Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum


  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. When the grandson was a toddler, we were at a restaurant, and I walked him around at one interval to a small Christmas tree with those old-fashioned colored lights. Pointing to a particular light, I asked him “What color is that?” He always answered correctly as I continued to point and cover the gamut on the tree. I’m pretty sure that the ability to identify individual colors in a grouped array is not originally the seeing those colors as individuals subsumed under the concept color. One has learned the proper relation of words blue and color in learning some language and sharing the world through it. (On cognitive developmental psychology of learning the various sorts of attributes of things, see 28-33 here.) I’d be pretty surprised if learning the distinction between entities and their attributes did not require learning subject-predicate relation in one’s native language. To be sure, with further cognitive development, on learns how to put any category in the subject spot, not just entity, but at first I’d bet a coke it’s only entity there. Learning concepts and language seems to be a hand-over-hand sort of deal. To reach our modern basic concept of force, basically Newtonian, took a lot adult thinking and controversy. Though push and pull are examples of it, earlier in intellectual history, for example, not only certain changes in state of motion required some sort of force, but keeping something moving (even in vacuum) was thought to require force. I imagine beginning to get the elementary concept of force (which happens to fall under the precised Newtonian one approximately) is already underway in learning first words. When a young child says ba (ball), turning it over in her hands, the object being isolated is known to have various ways it can be made to act by the child. Talk of “concept formation” (and “conceptualization process”) in epistemology did not begin with Rand. However, in epistemology, I think it’s better to stop using that phrase if one is not literally talking about cognitive development in time, and if one is talking about that, it must be informed by the relevant contemporary psychological research to have any serious traction. However, the epistemological business (a philosophical business) of offering ways of seeing how various sorts of concepts are organized in their relations to each other and to the things they are about is just fine, mighty fine. That is analysis, not mainly theory of the genesis of concepts, and we should stop calling it a theory of concept formation. The enduring fertile innovation of Ayn Rand in theory of concepts, I say, is an analysis: the proposal of a mathematical structure to concepts in their taxonomic relations.
  2. JKM, you might be remembering an essay or two in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal. That would be the one "'Extremism', or the Art of Smearing" or perhaps "The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus."
  3. I wrote this several years ago, and I want to post it here in the Prep thread in order to refer to it in the Dissertation thread, where I'll be assimilating the work of Lu-Adler mentioned in the post before last after all). Normativity of Logic – Robert Hanna Robert Hanna does not accept Kant’s idealism. His account of the normativity of logic in Rationality and Logic (RL) is nonetheless sensibly characterized as a quasi-Kantian account. Professor Hanna proposes that we have a faculty of logic in which dwells a protologic—a set of schematic logical structures—upon which any formal logic, classical or nonclassical, is constructed. This protologic Hanna argues to be presupposed, constructively and epistemologically, by any formal logical system. Standard modern logic, which is an enlargement (and some correction) of logic beyond its development by Aristotle, is called classical to distinguish it from its further extensions and from its rivals. Logics that only extend classical logic will have modified some of “the classical logical constants, interpretation rules, axioms, or inference rules such that all the tautologies, theorems, valid inferences and laws of elementary logic still hold, along with some additional ones” (RL 40–41). Such are modern modal logics (Garson 2006; Priest 2001). The rivals of classical logic make modifications to “logical operators [constants], interpretation rules, axioms, or inference rules such that not all the tautologies, theorems, valid inferences, and laws of classical or elementary logic still hold” (RL 41). Such is relevance logic (Mares 2004; Priest 2001) or paraconsistent logic (Priest 2006). The logics in rivalry with classical logic are contestants on the field of specifying which inferences, among our inferences in the vernacular, are valid. One inference certified in classical logic that many students find repugnant is the taking as valid any inference from false premises to a true conclusion. Paraconsistent logics and relevance logics are systematic formulations of logic in which such inferences come out as invalid. I should mention, too, that various informal fallacies of classical logic come to be formal fallacies within various nonclassical logics (RL 218). All systems of logic are systematic formulations of “the necessary relation of consequence” (RL 43). Examples from classical logic would be “if p and q, then p” and “if both (i) if p then q and (ii) p, then q” and “if both (i) if p then q and (ii) not-q, then not-p.” Hanna is proposing that behind all logical systems, whether classical or not, there must be a single set of schematic logical structures which determine what will count as a possible logical system; there is a single protologic epistemologically presupposed by every logical system. This protologic is used in justifying assertions about any classical or nonclassical logic; the protologic is constructively presupposed by every logical system (RL 44). In justifying claims about logic, we are invoking conscious logical beliefs about protologic. Having such a role, there is no way the protologic set of schematic structures could be revised. Moreover, they must be a priori. Kant took a priori to mean necessarily so (B3–4, B119–24, A87–92); true independently of all experience, not having its source in experience (B2, B117–19 A84–87, B163); but true of the experienced world and needed for any empirical cognition (B5–6, B121–27 A89–94, B163–65, B196–97 A157–58). (Further, see Robinson 1969 and Tait 1992.) For his own concept a priori, Hanna defines its cognitive facet as cognition not entirely determined by “inner, proprioceptive or outer sensory experiences even though it is always actually accompanied by such sensory experiences” (RL 273n25). He defines the semantic facet of the a priori as sentence meaning wherein the truth conditions of the sentence are not entirely determined by its verification conditions. He defines the epistemic facet of the a priori as belief wherein its justification is not entirely determined by sensory evidence. No system of logic rejects all of classical logic. Hanna conjectures that the metalogical principles in the protologic might consist of weak versions of four basic principles in classical logic. One would be that “an argument is valid if it is impossible for all of its premises to be true and its conclusion false” (RL 45). Another would be that “not every sentence is both true and false” (RL 45). Cognitive psychology can contribute to the further specification of principles such as these, principles a priori and not revisable, in our repertoire. Our faculty of language epistemologically presupposes our faculty of protologic. The protologic faculty of logic is sensitive to external experiential stimuli, but not entirely determined by such stimuli. It is an essential aspect of the mind of a rational animal, and it is an a priori aspect of such a mind. “It is not modally controlled by the empirical world, although it inevitably tracks the empirical world” (RL 83). “The logic faculty is a central and informationally promiscuous faculty of the human mind (and apparently the only one), whose role it is to mediate between the peripheral faculties and the central processes of theory-formation, judgment, belief, desire, and volition” (RL 109). That we have innate logical powers does not entail that we have any innate ideas (RL 135). Hanna is a realist about logic and logical necessity. Any explanation and justification of logic must presuppose logic. No explanatory reduction