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patrik 7-2321

What exactly is "full validation" of an idea in Objectivism?

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In Objectivism, a "proof" of an idea is reduction. One thereby goes backwards "down" through the steps necessary to reach the abstract idea, which can be a proposition or a concept, through the necessarily prior ideas, until one reaches the most basic kinds of observations on which the idea depends.

The prime example of this would be the Objectivist proof of the principle of egoism. It is normally proved by reducing the concept "value" down to its necessary prerequisites, which are entities acting to achieve goals in face of the fundamental alternative of life or death.

However, according to Objectivism as I understand it, this kind of reduction-based proof is not enough for a person to be justified in claiming certain knowledge that an idea is true. It is for instance said in How We Know that "full validation" of an idea, as it is called, requires at first reduction but then also non-contradictory integration into one's total knowledge (I think OPAR says this too, for instance at the bottom of page 138 and in other places where proof is discussed, but perhaps not as explicitly).

So, one aquires certain knowledge of an idea after a "full validation" has been performed, which necessarily involves reduction and integration with the rest of one's knowledge.

But where does induction fit into this picture?

Peikoff's course Objectivism Through Induction (OTI) makes a really big deal out of the idea that real understanding and validation of an idea is based on induction. He repeatedly uses the term "inductive proof" (which btw. seems to run contrary to the definition of proof given in OPAR as essentially "reduction". What would "inductive reduction" be?). "Inductive proof" or derivation is the only way to fully validate an idea he basically says - this presupposing a reduction to begin with.

What I end up with is that "full validation" of an idea requires reduction and integration, the integration being based on induction - when I combine the works of OPAR, HWK, and OTI (and more). However why isn't this explicitly stated in either OPAR or HWK, that induction has this crucial role in the integration-part of "full validation" of an idea, if indeed this is the case? Why does this role of induction only show up kind of obscurely in OTI if it is so crucially important as it is claimed in that course?

"Mere" integration of an idea "into the sum of one's knowledge" to me implies a sort of inward-looking, assuming that the content of one's mind is the test of an idea rather than the content of reality, and for that reason the focus on "induction" as in the OTI course appeals to me, because there one is taught to integrate data from direct observation. It sounds more objective to me.

But I'm confused. What is "full validation"? What essential steps do you have to go through to reach certain knowledge of a given proposition?

Edited by patrik 7-2321

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It seems like you're pointing to an apparent conflict between the following claims:

  1. Full validation only requires reduction and integration.
  2. Full validation requires induction.
  3. Induction is distinct from both reduction and integration.

The solution will require rejecting or modifying one of these three claims somehow (probably the third).

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A very accurate summation I would say!

You can also tack on that I am, as perhaps more of a side-issue, confused by Peikoff's occasional usage of the term "inductive proof" in the course OTI [1]. I am also confused by the lack of reference to the importance of induction in the written materials, when it is lauded as so crucially important in the OTI course.

Refs:
[1] just google "ayn rand campus peikoff "inductive poof" " and you should be able to immediately see some relevant transcripts from Peikoff's course on the ARI campus page.

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OTI was created long ago with the laudable goal of combating a tendency toward rationalism.  However, there was not an actual theory of induction within Objectivism during Rand's lifespan (and arguably there still isn't since Objectivism as Rand knew it became a closed system upon her death).  So it is a question whether what Peikoff and Rand were doing in OTI is actually induction in the technical philosophical sense.

Binwanger is unreliable due to his radical dualism.  In any contradiction between Binwanger and Rand or a Peikoff/Rand presentation dump Binswanger.

Peikoff and Harriman authored "The Logical Leap: Induction in Physics" which is little more than the claim that the process of concept formation is induction.  That doesn't satisfy many people looking for a theory of induction who are not already Objectivists and many who are.

Peikoff's lecture course "Art of Thinking" lecture 6 covers "aspects of certainty excised from OPAR for space".  The four aspects covered are thinking about the future, thinking in terms of statistics, does present context of knowledge limit certainty, and does certainty imply error is impossible.   I wonder how much your line questioning here is motivated by an underlying confusion about certainty, and if that should be your next question.

