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Everything posted by dougclayton

  1. Could you elaborate on what "a minute or so" means? I am pretty sure that the second post (out of the three in the post you quoted) took me more than a minute to write--probably more like 15.
  2. Fred is right on this. A "concept" integrates multiple existents into a single "mental concrete" (roughly, an "idea") by means of retaining certain characteristics of those existents, but omitting their specific measurement. Without multiple existents, you don't have a concept, you have a proper noun. Thus "RSalar" is not a concept--it is a name for you. "New York City" is also not a concept, but a single particular city. Similarly, Objectivism (that is, the philosophy developed by Ayn Rand) is a proper noun. On the other hand, "objectivism" is not, and names a school of thought (as do "subjectivism," "skepticism", etc.) "Platonism" (like "Aristotelian") is an odd case: as I understand it, it can be used to either name Plato's philosophy or simply something in the tradition of Plato (which it is then depends on context). By the way, you say you have read ITOE, but a quick scan of the index yielded this: If you mean to disagree with AR on this, that's fine, but you should state your disagreement as such. It is assumed on this forum that you understand AR's viewpoint on the problem you're discussing, and come here to either "chew" it further or show why it is wrong. This is why the answer here is so often, "have you read [book X]?" The point is not that reading the book will instantly make everything clear, but that her works supply a necessary context for these discussions.
  3. I don't have an entire answer for your question (namely, if we can postulate arbitrary situations, why can't we postulate that our immortal robot feels pleasure and pain?), but I did want to point out that absent the alternative of life or death, an entity could not have evolved at all, since it is the differential survival rate that results in evolution. She may not have made that argument, but it's nonetheless true.
  4. Good question. In addition to Burgess's excellent response, let me point out that I said that consciousness does not have the ability to alter the nature of reality. This is not the same as altering an aspect of reality, which it certainly does have: first, a human consciousness can alter itself (our emotions are formed by thinking, for instance, and we can create concepts that did not exist in our mind before). Second, consciousness can even alter external reality to some extent (through somewhat unknown means): this is why your deciding to raise your arms results in your muscles contracting. However, none of the foregoing are alterations of the nature of reality. As Burgess said, it is not in the nature of a tree to be a dog when we wish it were, nor is it in the nature of a ball to roll when I wish it would. But, just as importantly, it is in the nature of my body to move when I will it to. Even here, at our very pinnacle of external-world control, you can see that reality has primacy over my consciousness by the fact that I can lose this aspect of my nature by damaging my spinal cord--making it no longer in the nature of my body to move no matter how much I want it to.
  5. But they have no reason to believe the color is bound by those limits, either--and that's the point. They know only that swans tend to be white (in some given area), or are only known to be white. This is an entirely different claim. It is not the conclusion that is invalid no matter what the context, but the approach. It is wrong to observe N swans and conclude, "Now I know that all swans are white, because I have looked at all the swans in my town and every single one of them was white." It does not matter what one's context of knowledge is, because until there is some cause--some reason--that all swans would be white, one should not act like one knows it. Remember that when we talk about the "all swans are white" claim here, we are not talking about the conclusion, which biology might someday be able to prove (assuming we hadn't already found black ones, that is). If there is something that causes swans to be white the way that their bones are caused to be hollow, that's fine. What we are critiquing is the method of induction via counting.
  6. A taste of the genius of this "Doug" guy (sigh): This is a rat's nest of equivocations, stolen concepts and gross misunderstanding.
  7. Actually, I believe that is implied in what you did say. You said previously: You are correct that to identify the nature of something, one must identify its attributes, for "nature" means "identity" and one's identity is nothing more than the sum of its attributes (which, for concrete entities, can be identified perceptually). But you present this identification as necessarily happening after one has formed a concept of the object in question--and this I don't understand. In the post I am responding to, you add "the relation between the nature of an entity and its mode of action." Given that its nature is nothing more than its attributes, why would the additional task of recognizing their relation to its mode of action require concept formation? I will point out, again, that there is a big difference between the knowledge that "balls can roll" and "this particular object can roll because it has this-or-that feature." (I don't mean to insult your intelligence if this is obvious, but I suspect there may be some equivocation between the two notions.) The first requires concept-formation and the attendant determination of essential and unessential attributes, because those relate to concepts. But where there is a single unclassified entity, there are no concepts yet. Did that address your response, or did I miss your point?