of logic to other things is possible. The thesis that we are endowed with a logical faculty offers not an explanatory reduction, but a connection for logic of a nonreductive, yet realist nature: “(i) logic is cognitively constructed by rational animals, and (ii) logic is objectively real via language, and consequently logical necessity is an objectively real property or fact in a world that objectively and really contains linguistic structures” (RL 158; also 80–81). Hanna argues that the innate logical faculty includes a capability for logical intuition. This is an act in which we grasp logical rules, and grasp them as justified and necessary, in a noninferential, a priori, yet fallible way (RL 167–82). To say that formal logic is normative is to say “humans ought to reason soundly or validly (more generally, cogently). Otherwise put, the normativity of logic consists in the fact . . . that the justification of human beliefs or intentional actions depends on our ability to reason cogently” (RL 203). Hanna maintains that logic is categorically normative, not hypothetically normative. Logic enjoins one to hold a certain belief or take a certain action under all circumstances and primarily because of logic alone. A view of logic as hypothetically normative would say that logic enjoins one to hold a certain belief or take a certain action because of logic, but only in certain circumstances and primarily because of something extralogical (RL 203). Mill held that logic is intrinsically normative (necessarily normative) and that logic is explanatorily reducible to empirical psychology. This implies that logic is intrinsically but hypothetically normative, not categorically normative. Then conditions from particular human interests or conditions from natural facts could constrain the scope of the applicability of logical obligation. Hanna maintains to the contrary that logical norms apply in all possible contexts. Hanna constructs a logical argument, which leans on elements of modal logic, to refute the thesis that logic is reducible to empirical psychology (RL 20–21, 27). That is not to say that there is no essential connection between the logical and the psychological. Hanna argues for such an essential connection: logic is cognitively constructed by rational animals who are essentially logical animals (RL 25). The logical in the phrase “essentially logical animals” is to be understood as primarily normative (RL 215–16). Although we obey the protologic perfectly whenever we reason, we shall adhere only imperfectly to normative mental principles that we construct from the protologic, and only imperfectly to formal logical norms we construct from the protologic (RL 149–53). Hanna elects the path of Kant, Boole, and Frege. “Logic is the universal, topic-neutral, a priori science of the necessary laws of truth, and also a pure normative science based directly on rationality itself” (RL 204). He calls this the moral science conception of logic. Logic is a moral science (RL 205). It is “an integral part of human morality, namely the part that consists in justifying moral judgments and decisions, including direct moral arguments and reflective equilibrium” (RL 206). Hanna rejects the idea, put forth by Otto Weininger of virtually identifying logic with ethics (RL 205–6). To the contrary, “moral wrongdoing is not necessarily or even usually connected with wrong logical reasoning; and on the other hand, wrong logical reasoning is not necessarily or even usually sinful” (RL 217). Weininger’s idea was that “logic and ethics are fundamentally the same, they are no more than duty to oneself” (1903). Hanna rejects the idea that morality is entirely a system of hypothetical imperatives. Kant’s categorical imperative of ethics is not “an all-purpose practical decision procedure or algorithm. . . . Negatively described, the categorical imperative is a filter for screening out bad maxims; positively described, it is a constructive protocol for correctly generating maxims, given the multifarious array of concrete input-materials to practical reasoning . . .” (RL 212). In parallel with the role of an ethical categorical imperative, Hanna alleges a logical categorical imperative. Specifically, that imperative would be: “Think only according to those processes of reasoning that satisfy the protologic” (RL 213). From this perspective, Hanna would have us see through the errors of radically conventionalist theories of logic (RL 210–11) and skeptical, even nihilistic, attacks on the objectivity of the norms of logic (RL 206, 223–30). Good for Robert Hanna. To Hanna’s logical imperative, I should add this prior one: think. And we should supplement Hanna’s theory with the circumstance that the choice to think is the choice to live, that the categorical demands of logic are vested by the categorical structure of existence and the hypothetical standing of human life.* *See also the review by Gila Sher, especially her criticisms 2 and 5. References Garson, J. W. 2006. Modal Logic for Philosophers. Cambridge. Hanna, R. 2006. Rationality and Logic. MIT. Kant, I. 1996 [1787]. Critique of Pure Reason. W. S. Pluhar, translator. Hackett. Mares, E. D. 2004. Relevant Logic: A Philosophic Interpretation. Oxford. Priest, G. 2001. An Introduction to Non-Classical Logic. Cambridge. ——. 2006. Doubt Truth to Be a Liar. Oxford. Robinson, R. 1969 [1958]. Necessary Propositions. In The First Critique. T. Penelhum and J. J. MacIntosh, editors. Wadsworth. Tait, W. W. 1992. Reflections on the Concept of A Priori Truth and Its Corruption by Kant. In Proof and Knowledge in Mathematics. Routledge.
  4. Thanks for the notice, Merlin. “Comte’s conception of altruism is also inconsistent with liberty, Rand’s focus.” No. That is not her focus. That is the focus of the author. Within his focus, is his focus on Comte, and absence of any attention to the likes of Augustine, who had it that a turning to God is a turning away from self. Rand’s focus is on the rightness, power, and glory of rational individual mind and life. Freedom or absence of force is a necessary condition, not the prize, and anyone who reads Rand without trying to sweep beyond their blinders-field what Rand writes against religious faith can see that plain as day. I rather doubt that motivation for the beneficent projects of the Rotary Club are only motivated by the kind of non-sacrificial generosity of a Howard Roark. The motto of the Club is “Service above Self”. And I rather think the influence on adoption of that motto was not Comte, but religious ethics bannering self-sacrifice. Scratch a socialist (e.g. Norman Thomas), and you’ll likely find a religionist, at least one transferring their youthful religious values to their adult political values. Rand was not writing at a time in which Comte’s ideas were live fires in people. The virtue of self-sacrifice (highest virtue, even only virtue, the very essence of virtue) in the special Randian referent for that term must be widely defeated, both virtue of self-sacrifice for other persons and self-sacrifice for God, for security of the prize. Rand was writing not only against total selflessness, as with Comte, but any degree of selflessness. No poison at all, not any. And health of mind directing a life is not only freedom from force. From American Heritage Dictionary (American usage): Altruism — Concern for the welfare of others, as opposed to egoism; selflessness. Selfless — Without concern for oneself; unselfish. One can look as well at common-usage meanings for selfish, self-interest, etc. However, at least since Socrates, philosophers answer a calling of stirring the head from these meanings to deeper conceptions underlying them and deepening meanings of words and their interrelations. Philosophers can give special, theoretical meanings to words already in use and having some overlap with the rather loose common meanings in order to bring out what is (or could become) in the depths of thought and action under thought. The special, more philosophical meanings, can be wrong if the system to which they belong is wrong. Still, they often get through to real insight. In my assessment, Rand’s may get some of the depths wrong—some definitions, essences, propositions; things omitted or other things not where they should be—but definitely she’s on to important original insights among those stirrings, including ones on values, altruism, and selfishness. (Merlin, I’ve been out of commission a week due to death of a sister. I’ll be back to serious work in a couple more days, and back to feedback on your work in progress.)