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9 hours ago, Grames said:

Binwanger is unreliable due to his radical dualism.  In any contradiction between Binwanger and Rand or a Peikoff/Rand presentation dump Binswanger.

Respectfully, I think this is the wrong methodology. When two authors disagree, the right reaction isn't to decide ahead of time that one of them is right and the other is wrong just because of who they are. Instead, I think we ought to study each author carefully until we have a solid grasp of what each respectively is saying, then compare the two positions to determine which has better evidence and arguments in its favor.

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10 hours ago, William O said:

Respectfully, I think this is the wrong methodology. When two authors disagree, the right reaction isn't to decide ahead of time that one of them is right and the other is wrong just because of who they are. Instead, I think we ought to study each author carefully until we have a solid grasp of what each respectively is saying, then compare the two positions to determine which has better evidence and arguments in its favor.

Yeah, but it would be a digression from the topic of the thread to go over Binswanger's dualism and then why dualism is bad.  A heuristic was in order, IMHO.

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Patrick, I have a hypothesis about how Dr. Binswanger might answer your question.

In HWK (p. 262), he writes:

Quote

A derivation moves in thought from what is closer to perception to what is farther from perception. Reduction is the same process in reverse, moving back down the same hierarchical structure, with the hierarchy terminating in the self evident data of perception. Derivation is from perception; proof is back to perception.

The two directions - derivation and proof - apply to both deduction and induction.

He then gives an example of a deductive derivation, a deductive proof, an inductive derivation, and an inductive proof. (This happens on p. 262-264.)

Now, let's try to answer your question:

Quote

So, one aquires certain knowledge of an idea after a "full validation" has been performed, which necessarily involves reduction and integration with the rest of one's knowledge.

But where does induction fit into this picture? 

As the above passage makes clear, reduction can be inductive. Reduction is nothing more than walking backwards through the derivation that originally led to the idea. If the derivation was inductive, the reduction or proof will be inductive as well.

 

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13 hours ago, Grames said:

Yeah, but it would be a digression from the topic of the thread to go over Binswanger's dualism and then why dualism is bad.  A heuristic was in order, IMHO.

Grames, I for one, and several others I'm sure would like to read your thinking on dualism - etc. The relationship of dualism to rationalism - and - of reductive materialism to empiricism and skepticism, for that matter. Can I prevail upon you to open a thread?

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Binswanger himself compiled the Lexicon, here is soul-body dichotomy

Rand comprehensively rejects the mind-body dichotomy in ethics and epistemology but somehow Binswanger thinks that leaves space open in ontology for some kind of substance that makes consciousness possible, or which is the essence of consciousness.  But if that were true it would be rather impossible reject that dualism in the logically dependent fields of epistemology and ethics.  Binswanger can't be understood as an Objectivist philosopher any longer.  What more needs to be said?

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24 minutes ago, Grames said:

Binswanger himself compiled the Lexicon, here is soul-body dichotomy

Rand comprehensively rejects the mind-body dichotomy in ethics and epistemology but somehow Binswanger thinks that leaves space open in ontology for some kind of substance that makes consciousness possible, or which is the essence of consciousness.  But if that were true it would be rather impossible reject that dualism in the logically dependent fields of epistemology and ethics.  Binswanger can't be understood as an Objectivist philosopher any longer.  What more needs to be said?

Binswanger is a property dualist, which as far as I know is consistent with Objectivism.

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23 minutes ago, William O said:

Binswanger is a property dualist, which as far as I know is consistent with Objectivism.

Rand insists that existence IS identity, that an entity is its attributes, all of them.  There is no place for any form of dualism in Objectivism.

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~Some Notes on the Concept(s) of Validity in Objectivist Epistemology~

Validity within propositional and predicate logic is generally taken to mean: that merit of argument in which the conclusion cannot be false if the premises are true. We speak also of validity in property titles and in contracts. Kant had much work for a sense of validity in epistemology joining those two senses. He announces in the Preface to the first edition of the Critique of Pure Reason that a central component of that work “refers to the objects of pure understanding and is intended to make comprehensible the objective validity of understanding’s a priori concepts” (xvi).

