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Difference between human emotions and animal instinct

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That quote isn't even about instincts or evolutionary biology anyway. I can't find where Rand said that either. That's a difference, yes, but I don't think anyone denied that humans have profound cognitive ability to alter the environment.

Rand is wrong. All animals alter their environment.The best example, of course are beavers.

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Rand is wrong. All animals alter their environment.The best example, of course are beavers.

Bee make hives, termites make nests, birds build nests, but none of them use a full sense of concept. Many more don't alter a thing on purpose (you won't find an iguana making things) The only point that matters is that at best, non-conceptual creatures have limited ability, and still only alter the environment incidentally, yet not really as an end beyond needing some cover. There are borderline cases, like chimpanzees or dolphins. That doesn't rule out natural selection though, especially since natural selection is a mathematical construct of how all living things evolve. Doesn't matter how smart you are, something like being born with malformed fingers makes you less likely to survive, it just so happens reason helps to make you considerably more likely to survive. How reason and language even appears is part of natural selection.

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Ayn Rand wasn't wrong. She was talking about adaptations, i.e., how animals cope with change. She was talking about whether adaptations were necessary for an animal's survival. And the fact is that it is necessary for all animals other than humans. All other animals (including your beaver) have to depend on some kind of ecological niche. Humans don't have to depend on any ecological niche. Their evolution did not involve an adaptation to any ecological niche (their evolution, presumably, had to do with transcending any particular ecological niche or any prebuilt set of actions to specific environments/circumstances).

 

Consider a thought experiment: suppose all trees on earth suddenly disappeared. Where would all your beavers go to collect wood to build those dams? They can no longer build dams. Their perceptual level of awareness meant that they could only work with "the immediately given, directly perceivable concretes of its background". Because of this, they have a "limited" (in a certain sense) degree of response to circumstances. Now, consider humans: since they don't have any specific ecological niche to live in, there is no classic example to ascribe to them. Let's just say that humans predicted that the Earth was going to be consumed by the sun some time in the future: their response isn't to run away and cower, whimpering "we aren't equipped to deal with this". They move and inhabit another planet.

Edited by human_murda

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Let's just define (to give it an Objectivist touch) an ecological niche of an organism as "the immediately given, directly perceivable concretes of its background". The more suited an animal is to an ecological niche, the more vulnerable it is to any possibility of change (of course, humans don't have to worry about that, at least, from an evolutionary viewpoint, since natural selection does not apply to them).
 

That doesn't rule out natural selection though, especially since natural selection is a mathematical construct of how all living things evolve.

No, natural selection only refers to specific adaptations to specific environments (which does not cover all forms of evolution. An easy example would be sexual selection). Human beings did not evolve to deal with any specific environment and hence, their evolution did not involve natural selection (or "instincts"). Of course, there was still evolutionary pressure on them but only in the more general interest of survival. Also reason and language aren't any concretes of the environment humans needed to adapt to and hence aren't part of natural selection. But they still served an evolutionary pressure (which is not natural selection) in the interest of human survival: let's just call that evolutionary pressure "human selection", just to distinguish it from natural selection. Note that this evolutionary pressure was unique in evolutionary history and has never occured prior or since and cannot be explained in terms of other types of evolutionary pressures.

 

Doesn't matter how smart you are, something like being born with malformed fingers makes you less likely to survive, it just so happens reason helps to make you considerably more likely to survive

"Doesn't matter how smart you are": it's not a question of degree (you would then have to be talking in terms of animal cognition). "More likely to survive": it's not a matter of likelihood of survival. Humans are equipped with everything to ensure survival for (contextual) certainty. The choice to be stupid (an "anti-conceptual mentality", the assertion that human reason isn't fully equipped to deal with reality, which is more along the speed of "likelihood" of survival and the degree of smartness increasing degree of survival) is an entirely different matter.

 

And to think all this would result from accepting "instincts" and "instincts don't contradict reason" as starting premises. Maybe accepting "instincts" would necessarily lead a person to talk about "chances of survival", since that seems to be its only defence. Talk of "chances of survival" is essentially talk of impotence of reason.

Edited by human_murda

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Sorry for the triple post. But it seems I am wrong about sexual selection being apart from natural selection. According to wikipedia (link), natural selection seems to be ecological selection plus sexual selection, both of which are apart from the "human selection" I am talking about.