  5. Thanks for the information, William, and the link. There is a bit more here from the wife of Laurence Gould.
  6. 3/3/08 A Rejection of Egoism Concerning animals and plants, we correctly think that “whatever stunts their growth or threatens their lives is bad for them. They are the sorts of things that can be healthy or diseased, and it is good for them to the healthy, bad to be diseased, to be stunted, to die before they mature. To determine what is good for some living S, we need to know what sort of thing S is—whether it is a human being, a horse, or a tree. If there are things that are good for all human beings, their goodness must be grounded not only in the properties of those things, but also in the properties of human beings” (WGW 88). “Organic development, health, and proper physical functioning are . . . important components of human flourishing; but for us, faring well includes healthy psychological development and functioning as well” (WGW 5). “Truths about what is good, when they are made about human beings, are truths about what is good for us . . . and must therefore be grounded in facts about our physical and psychological functioning. A theory about what is good that is applicable to human life must rest on ideas about the healthy development and exercise of the human mind” (WGW 90; further, 92–94, 131–66). I have been quoting from Richard Kraut’s new book What Is Good and Why, subtitled The Ethics of Well-Being. It was issued by Harvard University Press in 2007. (Psssst—This is a very fine book.) The picture composed by those quotations will look familiar to readers who have studied Ayn Rand’s ethics. One more from Prof. Kraut: “When we do good, we do good for someone. And so, in addition to our deciding which things are good, we also must answer the question ‘Whose good should one promote?’ There are many simple formulas that propose an answer to that question. The two that are most prominent are egoism and utilitarianism. “Egoism holds that there is only one person whose good should be the direct object of one’s actions: oneself. It allows one to take an indirect interest in others, and to promote their well-being, but only to the extent that doing so is a means towards the maximization of what is good for oneself” (WGW 39). Before explaining Kraut’s reasons for rejecting egoism, I want to begin to review Rand’s arguments for her type of ethical egoism. Within the 1957 exposition of her ethics, Rand writes: “Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the fact of its own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain” (AS 1014 [hb]). “The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live” (AS 1014). “To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-Esteem . . . . These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues . . . : rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride” (AS 1018). “Pride is the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value . . .—that of any achievements open to you, the one that makes all others possible is the creation of your own character . . . —that to live requires a sense of self-value, but man . . . has no automatic sense of self-esteem and must earn it by shaping his soul in the image of his moral ideal, in the image of Man, the rational man he is born able to create, but must create by choice—that the first precondition of self-esteem is that radiant selfishness of soul which desires the best in all things, in values of matter and spirit, a soul that seeks above all else to achieve its own moral perfection, valuing nothing higher than itself . . .” (AS 1020–21; see also 1056–58). In the 1964 Introduction to The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand observes that “the choice of the beneficiary of moral values . . . . has to be derived and validated by the fundamental premises of a moral system. / The Objectivist ethics holds that the actor must always be the beneficiary of his action . . .” (x). I discern three intertwined strands in Rand’s defense of ethical egoism. I will be focusing on her arguments that move from agent egoism to beneficiary egoism. It is only when the latter is joined to the former that the theory should be called ethical egoism. Strand One In Rand’s 1957 presentation, the first move to beneficiary egoism is in the first paragraph of her text that I quoted above. It is there asserted that if one does not hold one’s own life as the motive and goal of one’s actions, one is acting in a self-destructive way. In The Fountainhead Rand wrote that “[man’s] moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others” (740 [hb]). One illustration of the self-destructive path set upon by doing otherwise is Peter Keating’s being dissuaded by his mother from marrying the woman he loves. It will be argued, however, that there are some moral choices in which one’s immediate motive is the good of others, yet that choice is not self-destructive. In ordinary circumstances, I tell people the truth. My immediate motive is often their self-interest, not mine; I don’t want them to be taking up falsehoods. Kraut articulates this apparent defect of egoism as follows: “When everything goes well for a child and he has all the emotional resources he needs to interact with his community in ways that are best for himself, he will have some direct interest in some members of that community—namely, those who have manifestly expressed their love for him in ways that benefit him. So no one whose early education is as good for him as it can be will emerge from childhood as a person who is inclined to act as egoism says he should act. So fortunate a young adult will gladly help others for their sake . . . . Egoism tells him to extirpate this desire” (WGW 40–41; further, 48–65, 211–14, 231, 238–43). I observe that when one chooses to tell the truth in ordinary circumstances or to render aid to others, one is engaged not only as an agent egoist. One is not only following one’s own judgment about what to do. One is also choosing in the particular occasion what is the good state of affairs for individuals in general. Help another “if such is your own desire based on your own selfish pleasure in the value of his person and his struggle. . . . Man’s fight against suffering” is a value (AS 1059–60). In this passage, Rand is commending acting on one’s pleasure in a value-operation not one’s own. It seems to me that this is an occasion of egoistic action that is not directly for one’s own sake, only indirectly so. One has the pleasure directly, but the object of one’s intelligence yielding the pleasure is a value-operation not one’s own and a value-operation whose aim is success (e.g., truth or relief from suffering) for one not oneself. Then, strictly speaking, Rand’s is an egoism that falls outside Kraut’s definition of egoism. Kraut’s definition is more narrow than the usual definition for ethical theory. It is surely correct to call Rand’s ethics an egoism, an integrated agent-beneficiary egoism. (Objectivist conceptions of egoism are usual. See N. Branden VOS 57; L. Peikoff Om. // 65, OPAR 230–31; T. Smith VV 154–55, ARNE 23–24.) Kraut opposes also this theory of ethics, which he takes to be less than full-fledged egoism. Rand holds that one should never sacrifice one’s own true interests to those of another. Kraut observes that “that thesis holds that one has a special normative relationship to oneself. It places the self ahead of others . . . .” (WGW 53). It gives priority always to striving for one’s own good, rather than striving for the good of others. Kraut rejects the ethics of uniform self-priority. “There is no reason always to place oneself first in situations of conflict, or always to refrain from making large sacrifices for the good of others” (WGW 54; further, 180–83, 191–96). Rand writes concerning sacrifice: “If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbor’s