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15 hours ago, SpookyKitty said:

That just pushes the problem one step further backward.

Interesting.  What's the problem as you see it?

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On 1/1/2018 at 10:49 PM, Eiuol said:

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.

I assume that in this context, by existents you meant "mental existents) or am I wrong? Isn't existents a category that includes both concrete and abstractions?

So the realness, the fact that they are real or not is based on their causal powers?

The thing that caught my eye is the idea that they have no causal power. If a human forms a concept, finds a new way of seeing things that make something very easy, isn't there a causal relationship between the aha moment and the rest of his behavior?

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3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I assume that in this context, by existents you meant "mental existents) or am I wrong? Isn't existents a category that includes both concrete and abstractions?

Oops. Yes, I wasn't clear. It include both. Existents are all real - the abstract ones only in an epistemic sense.

3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

If a human forms a concept, finds a new way of seeing things that make something very easy, isn't there a causal relationship between the aha moment and the rest of his behavior?

Well, it's not that the idea did the acting. That's apprehending the world and retaining information.

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7 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Well, it's not that the idea did the acting. That's apprehending the world and retaining information.

Ok, the idea did not do the acting. The volitional being chose/acted.

Won’t a volitional being, put in the exact same circumstances,  (including) the same knowledge/mental entities, behave exactly the same way? I believe I saw a video of Kelly’s saying yes to that question.

If one thinks there is an abys in front of him, he won’t take a step when in fact it is physically possible. But the will, the volition can be locked, unable to move simply by this mental entity (called abys). To counter it, the idea "solid floor" permits action.

If so, then without the idea (or the new idea), the person won’t do what the idea permits. The implication is that an idea makes something possible or impossible to volition. Aren’t there situations where for x to be possible, the idea y is a necessary condition? My position is that the idea is always necessary, not just sometimes, therefore mental entities do in fact have causal powers. Without them, there is no action.

 

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9 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Won’t a volitional being, put in the exact same circumstances,  (including) the same knowledge/mental entities, behave exactly the same way?

You present an example (the abyss) where the subject's life depends on the choice, and he knows the life-saving option (don't take a step forward). But what if he doesn't know the correct choice? What if he's stuck on an island and manages to build a makeshift rowboat. However, he doesn't know which direction is the mainland. So does he head toward the rising sun, the setting sun, or something in between?

And what if his life does not depend on the choice? Let's say he's sitting at a table preparing to eat at a restaurant. On his plate are a steak, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. They all look very good. Which item does he taste first?

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11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Won’t a volitional being, put in the exact same circumstances,  (including) the same knowledge/mental entities, behave exactly the same way? I believe I saw a video of Kelly’s saying yes to that question.

Yes. Why do you ask?

I don't deny that mental content matters. My idea is that entities are the only things that act. Thoughts are not entities though they are crucial to action. In a sense mental existents "do" things, but there are still concrete entities that act.

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Thoughts or "mental entities" are, strictly speaking, attributes of an entity: the person having that thought.   Attributes are existents.

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8 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Yes. Why do you ask?

I don't deny that mental content matters. My idea is that entities are the only things that act. Thoughts are not entities though they are crucial to action. In a sense mental existents "do" things, but there are still concrete entities that act.

 

I asked because I was expecting you to say "No", that volition was outside the realm of cause and effect.

My reading of what you say "that mental content matters", implies that it has "small" causal powers. How can something matter, yet have no causal power?

Unless, perhaps, one thinks of mental entities as attributes of the concrete being that acts. My understanding is that attributes don't cause. If they were attributes, then okay, they don't have causal powers. But a mental entity is not an attribute like "redness". You emphasize that they are entities. But effectless, entities. I have to think about that.

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9 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

You present an example (the abyss) where the subject's life depends on the choice, and he knows the life-saving option (don't take a step forward). But what if he doesn't know the correct choice? What if he's stuck on an island and manages to build a makeshift rowboat. However, he doesn't know which direction is the mainland. So does he head toward the rising sun, the setting sun, or something in between?

And what if his life does not depend on the choice? Let's say he's sitting at a table preparing to eat at a restaurant. On his plate are a steak, mashed potatoes, and asparagus. They all look very good. Which item does he taste first?

 

The case I am making is that he will act based on his mental entities. I am not making the case that the mental entities always correspond to reality, that they will "cause" the correct choice. As an aside, know or not, one will make a choice based on what is in their psyche. You don't make a decision in a vacuum. Again, making the case that mental entities do have causal powers.

