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KALADIN

Does The End Require the Means?

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Query One:

Objectivism's countenance of the (originally) Aristotelian principle that, to want for demonstration of all things is to betray a want for education, is obvious and indisputable. Both Rand and Aristotle share a crucial appreciation for the necessary existence of certain explananda which must be accepted as the metaphysically given -  as the precondition of man-made explanans (and their viability). Some have objected to this postulation of inscrutables by affirming that it is perhaps possible in some sense that the relationship between the human understanding and "true nature" of existence is asymmetrical; there might be some things "true of existence" which it is impossible for the mind to assent to without later contradiction. In my own words, there is perhaps an unavoidable rupture between metaphysics and epistemology, and there might be things whose postulation invalidates any claim to knowledge or methodological objectivity, but are nevertheless the way of things. In this sense then, contradiction is not simply a sign pointing to unchecked premises, but perhaps also a sign simply of metaphysical impasse insofar as ascension to whatever is the cause of contradiction and impasse is the case, but can nevertheless never known to be the case, ie. that the premise of "symmetry" between epsitemic method and metaphysical reality I mentioned earlier is unjustifiable (I think some aggressive lines of defense might be open to Objectivism in acknowledging that symmetry is man-made - it is constitutive of method). Is the proper rebuttal to remarks of this nature to affirm the necessary supposition of a knowing subject for epsitemic affairs and value? By this I mean is the solution to recapture the uniquely human viewpoint of Objectivism - the insistence on conceptual identity being not a bar but a precondition of epistemological purchase? Is the solution to affirm ineffable claims about "what is the case" as literally meaningless without the requisite means to establish those claims, ie. to affirm the meaninglessness of an uncaused knowledge?

Query Two (hopefully related):

Objectivists often make use of the principle that appeals to the impossible are fundamentally inappropriate. Indeed, they describe something like omniscience being a bar to certainty as an invocation of an inappropriate standard of certainty. Why must standards of judgment be possible? Isn't it part of the usual detractors' points that such things are impossible precisely in virtue of the impossible standard required? 

Thanks in advance for any discussion.

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Query one and Two:

What is the purpose of philosophy to you?  How is it a value to you and how do you benefit from it? 

Answers to the above may be "meta" this discussion, but it is important at the widest levels of Objectivism.  Certain types are psychologically attracted to "philosophy" because of a mistaken belief that it is "above" the base considerations of things like science, economics, biology, ... engineering... that it is a "higher" exercise into abstractions... the implicit belief being one akin to the "ideal versus practical" false dichotomy.  I have seen this mentality over and over and over... it's the one that revels in flights of fantastical imaginative fancy playing at thought by attempting to apply logic to floating abstractions and complete fictions... the kind of mentality which so engrossed in their insanity of the unfounded "possible" (products of the untethered imagination) are offended when the subject of evidence of the senses or perception of reality are brought up.  As if the idea that which they think needed to be bounded by that which IS were some distasteful morsel foisted upon their platter of ineffable morsels, spoiling their a la carte... carte blanche that is.

Granted, you and this type of mentality may not be related but there is an element of this momentum at play in many who are drawn to ideas as an escape from rather than an acceptance and discovery of reality.

 

Question one: 

Your query implies the need to accept either: 1) contradictions IN reality itself or 2) man's faculty of consciousness i.e. the faculty of identification is inherently flawed -> it will identify a contradiction where none exists.

If there were any evidence to support either of these now would be the time to raise it.

As for your questions re. epistemology they seem elliptical and unspecific.  Man forms concepts and uses forms of logic to gain knowledge solely on the basis of evidence of the senses which are the form of the direct causal connections between reality and his mind.

Query two:

The arbitrary is literally something for which there is no, i.e. absolutely zero evidence.  The onus falls on one to prove i.e. show some evidence tending to show, the positive.  There is no onus on anyone to prove a negative i.e. prove the non existence of what is arbitrarily asserted.  For example, take the arbitrary assertion that the Devil exists.  Now imagine the proponent of the Devil asking for you to prove the Devil does not exist.  There is no evidence in reality to point to which disproves the existence of the Devil.  The non existence of the Devil cannot leave behind any little red flags, any footprints, any little notes saying "The Devil wasn't here" to point to.  Only what IS constitutes evidence and only evidence in some form supports an assertion of what is.  The onus is on he who asserts the positive.