child and let your own die, it is” (AS 1028). “If a mother buys food for her hungry child rather than a hat for herself, it is not a sacrifice: she values the child higher than the hat” (AS 1029). As an example of self-sacrifice, Kraut poses the following: “Suppose a parent, to earn enough money to give his child an expensive education, gives up a job that makes full use of his talents and in its place accepts a post that is intellectually and emotionally deadening and physically dangerous, but provides a large and steady income” (WGW 181). Kraut counts this as an example of self-sacrifice. To any ethical theory that would count it as not sacrificial, Kraut poses a challenge. Suppose the child who receives the education is an ungrateful child, who says he owes his parent nothing in return, that the parent was satisfying the parent’s own hierarchy of values, so there was no real self-sacrifice in the parent letting go of the career that would have been better for the parent. It is possible that on Rand’s egoism, a parent who forfeited the better career for the purpose of a better education for the child would necessarily be making an inverted-value sacrifice, the forfeiture of what ought to be valued more in comparison to something that ought to be valued less, though highly. That is, the better career for the parent should necessarily be valued more highly by the parent than the better education for the child. Whether such a conclusion follows from Rand’s ethics, I will leave undetermined; thoughts from readers would be appreciated. What is clear is that a Randian should hold the child’s ungratefulness to be prima facie wrong for the child and a wrong against the parent because the value of what the parent forfeited for the child’s education was enormous, regardless of the possibility that the parent valued the latter over the former. I concluded above that Rand’s conception of holding one’s own life “as the motive and goal” of one’s actions and never placing “[one’s] prime goal within the persons of others” does not entail always taking one’s own interests as the direct object of one’s actions. This further undermines the ungrateful child’s rationale. The direct motive for the parent’s momentous choice could be the child’s well-being, even if that choice also serves the parent’s well-being. Strand Two The first strand in Rand’s move from agent egoism to beneficiary egoism was the thesis that if one does not hold ones own life as the motive and goal of one’s actions (at least indirectly), one is acting in a self-destructive way. The second strand, wound together with the first, is that if one does not hold one’s life as the motive and goal of one’s actions, one is acting in a disintegrated way, and integrated life is better life. All living organisms are engaged in continual integrated actions suited to their individual survival or the survival of their species. Deterioration of an organism’s ability to perform its integrated repertoire of actions is a loosening of the tight organization required for its continued life or the continuation of its species. Rand draws attention to the overarching value of the survival of the individual organism that is served by its integrated repertoire of actions suited to its kind. (She leaves out of the frame of attention the overarching value of the propagation of the species that is served by the repertoire of the individual organism.) Consider the repertoire of the marine snail Pleurobranchea. The nervous systems of these animals are much simpler than the mammalian central nervous system, but they are sufficiently complex to coordinate the behavioral sequences known as fixed action patterns. Those are inherited stereotypical patterns of behavior (such as egg-laying) consisting of several distinct steps that either together form a coordinated sequence or do not take place at all. It has been determined that the fixed action patterns characteristic of Pleurobranchea are organized neurologically into a definite hierarchy: feeding is dominant over righting, gill and siphon withdrawal, or mating; episodic egg-laying is dominant over feeding; escape swimming is dominant over all other behaviors. Humans have sensations of pleasure and pain. These are signs of the body’s welfare or injury. In addition to bodily pleasure-pain systems, we have emotional systems. Rand conceives joy and suffering as fundamental emotions that estimate whether something furthers one’s life or threatens it. Which particular things emotions will signal as good or as bad will be shaped by one’s unique past experience and value judgments. If one has taken up values opposing one’s self-interest—not only self-sacrifice as a value, but values contradictory, values impossible, or values sheltered from rational assessment—then suffering and destruction will be the results. On the other hand, if one chooses to value the full use of one’s rational mind, to value the possible, the productive, and the self-beneficial, then there is fair promise of life and happiness (AS 1020–22). Just as the organs and systems of the human body must act in a properly coordinated way if they are to effect the end-in-itself that is the life of the individual organism, so one’s consciously directed actions must be properly organized if one is to achieve well the end-in-itself that is the conscious life of the individual human being. Rand identified seven coordinated patterns of volitional actions necessary for one’s realistically best life. Those are her seven cardinal virtues I listed in the root post of this thread. (David Kelley has argued that an eighth cardinal virtue, sister to productivity, naturally issues from Rand’s ethics and conception of human existence. That virtue is benevolence. This addition is argued in his essay “Unrugged Individualism” [1996]). These virtues are defended as general principles, good guides for any individual. Ethical theory, on Rand’s account, tells one what are the main right values and virtues and their rationale. It tells one also who is rightly the primary beneficiary of one’s agency. Kraut argues that philosophy can help answer “What is good?” but it cannot help answer “Whose good should I be serving?” (WGW 39–65, 208–13, 255–57). He argues that there are many proper answers to that second question, so an ethical theory that purports a uniquely correct answer to it must have gone wrong. The answer that one should always promote one’s own good is incorrect by overgeneralization. He recognizes that there are circumstances in which there is no one’s good besides one’s own that one should promote, but those circumstances are not typical. Contrary to Kraut, I think, as in Strand One, that promotion of the good of other persons can be directly for their sake, yet one can be holding in an integrated way to the overarching good for oneself, the overarching primary good of one’s own life and happiness. One does stand in a special normative relation to oneself. Mature and healthy individuals are constituted—and Kraut also takes this for true—so as to love themselves, to take care of themselves, and to act for their own benefit. But Kraut allows for the possibility, when one has reached adulthood, of properly turning one’s life into a purely instrumental value serving the good of definite others (WGW 48–53). This extreme possibility is not cashed out in terms of a real-world circumstance in which it would be proper. I think, as Rand thought, that such an agent would not be self-harmonious, so, would not be flourishing. Kraut does think philosophy can help answer “What is good?” and I want to give at least a peek at the fruits of his labor. Recall that Kraut maintains that the good is the flourishing of living things. The salient components he finds constituting human flourishing are: autonomy (WGW 196–201), cognitive skills (164–66), affects expressing rational