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On 12/20/2017 at 2:32 AM, MisterSwig said:

Are you both objective (metaphysical) idealists?

I don't know what that is. I've been making a case for universals being metaphysically real, as against Rand's position that they are merely epistemological.

Edited by intrinsicist

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On 12/20/2017 at 2:32 AM, MisterSwig said:

Objectivists accept the fact that universals exist... Rand believed in the existence of universals.

No, not in the sense I've been exhaustively explaining here. And the distinction is important, because the only alternative to basing your philosophy on real universals is subjectivism, as I was arguing in the original thread:
 

I'm hoping we come back to my arguments here, I don't have anything to contribute right now regarding your comments on "objective (metaphysical) idealism", as you call it.

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On 12/22/2017 at 8:56 PM, DonAthos said:

I guess I'll ask -- what exactly do we mean by "a concrete"?

This is along the lines of the right question.

The concepts "concrete", "universal", "abstraction", "entity" could easily be factored into the following excerpt from the Appendix—Concepts as Mental Existents <ITOE2, pg. 153-154> :

Prof. F: If you and I have the same concept [of X], does that mean that the same entity is in both of our minds?
AR: If we are both careful and rational thinkers, yes. Or rather, put it this way: the same entity should be in both of our minds

[of X] mine.

This is immediately followed up with an example that illustrates the complexity of what serves as the concrete for the basis of the entity:

Prof. F: Okay, taking concepts, therefore, as entities: they do not have spatial location, do they?
AR: No, I have said they are mental entities.
Prof. A: When you say a concept is a mental entity, you don't mean "entity" in the sense that a man is an entity, do you?
AR: I mean it in the same sense in which I mean a thought, an emotion, or a memory is an entity, a mental entity—or put it this way: a phenomenon of consciousness.

And for an addition addendum on the thought:

Prof. A: Wouldn't you say that consciousness is itself an attribute of man?
AR: Right. A faculty of man. And of animals, or at least the middle and higher animals.

Also relevant would be the opening exchange from Appendix—Entities and Their Makeup, Attributes as Metaphysical <ITOE2, pg. 277-278>:

Prof. A: In regard to the concept of an attribute—for example, "length"—since the attribute is something which does not exist separate in reality, is the referent of the concept of an attribute in the category of the epistemological rather than the metaphysical?
AR: Oh no, why?
Prof. A: Because length doesn't exist per se in reality. Length is a human form of breaking up the identities of things.
AR: Wait a moment, that's a very, very dangerous statement. Length does exist in reality, only it doesn't exist by itself. It is not separable from an entity, but it certainly exists in reality. If it didn't, what would we be doing with our concepts of attributes? They would be pure fantasy then. The only thing that is epistemological and not metaphysical in the concept of "length" is the act of mental separation, of considering this attribute separately as if it were a separate thing.

How would you project a physical object which had no length? You couldn't. And therefore if to say it is epistemological rather than metaphysical is to say it exists only in relation to your grasp of it, or it requires your grasp of it in order to acquire existence—it doesn't. Surely, if anything is metaphysical, attributes are.

To rephrase the question of "what is a concrete?" slightly,  is it legitimate to ask what the concrete of "thought", "an emotion", or "a memory" is, either as a mental entity or even as a phenomenon of consciousness?

Does the fact that they are attributes of an attribute banish them, or make them anything less metaphysical (while this is not your question specifically, it does tie back into the thread.)

<tongue in cheek> Perhaps Prof. A can just be written off as a rabble rouser!

Still, Miss Rand's response, as rendered by Harry Binswanger, suggests the ability of an act of mental separation: of considering an attribute separately as if it were a separate thing, without actually divorcing the considered attribute of its metaphysical stature.. Does it make a difference if it is simply length from the object that possesses it, or the "concrete" object of thought from the entity which performs it?

<Once again, tongue in cheek> The fate of the Objectivist Movement depends on your response.

 

 

Edited by dream_weaver

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Eioul, the issue is absolutely whether or not there is anything in reality that holds universally. I'm not following why you're suggesting that's not the issue here. 