This is not the same issue as some philosophers adopting a standard of omniscience as the standard of knowledge.  There is and never was an omniscience.  There only are men, with finite time, finite memory, finite capacity.  The concept knowledge does not apply to trees, they do not have it.  The concept knowledge does not apply to Planets or Galaxies, they do not have it.  The concept of knowledge does not apply to Gods, they simply are NOT.  The concept knowledge is applicable to Man, and is defined in the context of man because it is the only kind of knowledge there is... that knowledge is finite.  As such any self-aware computer, or alien (if ever proven to exist) could have knowledge of the same kind (although of different degree) as man, but because of the nature of existence it would be finite.  Omniscience however, lies outside of the concept of knowledge.  It is an impossible fiction.  To state that because man cannot have a faculty of omniscience, i.e. cannot possess an impossible fiction he cannot have knowledge, is an attempt to steal the concept knowledge from the realm of reality and ascribe it to the unreality and to redefine the finite as required to be infinite.

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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8 hours ago, KALADIN said:

In my own words, there is perhaps an unavoidable rupture between metaphysics and epistemology, and there might be things whose postulation invalidates any claim to knowledge or methodological objectivity, but are nevertheless the way of things. In this sense then, contradiction is not simply a sign pointing to unchecked premises, but perhaps also a sign simply of metaphysical impasse insofar as ascension to whatever is the cause of contradiction and impasse is the case, but can nevertheless never known to be the case, ie. that the premise of "symmetry" between epistemic method and metaphysical reality I mentioned earlier is unjustifiable (I think some aggressive lines of defense might be open to Objectivism in acknowledging that symmetry is man-made - it is constitutive of method).

1

In ITOE, (Concepts as Mental Existentents, p. 153) Rand says in response to Prof. F.:

"Because in a metaphysical sense only concretes exist.  Therefore, when we form a concept, we cannot say that we have removed it in a certain sense from individuality or the existence of concretes.  Isn't there a Platonic element in the question?

The basic overall point would be always to keep in mind that this is a cognitive process, not an arbitrary process; it's a process of perceiving reality and is governed by the rules of reality.  Nevertheless, it's our way of grasping reality; it isn't reality itself; it's only a method of acquiring knowledge, a method of cognition."

Why this is so is well summed up on p. 63:

"Since consciousness is a specific faculty, it has a specific nature or identity and, therefore, it's range is limited: it cannot perceive everything at once; since awareness, on all its levels, requires an active process, it cannot do everything at once.  Whether the units with which one deals are percepts or concepts, the range of what man can hold in the focus of his conscious awareness at any given moment, is limited.  The essence, therefore, of man's incomparable cognitive power is the ability to reduce a vase amount of information to a minimal number of units--which is the task performed by his conceptual faculty.  And the principle of unit-economy is one of that faculty's essential guiding principles."

 

 

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4 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Omniscience however, lies outside of the concept of knowledge.  It is an impossible fiction.  To state that because man cannot have a faculty of omniscience, i.e. cannot possess an impossible fiction he cannot have knowledge, is an attempt to steal the concept knowledge from the realm of reality and ascribe it to the unreality and to redefine the finite as required to be infinite.

I fully understand your answer to my second query. Thank you for providing clarification. I think your point can be summed up in the notion that "concepts are contextual".  Perhaps a valuable "meta"-point to be made here is the appropriation and use of concepts as though whether their referents may or may not exist is tangential is itself actually crucial.

4 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Your query implies the need to accept either: 1) contradictions IN reality itself or 2) man's faculty of consciousness i.e. the faculty of identification is inherently flawed -> it will identify a contradiction where none exists.

I do not fully understand or comprehend your answer to my first query. Would it be possible for you to expand further on how supposing "whatever is the cause of contradiction and impasse is the case, but can nevertheless never known to be the case" might imply these? Thanks.

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11 hours ago, KALADIN said:

In my own words, there is perhaps an unavoidable rupture between metaphysics and epistemology, and there might be things whose postulation invalidates any claim to knowledge or methodological objectivity, but are nevertheless the way of things. In this sense then, contradiction is not simply a sign pointing to unchecked premises, but perhaps also a sign simply of metaphysical impasse insofar as ascension to whatever is the cause of contradiction and impasse is the case, but can nevertheless never known to be the case, ie. that the premise of "symmetry" between epsitemic method and metaphysical reality I mentioned earlier is unjustifiable

In answer to your question of your recent post, I take that the above assumptions must have some relevance/repercussions i.e. some actual consequence.  That consequence is that man will inevitably arrive at contradictions in his knowledge.  If his premises are not flawed either reality itself is self-contradictory or man's process of non-contradictory identification (of reality) is inherently flawed.

Perhaps I misunderstand your stated or implied state of affairs.  Your terms "metaphysical impasse" and "ascension" elude me.  If you could concretize and condense it I might be able to respond better.