 

Presence of biological forces other than natural selection (and "instincts") seem intrinsically tied to the evolution of conceptual mentality in humans.

Edited by human_murda

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No, natural selection only refers to specific adaptations to specific environments (which does not cover all forms of evolution. An easy example would be sexual selection). Human beings did not evolve to deal with any specific environment and hence, their evolution did not involve natural selection (or "instincts"). Of course, there was still evolutionary pressure on them but only in the more general interest of survival. Also reason and language aren't any concretes of the environment humans needed to adapt to and hence aren't part of natural selection. But they still served an evolutionary pressure (which is not natural selection) in the interest of human survival: let's just call that evolutionary pressure "human selection", just to distinguish it from natural selection. Note that this evolutionary pressure was unique in evolutionary history and has never occured prior or since and cannot be explained in terms of other types of evolutionary pressures.

 

Do you have citations for any of this? Or anything you're saying, at this point?

 

You're not discussing philosophy anymore. You've mixed up your philosophy with science, and now you're making a mess of the both of them. The consensus in the biology community is that humans do undergo evolution and are affected by natural selection. The fact that your philosophy disagrees doesn't really mean anything. Nature and reality don't bow to the whims of what you want to believe, as Rand would inform you.

 

 

"More likely to survive": it's not a matter of likelihood of survival. Humans are equipped with everything to ensure survival for (contextual) certainty.

 

You've fundamentally misunderstood the point being made here.

 

Humans have genes, DNA, et cetera. You've agree to this. I've pointed this out repeatedly: evolution is a mathematical construct. If a trait makes you more likely to survive - which traits are wont to do, as well as the inverse, even in humans - it will tend to be passed on, whereas a trait that makes you less likely to survive will tend to not be passed on. This is not something that is affected by the existence of reason. Reasons helps us survive, yes, but if you have two perfectly reasonable people, and one of them has negative traits that the other does not, the one with fewer negative traits is more likely to survive. This is how evolution works, simplistically.

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Also reason and language aren't any concretes of the environment humans needed to adapt to and hence aren't part of natural selection.

 

If you didn't have reason, you're already acknowledging that you'd be less likely to survive. How reason came about can be attributed and explained in part by natural selection. The rest is misconstruing Rand.

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Do you have citations for any of this? Or anything you're saying, at this point?

 

You're not discussing philosophy anymore. You've mixed up your philosophy with science, and now you're making a mess of the both of them. The consensus in the biology community is that humans do undergo evolution and are affected by natural selection. The fact that your philosophy disagrees doesn't really mean anything. Nature and reality don't bow to the whims of what you want to believe, as Rand would inform you.

 

 

You've fundamentally misunderstood the point being made here.

 

Humans have genes, DNA, et cetera. You've agree to this. I've pointed this out repeatedly: evolution is a mathematical construct. If a trait makes you more likely to survive - which traits are wont to do, as well as the inverse, even in humans - it will tend to be passed on, whereas a trait that makes you less likely to survive will tend to not be passed on. This is not something that is affected by the existence of reason. Reasons helps us survive, yes, but if you have two perfectly reasonable people, and one of them has negative traits that the other does not, the one with fewer negative traits is more likely to survive. This is how evolution works, simplistically.

you wrote:" if you have two perfectly reasonable people, and one of them has negative traits that the other does not, the one with fewer negative traits is more likely to survive. This is how evolution works, simplistically."

 

Uhhh, not really. 'Traits' that assure a greater possiblity of survival are not negative or positive in any objective sense. Rather, they are adaptive to alterations in the environment.

 

The classic example given by Darwin is that, with respect to bird predators, white moths survive at a greater frequency when they adhere to clean white walls, while mutated black moths have better chances when soot and grime from factories turn walls black..

 

Humans adapt with respect to color, too. Given less access to hospitals and post-natal care by virtue of racial prejudice, African American babies die with a greater frequency than whites.

 

Of course, the same can be said of prison. Because of the huge disparity by % of young black males who are incarcerated--thereby denied the opportuunity to procreate-- the application of justice and socioeconomic environment favor certain groups over others.

 

Of course, the key issue here is to consider human-created institutions as 'environmental'. At the very least...grudgingly so, as epigenetics has really taken off....