On 12/21/2017 at 8:12 PM, Eiuol said:

As I see it, a reference to universal aspects of things is a universal, but the aspect itself isn't the universal

I'm trying to interpret what you are saying in a way that isn't blatantly contradictory - after all, if there's a "universal aspect of things", how could you also say that "the aspect itself isn't the universal"?

I'm guessing what you mean by a "universal aspect of things", is some aspect that holds for all particulars in a given set. But the "recognition of invariant facts about sets of particulars" is not a universal unless the "set of particulars" you're referring to, is the universal set of all particulars, as in, "for all X, such and such holds". Saying merely "for this specific set of particulars, such and such holds", is not a universal claim, it's just a claim about some particular group of things.

So this is precisely the issue here. Rand denies real universals quite explicitly, as I quoted here. She believes everything in reality is particular, that there is in reality no "manness" in man which applies universally for all men at all times, but rather the concept "man" is merely our way of organizing the particulars we see around us into a mental grouping. So as the set of particulars we have observed changes and the context of our knowledge expands, so too must change our definition of "man".

In ITOE, Rand writes that, contra Aristotle's intrinsicist philosophy,

Quote

Aristotle regarded “essence” as metaphysical; Objectivism regards it as epistemological... the essence of a concept is determined contextually and may be altered with the growth of man’s knowledge...

The metaphysical referent of man’s concepts is ... the facts of reality he has observed, and this total determines which characteristics of a given group of existents he designates as essential.

Rand specifically rejects the notion that there is a metaphysical essence, i.e. that particulars are instances of real universals, universals which hold at all times and for all of the particulars of that kind. On the contrary, our concepts are only "universal" over the total set of of our observations. But this is not the universal set! This isn't guaranteed by any metaphysical principle to hold at all times and for all instances in reality. Concepts in this view aren't describing something that holds abstractly in reality, they are just describing something that holds abstractly over the particular, delimited set of observations which we've accumulated thus far.

So these Objectivist concepts aren't universals. Rand doesn't refer to them as such. She only uses the word "universal" in this sense in a couple of places in the book, and exclusively in the context of specifically pointing out how the Objectivist view differs from the Intrinsicist view in holding that there are no real universals.

 

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On 12/22/2017 at 5:56 PM, DonAthos said:

I guess I'll ask -- what exactly do we mean by "a concrete"?

As a human, I exist as a conscious entity, so when I extrospect I am focused on existence, and when I introspect I am focused on consciousness. It's easy therefore to forget that consciousness is part of me as a whole, and since I exist, my mind exists too. My consciousness is a kind of existent. And since it exists, it must have a specific nature. It must have an identity.

Billions of particular minds exist on Earth this very moment, just like there are billions of particular blue colors on Earth this very moment. Some minds belong to monkeys and some belong to humans. Some blue colors belong to flags and some belong to shoes. It's easy to form the concept "blue" because I directly see many examples of it. But it's hard to develop the concept of "consciousness" because I'm directly aware of only my own, single example. I must infer the existence of other examples of consciousness.

But how are other minds similar to mine? Can I abstract the universal "consciousness" from a direct awareness of only one particular example?

It's easy to treat the mind non-universally, as if mine is the only one of its kind--as if in fact it does not belong to any kind at all. It's much easier to believe that my mind is not part of existence as I know it--that it's disconnected from everything else I experience. That it cannot be a concrete thing, because there is no abstract universal representing it.

And yet I have abstractions of things of the mind--my mind. I have a concept for "concept," "thought," "emotion," "dream," etc. I even have a concept for "things that exist in my mind." But are these universals? How can I say they are universals, when in fact they represent only my own mind's contents?

The answer must be found through the psychological sciences. Just as we prove the validity of our extrospective knowledge through science, we must also prove the validity of our introspective knowledge through science. But we cannot begin a science of introspection by denying the nature of introspection. When we introspect, we are aware of particular things qua particular things (concretes) and particular things qua universal things (abstractions). Qua particular things, concepts are mental integrations. Qua universal things, they are mental representations.