  8. This will have to be a brief response. I might have time to respond more fully later. No, this is a mistake. Observation of attributes (there is no other kind of observation) precedes concept formation. In fact, you've got it backwards: concept-formation is built on top of observation and identification of attributes (perceptual, at first), as well as actions and relationships. For instance, one can know a table has the attribute of a reddish color without having the slightest notion of "table" or even "red." Note that we have to distinguish between explicitly calling it "a table with a reddish color" (which a child could not do) and perceiving a thing's color (which a child can do). I believe this eliminates the circularity you mentioned, but I am sure if I misinterpreted something you will correct me. I believe AisA was summarizing the reason a ball rolls, rather than explaining what is its particular nature that makes it roll. It is true of all things to say that their actions are determined by their nature (indeed, this is just the law of causality). It is no shortcoming that it does not mention what particular facts about a ball makes it roll. Furthermore, it is rather obvious what makes a ball roll. One can see this by inspecting a single ball and thinking about it. Nothing in the observation of snails says "they always slither towards stucco," like you point out, but it does say, "Snails move by sliding on their foot" (I guess--I am no biologist). Nothing in the observation of swans shows any connection between being a swan and being white, but there is plenty of connection between flapping wings and flying, for instance. I hope this short reply was somewhat useful, even if only in convincing you I totally misunderstood your points. I appreciate your honesty and the chance to improve my own thinking.
  9. In my previous post, I promised to follow up on why I disagree with jrs' preferred formulation of the Law of Causality. It naturally appeals to scientists because it states a truism they would agree with--in fact, when I first read it back in April, I agreed with it myself. It is only recently that I have begun to appreciate the subtle error in it. This is his formulation of the Law of Causality: This is mistaken on two major points: first, that causes produce a "probability distribution" of possible effects, and second, because it states invariance under time, place, speed, orientation, and direction. I will leave disagreement with the first for later, and concentrate on the second. Since the law of causality is pre-science, it cannot involve or make reference to scientifically discovered principles. For instance, how do we know, as philosophers, that causes are time-invariant, or direction-of-travel-invariant? This is armchair-philosophizing--dictating to the universe what circumstances may and may not be relevant. To illustrate this, consider a person who had decided on jrs' law of causality, but had not yet discovered any modern science. First, he heats some water over a two-log fire for 5 minutes, and it boils. "A-ha!" he says. "Since I know that the same causes produce the same effects regardless of where it is, I know this water will boil with the same amount of heat no matter where it is." Then when his friend on the mountain can't get the water to boil, he is forced to reject his friend's result because that would violate his law of causality. However, a scientist operating under the correct formulation, which does not make conclusions about location, would realize the same causes must not be in effect, would explore these new causes, and would discover the principle of atmospheric pressure and the role it plays in boiling water. You can construct a similar scenario for a compass, which is affected by orientation (in fact, that is its whole purpose). At this point, you might be inclined to conclude that my examples are silly, but there is a more real-world example in jrs' formulation: the explicit accounting for relativistic effects. If jrs lived in the nineteenth century, his version would necessarily not contain any qualification about "below light speed." Thus when relativistic effects were proposed and then verified, he would have to either 1) reject them outright, or 2) modify his statement. (DavidOdden's post is an excellent summary of this point.) A properly formulated metaphysical principle is timeless, and does not need qualification as science develops. For these reasons, the Objectivist law of causality simply states that actions are caused by entities, and the action is therefore determined solely by the nature of the entities involved. It does not specify which entities are involved in any given case, nor does it limit what the action can be or what it is affected by. And, of course, it applies equally below light speed and above it.
