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SpookyKitty

Questions About Entities and Actions

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^ No, because then Objectivism has no metaphysics. If all Objectivism refers to in its metaphysics is epistemological relations between metaphysical concepts, then it is only talking about Being qua concept, but not Being qua Being.

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SpookyKitty asked:

"So which entities are fundamental? Are fundamental entities more like people, rocks, and chairs, or are they more like subatomic particles?  I think that they are more like subatomic particles."

Philosophically the answer seems reductionist to me.  If I was a scientist then i get the  "subatomic particles" answer.  However, from the context of the philosopher (which is the case here quoting Peikoff), the answer would be people, rocks and chairs.  For humans, the relevant context, observation, etc. is that fundamental entities are people, rocks, chairs etc.  We are relating the world to man, that's the relevant context FOR US.   Realize that the concept "fundamental" like any concept, has to be understood within the context that it is being used.  Until science would get to the point of finding an axiomatic particle - non reducible, that you would call fundamental, don't make the mistake of thinking fundamental is not contextual.  

Philosophically, subatomic particles are the people, rocks and chairs - it's not either or.  Scientifically it is either or, that is the total entity or some part of the entity that you study.  So choose your context, Philosophy or Science, pick the relevant one in regards to your goal.  

Is your computer screen moving in front of you right now?  Yes, it's moving 67,000 miles per hour around the sun.  No, not moving in relation to you.  This morning the relevant context for you is it is not moving.  However, if you were flying to the moon and coming back next week to post another comment to this thread then you better understand that your screen is moving at a tremendous speed and calculate how to get back to it, otherwise we won't be seeing a post from you next week.  And then I'm going to have nothing to do at 3:35am in the morning!!!! :)

 

 

 

 

Edited by mike o

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9 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

If all Objectivism refers to in its metaphysics is epistemological relations between metaphysical concepts, then it is only talking about Being qua concept, but not Being qua Being.

Epistemological relations between metaphysical concepts I think is what Grames is referring to as fundamental as applied to epistemology. That's what the quotes you provided are about. But then the questions you ask after that in the OP looks to be about fundamental as applied to metaphysics. They are a different set of questions. So, it looks like you were/are mixing contexts that cannot be mixed.  I clicked "like" not because I think Grames completely answered all your questions, but because his post helps distinguish fundamental being applied to different contexts.

Edited by Eiuol

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Grames said:

Quote

Fundamentality" can be applied to the realm of epistemology, and it can be applied to the realm of metaphysics, and it can be applied to the realm of physics, and what is found to be fundamental can be (in fact, IS) completely different referents in all three contexts. 

Could you give examples to clarify what you mean here? Because, as stated, I don't recognize this notion as anything Oism holds. If the hierarchy of knowledge is a ladder then what is philosophically fundamental is below what is physically fundmental but what is fundamental in physics will always be a species of what is philosophically fundamental. It is an iterative process.

In ITOE Rand does make a metaphysical vs epistemic fundamentality distinction where the metaphysical is referring to the causal, or "by means of which" (to use Searle's terminology) , the characteristics that give rise to or make the most others possible. Ms. Rand herself called this sense of entity the "primary" sense in the appendix while discussing metaphysical vs epistemic "priority". There, "society" can epistemically be called and entity but is in fact metaphysically dependent on the individuals that comprise it. 

Edit:

Are you simply meaning that epistemic fundamentality is about what is "most essential" to cognition and that may be any given characteristic, which doesn't really have to do with hierarchy qua logical invariance across all concepts? How would physics fit into that?

Edited by Plasmatic

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SK said:

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If all Objectivism refers to in its metaphysics is epistemological relations between metaphysical concepts, then it is only talking about Being qua concept, but not Being qua Being.

Being is a concept. The referents of that concept is metaphysically all the entities that exist. (All other "existents" are epistemically isolated from entities)

edit: but your criticism of Louie is correct in that context. Metaphysics is about what exists apart from epistemic relations (cognitive neccessity). That is why epistemic "fundamentality" as regards "similarity"-essentiality, is not about causal priority.

