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I am not talking about the truth values of statements, I am talking about how Peikoff divides traditional statements of possibility.

You still have it wrong, though. Illogical and self-contradictory claims are not a species of the arbitrary or of the possible (nor are they part of the "traditional" definition of "possible").

I personally think it might be unclear where concepts such as "God" fall as "arbitrary" or "false" under the Objectivist system.
In another thread, David and I go over this one pretty thouroughly. Basically it depends on what kind of "God" you mean. Self-contradictory examples such as the Christian God are false, whereas examples that don't violate logic such as the Greek gods are arbitrary.

Perhaps illogical statements are treated as "false" by Peikoff,

Yes, that's right.

it really doesn't matter as those are not treated as "possible" by the accepted definition either.
My point is that you still don't understand Peikoff's position. And yet you critique it. Ask yourself: Is that proper?

The accepted usage of "possible" covers all such claims non-exclusively.

But that's just it. It doesn't cover the case of something where there is no evidence either way. Sure, it includes it, under the traditional definition, but what tradition term includes "that which has no evidence either way" but does not include "that which has weak evidence for and does not contradict known evidence or laws." Peikoff was making a point that the former does not belong in the same epistemological category as the latter. To do this, it is completely justified and necessary to use two separate words!

But the traditional definition does just the opposite: "possible" includes all things which do not contradict known facts or laws; it provides no exclusive category for things which, while not contradicting known facts or laws, have absolutely no evidence.

I never said there was no reason, in fact in my previous post I hypothetically went down the path Rand/Peikoff might have in desiring new definitions. I simply think whatever reason they did have is not sufficiently useful to warrant redefinition.
"Insufficient reason," then. The point is still that this opinion of yours is based on your ignorance of what exactly Objectivism is doing and why. Of course, we can't argue that now; not until we resolve this issue. But call it foreshadowing...

This is completely untrue.

Okay, I'm going to take a radical approach here. What is completely untrue. I don't think you understand what I said. Could I ask you to restate it in your own words, so that I can know first that you know what I meant?

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First SoftwareNerd, you read correctly, I agreed.

Second, words need be specific to the concepts they represent. They are auditory symbols for concepts. However, it is also true that words serve zero purpose if you use them in a fashion that others are not familiar with. I could arbitrarily move every word in the dictionary down a spot to represent the next definition in line, that way no words are lost, and no meanings are lost, just words would represent different meanings. The words would still serve as succinct auditory symbols, so they fulfill their first role, but then when I spoke them, no one would have a clue in hell what I meant. And thus they would fail the second role of communication.

So, if no word previously existed that explained things as "neither true nor false, but has no evidence to support it," then why not create an entirely new word? Leave the old one with its old meaning, and create a new one for your (all you's and your's are in general--not specifically anyone)personal use. That way when the word is uttered, there is no confusion about what it means, instead the person you are talking to will not have a clue what the word means and will ask you, and then you can give him the definition.

But when you redefine words to something other than the common definition and do not forewarn people before using it in an argument, that is a huge error in argument technique. And I would argue that it is best to stay away from redefinitions.

Every word in the dictionary has a definition, and if you want to create a concept that isn't already in the dictionary--then you ought create a new word for it, not steal a word who's definition you don't like.

And obviously I am not accusing you of this, because I doubt you've written any philosophical works that redefine things as you see fit. However, just in general--it is bad habit to have.

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You still have it wrong, though. Illogical and self-contradictory claims are not a species of the arbitrary or of the possible (nor are they part of the "traditional" definition of "possible").

If I made it appear I thought that was the case I am correcting that now.

My point is that you still don't understand Peikoff's position. And yet you critique it. Ask yourself: Is that proper?

I understand Peikoff's definition of "possible" and that is really all my position is on at the moment.

But that's just it. It doesn't cover the case of something where there is no evidence either way. Sure, it includes it, under the traditional definition, but what tradition term includes "that which has no evidence either way" but does not include "that which has weak evidence for and does not contradict known evidence or laws." Peikoff was making a point that the former does not belong in the same epistemological category as the latter. To do this, it is completely justified and necessary to use two separate words!

I don't wish to sidetrack this thread into a discussion of the possibility argument again as I don't think it is productive.

As I said, I challenge you to provide a hypothetical where Peikoff's defintions cause the analysis to arrive at one result and the standard definitions to arrive at another. I don't think such a hypothetical exists, but I leave it to you to prove me wrong. My point in this communication thread is that Peikoff's definitions are non-essential to the philosophy and also confusing to other scolars, so if you can produce an example where they are essential that means that any confusion or communication problems they cause are irrelevant.

Can you provide the proof that the definitions are correct? That is both a question and an invitation.