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14 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

I'm hoping we come back to my arguments here

I've tried my best to understand and counter your arguments from both a basic intrinsicist view and a more complex metaphysical idealist view. You don't know about metaphysical idealism, so I'm left only with the limited intrinsicist arguments you make here. It would help if you answered more of my probing questions. In your conception of a universal, is it physical or mental in nature? Or is it something else?

14 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

I've been making a case for universals being metaphysically real

What do you mean by metaphysical? Rand used the term to mean "that which pertains to reality, to the nature of things, to existence." Is that how you use the term?

You say that the concept in our head is valid if it corresponds to the universal outside our head. Is there a "real universal" for every new invention of man? Before man invented the hammer, was there a universal for "hammer" outside of his head? How about evolutionary things? Before chimps evolved into men, was there a universal for "man" outside of the chimp's head?

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11 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

This is along the lines of the right question.

Well, that's half the battle. :)

11 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

To rephrase the question of "what is a concrete?" slightly,  is it legitimate to ask what the concrete of "thought", "an emotion", or "a memory" is, either as a mental entity or even as a phenomenon of consciousness?

Does the fact that they are attributes of an attribute banish them, or make them anything less metaphysical (while this is not your question specifically, it does tie back into the thread.)

<tongue in cheek> Perhaps Prof. A can just be written off as a rabble rouser!

Still, Miss Rand's response, as rendered by Harry Binswanger, suggests the ability of an act of mental separation: of considering an attribute separately as if it were a separate thing, without actually divorcing the considered attribute of its metaphysical stature.. Does it make a difference if it is simply length from the object that possesses it, or the "concrete" object of thought from the entity which performs it?

I apologize, but I'm not certain I understand your rephrasings of my question -- or whether you're suggesting an answer. Do you mean to say that you believe "a concrete" refers to something which may be considered as a separate thing (whether or not it is "metaphysically separable," such as length)?

11 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

<Once again, tongue in cheek> The fate of the Objectivist Movement depends on your response.

Goodness, I hope not.

10 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

Concepts in this view aren't describing something that holds abstractly in reality, they are just describing something that holds abstractly over the particular, delimited set of observations which we've accumulated thus far.

I'll be frank -- I often find conversations like these to be rather dense, as my response here will serve to demonstrate. (Or maybe I find myself to be dense; I don't know that I could tell the difference.) But can I probe your position, to attempt to clarify things for myself?

Are you saying that Rand's position is that we may only form concepts (or abstract) according to what we've encountered ("the particular, delimited set of observations which we've accumulated thus far") and that you disagree? If our statements of reality are not based strictly upon the observations we've made (and also bound to those same observations), to what other source could we appeal?

53 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

As a human, I exist as a conscious entity, so when I extrospect I am focused on existence, and when I introspect I am focused on consciousness. It's easy therefore to forget that consciousness is part of me as a whole, and since I exist, my mind exists too. My consciousness is a kind of existent. And since it exists, it must have a specific nature. It must have an identity.

Billions of particular minds exist on Earth this very moment, just like there are billions of particular blue colors on Earth this very moment. Some minds belong to monkeys and some belong to humans. Some blue colors belong to flags and some belong to shoes. It's easy to form the concept "blue" because I directly see many examples of it. But it's hard to develop the concept of "consciousness" because I'm directly aware of only my own, single example. I must infer the existence of other examples of consciousness.

But how are other minds similar to mine? Can I abstract the universal "consciousness" from a direct awareness of only one particular example?

It's easy to treat the mind non-universally, as if mine is the only one of its kind--as if in fact it does not belong to any kind at all. It's much easier to believe that my mind is not part of existence as I know it--that it's disconnected from everything else I experience. That it cannot be a concrete thing, because there is no abstract universal representing it.

I frankly don't know what any of this is addressing; are we discussing whether minds are similar to each other, or the difficulties in inferring the consciousness of others? That seems like a separate conversation, though I wasn't aware that any of that was in contention.