Depending on how he has categorized this (I assume that will include importance too), he will make the one that fits what the mental entities (in this case, premises) would lead to.

 

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6 hours ago, Grames said:

Thoughts or "mental entities" are, strictly speaking, attributes of an entity: the person having that thought.   Attributes are existents.

 

Somehow, I had missed your post Grames. Yes, I came to the conclusion that "mental entities" can be seen as attributes. But Eiuol seems to emphasize that they are entities rather than attributes.

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Unless, perhaps, one thinks of mental entities as attributes of the concrete being that acts. My understanding is that attributes don't cause.

Yes, exactly. I didn't "emphasize" that they are entities. See Grames' post.

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3 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

I asked because I was expecting you to say "No", that volition was outside the realm of cause and effect.

Addendum: See this thread for my full answer:

 

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18 hours ago, Grames said:

Thoughts or "mental entities" are, strictly speaking, attributes of an entity: the person having that thought.   Attributes are existents.

 

Then to be even more "unambiguous" (and nit picky), shouldn't the statement be "Attributes are a type of existent". Because an attribute is not identical to an existent. An attribute is a subspecies of an existent.

I emphasize this because then that would clarify that mental entities are a specific type of existent (a non self sufficient kind). The confusion is in that one can hear "mental entities" as being entities that are a self-sufficient form of existence which ultimately is not what you want it to mean.

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16 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

The case I am making is that he will act based on his mental entities. I am not making the case that the mental entities always correspond to reality, that they will "cause" the correct choice. As an aside, know or not, one will make a choice based on what is in their psyche. You don't make a decision in a vacuum. Again, making the case that mental entities do have causal powers.

How do you get from "we act based on mental entities" to "mental entities have causal power over decisions"? If I act based on what my girlfriend tells me, does that mean she has causal power over my decisions? Or does it mean she has influence over me? If I were willing to accept the consequences, I could simply ignore my girlfriend. Likewise, I could ignore my mental entities. I don't have to do everything that pops into my head. Or even everything I want to do. Right now I want to go have a meal, but I could starve myself for a couple days before hunger pain would finally compel me to find some food. So, aren't mental entities more influential than causal when it comes to volitional action?

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2 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

If I act based on what my girlfriend tells me, does that mean she has causal power over my decisions? Or does it mean she has influence over me?

I suppose I consider x having influence over y as having some causal power. Meaning if without x, y would not do z, then x is a necessary condition for z to happen. X has some responsibility for z. X has some causal power.

Similarly, if Person A, hits a crossroad, he can only go left or right. When mental entity G exists in his psyche, he goes to the left, if not he goes to the right. Then, one can infer that G causes a turn to the left.

This was using "Mill's methods". 

But using the Objectivist model of causation, Person A causes the movement to the left or the right, not the mental entity, because without "Person A" existing, the mental entity can't/doesn't exist.

  

 

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7 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then to be even more "unambiguous" (and nit picky), shouldn't the statement be "Attributes are a type of existent". Because an attribute is not identical to an existent. An attribute is a subspecies of an existent.

Well yeah, attributes are existents; bananas are fruits. Banana is a subspecies of a fruit.

Your sense of causal is fine as long as you remember that attributes aren't actors.

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8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then to be even more "unambiguous" (and nit picky), shouldn't the statement be "Attributes are a type of existent". Because an attribute is not identical to an existent. An attribute is a subspecies of an existent.

I emphasize this because then that would clarify that mental entities are a specific type of existent (a non self sufficient kind). The confusion is in that one can hear "mental entities" as being entities that are a self-sufficient form of existence which ultimately is not what you want it to mean.

"Attributes are existents" is fine.  Propositions of the form "All S is P" do not imply that also "All P are S".   But yes it is correct that  "Attributes are a type of existent".

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On 12/31/2017 at 3:14 PM, intrinsicist said:

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!

What if it's not inherently identical?

 

If I say that three pencils all have "length" I obviously can't mean that they all have some sort of disembodied labels to that effect, with identical names but unique values. Rather, wouldn't it make more sense to say that all three are objects whose shapes are easily comparable to each other, but which won't impress any such concept onto me unless I do the comparing?

