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Kenny Davis

Abstractions as such do not exist?

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Just now, Easy Truth said:

No, I was interested in why you concluded what you did?

And sure, what is your reasoning that abstractions exist.

Huh, I was thinking you were asking the second question and changed my response.

Because, I mean, uhh, I concluded what I did because that is the logical conclusion?

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6 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

Man exists and Man is an abstraction

I see that using the logic of the sentence above, one could come up with that conclusion.

I assume there is a more elegant counter to this than I will make. Nevertheless, I will try. We have to define our terms. What does "man exists" mean? Does that mean "the abstraction man" exists? Or does it mean "there are any instances of what this abstraction refers to that exist".

If it means "the abstraction man" exists, then the conclusion you propose would be right.

But it does not mean that.

To prove that men exist, one would have to show some men, somewhere or at some time in the universe.  If they never ever existed, no consciousness could have generated that abstraction.

The abstraction man can't exist if it is not referring to anything.

The second part of the sentence, "man is an abstraction" is not complete. It implies that man is ONLY an abstraction. That is one of many contexts and perspectives. That aspect of man that is abstract, does not exist metaphysically speaking. The aspect of anything that is abstract, does not exist in the metaphysical world.

I will go with this for now.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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5 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

If those systems and processes responsible for abstraction exist then in that way abstractions exist.

Then you will have to clarify "in what way?"

Doesn't it hinge on the question of "does the content of consciousness metaphysically exist?" My understanding is that it is not out there but inside you.
 

Edited by Easy Truth

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3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I see that using the logic of the sentence above, one could come up with that conclusion.

I assume there is a more elegant counter to this than I will make. Nevertheless, I will try. We have to define our terms. What does "man exists" mean? Does that mean "the abstraction man" exists? Or does it mean "there are any instances of what this abstraction refers to that exist".

If it means "the abstraction man" exists, then the conclusion you propose would be right.

But it does not mean that.

To prove that men exist, one would have to show some men, somewhere or at some time in the universe.  If they never ever existed, no consciousness could have generated that abstraction.

The abstraction man can't exist if it is not referring to anything.

The second part of the sentence, "man is an abstraction" is not complete. It implies that man is ONLY an abstraction. That is one of many contexts and perspectives. That aspect of man that is abstract, does not exist metaphysically speaking. The aspect of anything that is abstract, does not exist in the metaphysical world.

I will go with this for now.

 

That's an interesting argument, but it is flawed.

The statements:

1) "Humans (its easier to talk about humans rather than men to avoid confusion) exist," and

2) "Humanity exists"

do not have the exact same meaning, (even though I agree with you that the method of proving each is the same).

Formally, I believe the distinction is as follows:

1) There exists at least one x which is an instance of Humanity.

2) There exists at least one x which is Humanity.

I believe that your (and I think Rand's) mistake is that you are literally identifying Humanity with its instances. That's nonsensical because you are treating a noun and a predicate as though they were identical.

The reason you are making this error is because you are failing to differentiate between a relation of identity and a relation of definition.

I think it is correct (and I think you would agree) to say that

3) An abstraction x exists if and only if there exists at least one particular y such that y is an instance of x.

This statement is a definition of the existence of abstractions. Thus, there is a material equivalence between 1) and 2) but no logical equivalence. It is important to make this distinction.

Another way of explaining this error is like this.

First, if two things A and B are identical, then the existence of one necessarily entails the existence of the other.

However, one cannot flip this statement and say that because the existence of A necessarily implies the existence of B and vice versa, that therefore A is B.

An obvious counterexample here is that the existence of the number 1 necessarily entails the existence of the number 2, and vice versa, but that does not mean that 1 is 2.

Quote

The second part of the sentence, "man is an abstraction" is not complete. It implies that man is ONLY an abstraction. That is one of many contexts and perspectives. That aspect of man that is abstract, does not exist metaphysically speaking. The aspect of anything that is abstract, does not exist in the metaphysical world.

I think you are jumping to conclusions. Saying that man is an abstraction no more implies that he is only an abstraction than saying that John is tall implies that John is characterized only by tallness.

Edited by SpookyKitty

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5 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then you will have to clarify "in what way?"

Doesn't it hinge on the question of "does the content of consciousness metaphysically exist?" My understanding is that it is not out there but inside you.
 

The answer to that is not simple but multilayered. 

The abstraction literally exists only in a man's mind, but all of man exists in reality.

It has to do with the fact that on the one hand there is a mind which perceives, identifies, thinks about, remembers, things in the real world.  Generally the referents of mental activity are real.  The contents of mental activity ARE to be distinguished from the things in reality which is why one should be careful about confusing concepts and their referents... they are not the same thing. 