assessments (153–58), affectionate relationships (161–63), honesty (192–93, 257–61), and justice (194–96, 225–34). Strand Three Rand writes that “man’s life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man—for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling, and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life” (AS 1014). If one aims to live and live well, then man’s life must be one’s standard of morality. Part of the nature of man’s life, in Rand’s conception, is that it is life of individuals in which each is organized to be an end in himself existing for his own sake. That is how human beings are outfitted by biological nature, and in the ways that are open to their choice, that is how they should organize themselves. Morality can be put to various purposes. The proper one, in Rand’s view, is to provide “a code of values to guide man’s choices and actions—the choices and actions that determine the purpose and the course of his life” (VOS 13). Kraut notes that the term moral is often used by way of contrast to terms like prudential, self-interested, and selfish. He allows that it is useful to have the term moral for distinguishing between behavior that benefits others in contrast to behavior that benefits oneself, but he observes that “this way of talking has the unfortunate effect of making self-interested actions and concern for one’s own good dishonorable, or in any case of secondary importance” (WGW 256). He takes both the moral and the prudential to be genres of the good. The good, in Kraut’s view, is the flourishing of the living. Rand stresses more than Kraut that organisms are organized so as to survive. She also stresses more than Kraut that individual human beings are by nature ends in themselves. Kraut makes the good point that by citing facts of nature—of plants and animals and the powers nature has given humans—he is not maintaining that “what is good for us is whatever is natural for us, and whatever we are born with must be used” (WGW 146). We might correctly conclude that some of our natural powers are bad for us. But it is not plausible that many or all of them are bad for us. “It would be foolish to begin with the assumption that whereas it is good for all other living things to flourish, it is not good for us to flourish. After all, flourishing consists in the growth and development of the capacities of a living thing: why should that be good for plants and animals, but not for us? . . . If a theory of goodness can fit its account of human well-being into a larger framework that applies to the entire natural [biological] world, that gives it an advantage over any theory that holds ‘G is good for S’ is one kind of relationship for human beings and a different kind for all other creatures” (GWG 147–48).That merit of Kraut’s theory holds for Rand’s as well. The third strand in the cord by which Rand ties beneficiary egoism to agency egoism is the stress she lays on the self-sufficiency of organisms in general and individual humans in particular. There is much to be said for this and against this. Not today.
  7. 2/16/08 Rand observes that “the choice of the beneficiary of moral values . . . . has to be derived and validated by the fundamental premises of a moral system” (VoS x). Rand offers arguments and a conception of morality in support of the conclusion that “the actor must [should] always be the beneficiary of his action” (VoS x). “Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man’s survival,” and this is the case “by the grace of reality and the nature of life” (VoS 23). “By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself, he exists for his own sake, and the achievement of his own happiness is his highest moral purpose” (AS 1017). Rand argues that “man’s actions and survival require the guidance of conceptual values derived from conceptual knowledge” (VoS 20); that conceptual thought is an activity of individual minds (AS 1017); that “thinking requires a state of full, focused awareness” (VoS 20); that “the act of focusing one’s consciousness is volitional” (20–21); that “the men who choose to think and to produce . . . . are pursuing a course of action proper to man” (23); “that just as life is an end in itself, so every living human being is an end in himself . . . and, therefore, that [each] man must [should] live for his own sake” (27). The individual’s own life “is the source, not only of all his values, but of his capacity to value. Therefore, the value he grants to others is only a consequence, an extension, a secondary projection of the primary value which is himself” (VoS 47). Furthermore: “Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it. A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate, and contradict the fact of its own existence . . .” (AS 1014 [hb], boldface added). As noted earlier in this thread, Robert Hartford contributed a paper last spring to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 8(2):291–303. The title of his paper is “Objectivity and the Proof of Egoism.” In this paper, he argues that “the foundation of an objectively verifiable ethical system is the [voluntary] acceptance and use of the principle of holding one’s own life as the motive and goal of one’s action” (302). Robert argues that if one rejects Rand’s principle of holding one’s own life as the motive and goal of one’s action, then one is contradicting a fact about the very mind rejecting the principle. That fact is the biological role that the mind has in human life. “The mind has unsurpassed power to select action that results in pursuit and achievement of values, pursuit and achievement of that which benefits one’s life” (300). If one selects an action that is known—known consciously or subconsciously—to be harmful to one’s life, then some aspect of one’s mind is implicitly acting in a way at odds with the fundamental role of the mind in human life. The mind is then in a contradictory state. It strives to achieve what benefits the life of the person whose mind it is while at the same time, in the particular choice, it strives to harm that person. Therefore, one should always select one’s action with one’s own life as the motive and goal of the action. I would say that the biological role of the mind is not only to enable the survival of the individual whose mind it is, but to enable the survival of other members of the human species. So I don’t think Robert’s proof works. The faulty premise in Robert’s argument is appealed to in the complex weave of Rand’s argument as well. How wide are the ramifications of this flaw in her argument? I wonder.
  8. ET, In the statement of Rand's I quoted and you again quoted, she is contrasting life to all things not living. Only living things can be ends in themselves and have value kinds of actions. (And I don't think it would matter whether the life was manmade in the lab or naturally occurring life.) I agree. “According to Objectivism . . . a philosophic view of man is not exhausted by metaphysics and epistemology, nor does it at every point follow deductively from them; fresh observations are required. . . . “If a fundamental difference is one which has enormous, pervasive manifestations, then the most fundamental difference among the entities we perceive is that between the animate and the inanimate. The starting point in the present enquiry, therefore, is the fact that man is a certain kind of living organism. What is an organism? More specifically, what is its essential, distinctive mode of action?” (pages 188-189 of Peikoff’s 1991 Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand). On your question of the point at which egoism comes into the picture in the account of the good, I'll post below two posts of mine from some years back. I encourage you to study, if you've not done so already, Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness and Peikoff' OPAR.