But maybe it relates; I don't understand your meaning. How does it help to answer the question of mine you've quoted -- "what exactly do we mean by 'a concrete'?"

53 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

And yet I have abstractions of things of the mind--my mind. I have a concept for "concept," "thought," "emotion," "dream," etc. I even have a concept for "things that exist in my mind." But are these universals? How can I say they are universals, when in fact they represent only my own mind's contents?

The answer must be found through the psychological sciences. Just as we prove the validity of our extrospective knowledge through science, we must also prove the validity of our introspective knowledge through science. But we cannot begin a science of introspection by denying the nature of introspection. When we introspect, we are aware of particular things qua particular things (concretes) and particular things qua universal things (abstractions). Qua particular things, concepts are mental integrations. Qua universal things, they are mental representations.

So it looks like you're saying that a concrete is a "particular thing qua particular thing"? All right, again, what does that mean? How do I recognize when something is a "concrete" versus when it is not (if anything can exist without also being "concrete")? Because the claim has been made that some things are not concrete, yes? Eiuol seems to have made that claim directly. So to assess his claim, it would help me to understand what constitutes a "concrete."

Or is "concreteness" an... epistemological stance, as I had inferred from dream_weaver's reply? (I hate to use terminology like this -- it almost always seems to muddle more than clarify -- but please bear with me.) Some given concept or emotion, for instance, is a "concrete," not because it has "physical extension" -- not because it may somehow be separated from the mind which holds it metaphysically/in actuality -- but because we can regard it as something distinct. Is "concreteness" (like, perhaps, "particularity") simply a way of considering a thing?

Is that your meaning for the term?

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15 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

I apologize, but I'm not certain I understand your rephrasings of my question -- or whether you're suggesting an answer. Do you mean to say that you believe "a concrete" refers to something which may be considered as a separate thing (whether or not it is "metaphysically separable," such as length)?

It is not a matter of what I believe. Isolate what the attribute of length is, understand how it is not metaphysically  separable from the concretes that possess it. The aspects of "a thought", "an emotion" or even "a memory" follow similar lines of reasoning.

Incidentally, concrete is being used here as: existing in a material or physical form; real or solid; not abstract.

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1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

Some given concept or emotion, for instance, is a "concrete," not because it has "physical extension" -- not because it may somehow be separated from the mind which holds it metaphysically/in actuality -- but because we can regard it as something distinct. Is "concreteness" (like, perhaps, "particularity") simply a way of considering a thing?

Is that your meaning for the term?

That's pretty damn close to what I mean. And sorry for putting you through the preamble, but I thought it was necessary to express my full context for "a particular thing qua particular thing." I'll work on it, but I doubt I can refine the definition much more. When you say "regard/consider a thing as distinct," that's close, but I would simply say we are aware of the thing as distinct. The fact that we're aware of it is enough. We don't have to know the whys, hows, and whats in order to call it a concrete thing. And we only distinguish the concrete from the abstract later on, after we realize that some concretes don't exist apart from our minds.

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On 12/24/2017 at 12:33 PM, MisterSwig said:

I've tried my best to understand and counter your arguments

Honestly I don't think you've done either of these things. First you got distracted by me naming intrinsicism in particular, then you've pummeled me with questions about the details of intrinsicist metaphysics. But nothing I've actually argued depends on any of that. I've made a specific criticism of Objectivist metaphysics which nobody seems to have yet clearly understood, let alone attempted to counter.

The closest thing I've seen is the Harry Binswanger thing you quoted, "To be nothing in particular is to be nothing at all--i.e., not to be." -- but that just seems like an assertion that universals aren't real, I don't see that that's an argument in favor of that assertion. As for "the concretes referred to by a concept have to be identical in some respect, as if all shades of blue were identical, all lengths were identical, etc." - obviously that's a silly straw man, the point is that the abstract attribute of blue or of length is held in common by the particulars, not the exact shade or measure of their lengths. Again, he doesn't seem to understand the Realist position that he's criticizing at all, he seems to be just assuming that only particular concrete objects are real, and therefore concludes that universals must be "nothing".