 

Partially related, "symmetry" is not required, only identification.  Man does not hold in his mind little images or reflections which mimic in any way or form that which exists externally.  Man's mental content is of the form required for him to identify reality, think about it and remember it etc., and its form need not be (and is not) a "re-creation" of reality.  In a sense there is no reason to wish symmetry between mind and reality.  If man's faculty of identification works, it works.  The mind's internal manner and form of knowledge are valid no matter what their form as long as the form of identification of reality is efficacious.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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10 hours ago, KALADIN said:

there might be some things "true of existence" which it is impossible for the mind to assent to without later contradiction.

This is an assertion that contradictions exist in particular specific existents.  It is a completely valid response to dismiss this as an wild hypothetical without a shred of evidence to support it.  Another response is to identify the stolen concept at work here: "diction" is speech, "contra" is against, but existence does not speak so it cannot speak against itself.  Contradiction is inapplicable to existence.

11 hours ago, KALADIN said:

Query Two (hopefully related):

Objectivists often make use of the principle that appeals to the impossible are fundamentally inappropriate. Indeed, they describe something like omniscience being a bar to certainty as an invocation of an inappropriate standard of certainty. Why must standards of judgment be possible?

Ought implies can. Therefore "Cannot implies ought-not". Epistemology is as normative a field as is ethics.

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Logical and Grames, 

I greatly appreciate your responses and am very satisfied specifically with your answers to my second question.

Your answers to my first have given me much to think on, but I still can't dispel my original sense of confusion. I'll try to spell out the source of my confusion as slowly and carefully as I can:

Attention to degrees of similarity and less difference between units relative to a background is effortful. Regarding them as a class is effortful. The employment of concepts - which are a form of awareness - is effortful. The operation of man's conceptual faculty - the faculty responsible for the acquisition of knowledge - and mental manipulation of these classes are effortful. Because this and much more are effortful, cognition is not intrinsically reality-oriented (hence this post) but requires a method to direct the course of one's mental effort such that it remains in contact with reality. Now Objectivists call the proper sort of methodological adherence "objectivity". My question is what if the identity of our consciousness and form of apprehending existence makes it such that there are things whose acceptance would invalidate any claim to objectivity, but are nevertheless the case? Objectivists often seem to employ, as a kind of form of negative demonstration, that if the acceptance of something entails the impossibility of ever knowing that something, then that something can not be. I'm having a real hard time understanding why our epistemic predicaments might legislate what may or may not be the case, as opposed to something merely being the case and yet impossible to know in virtue of causing an affront to objectivity (self-contradiction being one example). Is it not possible for something to be the case, and yet be unknowable in virtue of its acceptance causing the impossibility of knowing that something?

If it is still unclear what I'm attempting to get at I'll just try to sort it out myself with previous comments in mind. Thanks. 

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18 hours ago, KALADIN said:

Why must standards of judgment be possible? Isn't it part of the usual detractors' points that such things are impossible precisely in virtue of the impossible standard required? 

First off, if the consequences of a theory are in some sense distasteful, the theory doesn't become false for that reason. If the standards, in order to work at all, require a means no one is capable of, then the end is impossible no matter how important the end is. So, saying "well, knowledge is important, therefore my standards need to be possible!" would be pointless. I don't think any Objetivist-minded scholar would put any weight on the "possibility" argument except to say that knowledge is epistemic so the only way to talk about knowledge and attaining it are through possible means.

The stronger argument I see is that people really are connected to reality by virtue of their senses. There isn't anything about reality that one is not able to identify in principle. That is, an asymmetry does not exist unless we also have something in reality that is undetectable by any human means. We'd have to postulate that there's a supernatural world in a literal sense, a world in which we'll always be separate from. I doubt many detractors would buy into that, so they'd go on to say that our human means can at best create ideas and beliefs; these beliefs will not be objective thanks to [animal nature/impulse/cognitive biases/etc.]

When we get down to it, impossibility is not the real issue, but what human capabilities are. People generally agree that knowledge is properly true, as far as I've seen. An "above man" standard is really just denying that perception is good enough for developing all kinds of knowledge. Or the other end, perception is all there is, abstractions are all myths.

Edited by Eiuol

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27 minutes ago, KALADIN said:

Is it not possible for something to be the case, and yet be unknowable in virtue of its acceptance causing the impossibility of knowing that something?

If it is still unclear what I'm attempting to get at I'll just try to sort it out myself with previous comments in mind. Thanks. 