  10. Unfortunately, jrs has decided that he is exempt from the rules of debate etiquette, and that he is free to substitute sarcasm and insult for reason. Since I find can nothing offensive in my post to him, nor any of my posts (some to people more knowledgeable than me, and some to less knowledgeable) that would warrant this type of response, I will no longer respond to him. Because others reading this thread may have disagreed with my dismissal of jrs' Law of Causality, or wondered why I said what I did, I will expand on my critique of it in a later post.
  11. This is not the philosophical law of causality at all. For instance, why do you take into account the speed, but not the direction? Scientific reasons are irrelevant, since the law of causality is a philosophical principle, which by its nature precedes science and must not require specialized equipment. That's why the law of causality simply says that things must always and everywhere act in accordance with their nature. Furthermore, we know that some causes are dependent on the location: the temperature at which water boils, for instance. The actions of a compass are dependent on orientation as well as location. I don't think David doubts the result of special relativity (at any rate, I certainly don't). But regardless how valuable it has proved in science, it does not make it a philosophical claim.
  12. This is an excellent point, one I had thought of earlier (but not with nearly David's clarity here). Not only is there little evidence to suggest all swans are white because some are, it also contradicts everything we know about animals, in that color can vary wildly across species, and even within a species (dogs or cats, for instance). You can't drop all the context and declare, with no evidence, that swans are an exception to that.
  13. Yes, with that change that would have an inductive form. (I hesitate to call it induction since your initial observation doesn't even hold for the specific instances, but it does go from specific to general.) Well, in AisA's defense, he did refer to "the limitations that must exist on the weight of a swan for it to fly." A solid understanding of the immense benefit of hollow bones, coupled with the knowledge that only the fittest animals survive, allows one to generalize about all swans, since any swan with solid bones would be decidedly outcompeted, and thus would not have passed on its genes. Well, the context required depends on how far from a first-level induction it is. First-level inductions (pushing a ball makes it roll, fire is hot, rain makes you wet) can grasped implicitly. Animals do, for instance. This is why Pavlov's dogs salivated--they learned that a bell ringing causes food, within the limits of their understanding. Possibly--for instance, that is why it is reasonable to say all polar bears are white. We know why the dark ones don't exist. (Note that the conclusion would be therefore implicitly qualified with, "in the north pole" even if they weren't called polar bears.) However, unless you could show that swans only lived where it was predominantly white, that would not be justified. (Pepper moths, for instance, are known to be two different colors for exactly this reason.) One broad point: just because there are some instances in which induction is certain doesn't mean there can't be inductive conclusions that are tentative. Some of these examples might be in that stage for a while, as the possible contravening causes get eliminated one by one. Without the explanation of evolution, for instance, the mere fact of hollow bones in some swans would not justify the conclusion that all swans have hollow bones (but I am not a biologist, either).
  14. Ah, I see now. I thought you were making a distinction between valid, first-hand induction vs. invalid generalization based on correlation, when in fact you were referring to the distinction between valid, first-hand induction about elevator mechanisms vs. valid deduction from the well-known principle that buttons are designed to cause things to happen when you push them. On rereading your post, I can say I was being obtuse.