On 12/19/2017 at 2:22 PM, MisterSwig said:

If it exists out in the world as a real, natural thing, then show it to me. Or, if it's invisible, demonstrate its effect on visible things.

The fact that we can perceive things as similar, that we can isolate the abstract property of length which things have in common, seems to demonstrate that.

Obviously I can't go around and show you all men who have ever lived and who ever will live. I can't physically show you an infinite set to prove a universal inductively. That's like asking me to prove that a^2 + b^2 = c^2 by calculating the formula for all natural numbers.

Either you presuppose universality in the first place, and thus are capable of arriving at a universal inductively without observing an infinite number of instances, or else you presuppose that universals aren't real in the first place, in which case absurdity follows (in the problem of induction, subjectivism, and all of the other problems I've been arguing).

Likewise, Rand's stated position is that universals aren't real, and thus there's no way to arrive at a universal inductively. Rand's argument in ITOE in which she describes how to arrive at certainty about the boiling point of water by referencing knowledge about the behavior of H20 molecules is an infinite regress - because the natural next question is how does one arrive at universal knowledge of the behavior of H20 molecules?

On 12/19/2017 at 2:22 PM, MisterSwig said:

So, either Rand referenced "natural kinds" to validate concepts or she denied their existence. Which is it?

When Rand describes acquiring knowledge about the abstract property of length, or certainty about the boiling point of water, or maintaining a non-contradictory definition of man despite a changing context of knowledge, she is implicitly relying on the belief that there are universals (length, water, man), contra her own stated position on the subject.

Edited by intrinsicist

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On 12/24/2017 at 1:10 AM, intrinsicist said:

Eioul, the issue is absolutely whether or not there is anything in reality that holds universally. I'm not following why you're suggesting that's not the issue here. 

Because I think that universally true facts are not the same as universals. Another issue is how we know what those facts are - so I think Rand was focusing on what is true of reality versus how we know it. Universals are given epistemic status. Thanks for taking time to understand my post. I will respond more tomorrow.

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On 12/24/2017 at 1:10 AM, intrinsicist said:

I'm guessing what you mean by a "universal aspect of things", is some aspect that holds for all particulars in a given set. But the "recognition of invariant facts about sets of particulars" is not a universal unless the "set of particulars" you're referring to, is the universal set of all particulars, as in, "for all X, such and such holds". Saying merely "for this specific set of particulars, such and such holds", is not a universal claim, it's just a claim about some particular group of things.

This is what I mean. I am referring to sets of particulars, and that there are invariant facts about these sets as long as we form the sets properly. I claim that the sets are manmade, but if the standard of membership is an invariant fact and based on reality, this is fine. Because the standard refers to all known particulars in that set - we cannot refer to things we don't know of - it is fine to call this universal in an epistemic sense.

Now, I don't doubt that if we knew of all particulars, we'd  be able to demonstrate a universal in a metaphysical sense. I think this nonsense because there IS no way to know of all particulars. This is not a problem though. It's not subjective either, as it is grounded in the world as it is. Moreover, the set would be manmade anyway, you'd select standards of membership. Again, the standards are invariant facts, so we don't fall into subjectivity. That the definition might change is a personal conflict of how to deal with learning. The facts though? Those don't change.

I don't care if this isn't "really" a universal. I think the word is fine. If not, I don't know a  better word.

Overall, I see no issue that what we know to be universal only refers to a delimited set. I don't understand how we -could- refer to all particulars. That would be further from reality.  

 

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So you're telling me that by "universals" you are merely referring to sets of observed particulars.

And you're saying that "the facts don't change" and therefore there's no issue - but what do the facts buy you? How do you interpret anything you observe, how do you predict the future, how do you classify anything new, when you can't infer anything in general about reality? The "man" you've classified today might have nothing to do with the next particular you observe. The ball you're observing in one moment tells you nothing about what you might observe in the next moment. Any particular, any moment that you've yet to observe, you can't say anything about it, because your classifications are all retrospective, they only refer to the particulars you've already observed ("we cannot refer to things we don't know of").