As I said, the definitions are what they are. I don't want to get into a long discussion of possibility again, we already had one long thread about that. If you are talking about whether the standard terms have any reference to reality, then the short answer is that they do to the same degree Peikoff's do. My point is not that Peikoff's definitions are so much "wrong" metaphysically as unnecessary and confusing practically. The worth of a definition is not only in how well it states the underlying nature of reality but in how useful it is in communicating the concept among humans. I hold that Peikoff's definitions are not useful in that regard.

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Every word in the dictionary has a definition, and if you want to create a concept that isn't already in the dictionary--then you ought create a new word for it, not steal a word who's definition you don't like.

First let me express my general agreement that if a person intends to use a word in a manner that is not commonly defined, I do think it's best if the define how they are using the word before using it in an argument or discussion. Now, I know that that does not always happen here, but that is because of the nature of this forum, and it is frequently understood (and yes sometimes not) in what context a word it being used. This is an Objectivist forum after all.

However, it is not wholly accurate to say "every word in the dictionary has a definition" since quite a few words in the dictionary have multiple definitions. I suspect this happened over the course of time as certain words began to be used to mean sometimes different and sometimes similar things. Are there any dictionary definitions that you take issue with because they have multiple definitions? Do you take issue with dictionary definition words in which two different words mean the same thing?

For the sake of argument, would you oppose the Objectivist use of some word (for example "arbitrary") if it suddenly found it's way into a dictionary and now the word had one more definition (as it already has about 4-5 definitions as is) just as has happened many times in the past? By what process is a new definition accepted and placed into a dictionary? How long does it take a new word to make it into a dictionary? ...into common enough usage to prevent confusion? Would folks have less of a communication issue with Objectivists if Rand or Peikoff used the word "arbitary" as a new word for their use of the word "arbitrary"? (That last four questions can be rhetorical if you like but are also issues affecting clear communications)

Also, I'm not sure you give a fair characterization (because the don't like the existing defintion) of Rand's or Peikoff's "definition changing". I think the intent (whether you agree or not with the result) was to provide essentialized, objective defintions to certain words.

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First let me express my general agreement that if a person intends to use a word in a manner that is not commonly defined, I do think it's best if the define how they are using the word before using it in an argument or discussion. Now, I know that that does not always happen here, but that is because of the nature of this forum, and it is frequently understood (and yes sometimes not) in what context a word it being used. This is an Objectivist forum after all.

However, it is not wholly accurate to say "every word in the dictionary has a definition" since quite a few words in the dictionary have multiple definitions. I suspect this happened over the course of time as certain words began to be used to mean sometimes different and sometimes similar things. Are there any dictionary definitions that you take issue with because they have multiple definitions? Do you take issue with dictionary definition words in which two different words mean the same thing?

For the sake of argument, would you oppose the Objectivist use of some word (for example "arbitrary") if it suddenly found it's way into a dictionary and now the word had one more definition (as it already has about 4-5 definitions as is) just as has happened many times in the past? By what process is a new definition accepted and placed into a dictionary? How long does it take a new word to make it into a dictionary? ...into common enough usage to prevent confusion? Would folks have less of a communication issue with Objectivists if Rand or Peikoff used the word "arbitary" as a new word for their use of the word "arbitrary"? (That last four questions can be rhetorical if you like but are also issues affecting clear communications)

Also, I'm not sure you give a fair characterization (because the don't like the existing defintion) of Rand's or Peikoff's "definition changing". I think the intent (whether you agree or not with the result) was to provide essentialized, objective defintions to certain words.

Okay, I accept that I wasn't fair in implying (not stating) that Rand changed what she didn't like, because I don't know that---I only suspect it.

And you are also correct that things do have multiple meanings.

However, I ask you--do you like how the word "liberal" was stolen and changed over time, to mean it's exact opposite? If you don't then you ought be with in saying that when one wants to make a new definition, they ought use a new word.

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However, I ask you--do you like how the word "liberal" was stolen and changed over time, to mean it's exact opposite? If you don't then you ought be with in saying that when one wants to make a new definition, they ought use a new word.

I have never given thought to whether I like it or not, I simply recognize that it has changed and do my best to adapt.

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As I said, I challenge you to provide a hypothetical where Peikoff's defintions cause the analysis to arrive at one result and the standard definitions to arrive at another.

That WAS my example; that of true, false, and arbitrary. You cannot draw the distinctions that Peikoff draws by using the standard definitions.

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That WAS my example; that of true, false, and arbitrary. You cannot draw the distinctions that Peikoff draws by using the standard definitions.

I am not talking about the distinctions, I am talking about the results. It is obvious that if you have proprietary definitions they will thus be the only such distinction drawn. My point was more that regardless of whether you apply Peikoff's definitions or the standard ones, you end up with the exact same results when analyzing any particular claims. IE, "It is possible that we live in the Matrix" or "It is possible there are gremlins on the other side of Mars."