  9. Thanks for the correction, Dennis, and thanks for the question. In a few days, I shall have been working on the book material each morning for six years. Along the way, I’ve extended my target on up to ten years (I’d be seventy-five). However, to accomplish even that required that I leave off theory of value altogether. And the extended detailed comparisons of Rand’s philosophy and mine with major classical philosophies needed to be discontinued. Because I had completed the comparison on foundations between Descartes and Rand, which was no longer going to be appropriate for the way the book was developing, I submitted that to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, and they published it last summer. By last fall, the metaphysics I had developed had become so sweeping, deep, and original, and had finally stabilized, that I had a big worry. The problem was that it would take another four years before all the ramifications of it could be worked out for epistemological areas, and I became worried it was all too possible that none of what I had already created would ever be seen by anyone else (none of it has been posted on the internet or will be) should I have a stroke or otherwise be incapable of completing the whole book (for which I’d still need to find a publisher at the end—I’m not for self-publishing on this). I thought of seeing if this sort of material would be appropriate for JARS as a series of major papers over time. I sent them the initial one that lays out the basics of the new metaphysics; they think it an appropriate kind of thing for their venue; it is under review; and if all goes well with that on both sides, it might appear about a year from now. This new metaphysics is more indebted to the metaphysics of Ayn Rand than to any other. Mine is a transfiguration of hers at the deepest level. The differences and commonalities with Rand’s fundamentals are explicated and argued. Her fundamentals and mine are set in their relations to others ancient to modern. Down the anticipated series of papers, ramifications of this new metaphysics for philosophy of logic, mathematics, and science will be drawn. So I’m doing the same work, only not for a book, and one will need to be a subscriber to JARS or have university access through JSTOR to see this, my highest creation.
  10. I wrote this and originally posted it online in 2010. Rand and the Greeks In the “The Objectivist Ethics” Rand stated: “Aristotle did not regard ethics as an exact science” (14). “He based his ethical system on observations of what the noble and wise men of his time chose to do, leaving unanswered the questions of: why they chose to do it and why he evaluated them as noble and wise” (OE 14). Insofar as Aristotle’s approach was indeed as described in the preceding quotation (see e.g. NE 1140a24–25), Rand stakes ethics in a dramatically different way. Rand aims to ground an ethics in something more firm, namely, in biology. In the soul, Aristotle marks three divisions: passions, faculties, and states. He argues that excellence, or nobility, cannot be a passion nor a faculty, and so must be a state. In particular excellence “will be the state which makes a man good and which makes him do his own work well” (NE 1106a22–23). More particularly still, excellence “is a state concerned with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, this being determined by reason and in the way in which the man of practical wisdom would determine it” (NE 1106b36–1107a2). A number of thinkers sympathetic to Rand’s rational, life-centered ethical egoism have argued that, in a variety of ways, her ethics is closer to Aristotle’s than she had expressly gauged it to be. One of the additions Rand made to the exposition of her ethics in “The Objectivist Ethics” beyond the exposition in “Galt’s Speech” was her introduction of the phrase ultimate value. Rand rejected the Aristotelian conception of vegetative and non-conscious animal activities as being due to some sort of “teleological principle operating in nature” (OE 16). Like the early moderns Descartes, Hobbes, and Spinoza, like we moderns today, Rand held the domain of Aristotle’s final causation to be confined “only to a conscious being.” Final causation in its only reality is “the process by which an end determines the means, i.e., the process of choosing a goal and taking the actions necessary to achieve it” (CvD 99). Taking that modern layout for understood, Rand wrote: “In a fundamental sense, stillness is the antithesis of life. Life can be kept in existence only by a constant process of self-sustaining action. The goal of that action, the ultimate value which, to be kept, must be gained through its every moment, is the organisms life. “An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are to be evaluated.” (OE 16–17) The only such ultimate value, the only end in itself, is the life of the individual organism, in Rand’s view. In the vegetative and appetitive organizations within the human animal, that end is supposed by Rand to be their healthy overarching one. Those systems run that way automatically. But the human individual is fundamentally free to choose how far he keeps his mind and actions set upon that same ultimate end, the preservation and fullness of his own life. There is a parallel here with Aristotle’s conception of the mature human ability to craft deliberate virtues upon natural virtues (see Lennox 1999). Then again there is the glaring difference that Rand would not have philosophical contemplation to be the overarching end driving a human life taken to be happiest of all other human lives (NE X, 7). In his 1975 work Human Rights and Human Liberties, Tibor Machan argued that “only if a specifically human goal can be identified—one shared by all people just in virtue of being the kind of thing they are—could an identifiable standard for moral valuation be found. If there is nothing on that order that human beings ought to achieve, no summum bonum, then the idea that they ought to achieve it could not be meaningful” (71). Rand had argued that “it only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of ‘value’ is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of ‘life’” (OE 17; see also Den Uyl and Rasmussen 1984a, 65–67). What goes for value goes as well for the Aristotelian coins excellence, success, and doing well. Life—the physical phenomenon of life—is their original and perpetual grounding context (cf. Kelley 1992, 58). Professor Machan went on to endorse an argument by function-explanation put forth by Eric Mack (1971) to the conclusion that “the end of the objective function” of an individual’s choices and actions “is the sustenance of his life” (72). Machan then linked Rand’s summum bonum, as defended by Mack, with Aristotle’s idea that “the proper goal of each person is his own success as a human being, his own happiness” (72). Tightening the link, Machan observes: “The happiness discussed by Aristotle is far broader than what people usually mean by the term ‘happiness’. It is closer to what Ayn Rand has characterized as ‘a noncontradictory state of joy’. The main feature of this state is not pleasure, fun, or excitement. Instead it is a self-acknowledgement of worth, a sense of being a successful living entity of the kind human beings are” (73; see further, Lawrence 2006). There is considerable difference, nonetheless, I should say, between what Aristotle and Rand conceived the human mind and life to be and between what they took as the source of ethical norms (see e.g. Long 2000). Aristotle argued for happiness as the unique final end; Rand found life as final