The missing link is causality.  Perception links the causal interactions of the external world into our cognitive realm by causal means.  If we came to know something, that knowledge was caused by some chain of causal events and then willful inferences that traversed the distance between existence and our recognition of that existence.  To accept something for a reason necessarily entails it is knowable, but if you accept something for no reason then sure all bets are off and that isolated proposition might be unintegratable and incompatible with other knowledge.  Uncaused knowledge is unjustified knowledge, and so is merely opinion which threatens nothing.

In my signature is a link to Notes on "Unity in Epistemology and Ethics" by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, lecture one touches on this.

 

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11 hours ago, KALADIN said:

My question is what if the identity of our consciousness and form of apprehending existence makes it such that there are things whose acceptance would invalidate any claim to objectivity, but are nevertheless the case? Objectivists often seem to employ, as a kind of form of negative demonstration, that if the acceptance of something entails the impossibility of ever knowing that something, then that something can not be. I'm having a real hard time understanding why our epistemic predicaments might legislate what may or may not be the case, as opposed to something merely being the case and yet impossible to know in virtue of causing an affront to objectivity (self-contradiction being one example). Is it not possible for something to be the case, and yet be unknowable in virtue of its acceptance causing the impossibility of knowing that something?

First of all epistemic predicaments do not legislate what is the case.  Existence has identity, it is our task using consciousness to succeed at the exercise of identification.

You imply there may be "something" about existence which is "impossible to know".  Moreover you posit that such a possibility might be due to a specific kind of flaw with our means and/or form of acquiring knowledge, whereby the very act of "acceptance" entails that impossibility.

First, as regards the identity of our means of knowledge, this is a bald assertion that the means in fact is broken. It implies our means of knowledge because of its nature, although it may work in many areas, directly fails in some specific area.

What would have to be the case for such to be true?  What would the nature of the thing which would be unknowable have to be?

First consider that we have levels of understanding from the most direct and concrete to the widest abstraction.  Second, note that reality as independent from man's mind is complex ever evolving and interacting.  Third, man has the ability to make multiple observations, interact with reality on various levels, and the ability to collect ever more evidence and correct his knowledge as required. Lastly, man has the ability and the responsibility (if he is to know) to process the contents of his mind to resolve any contradictions. 

Now, take for example the knowledge conveyed by a blip on a screen, which is connected through a complex apparatus to a multi tonne reservoir with sensors in it which interact with neutrinos coming from the sun which pass through the entire Earth.  Neutrinos hardly (weakly) interact with anything, they barely have any mass at all.  For all intents and purposes this a ghostlike particle that as a free and individual particle does not interact or participate in causality to much of a degree.  Yet, we have knowledge of these things which in comparison to a human level of existence, can be said hardly to exist (this is a metaphor).

Why can we know of such a thing?  Because no matter how weakly, how statistically improbable, as pat of reality which has a causal interaction with other parts of reality, we can arrange detecting apparatuses such that their presence can be directly causally connected (through a complex chain) though our senses to the mind.  Everything that has any consequence in reality (i.e. everything which forms part of reality) can be causally linked to our senses to reveal its existence.  As such nothing which exists can go completely unnoticed by man.  As such we can know of all things that are.

What about this unknowable thing?  Well certainly, if it is interactively and causally cut off from all other things which are knowable i.e. it never interacted with things like neutrinos, matter, energy, humans, planets, galaxies, then if would qualify as unknowable but it would also not qualify as part of existence. It would be arbitrary by definition because by definition evidence of it is impossible.

What if it did interact with reality, but we could not "fully understand" it... perhaps it were too complex, or too vast, or its pattern too elusive to identify?  Man is finite, grabbing the toe of a cosmic elephant, he would be able to identify a toe, but perhaps not of  what the toe was a part, nor perhaps would be able to ever know the entirety of the elephant from the evidence of the toe.  But this is not a problem with his epistemology, it is a problem with technology.  Man would need to figure out how to expand his knowledge by creating a detector which interacted more fully with that which the toe is a part... the elephant is a whole, its parts are connected in reality, man can know it in its entirety eventually.

In the end you are left with the only possibilities that either man's mind is fundamentally broken... i.e. it is faulty in ALL areas or that nature is fundamentally "broken" where some parts are wholly disconnected from others.  Observe, both are wholly arbitrary assertions which stand in opposition to all available evidence.  If man's mind is wholly broken, knowledge is impossible and you should not trouble yourself with knowing anything.  If existence is broken, to the extent some portions are completely cut off from your existence, you might as well forget them, they are literally immaterial and irrelevant to your existence and not knowing of them is of no consequence whatever.