The length "epistemic universal" you invented today can't tell you anything about the length you'll observe tomorrow, because you're telling us that you're not inducing any necessary connection, anything general about reality itself, you're just cataloging regularities in your experiences. You are just making retrospective statistical observations - the moment you start talking about length - every property of length in all places and all times - then you're talking about a universal property out in reality, a metaphysical universal, which is exactly what you're rejecting.

"I don't understand how we -could- refer to all particulars. That would be further from reality." -- and this is exactly the nominalist opinion on concepts. If all we can refer to are particulars, then concepts (e.g. Man, referring to all men who have ever lived and will ever live), actually distort our view of reality, since it's not really like that.

I'm just telling you that calling your epistemic categories "concepts" or "universals" is mistaken. You shouldn't try to claim any of the positive results Ayn Rand tries to claim, like solving the problem of induction, the ability to have conceptual knowledge or certainty about reality, etc. None of this is really consistent with your real view; you are a skeptic about any general statement about reality, a nominalist who believes in categories of convenience, and your epistemic standard (and thus, necessarily, your moral and political standard) is subjective and pragmatic. There are plenty of people who own up to holding exactly this view, like Gordon Stein, or Sam Harris. I'm just asking you to be clear and honest with yourself on exactly where you stand.

If on the other hand you are not truly a skeptic about reality, if deep down you really do believe we can know things that are necessary and certain and universal, then we need to start talking about the metaphysics of universals. Either way there's an inconsistency in Ayn Rand's thinking.

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Is it proper to say that individual trees are not concepts they are just trees but the concept tree objectively refers to the particular trees?  In the same way, a similarity (the common denominator that makes a tree a tree) is not a universal it is just a similarity but the universal (treeness) objectively refers to the similarity.   Is that really all that hard when you think about it?  

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13 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

So you're telling me that by "universals" you are merely referring to sets of observed particulars.

 

I need to make something clearer. When I say "refer", I mean what is pointed at, like when I refer to this keyboard. This is in contrast to "stand for", where I represent the things I refer to. In this sense, I can refer to particulars with symbols that stand for any additional particulars that may be found later.

My concept bird refers to all observed birds, while it stands for all future birds that may be observed.

When the standards of the set I form are based on reality, any new particulars added to the set will behave as the rest of the set. A concept will stand for all future particulars in that set, but only refer to the particulars as we know them now. What I learn about the brain today will tell me about what I would observe tomorrow: the concept "brain" stands for all things that would fit into the standard I set for "brain". There are sometimes modifications to the aspects of the concept "brain" but the essential element remains. In a sense, yes, I catalog regularities of experience, but all of the above allows me to propose and think about new ideas without dismantling the whole concept every day.

An epistemic universal, along Rand's meaning, is a manmade recognition of a selected and timeless essential. 

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5 hours ago, Craig24 said:

Is it proper to say that individual trees are not concepts they are just trees but the concept tree objectively refers to the particular trees?

Sure, the concept tree refers to all particular trees that have ever existed or ever will exist.

5 hours ago, Craig24 said:

In the same way, a similarity (the common denominator that makes a tree a tree) is not a universal it is just a similarity but the universal (treeness) objectively refers to the similarity.

That's not "just a similarity", what you are describing is exactly what is meant by a "metaphysical universal", when all trees share this identical property of "treeness", this common denominator that makes a tree a tree. If such a common denominator exists, if there is such an abstract property of "treeness" that all trees share, then what we are dealing with is a real universal.

What you are expressing is exactly the confusion and contradiction present in ITOE. Rand rejects the existence of real universals, of "treeness" in trees, and yet what she tries to capture in her concepts are real abstract properties shared by all particulars, so that the concept may refer to all the particulars of the kind that have ever existed or will ever exist. She rejects real universals, but relies on them implicitly.

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

My concept bird refers to all observed birds, while it stands for all future birds that may be observed.