On the other hand man is a natural system, he is in his entirety made of natural stuff, functioning according to the particular arrangement and state of that part of reality of which he is made.  Man is not divorced from reality or separate from it, he is embedded in it... this is also true of his brain and his mind.  The abstraction chair (in the context of a man) is a dynamic existing subset/or portion of an incredibly complex process and equally complex system which obtains whenever that man goes through the process of thinking about a chair. 

The existence of that dynamic existing subset is required for him to introspectively assert he is thinking about chairs and using the process of conceptualization.. i.e. that he holds an abstraction "chair" which refer to "chairs" of reality.  It also must exist for him to make any decision based in any way on any consideration involving chairs... without the concept a man would not walk over and sit on it.  The fact that chairs are even made rely on the fact of existence in a men's mind the abstraction "chair" otherwise he would not build it.

Here is where we come to the central issue.  "What" in existence we mean by the "abstraction" chair?  Certainly there is no little chair floating around in a man's skull, there is no wood, and no chair backs, or legs.  There is no image on a man's frontal lobe in the shape of a chair.  There is an unfathomably complex process occurring in a mass of chemicals and cells and electrical impulses...

There is an aspect of reality which corresponds to the abstraction in a man's mind of "chair".  As I hinted at previously this can be seen or experienced from two perspectives, the internal first person one and the third person one.  From the first person perspective the fact of reality which is the abstraction in the man's mind is experienced as a thought of a "chair".  From the third person perspective the fact of reality which is the abstraction in the man's mind would be observed and identified as something which looks nothing like a chair and may in fact be unrecognizable without the most sophisticated diagnostic system.

The abstraction literally exists only in a man's mind, but all of man exists in reality.

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7 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

The reason you are making this error is because you are failing to differentiate between a relation of identity and a relation of definition.

1

Can you elaborate on this or help me find more information on the two relations you refer to.

For now, I assume that the nature of something is not the definition. Sort of like the words used to define something is not the same as the thing itself. Not sure if I got this right.

As far as A being identical to B does not mean that A causes B, I get that.

Edited by Easy Truth

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8 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Here is where we come to the central issue.  "What" in existence we mean by the "abstraction" chair?  Certainly there is no little chair floating around in a man's skull, there is no wood, and no chair backs, or legs.  There is no image on a man's frontal lobe in the shape of a chair.  There is an unfathomably complex process occurring in a mass of chemicals and cells and electrical impulses...

There is an aspect of reality which corresponds to the abstraction in a man's mind of "chair". 

An abstraction exists, in a way.
It is an aspect of reality.
Yes, I can agree to that.

I am stuck on "in a way".
I wish there was a word or phrase that corresponds with "that way", "that sense", from "that perspective".

I know in what way it is not existing. An abstraction isn't a substance.
But I agree that it is inseparable from the identity of something.

Does every concrete have an abstraction referring to it?
 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Does every concrete have an abstraction referring to it?

No.  Abstractions are man-made, and no one man nor the collective activity of all of them together has ever encountered and named all the concretes that exist.  That would the activity of an omniscient and quite energetic God.

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I havent read this thread but I have brought this up many times here. Ms. Rand is referring to "exist" in the primary sense when she says "abstractions as such do not exist". She uses "as such" in a few places in a way that seemed to signal that she was aware of a nuanced usage of language being deployed. 

 

Concepts are "mental existents". They exists within the primary entities that possess abstract consciousness. They are held by the device of concrete substitution in language. 

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29 minutes ago, Plasmatic said:

I havent read this thread but I have brought this up many times here. Ms. Rand is referring to "exist" in the primary sense when she says "abstractions as such do not exist".

Yes of course.

I assume the OP simply misunderstood the meaning.

That's why I asked OP to clarify, but he/she has not returned.

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On 9/14/2017 at 2:28 PM, Kenny Davis said:

Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists—and that which exists is concrete.

How can this be the case? 

 "they are merely man's epistemological method of perceiving that which exists." Seems to be saying that man's epistemological method of perceiving that which exists, doesn't exist.

 

This is so strange that feel like I'm missing something. 

It's just a matter of time before a post such as the following appears on Objectivism Online:

I was listening to a lecture Ayn Rand gave at the Ford Hall Forum, and at one point she said: "Two plus two equals four." Huh? I can't for the life of me understand what she could have meant by this. If you have two … and two … I'm sorry, where do you get "four" from that? If anything, you have 22. Someone please explain this to me as I am utterly confounded by this bizarre statement.

Edited by KevinD

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