That general epistemological sense of objective validity in concepts is useful in application to concepts and propositions in philosophical systems besides Kant’s. In his mature, pragmatic philosophy, Dewey writes: “According to experimental inquiry, the validity of the object of thought depends upon the consequences of the operations which define the object of thought” (1929, 103). Speaking of experiment, Dewey refers to the process “by which the conclusion is reached that such and such a judgment of an object is valid” (ibid., 230). Logical positivist Ayer writes: “In saying that we propose to show ‘how propositions are validated’, we do not of course mean to suggest that all propositions are validated in the same way. On the contrary we lay stress on the fact that the criterion by which we determine the validity of an a priori or analytic proposition is not sufficient to determine the validity of an empirical or synthetic proposition. For it is characteristic of empirical propositions that their validity is not purely formal” (1952, 90). For Ayer one can validate a proposition either by finding it to be analytic or by finding it to be empirically verified.

Rand remarked: “Objective validity is determined by reference to the facts of reality. . . . Man cannot know more than he has discovered—and he may not know less than the evidence indicates, if his concepts and definitions are to be objectively valid. / . . . When new evidence confronts him, he has to expand his definitions according to the evidence, if they are to be objectively valid” (ITOE 46).

“How does one determine and objective definition valid for all men? It is determined according to the widest context of knowledge available to man on the subjects relevant to the units of a given concept. / . . . An objective definition valid for all men, is one that designates the essential distinguishing characteristic(s) and genus of the existents subsumed under a given concept—according to all the relevant knowledge available at that stage of mankind’s development” (ibid.).

Expanding a bit on a point noted by Patrik: In Rand’s philosophy, Peikoff takes validation to be “any process of establishing an idea’s relationship to reality, whether deductive reasoning, inductive reasoning, or perceptual self-evidence” (1991, 8). As Peikoff had expressed it in his 1976 lecture series The Philosophy of Objectivism,validation, in the broad sense includes any process of relating mental contents to the facts of reality. Direct perception . . . is one such process. Proof designates another type of validation. Proof is the process of deriving a conclusion logically from antecedent knowledge” (see further, Peikoff 1991, 118–20, 137–38).

Returning to Rand, she further observes “there are such things as invalid concepts, i.e., words that represent attempts to integrate errors, contradictions or false propositions, . . . or words without specific definitions, without referents, which can mean anything to anyone . . . . An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion” (ITOE 49).

I think of objectively meaningless concepts as a type of invalid concept. They are a subdivision of that type of error; not every invalid concept is objectively meaningless. Rand constructs an invalid concept man in which his ability to run is taken for his essential characteristic and running entities is taken as genus of the concept (ITOE 71). To better absorb this example, one should imagine that one does not have the other conception and definition of man rational animal, not even implicitly. Try to imagine that for basic adult definition of man one has only the definition running animal, alongside running water and so forth as species of running entities.

That would be a misidentification of the essential trait of man. It would be an objectively invalid concept, though not an objectively meaningless concept. Such a concept is assessable for validity. It is assessable for contradiction with reality, including contradiction with other concepts warranted by reality in the present context of knowledge. That is to say, such a concept is objectively meaningful, though it is objectively invalid.

Edited by Boydstun

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Grames,

Thanks for reminding me to think about "certainty" in this context, and for recommending lecture 6 of The Art of Thinking. 

My understanding of certainty thus far has been that it refers to the degree to which one can legitimately be confident that an idea corresponds to reality. One is fully certain that something is true when one knows it to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, on the basis of all available evidence.

As I have understood it, full certainty of an idea requires a bottom-up induction. Take "capitalism is the only moral social system": one can reduce it all the way down to metaethics and conclude that it is logically consistent with one's knowledge, but in order to REALLY understand it and claim certainty of its truth from a position of good understanding, I think this requires grasping the proposition by induction in hierarchical order, by forming its constituent concepts in their necessary order of abstraction starting from the senses, inducing the prerequisite generalizations in their hierarchical order, from observation all the way up to the proposition. (And somehow comparing the morality of capitalism to other social systems in order to justify the inclusion of "only"). Is there something amiss with this view do you think?

