more than saying A=A. The law of identity. So, if I can know that "3(3)+1 is the same as 10," do I know anything new? Not in a sense, I've merely restated something using different language. But I can know the cause-effect relationship of things, without using sensory perception or induction! I did not need to use my eyes, or ears, or touch, or smell, or taste! And yet I can know. That's a priori. And the more complex an equation gets, the more I can know, using deduction, the cause-effect relationship of things a priori. Empiricism simply cannot do this.

 

The question at hand regards the method of justifying belief statements in order to attain knowledge. So under empiricism, how do you know that when one person is born before a second person, that more time will have passed for the first person than for the second person? How do you know that putting two oranges together with another two oranges will equal four oranges? How do you know that 3(3)+1=10? How do you know that 10=10? How do you know that A=A? And thus we get to the crux of the issue -- how do you know that the laws of logic are true?

 

With empiricism, maybe you have seen oranges before. Maybe you have put two oranges together with another two oranges in the past, and you've seen that the result was four oranges. You investigated that with your senses, and have seen the outcome. Maybe you've put two anythings together with two other anythings, and you have seen that each and every time you have had four things as a result. You know that from your sensory perception. And you can hypothesize that, because it has happened that way each and every time in the past, then perhaps it will happen that way in the future. But you can't know that; you can only make a guess. You can't know it until you see it (or sensory perceive it). The only way for you to be justified in knowing that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, under empiricism, is that you experience it when it happens. 

 

So, let me ask you: As an empiricist, do you accept knowledge arrived at deductively? Do you accept the truth of the laws of logic? And if so, how? 

 

 

@Plasmatic

 

You seem to ... apply it (transcendental argument) to a particular deduction applicable to only one context, as in the Bart and Lisa age scenario. It's not clear why then you claim it is the only way to have universal justified "belief"

 

No, I don't believe I have done that at all. You asked two questions. I brought up the Bart and Lisa scenario in the question relating to a priori knowledge. I didn't talk about transcendental argumentation until I addressed your other question, about how I define transcendental. But I am not applying the transcendental argument to the deduction of the Bart and Lisa scenario, except only to the degree of how you can know the laws of logic can be known in the first place.

 

And I do not say that the transcendental argument is the only way to have a universal justified belief, except, again, only to the degree of how you can know the laws of logic in the first place. I accept induction, and empirical investigation as a pathway to having justified belief. But of course the data taken in by the sensory perceptions must be ordered and understood by the laws of logic in order for you to make sense of them, in order to know the cause-effect relationship. Without the laws of logic, it is like a computer taking in data from a camera and microphone onto a hard drive, but with no processing program to make sense of the data. It would be raw data that was meaningless, without the laws of logic to give them structure.

 

Another thing. Here you are conflating objectivity with universal (or absolute.) Objectivity does not = universal.

 

Are you sure about that? So, are you saying that an objective value is not a universal value?

Edited by secondhander

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There's alot to deal with here. First, I see that you actually explained that you didn't mean by a priori that one does not need perception at all before I asked. Sorry to make you repeat it.

First:

"Laws of logic have their ontological foundation based in the reality of the world. They are objective, because the world is objective. They do not get their ontological existence from a person's consciousness."

This is a category error akin to Plato's forms. Logic is a method of reasoning. What your doing is starting with the " laws of logic" instead of existence. Identity is first grasped in the sensory differentiation of particular things/ entities. This table is something in particular, that spoon is not this cup etc. This is the primacy of existence, a metaphysical axiom. There are no epistemological methods out there floating around mind independently. Not even LEM....

As to justification:

For Oism justification is a process of reduction. A systematic retracing of the concepts one employs back to the facts they refer to perceptually. This is why Ms. Rand defined logic as "the art of non contradictory identification of the facts of reality". So for Oist justification is a matter reducing to the "source" of conceptual reference. So Bart is a particular that has an identity and if I reduce the word to its source or reference Bart's identity contains a certain age and it differs from Lisa's identity such that the proposition expressing the difference in their age is true. The auditory-visual symbols of language are a necessary tool of cognition( not primarily of communication) that is based on the metaphysical nature of concrete particulars.

I have to stop for now and will respond more later.

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The question at hand regards the method of justifying belief statements in order to attain knowledge. So under empiricism, how do you know that when one person is born before a second person, that more time will have passed for the first person than for the second person? How do you know that putting two oranges together with another two oranges will equal four oranges? How do you know that 3(3)+1=10? How do you know that 10=10? How do you know that A=A? And thus we get to the crux of the issue -- how do you know that the laws of logic are true?

 

With empiricism, maybe you have seen oranges before. Maybe you have put two oranges together with another two oranges in the past, and you've seen that the result was four oranges. You investigated that with your senses, and have seen the outcome. Maybe you've put two anythings together with two other anythings, and you have seen that each and every time you have had four things as a result. You know that from your sensory perception. And you can hypothesize that, because it has happened that way each and every time in the past, then perhaps it will happen that way in the future. But you can't know that; you can only make a guess. You can't know it until you see it (or sensory perceive it). The only way for you to be justified in knowing that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, under empiricism, is that you experience it when it happens. 