  15. As David said, this is an excellent summary of induction overall. You clearly understand this better than I do. Also, I really like point 8--there's an intriguing simplicity to the notion that induction is measurement-omission applied to causal connections. Strictly speaking, I would say that "The next time I push the button, the elevator will stop at my floor" is not a pure example of an inductive inference. It is a combination of a generalization ("every time I push the button, the elevator stops at that floor," or, better, "pushing the button causes the elevator to stop"), and a deduction ("thereffore, the elevator will arrive for this next push"). Compare with the equivalent, "The next baby to be born will die at some point" (which I tried to make fit your form as closely as possible). In one sense, this is just a way to state the induction that "All men are mortal." In another sense, it is deduction: "All men are mortal. The next baby born is a man. Therefore, the next baby born will die." Thus I would say that in this context, principles should not be stated as if-then clauses, because it can lead to confusion. I say this not to nitpick or to insult your intelligence, but because I think the deductive element can easily mislead people who see the syllogism and think that induction is just another type of deduction. Also, I was motivated to explain that because it will help me understand the next part: I agree that the first possibility is that has one identified the causal connections responsible (and traced them back to first-level generalizations, which is a useful addition to what I said). But I don't understand your alternative of "are you accepting this knowledge deductively," and I don't know how I suggested that. Could you elaborate?
  16. I don't know whether to be grateful or annoyed that your post caused me to spend almost two hours reading ITOE and thinking about this problem. You are right both in that only measurements of the CCD are omitted, and you are right that I made it seem like every irrelevant measure is omitted. (I have been corrected on that before, I am dismayed to admit.) However, after thinking about it for quite a bit, I may have been more right than I realized, with a poor explanation. To know what measurements are omitted, one has to know what the CCD of inch is (I see FeatherFall has beaten me to this while I've been editing). I am not entirely sure I can answer that question, so let me first try a related concept: entity. For the purposes of this discussion, the CCD of "entity" is the characteristic of existing as an independent physical thing. Therefore, all measurements related to existing (not all measurements whatsoever, which I previously suggested) are omitted. Thus one retains no measurements of the entities that make up the concept besides the fact of their independent existence ("independent" being epistemological here, not metaphysical). (Of course, I summarized this poorly and all but said that one even omits the measurement of the name of the person who owns the table. Since that is unrelated to the CCD, it is not omitted.) In the related case of numbers: That said, I am still not sure exactly what the CCD (or the genus, for that matter) of "inch" is. I will have to think more on this.
  17. We seem to be talking at cross-purposes here. First, let me emphatically state that the primacy of consciousness mindset is false. Primacy of consciousness, as Objectivism uses the term, means that a consciousness has the ability to alter the nature of reality--and this is most certainly not the case. It is the primacy of existence mindset that recognizes that reality comes first, and we have to observe and obey it. So no, I don't mean that the mind has the ability to alter reality, but you do when you state that consciousness is primary: What you stated is not the primacy of consciousness. You have it confused with the primacy of existence. Well, I wish I could say it made sense to me. Perhaps you could elaborate.
  18. That sounds about right. Sorry I didn't understand. OK, I have more digesting to do too. By the way, I'm curious: what made you choose the name "LauricAcid"?
  19. What, exactly, is the reverse? To some extent, I will have to think on these ideas. But there is one issue that may be confusing things: the difference between identifying the nature of something and forming a concept for it. For instance, one can see that this particular item will roll because (loosely speaking) there are no flat surfaces it would tend to rest on, so there is nothing to stop it from moving. It is that aspect of its nature that causes it to roll when pushed. At this point, one can say this item will roll when pushed even if we don't have a concept for roundness yet. One cannot say, "round things will roll" because one doesn't have the concept of "round things" yet, but one can see why this item will roll. Once one sees that, it is straightforward to generalize to, "anything with the property of not having flat surfaces will roll," and that gives us the essential characteristic for a new concept. Thus in a sense it is the nature of the item (no flat surfaces) and the context (what happens when pushed) that gives us the essential. I am trying to formulate these ideas as I go, since I have never thought of this problem before. I am sure the above passage has many poorly chosen words and other errors. But would you say I am on the right track, or is this not even addressing your question? Ah, I see the confusion now! My claim that an inference was inductive was serving a different purpose than your line of questioning. So let me answer your intent: combining a principle such as "the elevator will arrive whenever I push the button" with "I just pushed the button" to arrive at the conclusion "it will arrive" is entirely deductive, no matter what one knows about the elevator's mechanism. My answer had to do with whether or not the principle "the elevator will arrive when I push a button" is formed from a valid inductive process or not, since that's what I thought you were asking (and since the purpose of this thread is examining what, if anything, constitutes a valid inductive process).