[As a sidenote: I would personally not brush off Binswanger as "unreliable" in any general sense. I have learned and still keep learning plenty from him. I have thought about this potential "dualism" of his but I don't know what to make of it. If he indeed is a "dualist" then at least he is not consistent with it, as he for example explicitly argues against it in HWK. Perhaps worthy of its own thread.]

Edited by patrik 7-2321

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Thanks for your comments. This is mainly in response to the comment by William O.

After some reflection I must say that I actually find the notion that reduction is (or can be) induction or "Inductive" almost absurd. Mostly due to the fact that my understanding is that induction is hierarchical and must be performed bottom-up from the senses to the abstract, and reduction goes in the reverse order.

When I reduce a proposition I conclude what must be established before what, in hierarchical order, for the proposition to be true. If it turns out that no reduction is possible, then there is some illogic in the proposition rendering it false (or possible arbitrary?). If a reduction is possible and logical, then the product I get is a series of concepts and/or propositions which I know in theory would have to be conceptually grasped or induced in ascending order, in order to finally induce the proposition I started with, thus deriving it from my own experience. When the final induction and/or stepwise concept-formation is completed, and when I have also integrated it logically with the rest of my knowledge, then I should have "completely" or "fully" validated and understood the proposition I started with - according to my understanding of Oist epistemology.

This process necessitates that reduction is distinct from induction. Reduction is establishing the structure of a potential future induction that would in theory have to be made in order to reach the objective understanding that (and how) the starting proposition corresponds to reality. Before you do the induction, however, you haven't yet formed the concepts or induced the preliminary propositions which the original proposition depends on, and you do not have an objective understanding of its truth. All you have is a list of inductions and integrations that you know you would in theory have to be able to logically make in order for the starting proposition to be true - which you don't know yet.

If that is indeed a correct picture of reduction and its relationship to induction, I do not see how reduction could be "a kind of induction", or "inductive" or similar. (I don't think the the genus or CCD of "reduction" is "induction".)

If you "induce while reducing," and thereby try to grasp the truth and meaning of a proposition, aren't you thereby trying to gain knowledge in reverse hierarchical order, top-down? As I understand the hierarchy of knowledge, you have to grasp the "lower" elements (closer to the senses) before you can grasp the "higher" (more abstract), but reduction moves from the higher to the lower, so if you try to "induce while reducing" then aren't you inducing in the order opposite to the required one? If induction could be done from top to bottom, while reducing, why does Peikoff NOT do that in OTI, but instead reduces top-down, then reverses direction and induces bottom-up? His approach respects hierarchy as one would have to, it seems to me.

Thoughts?

Edited by patrik 7-2321

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10 hours ago, patrik 7-2321 said:

Thanks for your comments. This is mainly in response to the comment by William O.

After some reflection I must say that I actually find the notion that reduction is (or can be) induction or "Inductive" almost absurd. Mostly due to the fact that my understanding is that induction is hierarchical and must be performed bottom-up from the senses to the abstract, and reduction goes in the reverse order.

First of all, do you agree that my interpretation of Binswanger is likely to be correct? It's useful to separate the stages of interpretation and evaluation when reading philosophy. (After all, if I'm wrong about what he is saying then we're wasting our time discussing my interpretation.)

Secondly, regarding your concern about the alleged absurdity of inductive reduction, I'd ask you to read page 264 of HWK, where Binswanger gives two examples of inductive proof or reduction. Here's the first:

Quote

The corresponding reductive proof goes in the other direction:

"Does high heat burn paper? Yes, because fire burns paper, highly focused sunlight burns paper, and a very hot oven burns it, but applying less heat in each case does not, so the common factor is high heat."

Binswanger also gives a second, longer example involving the Law of Demand in economics, which I will not quote here. I assume you have the book with you, so you can read that on your own.

I would describe the process of reasoning in these reductive proofs as inductive rather than deductive. Do you disagree?

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11 hours ago, patrik 7-2321 said:

[As a sidenote: I would personally not brush off Binswanger as "unreliable" in any general sense. I have learned and still keep learning plenty from him. I have thought about this potential "dualism" of his but I don't know what to make of it. If he indeed is a "dualist" then at least he is not consistent with it, as he for example explicitly argues against it in HWK. Perhaps worthy of its own thread.]

I agree with the above.

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