I understand that's what you're going for, but my question here has been: how is that possible? How can a symbol meaningfully stand for an unlimited range of yet-to-be-observed particulars without relying on a real universal, some real property that makes them what they are, with which we can make universal claims about all such instances?

It seems like you run into the same problems whether you're talking about things you're "referring to" or things that the symbol "stands for", I'm not seeing what that distinction buys you here.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

When the standards of the set I form are based on reality, any new particulars added to the set will behave as the rest of the set.

Based on what in reality? You're telling me there's this "something" in reality which makes all instances which have this "something" identical by nature. That's an exact description of a real universal!

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

An epistemic universal, along Rand's meaning, is a manmade recognition of a selected and timeless essential. 

I would agree that this is clearly what she is implicitly relying on in numerous places in the book (and in many derivative ways throughout Objectivist philosophy), and yet she specifically rejects the reality of these metaphysical universals, these "timeless essentials" which man "recognizes", the "treeness" in tree or "manness" in man, etc.

The issue here, both with you and with Rand, is the reliance on the real universals while denying them.

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1 hour ago, intrinsicist said:

How can a symbol meaningfully stand for an unlimited range of yet-to-be-observed particulars without relying on a real universal, some real property that makes them what they are, with which we can make universal claims about all such instances?

Invariant facts that apply to the set. That's the thing in reality. I don't call that a universal, because that is only applied to a set I defined. No pre-defined set means nothing binds the facts into a universal except for an epistemic process. You seem to agree on the invariant part. You seem to then suggest these facts are bound naturally, that is, there are natural categories. Perhaps another way to describe our difference: you start with universals then form your sets, while I start with my sets and then define a universal. I say "set" because this is before the concept is formed.

"Stands for" shows that a concept allows for more items in the set based on an unchanging essential - a representation or schematic that holds information. "Refer to" shows the items in the set now. In this way, reference is concrete. A nominalist would probably suggest that there is reference, but also that there is no more information to be found.

1 hour ago, intrinsicist said:

yet she specifically rejects the reality of these metaphysical universals, these "timeless essentials" which man "recognizes", the "treeness" in tree or "manness" in man, etc.

I meant selected and timeless at once. Selected makes it epistemic. If I dropped selected, it'd be metaphysical. If you pick an essential, then never change it, it is timeless.

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On 12/24/2017 at 9:49 AM, DonAthos said:

How do I recognize when something is a "concrete" versus when it is not (if anything can exist without also being "concrete")? Because the claim has been made that some things are not concrete, yes? Eiuol seems to have made that claim directly. So to assess his claim, it would help me to understand what constitutes a "concrete."

To summarize this a bit, I see three basic positions by Objectivists, and the one being articulated by Intrinsicist, whom I'm guessing does not consider himself an Objectivist, since he seems to reject substantial parts of Rand's metaphysics and epistemology. Eiuol argues for metaphysical concretes, and I admit to not really grasping his view. It is unclear to me whether by "metaphysical" he means "existing" or "physically existing." If the former, then he and I have common ground. If the latter, then I would put him with Dream Weaver, who uses the term to refer to physical or material things, in which case we have only half-common ground. For I say a concrete is simply a particular thing of which you are aware. It can be physical or mental in nature, or exist in any kind of form possible in nature. A thing can be real without us knowing about it, but we can't identify it as a concrete until we are aware of it as a particular thing.

If you are aware of something, then you are aware of a concrete. A concrete is a particular thing of awareness. It is like an object, but it doesn't necessarily refer to the entire object. It could refer to particular aspects (or parts) of the object which we identify as particular aspects (or parts) of the object. And since humans can imagine fantastic things, not all concretes exist apart from the minds that imagine them.