Edited by frank harley

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Bee make hives, termites make nests, birds build nests, but none of them use a full sense of concept. Many more don't alter a thing on purpose (you won't find an iguana making things) The only point that matters is that at best, non-conceptual creatures have limited ability, and still only alter the environment incidentally, yet not really as an end beyond needing some cover. There are borderline cases, like chimpanzees or dolphins. That doesn't rule out natural selection though, especially since natural selection is a mathematical construct of how all living things evolve. Doesn't matter how smart you are, something like being born with malformed fingers makes you less likely to survive, it just so happens reason helps to make you considerably more likely to survive. How reason and language even appears is part of natural selection.

If you define 'conceptualization' as the type of brain activity particular to humans then your statement is a tautology. Rather, IMHO, the issue is to abandon first-principle. normative posuring for the sake of understanding how other animals and plants adapt.

 

In other words, to paraphrase Nagel, what's it lkie to be an iguana? My bet is that, in the very least, an empirical iguana-ology would perforce demonstrate how iguanas adapt to an altered environment. For example, as humans encroach, do they change their diet to mice and kittens?

 

My experience in India,, btw, revealed that villages adopt and raise pet cobras (invaribly named 'Krishna!) to deal with rhodents. And, of course we have wolves, which are nothing but undomesticated doggies.

 

Re your thought experiment and homo sapiens: 'Ecology' as a science questions precisely what you assert. Without trees, our populations have always dropped. This is also basic Archaeology 101.

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Uhhh, not really. 'Traits' that assure a greater possiblity of survival are not negative or positive in any objective sense. Rather, they are adaptive to alterations in the environment.

 

Indeed. Which is what I meant by "negative" or "positive". Perhaps I should have been more clear - when I say a trait is "negative", it means that it's not well adapted to the organism's current environment or situation. It doesn't, in whatever situation, help the organism survive. Assume the inverse for a "positive" trait.

 

 

 

Of course, the key issue here is to consider human-created institutions as 'environmental'. At the very least...grudgingly so, as epigenetics has really taken off....

 

I think you're making a very important point here that human_murda may be missing. Just because our environment and situation is fundamentally different from other animals, does not mean that we do not adapt to it. If certain traits turn out, over a prolonged course of time, to be more well suited to the environment we've created for ourselves, those traits will become dominant in the long term. This is evolution, and this is natural selection.

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Probably

 

Good job dealing with the several points made in my, and others' post. Yet again, you have proven your prowess at discussing points and making legitimate counterarguments. Truly, I am in awe at your rhetoric and scientific cunning.

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Indeed. Which is what I meant by "negative" or "positive". Perhaps I should have been more clear - when I say a trait is "negative", it means that it's not well adapted to the organism's current environment or situation. It doesn't, in whatever situation, help the organism survive. Assume the inverse for a "positive" trait.

 

 

I think you're making a very important point here that human_murda may be missing. Just because our environment and situation is fundamentally different from other animals, does not mean that we do not adapt to it. If certain traits turn out, over a prolonged course of time, to be more well suited to the environment we've created for ourselves, those traits will become dominant in the long term. This is evolution, and this is natural selection.

I really don't think we're 'fundamentally' different than other animals, taken as a discreet class. Are not humans and great apes 'more alike' than,say, fish?

 

In any case, Kingdom charts (animal, plant, spore) down to species are rather precise as to what the differences are. To be 'fundamental' , then, is to beg the biological question with a first-principle, normatively philosophical response.

 

In this sense, i would say that the mental burden of the biblical Genesis remains an issue...and perhaps affected Rand, as well.

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I really don't think we're 'fundamentally' different than other animals, taken as a discreet class. Are not humans and great apes 'more alike' than,say, fish?

 

I would agree, though I know many who would not. However, I was not speaking of us as an organism, but more our environment. The environmental pressures exerted on us are in many ways different from other animals (though, perhaps even then not in a "fundamental" way). In any case, thank you for making this point.

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I really don't think we're 'fundamentally' different than other animals, taken as a discreet class. Are not humans and great apes 'more alike' than,say, fish?

 

The term 'fundamental' has a specific meaning: that from which everything (or the greatest number of things) in a given context arises. Humans are definitely fundamentally different than other animals because we have a conceptual faculty and other animals do not. This conceptual faculty is absolutely fundamental to human beings.