In some sense the symmetry between reality and mind is their interconnectedness by causality and interaction.  The universe is a connected whole and is by the means of careful non-contradictory identification you can likewise make your mind to be so.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

The universe is a connected whole and is by the means of careful non-contradictory identification you can likewise make your mind to be so.

This is better re-worded as:

The universe is a connected whole and by the means of careful non-contradictory identification you can likewise make your mind and your knowledge a connected non-contradictory whole.

 

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20 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

The universe is a connected whole and by the means of careful non-contradictory identification you can likewise make your mind and your knowledge a connected non-contradictory whole.

Your latest answer was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you again. 

Would you agree that to be unknowable, and not simply unkown but unknowable in principle, is to be nonexistent?  

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1 hour ago, KALADIN said:

Your latest answer was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you again. 

Would you agree that to be unknowable, and not simply unkown but unknowable in principle, is to be nonexistent?  

It depends upon what you are claiming is "unknowable" and what you mean by "unknowable".

The existence of a thing is "knowable", a knowledge of literally everything about a thing is generally not possible even for a single thing (limitations of physics and complex nature of simultaneously varying properties of constituents, fields, particles, etc.) unless the thing is particularly simple (even knowing everything about a particular electron, is not plainly given... recall the uncertainty principle). Of course the identity of a particle in a particular interaction is knowable.

Some things are simply not simultaneously knowable... like a list of the names of everyone in Kansas... to a single mind... but that I gather is not the same kind of "unknowable" you are contemplating.  Because each individual in the list is knowable, and there is nothing more than the individuals in the list, in principle, in one sense, the list is knowable. 

Patterns of existence or causation may be too subtle or too complex for human's to grasp directly, but with integration, conceptualization, and reduction they can be understood at some level of abstraction.  To the degree necessitated by man's existence and pursuit of value, he may need to investigate and understand some levels of some things to a greater or lesser extent than on other levels.  Similar to what I mention above, knowing every thing about something at "every" level is generally impossible and in any case likely just not practicable if it were possible (time and effort versus usefulness of the knowledge).

Here is an interesting example, which I think ties a few concepts together.  You can never know what it is like to be that which you are not.  For example, you will never know what it is like to be a tree, or what it is like to be a Dog.  Such are unknowable because of the nature of what you are, because of your identity.  Now, in reality, there is something akin or parallel to knowledge (analogous) which a dog possesses, and by which it knows what it is like to be itself.  At face value it looks like an example of yours, where by the nature of your identity you cannot know something about the universe. But a dog's nature and yours, and a dog's knowledge and yours are wholly incommensurable. In a sense you do not lack what is impossible for you to possess.  So although at first it might seem that such "knowledge" is truly unknowable to you, in another sense, it does not constitute, even potentially, knowledge. 

It makes no more sense to say "the universe lacks what blue sounds like"... color and sound are incommensurate: the experience of being a dog, and knowing something as a human, are equally unrelated.

 

Back to your question: to claim such a thing as "what it like to be a dog" simply does not exist would be false on its face... all dogs self-evidently due to their nature experience "what it is like to be a dog", it's just something you can't ever experience yourself.  The key is that what is proposed as the knowledge you are missing (what it is like to be a dog) simply does not qualify as knowledge.


So in summary I would say (and it may seem trite now but I think accurate):

"Knowledge of a something" is impossible in cases where the something is in fact not a something, or if the proposed knowledge would not in fact constitute human knowledge.

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 5/24/2017 at 2:03 PM, StrictlyLogical said:

The key is that what is proposed as the knowledge you are missing (what it is like to be a dog) simply does not qualify as knowledge.

I agreed, mostly, up to here. Wouldn't it be better to say it is knowledge because it is about how the world is presented? Alternatively, you could say the "likeness" is not conceptual so it isn't knowledge.

But I certainly lack knowledge of the first person details. It is no issue, though, as the form in which you know isn't the same as holding a belief of a fact of reality. I will -never- know the form in which you see a red cherry through the eyes and awareness of you ass an individual. However, we and all other aware animals can know in principle all about cherries. So, it presents no asymmetry with reality.

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On 5/25/2017 at 6:03 PM, Eiuol said:

I agreed, mostly, up to here. Wouldn't it be better to say it is knowledge because it is about how the world is presented? Alternatively, you could say the "likeness" is not conceptual so it isn't knowledge.

"What it is like to be a dog" can be imagined partially but never fully known because then the human knower would have to lose his conceptual faculty and no longer be an entity that knows things as humans know them.

There was a humorous college poster back in my time which had the ultimate final exam questions on it.  One of the entries was "Summarize all of human knowledge.  Be brief, concise and specific.  Compare and contrast with all other knowledge."

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