To the extent you think that Peikoff's definitions are better, we will have to agree to disagree on this subject. I am not sure if any futher discussion of "possibility" is on-topic or productive though.

Edited by Vladimir Berkov

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I am not talking about the distinctions, I am talking about the results. It is obvious that if you have proprietary definitions they will thus be the only such distinction drawn. My point was more that regardless of whether you apply Peikoff's definitions or the standard ones, you end up with the exact same results when analyzing any particular claims. IE, "It is possible that we live in the Matrix" or "It is possible there are gremlins on the other side of Mars."

To the extent you think that Peikoff's definitions are better, we will have to agree to disagree on this subject. I am not sure if any futher discussion of "possibility" is on-topic or productive though.

You're still not getting my point. Peikoff's language is used for a reason: because it makes distinct two things which ought to be distinct, whereas the MAP language improperly lumps them both under the term "possible." The result of the common usage is that this distinction is muddled; the result of the Objectivist usage is that this distinction is clear. That is, if you have the presence of mind to DROP the incorrect, inaccurate, unclear, improper, common definition from your mind, instead of clinging to it for dear life, as you seem hell-bent on doing!

This is entirely on-topic, because it is a question of whether Objectivist definitions are good or bad, which is the essence of the topic.

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I think both of you are missing the point the word itself isn't that important its the concept and whether the word is recognized as matching the concept by others. If i want to use "wise" to label the concept "not true or false, but has no evidence to support it" then thats fine, however if no one recognizes that term as valid, then I'm in for a hard time. Also, I will run into problems with people who think the word "wise" means something entirely different than how I am saying it. So because I am creating a concept that isn't already in the dictionary, I ought create a new word for it.

However, I do recognize that there are multiple definitions of words, like RationalBiker said...so I suppose it is okay to use possible in two different ways, however I think it is best to put an asterix (spelling?) near it and explain how its different from common usage, when using it.

Edited by nimble

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I think both of you are missing the point the word itself isn't that important its the concept and whether the word is recognized as matching the concept by others. If i want to use "wise" to label the concept "not true or false, but has no evidence to support it" then thats fine, however if no one recognizes that term as valid, then I'm in for a hard time. Also, I will run into problems with people who think the word "wise" means something entirely different than how I am saying it. So because I am creating a concept that isn't already in the dictionary, I ought create a new word for it.

I'm really not commenting on the issue of re-define versus make-up-new-words. Vladimir is saying that the standard definitions are adequate and proper, where the truth is that they inherently obfuscate the issue by grouping dissimilar concepts. Whether one solves this be redefining terms or by making up new ones isn't really material to our argument, at present. The point is that the standard definitions are NOT proper and NOT adequate. They not only should not be used, they cannot be used; not while properly defining the issue. This is yet another time where someone has failed to see just how wrong MAP is, and just how fundamentally different Objectivism is.

Ayn Rand actually wrote once on the subject of why she used the term "selfish" instead of not making up a new word. I do recall that she said she greatly disliked neologisms, but I can't recall her reasoning on why.

Edited by Inspector

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I think the standard definition of possibility is adequate, maybe not for Objectivism's purpose, but I do think that "not inherently contradictory" is a concept that can exist and relate to the world. And that IS the standard definition of possible. I think one can say that X idea is "not inherently contradictory" and have it be a true statement. Thus it holds truth value and works as a concept that can have a word symbolize it in language (eg-the word "possible"). Whether that suffices for Objectivist explanation of epistemology becomes the problem of Objectivism. And I do grant anyone the right to redefine terms as they feel, however when others don't understand what they mean, the burden lies on them to explain what they mean, using some form of language that is commonly accepted. And it might just be entirely more practical to make a new word, but that's a separate issue, and I'd be interested in what Rand thought about making new words. But I can look that up on my own.

Also, I have a question I understand how a word can be meaningless or self-contradictory, but how can a definition be inadequate? I mean couldn't you theoretically pack more meaning into every word? I could change the definition of the word "hello" to mean "greetings, how are you doing?" since I usually say "hello, how are you?" anyway. And that way I could make the word "hello" more adequate for my usage, but I don't think that would cause anything but confusion. If words are just auditory symbols, so long as the things they represent can relate to reality in some way I don't see how they can be inadequate. Whatever they don't explain can just be explained by another word, or am I mistaken?

Thanks

Chris

Edited by nimble

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Whether that suffices for Objectivist explanation of epistemology becomes the problem of Objectivism.

No, since the task of Objectivist epistemology is to describe reality, then it isn't exclusively Objectivist epistemology's task. It is the task of any epistemologist that is seeking to describe reality. Using the standard terms, reality is not described. Instead, things-which-don't-contradict-reality-which-have-some-evidence-to-support-them-and-therefore-merit-consideration is conflated, to the great detriment of philosophical clarity, with things-which-don't-contradict-reality-but-have-no-evidence-whatsoever-to-support-them-and-therefore-ought-to-be-dismissed-utterly. The result is Kantian mistrust of the senses, postmodernist nihilism, modern art, the rejection of reason, and annoying what-if-we-are-just-brains-in-a-vat arguments. All for the want of a differentiation between what Peikoff calls the possible and what Peikoff calls the arbitrary.