end-giving end of happiness. Moreover, Rand conceived happiness, with its self-sufficient quality, to be integral with, not aloof from, the pleasure of human animal life (see Frede 2007, 264–67, on Aristotle; cf. Saint-André 1993, 152, 159–66, and Branden 1964, on Rand). Among others stressing the kinship of Rand’s ethics to Aristotle’s would be Jack Wheeler in his contribution “Rand and Aristotle: A Comparison of Objectivist and Aristotelian Ethics” (1984). Similarly, Peter Saint-André stresses that Rand’s project, and Aristotle’s too, is “at root metaphysical,” both projects dealing with “‘what is possible’ to the human individual” (1996, 209). He objects to Rand’s representation of Aristotle as only “sifting through what the noble and the wise say and do” to uncover norms. That may be what Aristotle sometimes says he does, but, Saint-André would have us look at Nicomachean Ethics I, 6–7, “wherein Aristotle investigates the ontological status of the Good and derives the nature of happiness from the ergon or ‘characteristic work’ of man quo man” (1996, 210). In his 2005 paper “Ayn Rand as Aristotelian: Values and Happiness,” Fred Miller observes that Aristotle’s presentation is open to interpretation among noted scholars. John Cooper, Terence Irwin, and David Reeve read Aristotle along the lines read by Machan, Den Uyl and Rasmussen, and others, which allows one to see Aristotle as near Rand in pattern of meta-ethical reasoning. Gabriel Richardson Lear reads Aristotle along those lines in her deep study (2004, 121–22, 145–46). Sarah Broadie dissents from the Grand End reading of Aristotle (1991), though she takes Aristotle as having practical reason discern right action, rather than constituting it (2006, 348). John McDowell finds Aristotle more like Rand found him: “Rather than giving a criterion that works from outside the ethic, [Aristotle] says that such things are as the virtuous person determines them to be” (1998, 35; quoted in Miller 2005). In any case, biological existence is not among the candidates for external ultimate criteria for ethical norms various scholars have drawn from Aristotle’s text. Professor Miller draws attention to Rand’s remarks on Aristotle a couple of years after her critical remarks on Aristotle’s ethical theory. Rand approved of Aristotle’s conceptions of life and knowledge as naturalistic facts. She viewed Aristotle as giving “living entities, the phenomenon of life,” a central place in his philosophy (1963, 10). “Life—and its highest form, man’s life—is the central fact in Aristotle’s view of reality. The best way to describe it is to say that Aristotle’s philosophy is ‘biocentric’.” (The same can be said for Protagoras, who influenced the Cyrenaics and Epicurus, I should note.) Rand continues: “This is the source of Aristotle’s intense concern with the study of the enormously ‘pro-life’ attitude that dominates his thinking” (11). When it comes to his ethical writings, however, I do not find Aristotle bringing biology expressly to bear. I do not see he has any understanding that the physical phenomenon of life, and its continuous self-generated struggle for continuation, is the source of all value. Happiness is not ordered to life by Aristotle in the express and deep way it is ordered to life by Rand. “Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man’s body is an automatic indicator of his body’s welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death—so the emotional mechanism of man’s consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering.” (OE 27) “The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. . . . When one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: ‘This is worth living for’—what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.” (OE 29) Aristotle recognized that there is no desire, no valued thing, where there is no life (EE 1281a26–27). That is short of seeing that and how the concept value, or goodness, presupposes the concept life. Aristotle observed that pleasures complete competent activities “as an end which supervenes as the bloom of youth does on those in the flower of their age” (NE 1174b31–33). Life is desirable, and pleasure completes the activity that is human life (NE 1175a10–21). Moreover, the life of the virtuous is pleasant, and its pleasures are harmonious because they are pleasures taken in things that are by nature pleasant (NE 1099a6–14). But Aristotle does not proceed expressly from pleasure to joy to happiness, and on the steps life, life, life. Aristotle held that eudaimonia is a complete thing, an end in itself (NE 1097a30–35; 1176a36–1176b5; EE 1219a24–39; see further, Richardson Lear 2004, 69–71). He held it to be something of a self-generated achievement (NE 1114b30–1115a3; EE 1215a15–19). One barrier to Aristotle fully seeing happiness as emblematic servant of life itself, morality’s true ground, is perhaps this: Although he recognized the self-generated dimension of life, he “did not clearly identify that a living organism’s existence depends on this activity” (Smith 2000, 119n11). Born nine years after Aristotle and living five decades beyond him was Epicurus. He promoted a form of eudaimonistic hedonism, directed by the reins of physical life, which life dwells in a world devoid of Aristotelian natural teleology. That Epicurus keeps ethics close to biology is fast upon his view that “the soul is a body [made up of] fine parts distributed throughout the entire aggregate, and most closely resembling breath with a certain admixture of heat . . . . All of this is revealed by the abilities of the soul, its feelings, its ease of motion, its thought processes, and the things whose removal leads to our death” (Ltr. To Herodotus 63). Human nature “was taught a large number of different lessons just by the facts themselves, and compelled [by them]; . . . reasoning later made more precise what was handed over to it [by nature] and made additional discoveries” (H 75). Good and bad arise only within sense experience. So death cannot be the root of that which is bad (Ltr to Menoeceus 124–25). “The wise man neither rejects life nor fears death” (M 126). Among natural desires, “some are necessary for happiness and some for freeing the body from troubles and some for life itself” (M 127). As for the first two, Epicurus writes: “The cry of the flesh: not to be hungry, not to be thirsty, not to be cold. For if someone has these things and is confident of having them in the future, he might contend even with [Zeus] for happiness” (Vatican Collection 33). Epicurus held to a conceptual primacy of pain over pleasure—the latter is only the absence of the former—although plenty of harmonious pleasure is possible in life if one keeps ones desires limited to what is necessary for a modest style of life (M 128–32; Principal Doctrines III–V). “One must not force nature but persuade her. And we will persuade her by fulfilling the necessary desires” and the natural but unnecessary ones, provided they are not harmful (VC 21). Epicurus anchors happiness to absence of bodily pains and harms. This suggests he takes physical life to be the basis of right desires. In addition, as seen in the paragraph before last, some right desires are necessary “for life itself,” in the view of Epicurus. I do not find in Epicurus the insight that it is the concept of life, with its fundamental perpetual alternative, that makes the concept of right desire possible. Still, it should be clear that on the relation of moral values to life itself, there are precursors of Rand’s pages in the writings of both Epicurus and Aristotle. (See further, Shelton 1995, 1996, and Saint-André 1996.) (Coming in a few weeks: Salmeiri 2020.) References Aristotle 1984. The Complete Works of Aristotle, volume 2. J. Barnes, editor. Princeton. Branden, N. 1964. The Psychology of Pleasure. In Rand 1964. Broadie, S. 1991. Ethics with Aristotle. Oxford. ——. 