 

So, let me ask you: As an empiricist, do you accept knowledge arrived at deductively? Do you accept the truth of the laws of logic? And if so, how?

I don't know if I would define myself as an empiricist, maybe more like a context-based conceptual factualist.

I wouldn't touch the the thought experiment example with a ten foot pole! :)

But to the example using quantities of oranges, maybe I can shed some light on how I see it. I know I will have four oranges in a basket if I put in a quantity of two and then also put in another quantity of 2, the fact here concerned is the fact that I can say with certainty that 4 would be the quantity of oranges in the basket , if I did what you describe. The reason I know this is because of the way I understand and use concepts. The statement or proposition is made up of concepts: basket, orange, 2 ect. Concepts refer to entities in reality , and reality is what determines what is true. Meaning proof, or showing something to be true, means to point to that thing in reality. The concept of 2 refers to a specific quantity, specifically which entities make up the quantity is irrelevant as far as the concept of '2'. If you add two quantities of 2 , you will have the resultant quantity of 4, everytime. One would not need to prove by sensual experience every single instance of quantity aprrehension to say this was true. But your example seems to be asking if I can 'know' the fact of the specific basket with oranges in it to be true in the future if one can not actually experience the future. I am not sure if you mean by this , that since I can't point to an existent potentiality , therefore certainty of the quantity is unprovable.

You also at one point equate the 'laws of logic' with the Law of Idenity, I wouldn't agree with that reasoning. A is A is the axiom of identity, a thing is that which it is and can not be something other at the same time. The laws of logic are a methodology to use to make sure the axiom is not being contradicted. Logic is based on the Law of Identity , but they are not the same thing, they are corollaries or derivative applications of it. O'ism holds that existence is primary and that identity is a corollary. In just a quick aside/example consider how an infant must react to reality(existence) in order to make sense of the world(begin the process of identification) they must implicitly accept the primacy of existence, if not they would then have to decide if what they see is really 'there' ,literally in every single instance of sensual apprehesion. Sorry somewhat rushed , perhaps too broad of an aside.

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I failed to tie my aside to a possible link to the idea of a priori , in that Rand shows that the axioms are held implicitly, but due to the hierachy of knowledge can later be recognized and therefore held explicitly. In a sense this could be viewed as having awareness of axioms innately, not that O'ism holds this position, just a personal hypothesis as to how innate ideas may have been mistakenly formulated.

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Secondhander said:

"Again, an aside for sake of example: If I give: "3x+1=10, find x." I can determine that x=3. When I plug that back into the equation, I find that 3(3)+1=10. calculating the left side of that equation, I find that 10=10, which is nothing more than saying A=A. The law of identity. So, if I can know that "3(3)+1 is the same as 10," do I know anything new? Not in a sense, I've merely restated something using different language. But I can know the cause-effect relationship of things, without using sensory perception or induction! I did not need to use my eyes, or ears, or touch, or smell, or taste! And yet I can know. That's a priori. And the more complex an equation gets, the more I can know, using deduction, the cause-effect relationship of things a priori. Empiricism simply cannot do this.

The question at hand regards the method of justifying belief statements in order to attain knowledge. So under empiricism, how do you know that when one person is born before a second person, that more time will have passed for the first person than for the second person? How do you know that putting two oranges together with another two oranges will equal four oranges? How do you know that 3(3)+1=10? How do you know that 10=10? How do you know that A=A? And thus we get to the crux of the issue -- how do you know that the laws of logic are true?

With empiricism, maybe you have seen oranges before. Maybe you have put two oranges together with another two oranges in the past, and you've seen that the result was four oranges. You investigated that with your senses, and have seen the outcome. Maybe you've put two anythings together with two other anythings, and you have seen that each and every time you have had four things as a result. You know that from your sensory perception. And you can hypothesize that, because it has happened that way each and every time in the past, then perhaps it will happen that way in the future. But you can't know that; you can only make a guess. You can't know it until you see it (or sensory perceive it). The only way for you to be justified in knowing that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow, under empiricism, is that you experience it when it happens.

So, let me ask you: As an empiricist, do you accept knowledge arrived at deductively? Do you accept the truth of the laws of logic? And if so, how? "

This brings up the strawman in that link you posted.Number one, Oism does not embrace the usual rationalist/empiricist categories. Oist are not empiricist and Peikoff states explicitly that knowledge is gained by perception, or reason based on perception. Oism embraces both induction and deduction. So what we seem to have here is a need to explicate what it is particularly that Oism points at concerning the a priori.

Induction is used to integrate concepts into units and once done one can deduce certain things based on the knowledge of the concepts referents, while interrelating them linguistically. As Peikoff said in the A-S Dichotomy, every statement boils down to x is one or more of the things which x is,(paraphrased). That is the case for so called synthetic statements as well. The reason, again, is because of reduction of the logical hierarchy of higher concepts to their perceptual roots at the base of knowledge. That is, the sense in which Tad is right, is the only sense objectively relevant. The fantastical misuse of the concept "time" in your thought puzzle is an example of the faults of a non reductive approach to justification. One cannot reduce time to a context where "travel" would apply as many Relativist love to assert. This brings up the important sense in which you are misusing the concepts of cause and effect but I'll have to address that later.