 

Edited by Plasmatic

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One more thing:

Quote

Physics is not philosophy, and philosophy can only specify that physics be consistent with itself and with the world as men are given to know it (however convoluted that might be).  Otherwise, "hands off!" or "laissez-faire!".

Philosophy most importantly specifies that physics be consistent with Philosophy. 

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On 5/20/2016 at 9:46 PM, Eiuol said:

@SpookyKitty

I will go by your definition of fundamental entity, SK. However, for your questions, I don't think the level of decomposition matters here. Whether decomposition is possible for a given object wouldn't alter my answers.

When you say action here as "whose only defining features are the entity performing it and the entity it is being performed on", that may be best described as "unary action", or what I'd describe as which actions come from and are only due to the entity itself. "Being performed on" is unclear, it still leads us to your question 4.

Why boil down an entity to only its actions? I mean, how does it help to also get rid of characteristics like shape for example? Although that is fine to do if you want to analyze the concept of causality, which requires abstracting away the details like shape. Either way, the identity of every entity would certainly come down to what it does in all possible circumstances. I agree with this. (I've argued elsewhere before that this would work even for anything with volition.)

1) Self-generated action is only one kind of "acting on itself". Self-generated here refers to the actions of animals or plants, i.e. biology. Discovering "self-caused" properties for fundamental entities I think would be a matter of special science, i.e. physics. In principle, they can.

4) Strictly speaking, if you suspect Objectivism requires a strange take on logic, this wouldn't be it. A -> B. B -> C. A -> C. That is, we know if A is true, then C is true if the whole statement is to be true. So if A acts, C will necessarily act as well. But it can't specify that every sense of the word "cause" is transitive. You didn't define direct, I don't even think transitivity would be called "direct". If you use the word "cause" in an unqualified sense, then yes, A necessarily acts on C with B as the means. But this wouldn't qualify for "unary action" I spelled out above because more than one entity is involved in getting C to act.

I agree with the absurdities you pointed out. But I don't think it shows that fundamental entities should have no properties besides their action functions. It makes me wonder, can what you call an action function also include things like shape which have a bearing on how entities act in the first place? Clearly, that is discoverable through observation. In other words, you could conclude that all characteristics of an entity, if the characteristics are real, will have a bearing on their actions. Even if they only differ in size, that too will lead to at least one difference in action if you put them through all possible identical circumstances.
 

Suppose that fundamental entities have an inherent characteristic of shape. Suppose that this shape can only be one of two, cube or sphere.

It is possible to decompose such an entity into two entities with no shape.

This generalizes to any collection of characteristics with any possible number of values.

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56 minutes ago, SpookyKitty said:

Suppose that fundamental entities have an inherent characteristic of shape. Suppose that this shape can only be one of two, cube or sphere.

It is possible to decompose such an entity into two entities with no shape.

This generalizes to any collection of characteristics with any possible number of values.

You're kitten, right? (i.e.; You're kidding, right?)

Edited by dream_weaver

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9 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

Suppose that fundamental entities have an inherent characteristic of shape. Suppose that this shape can only be one of two, cube or sphere.

It is possible to decompose such an entity into two entities with no shape.

This generalizes to any collection of characteristics with any possible number of values.

But you said fundamental entities cannot be decomposed further. The point I'm making is that for an action function to exist, its corresponding entity must have some physical extension. Otherwise, what is even acting?

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

But you said fundamental entities cannot be decomposed further.

Yes, fundamental entities without shape cannot be decomposed further, but "fundamental" entities with shape can which is why they aren't fundamental.

Quote

The point I'm making is that for an action function to exist, its corresponding entity must have some physical extension. Otherwise, what is even acting?

I don't see why we should assume that physical extension is a pre-condition for action. Physical extension may, however, be a necessary consequence of entities and their actions, though.

Edited by SpookyKitty

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Okay, so you're saying if they had shape, they wouldn't really be fundamental. I'm not seeing a reason to say all you have left at the bottom are actions. Disembodied actions at that, because there are literally no other characteristics. -What- acts? It's sort of like Cartesian dualism. If the mind is non-physical all the way down, how does the mind act on the physical world?