  20. Well, let me quote myself: Did that not answer your question? Application of a universal to a particular is deduction. (As far as I know, that is not particularly revolutionary or controversial.) However, since this was a discussion about induction primarily, I thought you mean the inductive inference that leads you to the universal ("how do I know the elevator will arrive just because it has in the past?"), and that was what I subsequently analyzed in that post. But of course your syllogism is deductive.
  21. Well, that's why I said I wasn't sure. To be sure, the exact nature of "nature" needs to be clarified (and no, that's not circular). I will have to think about this. One would be warranted in expecting the sun to rise, because correlation is a strong predictor of causality. But one could certainly not regard it as required or certain. I am not sure what this means, but as I read it (the "nature" of a thing depends on Objectivist concepts), then this is wrong. The nature of something is independent of us as observers. Perhaps you can clarify this for me. Ah, now we're getting to the interesting part (where "interesting" means "I have more thinking ahead of me"). First, I don't know the relation between "essentiality" and "causality." But regardless, I don't think discovering some aspect of an item's nature implies knowing what the essential aspect of that item is. For instance, I could discover that a pen rolls across a desk because part of its nature is being round, without meaning that roundness is an essential attribute of all pens (on the other hand, it does mean that roundness is essential to rolling). So I'm unclear on what you mean.
  22. Don't worry, I'll limit my speech to goldfish size. As David said, an inductive conclusion must "derive universal statements from specific ones." In your example, you start with the universal in one form ("all dogs") and apply a form change to reach another universal ("any particular dog"). The conventional form of induction is, "This dog barks. That dog barks. Thus all dogs bark." That goes from specific to universal (although it is actually not a valid inductive conclusion).
  23. These are good questions, and if I had all the answers I could make a lot more money by writing a book on induction. 0) Yes, with an understanding that the elevator button is wired such that the elevator would arrive, that would be an inductive inference. That lets you validate the principle, "The elevator comes when I push the button," which permits a whole host of deductive conclusions from that. 1) I would say, and here I'm not so sure, that the causal connection would be a demonstration of the nature of the identity, and how that nature leads to a certain action in a given context. (This, by the way, is why you only truly need one instance to validate an inductive conclusion.) I could try to come up with a concrete example if you're interested. 2) One need not know the particular mechanism if one knows that other humans have set up that mechanism. In that case, the conclusion that the elevator will come is based on a deduction of the form: 1) People have the ability to establish "causal connections" that serve some purpose, and 2) a person put this button in for the purpose of making the elevator arrive, therefore 3) this button causes the elevator to arrive. Of course, one would have to inductively validate the premise that "people have the ability to establish causal connections," but this is pretty easily shown (and is independent of elevators).
  24. (First, assume the elevator works, since that's irrelevant to the issues here.) Your argument as presented is primarily deduction: 1) the elevator stops on my floor when I push the button, and 2) I just pushed the button, therefore 3) the elevator will arrive now. But I think I know what you mean, so let me illustrate where the induction should have happened: knowing that "the elevator stops on my floor when I push the button." Whether that principle is based on induction depends on what you mean by it. If you mean a scenario equivalent to "all swans are white," then this is not induction as your conclusion does not follow from the causal nature of elevator, but merely repeated observations of correlation. That makes it a generalization, but since you don't know why it arrives, you can never know if it will fail to arrive one day. On the other hand, if you mean, "I know that the button is wired up to circuitry that identifies this floor and sends a signal to the elevator to move to my floor when I push it," then this is induction, because you know why it arrives, and thus can say it will always arrive. Contrast this approach with that of astrologers or Pavlov's dogs: they notice something that happens to follow something else, and commit the fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc and conclude that it will always follow. I see that AisA has summarized it brilliantly while I was composing my post:
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