 

 

To be 'fundamental' , then, is to beg the biological question with a first-principle, normatively philosophical response.

 

What?

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The term 'fundamental' has a specific meaning: that from which everything (or the greatest number of things) in a given context arises. Humans are definitely fundamentally different than other animals because we have a conceptual faculty and other animals do not. This conceptual faculty is absolutely fundamental to human beings.

 

Careful with your terms. Humans are not the only animals capable of forming concepts. Arguably, a great deal of animals are capable of forming concepts - being able to regard a group of entities as a single entity, as many animals have been proven capable of (off the top of my head, several species of birds, especially crows, dolphins, apes, et cetera), is a conceptual task. I'll have to look for the paper on it, because the way they demonstrated this ability was actually quite clever. But besides that, many animals are capable of primitive use of tools, some monkeys have primitive systems of trade, and have even been taught to use currency. Simply associating sets of words with sets of actions, as many animals are capable of doing, is a conceptual task.

 

So no, we are not the only animals with a conceptual faculty, nor are we the only animals with a faculty of reason. Our faculty of reason is far and away better than any other animal's of course, and this is a fundamental part of understanding human beings. But I would not argue that it makes us "fundamentally different" from other animals, because all naturally occurring parts of being human can also be found in other animals to greater or lesser degrees. 

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Careful with your terms. Humans are not the only animals capable of forming concepts. Arguably, a great deal of animals are capable of forming concepts - being able to regard a group of entities as a single entity, as many animals have been proven capable of (off the top of my head, several species of birds, especially crows, dolphins, apes, et cetera), is a conceptual task. I'll have to look for the paper on it, because the way they demonstrated this ability was actually quite clever. But besides that, many animals are capable of primitive use of tools, some monkeys have primitive systems of trade, and have even been taught to use currency. Simply associating sets of words with sets of actions, as many animals are capable of doing, is a conceptual task.

 

So what? Maybe other animals form simple concepts but no other animal is capable of moving beyond this and certainly isn't capable of conceptualizing on a level anywhere close to that of humans. This difference is what gives rise to the many many other differences between man and animal. As such, it's fundamental.

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So what? Maybe other animals form simple concepts but no other animal is capable of moving beyond this and certainly isn't capable of conceptualizing on a level anywhere close to that of humans. This difference is what gives rise to the many many other differences between man and animal. As such, it's fundamental.

 

We know nothing as to how other animals might 'conceptualize' because the meaning of 'concept' refers to how we humans understand how humans think. In other words, 'concept' is really just a philosophically-sounding synonym for 'generalization'. Sometimes, we say, 'abstraction, too.

 

In the Scholastic period, 'concept' referred to 'meaning', as to create a third category of metaphysics next to 'word' and 'object', in hopes of resolving the Great Nominalist debate. Hence the modern confusion. For example, Deleuze uses concept in the older, traditional way: "Philosophy is the study of concepts"...

 

In this sense, it's impossible to understand what things mean to another species. For more, please see Nagel, "What's it like to be  a bat". He, btw, was the advisor to Binswanger.

 

Beyond saying that concepts are 'fundamental' to human distinction, we would have to ask what is meant by 'fundamental in another, more provable sense. After all, the etimology means 'base', from the Middle French 'fond', from the Latin.

 

For example, can you say that our neuronal cells are different, or even the networking? Well, no, only that we have more mass, a far higher % of 'mirror cells' and the same rain-forest structureless networking with far more junctions than strands.

 

Re DNA ,can you say that there's a 'fundamentally' different variance in the % of shared versus different genes? No, again, as the distinction between homo and chimp is normally givenn at 1%. Ontogeny seems to recreate phylogeny on a relatively smooth curve of variability.

 

So other than an excuse for hand waving with still more adjectives such as 'essentially', i'm at a loss as to what 'fundamental might mean....

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We know nothing as to how other animals might 'conceptualize' because the meaning of 'concept' refers to how we humans understand how humans think. In other words, 'concept' is really just a philosophically-sounding synonym for 'generalization'. Sometimes, we say, 'abstraction, too.

 

How does this make any sense at all? I don't know what epistemology you subscribe to but this is a whole lot of gobbly gook.