To form an abstraction, one must engage in a process of abstraction, which happens at the conceptual level. Likewise, to form a concrete, one must engage in a process of concretization, which happens automatically at the sensory-perceptual level. For example, we see something on the ground. That something is a concrete, distinguished from the ground. Our automatic perception presents it as a distinct thing upon which to focus. Only then can we begin a process of identifying it. Now we focus our perception on the thing, and we are presented with its various aspects, its shape, color, size, texture, smell, taste, sound, relationship, etc. These are all distinct things about the thing on the ground. And we must first be aware of them before we can recognize similarities and abstract from those similarities to form concepts like "roundness," "redness," "smallness," "smoothness," "sweetness," and "foodness," which ultimately help us form an advanced concept of "apple." At first our concept of "apple" might be "a thing to eat that tastes good." But as we gain more knowledge we identify more of its aspects, and therefore the concept develops more sophistication. But the critical point here is that every particular thing we identify about that apple is first and foremost a concrete.

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

That was stated with a particular context.

It's not my intention to misrepresent your position. Are you agreeing, then, that "concrete" can refer to a non-physical thing? I was working on a response to those who say that a concrete must be physical in nature. But if nobody is taking that position, I must then rethink my next post and reply to something else.

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On 12/28/2017 at 4:37 PM, intrinsicist said:

the point is that the abstract attribute of blue or of length is held in common by the particulars, not the exact shade or measure of their lengths.

It seems like you're saying that a particular piece of string, for example, has both an exact color and length and an inexact color and length. The string has both a specific and non-specific shade of blue, and both a precise and imprecise measurement of length. How does that not violate the law of identity?

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On 12/31/2017 at 8:36 AM, Craig24 said:

Is it proper to say that individual trees are not concepts they are just trees but the concept tree objectively refers to the particular trees?  In the same way, a similarity (the common denominator that makes a tree a tree) is not a universal it is just a similarity but the universal (treeness) objectively refers to the similarity.   Is that really all that hard when you think about it?  

That just pushes the problem one step further backward.

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6 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

It's not my intention to misrepresent your position. Are you agreeing, then, that "concrete" can refer to a non-physical thing? I was working on a response to those who say that a concrete must be physical in nature. But if nobody is taking that position, I must then rethink my next post and reply to something else.

Once again, from ITOE2's Appendix—The Role of Words (pg. 273):

AR: And more than that; the fact that Aristotle is right and not Plato is very relevant here: abstractions [universals], as such, do not exist. Only concretes exist. We could not deal with a sum of concrete objects constantly without losing our grasp of them. But what do we do conceptually? We substitute a concrete—a visual or auditory concrete—for the unlimited, open-ended number of concretes which that new concrete subsumes.

Ask yourself about the physical concretes referred to by cats, dogs, cows, chickens, tigers, bears, etc., relationship to the concept of animal. Or the physical concretes referred to by grass, trees, bushes, ferns, rushes, etc., relationship to the concept of vegetation. Or the physical concretes referred to by bacteria, amoeba, etc., relationship to the concept of prokaryotes.

Are animal, vegetable, prokaryotes, etc., concrete and physical enough in nature to be integrated into the concept of living organism?

Do the conceptual chains required to arrive at length, color, weight, consciousness, time, space, speed, acceleration, etc., constitute concrete enough substitutions to qualify as non-physical things? What about the symbols referred to as letters, selectively organized into words, and ultimately comprised into sentences? Are these "concretes" or "non-physical things"? If these are further crafted into paragraphs, does such activity gain greater concreteness or wane deeper into a non-physical status by further structuring?

What, specifically, do you take as a concrete being physical in nature?

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11 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

To summarize this a bit, I see three basic positions by Objectivists, and the one being articulated by Intrinsicist, whom I'm guessing does not consider himself an Objectivist, since he seems to reject substantial parts of Rand's metaphysics and epistemology. Eiuol argues for metaphysical concretes, and I admit to not really grasping his view.

I explained already that like Rand, the only things that exist in a wholly metaphysical sense (not determined by the mind) are things (implying also that some things are true regardless of belief). Concrete, physical things. There are things that exist that are not concrete, which Rand calls existents. Existents themselves have no causal power, anything that acts is grounded as a concrete thing. So, my position is that universals are only real in an epistemic sense. Epistemologue and I agree on what Rand means it looks like, but we disagree on if Rand is right.

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