I'd put it this way. I wouldn't say physical extension is a pre-condition of acting. Rather, "to be is to do" AND "to do is to be". If an entity is to exist, it must exhibit action, i.e. an identity. If an action is real, something must exhibit it with physical extension. It's not as though some entities don't act. Any further decomposition makes it so the entity ceases to exist. It would be annihilated. Or you'd need to propose that ghosts exist, which gets absurd fast.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Okay, so you're saying if they had shape, they wouldn't really be fundamental. I'm not seeing a reason to say all you have left at the bottom are actions. Disembodied actions at that, because there are literally no other characteristics. -What- acts? It's sort of like Cartesian dualism. If the mind is non-physical all the way down, how does the mind act on the physical world?

At "the bottom" are fundamental entities, not actions. No action is disembodied. Every action has an entity that acts and an entity which is acted on. I don't see any need for characteristics.

Quote

I'd put it this way. I wouldn't say physical extension is a pre-condition of acting. Rather, "to be is to do" AND "to do is to be". If an entity is to exist, it must exhibit action, i.e. an identity.

I agree.

Quote

If an action is real, something must exhibit it with physical extension.

That does not follow. If an action is real, something must exhibit that action, but it is not necessarily true that that thing must have physical extension.

Quote

It's not as though some entities don't act. Any further decomposition makes it so the entity ceases to exist. It would be annihilated. Or you'd need to propose that ghosts exist, which gets absurd fast.

Any further decomposition from what?

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Looking more closely at your definition of action function, I see you didn't specify how the resulting set of entities is constructed. How do you decide if 'x' has acted upon an entity? You'd need to say how or what qualifies 'x' for acting.
 
So far, you've said the action cannot be disembodied. We agree that an entity is required. Next, you go on to say entities should have no properties besides action functions. That much is okay, since at root an identity is what entities are and do. However, I want to add "physical extension" because you also need what enables doing. That is, there are characteristics of 'x' in your action function, something that does actions. 'X' at least has physical extension or it doesn't. If it does, right there is one required characteristic. If it doesn't, 'x' is not real, or a "ghost", or an abstraction, or a feeling. Since you said no action is disembodied, you should agree that option two doesn't work.

"Any further decomposition from what? "
I misread something, forget that part.

Edited by Eiuol

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SK said:

Quote

Suppose that fundamental entities have an inherent characteristic of shape. Suppose that this shape can only be one of two, cube or sphere.

It is possible to decompose such an entity into two entities with no shape.

This generalizes to any collection of characteristics with any possible number of values.

Why should anyone "suppose" any of this? What philosophical principle leads one to do so? What evidence is there that it is "possible" one can decompose any entity into a shapeless boundary that acts?

I have a bunch of catch up posts to do. Particularly about mischaracterizations of my 5 answers. I will try to do so tonight. 

Edited by Plasmatic

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31 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Looking more closely at your definition of action function, I see you didn't specify how the resulting set of entities is constructed. How do you decide if 'x' has acted upon an entity? You'd need to say how or what qualifies 'x' for acting.

I don't understand your question.

Quote

So far, you've said the action cannot be disembodied. We agree that an entity is required. Next, you go on to say entities should have no properties besides action functions. That much is okay, since at root an identity is what entities are and do. However, I want to add "physical extension" because you also need what enables doing. That is, there are characteristics of 'x' in your action function, something that does actions. 'X' at least has physical extension or it doesn't. If it does, right there is one required characteristic. If it doesn't, 'x' is not real, or a "ghost", or an abstraction, or a feeling. Since you said no action is disembodied, you should agree that option two doesn't work.

'X' is not itself a fundamental entity nor even necessarily an entity (unless we assume that any collection of fundamental entities is itself an entity which is not unreasonable). It is a set of fundamental entities, and specifically, the set of fundamental entities which act on a given entity at a specific time.

The action function is not a function from an entity to another entity, but from a collection of entities to another collection of entities.

Does this resolve the problem? Because I am totally confused as to why you think a fundamental entity would need physical extension.

16 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

SK said:

Why should anyone "suppose" any of this? What philosophical principle leads one to do so? What evidence is there that it is "possible" one can decompose any entity into a shapeless boundary that acts?