 

 

Beyond saying that concepts are 'fundamental' to human distinction, we would have to ask what is meant by 'fundamental in another, more provable sense. After all, the etimology means 'base', from the Middle French 'fond', from the Latin.

 

Again, I have no idea where you're getting this but you should know that this is not consistent with Objectivist epistemology. What is a 'more proveable sense'?

 

 

For example, can you say that our neuronal cells are different, or even the networking? Well, no, only that we have more mass, a far higher % of 'mirror cells' and the same rain-forest structureless networking with far more junctions than strands.

 

Re DNA ,can you say that there's a 'fundamentally' different variance in the % of shared versus different genes? No, again, as the distinction between homo and chimp is normally givenn at 1%. Ontogeny seems to recreate phylogeny on a relatively smooth curve of variability.

 

Colors are the result of varying wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. According to your epistemology, do you deny the distinction between red and green too?

 

 

So other than an excuse for hand waving with still more adjectives such as 'essentially', i'm at a loss as to what 'fundamental might mean....

 

That upon which the most things in a given context depend.

Edited by CriticalThinker2000

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Careful with your terms. Humans are not the only animals capable of forming concepts. Arguably, a great deal of animals are capable of forming concepts - being able to regard a group of entities as a single entity, as many animals have been proven capable of (off the top of my head, several species of birds, especially crows, dolphins, apes, et cetera), is a conceptual task.

Careful with your terms too!

 

That's a very loose sense of the word 'concept', if you only mean the ability to regard a group of entities as a whole. There are many words to use for that same idea besides 'concept', and in any case, the context here, we're discussing how humans are greatly beyond the meager pseudoconcepts of advanced animals. There is little evidence that any animals can manipulate concepts in the way required of language for instance. As I said earlier, dolphins and chimpanzees are probably borderline cases. In the Objectivist  sense, what is meant by conceptual faculty requires language and abstracting from abstractions. This isn't an idea unique to Objectivism, you can find many contemporary philosophers who argue that humans differ from animals in a fundamentally cognitive way through reason and/or language. Without those features, we'd be talking about different things, even though you happen to use the same word. The thing about a conceptual faculty as fundamental here is the significant mental superiority of humans as observed with language and complex abstractions like science and philosophy. If we remove the word conceptual faculty and give it some other name, and perhaps call it "advanced mental ability", I doubt you'd disagree with what I said.

 

I can expand more later with examples of studies/citations of why I want to use fine distinctions here..

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Do animal cognition researchers claim that animals can form at least some rudimentary concepts just as man does? If so, how can animals do that without language, either spoken language or audible sounds or sign language of some kind? (True language, not just approximate communication of percepts or states of agitation or contentment )

Do animal cognition researchers use the term "concept" in the same way that Objectivism uses it? How does their understanding and usage of "concept" compare and contrast with the Objectivist understanding of it?

Do animal cognition researchers understand the phenomena of "perceptual association" and "perceptual generalization," and how those processes differ from concept formation?

 

"Never underestimate the power of the perceptual level of cognition in animals that are constituted to live on that level in a correspondingly conducive habitat. The perceptual level is more effective for those animals than man may have hitherto assumed. Both the recent experiments and the vast array of past observations of animals historically have amply demonstrated this. Those observations do not demonstrate, however, that animals are using human concepts, or functioning on a conceptual level at all, as that form of cognition is understood by man."

Edited by Mikee

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An article tackling concepts in animals can be found below:

http://comparative-cognition-and-behavior-reviews.org/2008/vol3_zentall_wasserman_lazareva_thompson_rattermann/

 

I also found some very clear conclusions succinctly stated, such as the following in Sec. 1.3:

 

"The research reviewed in this section strongly suggests that nonhuman animals very ably master perceptual or basic level concepts[*]. Such mastery appears to rely on the familiar behavioral principles of discrimination and primary stimulus generalization. The roots of conceptualization thus appear to lie deep in the perceived similarity of external stimuli. Differential similarity influences the responses of nonhuman animals in much the same way as it influences the speaking of humans. Although it may not always be the case that humans and nonhuman animals categorize stimuli in the same way (see Roberts & Mazmanian, 1988; Yoshikubo, 1985; Fujita, 1987), based on the results presented here, one can conclude that both conceptual[*] behavior and its underlying cognitive processes are generally similar in humans and nonhuman animals.