You have stated that your conception of the a priori allows that concepts, including axiomatic ones, are

derived from perception. It seems to me this is not what Ms. Rand or Dr. Peikoff conceive the a priori to be. Without a complete review of the literature at this moment on the topic, it seems safe to say that the a priori, to Oism, is a doctrine that maintains the a priori to be a form of innate ideas NOT derived from perceptual sources. Analytic propositions being certain but saying nothing about reality , as concieved of by Peikoff when discussing the A-S dichotomy, points to a conception of the a priori as an innate idea arrived at via no specific epistemelogical means, without a method of volitional apprehension.

I'm shooting a bit from the hip because I'm in a hurry and on a phone but want to elaborate more on the claims I make later.

Edited by Plasmatic

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Does anything in this quote negate the concept of Tabula Rasa:

 

"Before we became conscious, we operated on a previous mode of decision-making. Artifacts from this previous and long-superseded mode of decision-making are still with us, and explain many quirks and tendencies of humans. The yearning for authorization is a human quirk not found in any of the other animals. The universal appeal of the god-idea, our susceptibility to hypnosis and schizophrenia, the need for reminders of the admonishments of our elders in the form of gravestones, all hints of how our minds operated before the slate, before consciousness. The slate was not born like Venus. Tabula Rasa is an empty slate. What about as babies before we know any words to write on the slate? What about as earlier hominids before our minds had the capacity for a slate? There was then a mode of thinking & learning. This mode has left traces, artifacts, on our tendencies today.

 

Yes, we are born without knowledge, defining "knowledge" as those verbal constructs able to be manipulated on the slate, with analogs to reality. But like all animals we are born with the mental ability to learn, communicate, think, form percepts & concepts, etc., all without the slate. Further, because introspective consciousness depends on the manipulation of of these verbal analogs on the slate, we are not born conscious. We must "learn" consciousness, after we are taught enough language to fill our mental slate. Only then can we invent an analog world based upon language, the heart of consciousness - spatialization, volition, verbal concepts, fantasies, morality."

Edited by Mikee

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A consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms.

At the inception of consciousness - what is its content? With the first awareness, the "slate" is no longer blank. There is some plausibility to a newborn baby being attuned to its mother's voice.

 

Verbal constructs are formed from the content of the "slate". Being born with the ability to learn, communicate, think, form concepts from percepts constitute the identity of the entity. The blank slate was a metaphor to describe the content of consciousness at its inception.

 

Is the "god-idea" imprinted on consciousness at its inception, or picked up from the pervasive anthropomorphic view of others we come in contact with?

Is the "susceptibility to hypnosis and schizophrenia" imprinted on consciousness or an attribute of the identity of the entity?

What is "the need for reminders of the admonishments of our elders in the form of gravestones"?

 

Is the part about "all hints of how our minds operated before the slate, before consciousness" trying to distinguish between man nature of a conceptual consciousness and a predecessor that has a consciousness akin to what is observed in other primates?

 

This quote tends to obfuscate rather than negate the concept of Tabula Rasa.

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Does anything in this quote negate the concept of Tabula Rasa:

 

"Before we became conscious, we operated on a previous mode of decision-making. Artifacts from this previous and long-superseded mode of decision-making are still with us, and explain many quirks and tendencies of humans. The yearning for authorization is a human quirk not found in any of the other animals. The universal appeal of the god-idea, our susceptibility to hypnosis and schizophrenia, the need for reminders of the admonishments of our elders in the form of gravestones, all hints of how our minds operated before the slate, before consciousness. The slate was not born like Venus. Tabula Rasa is an empty slate. What about as babies before we know any words to write on the slate? What about as earlier hominids before our minds had the capacity for a slate? There was then a mode of thinking & learning. This mode has left traces, artifacts, on our tendencies today.

 

Yes, we are born without knowledge, defining "knowledge" as those verbal constructs able to be manipulated on the slate, with analogs to reality. But like all animals we are born with the mental ability to learn, communicate, think, form percepts & concepts, etc., all without the slate. Further, because introspective consciousness depends on the manipulation of of these verbal analogs on the slate, we are not born conscious. We must "learn" consciousness, after we are taught enough language to fill our mental slate. Only then can we invent an analog world based upon language, the heart of consciousness - spatialization, volition, verbal concepts, fantasies, morality."

Rand applied the idea of tabula rasa only to conceptual consciousness, the kind of consciousness that humans have.  Consciousness is an attribute possessed by all animals for example birds, reptiles and fish.  

 

What is wrong with this quote is that it entirely identifies the concept of consciousness with human consciousness.  This makes the entire idea of emphasizing that the slate is blank redundant if the slate does not even exist until it is written upon.   

 

So Mikee you correctly detected something was extremely fishy with the reasoning here even if you did not identify it explicitly.

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