Becuase it is either true or it isn't that a fundamental entity has a characterist such as shape, and we don't know whether or not it is true. To answer the question, we assume that it is true, and see if that assumption is consistent with what we already know. If it is not, then it is false.

In this case, my argument is that if fundamental entities have a shape, then they can be thought of as two fundamental entities with no shape. Hence they are not fundamental, which is a contradiction. Therefore, fundamental entities do not have a shape.

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As far as I know, a set is a collection of "somethings" but it's not a function. A function could "build" a set or specify how to "fill up" a set. That's why there was some confusion. So, if it's just a set, my question is a little different. If a fundamental entity has no characteristics at all besides its "action set/function". As I understand it, you're saying that when an entity acts, there are a set of entities which are therefore acted upon. This on its own is fine. But why -no- other characteristics besides what produces that set? I think it's far better to say the 'x' of that action set has characteristics of some kind in order for it to bring to bear effects on reality. Or, the action function requires at least two parameters: an entity, and a characteristic that enables its acting.

'X' doesn't have to be an entity, not at all, but here the class of 'X's we're analyzing are.

A separate point from there is that if an entity is to affect reality, physical extension (i.e. is a physical object) is necessary. My argument against that are all the same ones I have against substance dualism. If physical extension is not required, I'm left wondering how in the world actions of fundamental entities are embodied. 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

As far as I know, a set is a collection of "somethings" but it's not a function. A function could "build" a set or specify how to "fill up" a set. That's why there was some confusion. So, if it's just a set, my question is a little different. If a fundamental entity has no characteristics at all besides its "action set/function".

There is no "building up" of a set. The set of fundamental entities (and therefore, the set of possible actions) is fixed.

To reiterate, the argument of the action function is not a fundamental entity, but a set of fundamental entities, and the output is not an entity or an action, but another set of entities.

For example, let's say that we have only three fundamental entities A,B,C. The domain and range of the action function is {{},{A},{B},{C},{A,B},{A,C},{B,C},{A,B,C}} and not {A,B,C}.
 

Quote

 

As I understand it, you're saying that when an entity acts, there are a set of entities which are therefore acted upon. This on its own is fine. But why -no- other characteristics besides what produces that set? I think it's far better to say the 'x' of that action set has characteristics of some kind in order for it to bring to bear effects on reality. Or, the action function requires at least two parameters: an entity, and a characteristic that enables its acting.

'X' doesn't have to be an entity, not at all, but here the class of 'X's we're analyzing are.

A separate point from there is that if an entity is to affect reality, physical extension (i.e. is a physical object) is necessary. My argument against that are all the same ones I have against substance dualism. If physical extension is not required, I'm left wondering how in the world actions of fundamental entities are embodied. 

 

Fundamental entities and their actions do not act on reality, they are reality.

Now, I think it is quite obvious that real things have physical extension, but I think that physical extension is not a fundamental characteristic, but is instead a consequence of the interactions among fundamental entities.

As I've said before, the reason I don't think that physical extension is not a fundamental characteristc of fundamental entities is because a) it isn't necessary in the first place and b ) it can be reduced to entities and actions in any case.

Edited by SpookyKitty

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"Building up" in quotes because you're not making the entities, but you are still specifying in some way which you select members for a set. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set-builder_notation Yes, you said the argument is a set of fundamental entities. But then you're saying action functions are a characteristic of a single entity? So it's getting a bit messy and lost in translation. We can revisit it later if you prefer.

" Fundamental entities and their actions do not act on reality, they are reality. "

Agreed, so it's more like they act in and on reality.

I'm saying a) is necessary, and b ) is true because my thinking is that actions and entities are inseparable. Perhaps you're right that it is "possible" i.e. thinkable, that physical extension isn't necessary, but I think I gave good reasons to think it is. Either you get disembodied actions, or entities that don't act. These are both contradictions. It's not that interactions lead to physicality, but that physicality and actions are simultaneous.

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5 hours ago, Eiuol said:

"Building up" in quotes because you're not making the entities, but you are still specifying in some way which you select members for a set. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set-builder_notation Yes, you said the argument is a set of fundamental entities. But then you're saying action functions are a characteristic of a single entity? So it's getting a bit messy and lost in translation. We can revisit it later if you prefer.