 

substitute "perceptual generalization" in place of "concept,". The authors of the study use the term "concept" entirely too loosely.

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Do animal cognition researchers claim that animals can form at least some rudimentary concepts just as man does? If so, how can animals do that without language, either spoken language or audible sounds or sign language of some kind? (True language, not just approximate communication of percepts or states of agitation or contentment )

Do animal cognition researchers use the term "concept" in the same way that Objectivism uses it? How does their understanding and usage of "concept" compare and contrast with the Objectivist understanding of it?

Do animal cognition researchers understand the phenomena of "perceptual association" and "perceptual generalization," and how those processes differ from concept formation?

 

"Never underestimate the power of the perceptual level of cognition in animals that are constituted to live on that level in a correspondingly conducive habitat. The perceptual level is more effective for those animals than man may have hitherto assumed. Both the recent experiments and the vast array of past observations of animals historically have amply demonstrated this. Those observations do not demonstrate, however, that animals are using human concepts, or functioning on a conceptual level at all, as that form of cognition is understood by man."

 

Mikee, of course you answered most of your own questions in a subsequent post ( I LIKE). Permit me, then,  to deal with the issue of the Rand lexicon vs that of science-- in this case, Biology.

 

In the sense of Quine, Rand uses a normative epistemology that's redolent with 'oughts'. She likewise employs 'first-principle argument. Both of these strategies are consistent with most of philosophy.

 

Science, OTH is 'second principle' whose strategies deal in quantitative distnctions via measurement. To this end, all first principle and/of normative statements are 'zero-sum' hypotheses in equal measure.

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How does this make any sense at all? I don't know what epistemology you subscribe to but this is a whole lot of gobbly gook.

 

 

Again, I have no idea where you're getting this but you should know that this is not consistent with Objectivist epistemology. What is a 'more proveable sense'?

 

 

Colors are the result of varying wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation. According to your epistemology, do you deny the distinction between red and green too?

 

 

That upon which the most things in a given context depend.

The gobbly in the gook is the attempt to gussy up the word 'generalization' with the more profoundly-sounding 'concept'. What I'm talking about is that doing philosophy is not the ability to employ scholastic terms to everyday modern English.

 

Emitted wavelenghts are measurable (Well, actually, colors are caused as much by absorbtion as emission). This measurement- difference corresponds nicely to what we humans see as 'colors', at least within a tiny part of the electromagnetic band.

 

Now the Physicist can call these difference 'fundamental' only in so far as the predicate is added..."[fundamental] to the pertception of different colors by the human eye".

 

In many other ways, it's not. For example, individual colors are not 'fundamental' if the standard of judgment is the electromagnetic spectrum in its entirety. Agruably, then, you're correct in so far as you emphasize context.

 

So in what sense would you say that a 1% DNA variation causes a 'fundamental' distinction between a chimp and a human? Well, if the standard were procreation, the answer would easily be speciation. As for competitive adaptation, the answer is also easy in so far as humans have thrived at the expense of all great apes.

 

In all cases, we discover what we've always come to expect in terms of a general ontology of science: quantitative differences eventually become qualitative. But first, you must observe and measure, Until that;'s done we really don't know where the tipping point resides.

 

Finding tipping points is what science does. In this sense, empiricism justifies its own epistemology by its method. What's therefore fundamental for the scientist is accounting for cause. What, in that 1% DNA difference accounts for speciation?

 

OTH, labeling certain of these distinctions as 'fundamental' is what normative epistemology does because, after all, 'fundamentals' are the differences themselves that science discovers. But in back of this normativity, or 'ought', is the subjectivity of the epistemo-philosopher who determines fundamentality itself. "Things are as fundametal as i say they are at the time that i say it".

 

But this is as profound as putting lipstick on a pig. By many other criteria, chimps and humans are fundamentally the same.

Edited by frank harley

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Yes the answer is pretty clear. The extent to which humans use concepts is far greater than what non-human animals can achieve and that can be seen when contrasting measurement omission and abstractions from other obstractions with first order level concepts or perceptual generalizations which non human animals are capable of.

What would be interesting to see is how Orcas or chimpanzees fair agsinst marginal humans.

Edited by Mikee

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