Similarly, one could also describe a basketball as having "length" in a more geometrical and abstract sense - and that's exactly what would make it "more abstract"; that it's much less obvious to compare a sphere to a rod in that way. Which is why mathematicians make the big bucks. ;)

The labels of "length" in essence, then, would themselves be in my own head but only after I'd derived them from some metaphysical fact; from something I'd observed about a certain arrangement of matter. How does it go - "entities are the only primary existents"?

So in one sense, you seem to be right, but not in another sense.

 

---

 

You guys seem to have been playing ring-around-the-rosy between intrinsicism and subjectivism ever since the OP framed the question as whether universals are "in here" or "out there". I believe Rand would've rejected that whole dichotomy (and if she wouldn't have then I think she should've).

 

Existence is Identity.

Consciousness is Identification.

 

On 1/1/2018 at 10:44 PM, dream_weaver said:

This is followed by an example going from "a visual or auditory concrete" to a tactile case involving Helen Keller.

 

PostScript:

 

I agree with @MisterSwig's use of "concrete", as opposed to @Eiuol's (I think - he did get a bit metaphysical towards the end, there). I don't remember Rand using "concrete" to mean specifically physical and extraspective; just individual and directly perceivable (even introspectively perceivable).

 

I would agree wholeheartedly with @intrinsicist's assertions about metaphysical universals if he'd phrased it as "similar" or "comparable" instead of insisting on "identical".

Ultimately, no two things in the universe are perfectly identical. Even if someone were to hypothetically clone some object with something like a Replicator from Star Trek - if the cloned object was physical then it could not share its parent's location, which would necessarily leave them at least one difference. But we don't need things to be perfectly identical in order to form concepts about them; just close enough.

 

The valid extent of anything we learn about things with such approximate similarities is not necessarily cut and dry, no matter how well we do our part of the process.

Just look up the main problem with experimenting on mice instead of people. At the end of the day, as similar as we are, a man is not a mouse.

Well. Some of us aren't, at least. ;)

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
PostScript

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1 hour ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

@MisterSwig@Eiuol

But we don't need things to be perfectly identical in order to form concepts about them; just close enough.

@intrinsicist
 

But "approximation" is a subjective standard, and does not capture what Rand means by similarity. It is based on definitive value ranges. Your idea here is more like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reliabilism

 

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On 12/31/2017 at 6:13 PM, Eiuol said:

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.

Again, I already understand what you're saying. You've defined some set of particulars - not a universal set, but a finite set - and you've identified some invariant facts about that set - which are not universals, but rather they are just abstract properties of that particular set.

And again, the question I'm asking is, how can you extend that to particulars outside of your cherry-picked set? You're telling me it "stands for" an unlimited range of things abstractly, but concretely it only refers to some particular set of items you've already identified. How do you know that the abstraction you've come up with actually does apply to the full range of things that it stands for? 

You believe that,

On 12/31/2017 at 12:17 PM, Eiuol said:

any new particulars added to the set will behave as the rest of the set.

so apparently you do believe that you're identifying a universal in reality. Call it what you want - it functions as a universal. It abstractly identifies something in reality that is timeless, something where instances at all times and in all cases will behave in this same way. If you're trying to extend your abstraction across all instances at all times, and out into reality (in the sense that you actually believe that it will predict the future behavior of things in reality), then you are talking about something that is metaphysical and universal. A nominalist is someone who rejects that any such thing is metaphysically possible or epistemologically justifiable.

If you deny the existence of universals metaphysically, then there's no reason to believe that your abstraction will extend beyond the range of the small set of particulars it currently refers to (and certainly not to believe that you have knowledge or certainty about it). In that case these "universal" epistemological abstractions don't provide knowledge, you can't have certainty about them - and indeed the opinion of a nominalist is that the use of or belief in such "epistemological universals" is foolish and counter-productive, after all, what's the point in having or believing in some "timeless essential" if it's not referring to something that is actually timeless in reality? These universal abstractions actually distort your view of reality since there are no such things. All you have are retrospective categories of reference guided by pragmatism.

Again, as I've been saying, nominalists of all kinds own up to this and wear it proudly, declaring that all that is possible to man are pragmatically guided categories and statistical correlations, and that belief in concepts, in universals that actually hold in reality, is akin to a religious fantasy which we must break ourselves from and "be real".