So... once again...

But, and here is the critical point, this indicates that you still fail to grasp just how wrong mainstream academic philosophy is. The reason why Objectivism redefines pivotal terms is because the definitions given by mainstream academics make understanding impossible. They have mis-defined them so badly that it is impossible to use their terms and actually come to a rational worldview.

The Objectivist definitions are not capricious. They are wholly necessary for any kind of understanding to take place. The fault, in other words, is not ours. The fault is theirs for having made so bad a mess of things in the first place.

Also, I have a question I understand how a word can be meaningless or self-contradictory, but how can a definition be inadequate?

Example:

-----------------

Man. N.

1) A living being that walks on two legs.

-----------------

This definition suffers the same problem as the MAP definition of "possible;" it conflates dissimilar concepts. If accepted at face value, we'd end up with rights for humans and emus!

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Also, I have a question I understand how a word can be meaningless or self-contradictory, but how can a definition be inadequate?
To amplify just a bit, remember that definitions are not primaries. What is primary is the existent -- for example, actual men, which can be seen as units (the mental representation of a concrete), and then those units can be integrated into a concept. Once these things are integrated, they have to be "tied together" with a symbolic representation, namely a word. The meaning of the word is the concept that it stands for, and the meaning of the concept is the units that the concept subsumes.

A definition can be wrong because it in fact does not identify the intended concept or units; as in the mistaken identifcation of man and emu as "man". It is often very difficult to craft a correct verbal definition. For example, it is not essential to the definition of "man" that he have two legs, so in giving a definition, you have to look at the referents and ask, "what is the fundamental characteristic that these units have in common, which distinguishes them from those other units that are not subsumed by the concept?".

I agree that what matters is identifying the correct concept given the choice of words. I disagree that it's fine to use "wise" to label the concept "not true or false, but has no evidence to support it": it is totally not fine. If, at some point in the future, the language changes so that the association between concepts and words is different, and this new concept of yours (it resembles "arbitrary" but is different) is now assigned to "wise", then fashizzle. The hard time that you're in for makes it be non-fine.

The real question is, when academic philosophers usurp a word and give it a specific definition, ought we as Objectivists to accept that redefinition? I cannot see a rational basis for doing so.

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The real question is, when academic philosophers usurp a word and give it a specific definition, ought we as Objectivists to accept that redefinition? I cannot see a rational basis for doing so.

But couldn't the opposite question be asked? When Objectivists take a word with an accepted definition and redefine it, ought non-Objectivists to accept that redefinition?

I am not talking about whether there is an objective need for a new word to describe a concept, but merely whether it is reasonable to accept the majority of society to accept the redefinition of a word by an small minority group.

Edited by Vladimir Berkov

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But couldn't the opposite question be asked? When Objectivists take a word with an accepted definition and redefine it, ought non-Objectivists to accept that redefinition?
I don't advocate Objectivists redefining words, although a refinement / expansion of the definition is entirely appropriate.

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To amplify just a bit, remember that definitions are not primaries. What is primary is the existent -- for example, actual men, which can be seen as units (the mental representation of a concrete), and then those units can be integrated into a concept. Once these things are integrated, they have to be "tied together" with a symbolic representation, namely a word. The meaning of the word is the concept that it stands for, and the meaning of the concept is the units that the concept subsumes.

A definition can be wrong because it in fact does not identify the intended concept or units; as in the mistaken identifcation of man and emu as "man". It is often very difficult to craft a correct verbal definition. For example, it is not essential to the definition of "man" that he have two legs, so in giving a definition, you have to look at the referents and ask, "what is the fundamental characteristic that these units have in common, which distinguishes them from those other units that are not subsumed by the concept?".

I agree that what matters is identifying the correct concept given the choice of words. I disagree that it's fine to use "wise" to label the concept "not true or false, but has no evidence to support it": it is totally not fine. If, at some point in the future, the language changes so that the association between concepts and words is different, and this new concept of yours (it resembles "arbitrary" but is different) is now assigned to "wise", then fashizzle. The hard time that you're in for makes it be non-fine.

The real question is, when academic philosophers usurp a word and give it a specific definition, ought we as Objectivists to accept that redefinition? I cannot see a rational basis for doing so.

Thank you very much...that post cleared up a lot. I was kind of waiting for you to post anyway, aren't you in linguistics?

Again, I never made the claim that you absolutely should not refine/redefine things. That's anyone's choice, however, if it causes confusion then it is the burden of the refiner to clear it up.

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