I think we should resolve any disagreements and misunderstanding on this topic ASAP.

Ok, first of all, the set of fundamental entities is not "built up" by action functions in any sense. The set of fundamental entities is assumed to be given. How one determines how many fundamental entities there are and what their action functions are either requires further assumptions and/or principles, and it is very likely an empirical matter anyway.

Let me try to formalize the crap out of this, just to make things as crystal clear as possible.

1. There is a set of fundamental entities, E. (How many entities are in it is not specified, and is therefore left to a choice of model for the theory.)

2. There is a binary relation defined over this set, called "acts on at time t" which I will denote using ">_t".

3. This relation is symmetric, i.e. a >_t b implies b >_t a.

4. An action function of an entity x is a function on the power set of E, that is a_x: P(E) -> P(E).

5. Each entity is associated with a unique action function. (which action function is associated with which entity is a modeling issue).

6.  The circumstance of an entity x at time t is the set of all y, elements of E, such that y >_t x, denoted by [y,x]_t

7. The action of an entity x at time t is the set of all y, elements of E, such that x >_t y, denoted by [x,y]_t

8. The action of an entity x at time t+1 is given by a_x([y,x]_t) = [x,y]_(t+1).

Quote

Agreed, so it's more like they act in and on reality.

I'm saying a) is necessary, and b ) is true because my thinking is that actions and entities are inseparable. Perhaps you're right that it is "possible" i.e. thinkable, that physical extension isn't necessary, but I think I gave good reasons to think it is. Either you get disembodied actions, or entities that don't act. These are both contradictions. It's not that interactions lead to physicality, but that physicality and actions are simultaneous.

I understand that disembodied actions and entities that don't act would be a problem if they arose. However, I don't see why it is true that not assuming that there exists an inherent characteristic of physical extension implies either of these things, nor do I understand what it is you mean by "disembodied actions".

If by "disembodied action" you mean an action not associated with any entity, that is necessarily impossible due to 2 above.

An entity that never acts is not necessarily ruled out, but if one  exists, then it is the only such entity because of 5 above.

Ruling it out would require a further principle.

Edited by SpookyKitty

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Your extra explanation at the first part does clarify things. I think you misunderstood that I was only saying that your action function as you are using it wasn't really a function, which led to confusion. You're basically saying that there are a set of fundamental entities, that whole set has an action function, and members of that set are associated with that action function. My only issue with it is it seems a bit pointless to talk about, you are seeking what is fundamental, when it looks like all action is at least binary by your reasoning. I'd saying we don't necessarily need to claim anything but 1 and 5 and maybe 4 in your formalism. All we need is "fundamental entities are associated with some action or action function".

I'll get to the rest later. Though you're saying being physically real isn't necessarily fundamental, while my thinking that "to do is to be" and "to be is to do" makes it so that both are fundamental. Action and physical embodiment are really one thing for a fundamental entity. I'll elaborate in a day or two why a non-acting entity is impossible, without further principles.

You're right about what I mean by disembodied action.

 

 

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To finish out my ideas:

I do not think requiring physical extension as fundamental implies a further principle. What I'm expressing is that if that actions are fundamental, you are also implying that in the terms of the nature of entities, you wouldn't need to talk about how they are embodied in order to talk about what they do. It just wouldn't matter as much.

I don't think this makes sense because actions are fundamental, to the extent that entities have no identity if they do not act. That is, action and physical existence are corollaries of each other. When Rand says "existence exists" and "A is A", I think she is in effect saying that the world before you exists concretely, and at this level, it is simultaneously true that by existing, all these concrete thing must have an identity. There would be nothing to have an identity. In other words, the fundamental thing about entities is their identity, which consists of their concrete existence and actions. 

Consider what an actionless entity would be. It would not be acting upon the world. It would not be acting within the world either. Nothing can act on it, and it would act on nothing. If something could act on it, then both things would exhibit behavior. More specifically, it would not have an identity if it did not act. There is nothing to identify it as. There is nothing to identify about it. Even if it just had shape, it could easily be defined as a consequence of its actions. That may be the point you're making. But again, I'm expressing something like "form follows function" AND "function follows form".

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