So you really have to pick a side here. Either you believe that there are these knowable universals which actually hold in reality, or else that there is no such thing. You can't keep telling me that there is nothing in reality which holds universally, but that you can still have knowledge of things which hold universally. You can't. You either need to own up to your metaphysical stance epistemologically, or own up to your epistemological stance metaphysically. You can't have it both ways. You can't steal the concept of metaphysical universality in your epistemology while denying it in your metaphysics - not if you're being honest with yourself. Either you have a merely pragmatic stance (i.e. "I'll hold this as if it's a universal, even though I don't believe in such things, since that seems to work well") in which case you ought to own up to that epistemologically as a nominalist, or else you do believe that universal knowledge is possible but you're operating on a stolen metaphysical premise, in which case you ought to own up to that metaphysically as an intrinsicist.

Given the absurdity and incoherence of the former, I'd suggest going with intrinsicism.

Edited by intrinsicist

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On 1/15/2018 at 4:44 PM, intrinsicist said:

You've defined some set of particulars - not a universal set, but a finite set - and you've identified some invariant facts about that set - which are not universals, but rather they are just abstract properties of that particular set.

Aren't you conflating the act of "defining" with the act of "observing"? A definition (by definition) includes "beyond" the observed set that it was inferred from.

There may also be a problem with using the phrase "finite set" since infinity does not exist.

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On 1/15/2018 at 6:44 PM, intrinsicist said:

And again, the question I'm asking is, how can you extend that to particulars outside of your cherry-picked set?

Because by definition the set is only things that meet the standard already selected. There is nothing to miss. There is nothing to leave out. Say I'm working with the concept "bird", and set the essential as "has wings". By definition, this will include all winged things. If you said "what about that red thing with wings, you forgot that", I'd say "so we add it, we don't need to think harder than that". Now, if you intend to refer to animals with wings, and not mechanical things with wings (if the red thing is a plane), that means the set fails to refer to what you wanted to reference. The problem isn't with the set missing something, it's that it has no cognitive role for thinking about animals. As I said before, our disagreement is whether it's right to -begin- with a set of concretes, or to -begin- with the category.

I have no issue saying that intrinsic properties exist. I don't think Rand does either. My problem with the idea that particulars are naturally bound together without your mental intervention. Consider that a rock is bound together as a concrete entity. But to form the concept rock is different. The "set of all rocks" are bound together insofar as you performed a mental operation to do this.

How do you propose that all rocks are bound together into a universal set? Why should I think they are bound, and metaphysically given as bound?

If this is a belief in metaphysical universals, I really don't think this is accurate to say. It doesn't fit what I understand metaphysical means. I'm saying the timeless thing is manmade. The timeless thing is made of metaphysically given facts for the most basic concepts. All we need to do is define the starting set properly.

 

Edited by Eiuol

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On 1/17/2018 at 5:35 PM, Eiuol said:

Because by definition the set is only things that meet the standard already selected. There is nothing to miss.

Louie, I understand that. You can define a category of "winged things" which is open-ended, and therefore includes all winged things you've yet to observe. What I don't understand is why you aren't proceeding to my next question from there, as it is still unanswered. The question is regarding your belief that "any new particulars added to the set will behave as the rest of the set". Obviously any new instance added to the set will have wings, but what else can you say of it besides that? I'm suggesting that without such a thing as a natural class, that you are merely forming a nominal category, in other words the category is merely analytical, and the only thing you can infer from classifying something as a "winged thing" is that it has wings. Which is of course useless.

If there is no natural kind backing the concept, then there's no justification for inferring anything beyond what you've already defined. If on the other hand your concepts are identifying a natural kind, then there's a necessary connection between all particulars in the set, from which you can justifiably infer things like "any new particulars added to the set will behave as the rest of the set".

Do you understand this distinction here at least? I've been trying to describe these two fundamentally different ideas of concepts/universals, and how very different they are philosophically.

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4 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

The question is regarding your belief that "any new particulars added to the set will behave as the rest of the set".

 

"Will behave" in that context means "will fit in" (be similar). "Will behave" is said in an epistemic context. From your perspective, that context does not exist so I suspect you hear it differently.

Differences and similarities are what determine categories, not necessarily (only) how they behave/act. Also, a universal is a universal simply because it was detected/abstracted, NOT because it was useful.
 

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15 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

...and the only thing you can infer from classifying something as a "winged thing" is that it has wings. Which is of course useless.

It is not useless to employ prior knowledge about winged things also to this winged particular.  It might fly away (if it isn't already in flight).

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