2006. Aristotle and Contemporary Ethics. In Kraut 2006. Den Uyl, D. J., and D. B. Rasmussen 1984a. Life, Teleology, and Eudaimonia in the Ethics of Ayn Rand. In 1984b. Den Uyl, D. J., and D. B. Rasmussen, editors. 1984b. The Philosophic Thought of Ayn Rand. University of Illinois. Epicurus 1994. The Epicurus Reader. B. Inwood and L. P. Gerson, translators and editors. Hackett. Frede, D. 2006. Pleasure and Pain in Aristotle’s Ethics. In Kraut 2006. Kelley, D. 1992. Post-Randian Aristotelianism. Liberty (July). Kraut, R., editor. 2006. The Blackwell Guide to Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Blackwell. Lawrence, G. 2006. Human Good and Human Function. In Kraut 2006. Lennox, J. G. 1999. Aristotle on the Biological Roots of Virtue: The Natural History of Natural Virtue. In Biology and the Foundation of Ethics. J. Maienschein and M. Ruse, editors. Cambridge. Long, R. T. 2000. Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand. Objectivist Studies. No. 3. The Objectivist Center. Machan, T. R. 1975. Human Rights and Human Liberties. Nelson Hall. Mack, E. 1971. How to Derive Ethical Egoism. The Personalist (Autumn):736–43. McDowell, J. 1998. Some Issues in Aristotle’s Moral Psychology. In Mind, Value, and Reality. Cambridge. Rand, A. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In Rand 1964. ——. 1963. Review of Randall’s Aristotle. In The Voice of Reason. 1990. Meridian. ——. 1964. The Virtue of Selfishness. 1964. Signet. ——. 1974. Causality versus Duty. In Philosophy: Who Needs It. 1982. Signet. Richardson Lear, G. 2004. Happy Lives and the Highest Good. Princeton. Saint-André, J. P. 1993. A Philosophy for Living on Earth. Objectivity 1(6):137–73. ——. 1996. Epicurean Pleasure and the Objectivist Good. Objectivity 2(4):205–11. Shelton, R. 1995. Epicurus and Rand. Objectivity 2(3)1–47. ——. 1996. Parallel Metaethics. Objectivity 2(4):213–25. Smith, T. 2000. Viable Values. Rowman & Littlefield. Wheeler, J. 1984. Rand and Aristotle: A Comparison of Objectivist and Aristotelian Ethics. In Den Uyl and Rasmussen 1984b.
  11. Rand took it that we can and do recognize that others are ends in themselves. The fact that they are ends in themselves entails certain ways one should not treat them. Adhering to those ways—respecting their rights against force or fraud in their person and their property—is morally right, is what one ought to do. Moreover, in Rand’s view, it is what one would normally, naturally want to do. Furthermore, in Rand’s view, respecting rights of others—making the fact that they are ends in themselves operative in one’s set of values—is in one’s best interest in a social context (and is irrelevant in a non-social context). Nice related work: “Selfish Regard for the Rights of Others” by Gregory Salmieri, in Foundations of a Free Society (Pittsburgh 2019). ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ PS - to SL: You will find the term "intrinsic" used in the chapter just cited, and not in Rand's special sense for it when thinking about the ontology of value. That is because Salmieri is (i) engaging with criticisms of Rand's ethical egoism and her theory of rights coming from contemporary philosophers from other schools of thought and (ii) the term is common in talking about constitutive values and their interplay with instrumental values.
  12. SL, I don't think Rand took "end in himself" to mean anything but "end in itself" applied to a person. However, by the special way SHE was using "intrinsic" (introduced in the essay "What is Capitalism?"), we wouldn't rightly say that intrinsic value means end-in-itself in the way SHE meant the latter term. I agree with how she used the latter term; my use of it means what she meant: only a character of living things (focally, individual organisms) and only an overall character composed of subsidiary instrumental, functional value-actions). So when Nozick turns to "organic unity" as more generic (and to be found not only in living things, but art or inanimate natural organizations), I'd say that those organic unities not life are just semblances (fainter to fainter) of life. In using the term "intrinsic" we apparently best say which way we mean it: in its more usual way that Nozick was using it (which had SOME overlap with Rand's specially carved meaning) or in Rand's special, theoretical definition and usage. (My American Heritage Dictionary has for "intrinsic" the following: Pertaining to the essential nature of a thing; inherent.) "It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action" (OE 17).
  13. ET, What would you say about someone who has attempted suicide, is unconscious, and you happen upon them? Wouldn’t you think they still have the quality of intrinsic value (= [inherent value] = [potential and actual end-in-itself value]) and so go ahead and call 911? Wouldn’t you be not indifferent to their possibility of coming round to choosing life, being productive, and pursuing happiness? Choosing to live comes up directly in the Hamlet question (in various sorts of situation), but also implicitly every day for humans with the normal capacity to end their life or to stop doing the things necessary to live. And every initiative of thought and work is implicitly a choice to live and be a human being. Do you agree? Rand thought one should treat others and oneself as ends-in-themselves. Her reason was because they are ends-in-themselves, and one ought to treat things as the kinds of things they are. I agree. “Do you ask what moral obligation I owe to my fellow men? None—except the obligation I owe to myself, to material objects and to all of existence: rationality. I deal with men as my nature and theirs demands: by means of reason” (1957, 1022). “Every act of man’s life has to be willed; the mere act of obtaining or eating his food implies that the person he preserves is worthy of being preserved” (1056). “By the grace of reality and the nature of life, man—every man—is an end in himself” (1014).
  14. PS A note about Rand’s development on this in her writings: In We the Living, she has value and authentic aliveness as requiring human awareness of and embrace of one’s wants and joys. Value as the valuable for its own sake (and as distinct from the mere ‘satisfaction’ had by her later character Toohey) does in WL not exist until the human awareness and embrace of it. The valuable-in-itself does not exist prior to the higher humans bringing it into the world, and it is something that most likely could not exist in beings not having distinctively human capabilities. As you know, that layout is revised and the revised account greatly elaborated in her 1957.
  15. SL and ET and Tony, I doubt I’ve changed in the view I’d come to in this essay of 1984. The way in which Nozick was using ‘intrinsic’ was as I stated therein. This is a different meaning of the term in Rand’s use of that same term, in which it means value existing without there being some valuer of the value (and all value being in fact rooted in life, there being value independently of any purposive agent). Still, when I talk of becoming value, as did Nozick 1981, it can seem as becoming value that exists without the existence of any valuer of it. I meant only that in making life-values squarely operational in oneself, which one can do through explicit conceptual awareness, one can strengthen and magnify the life-value that is oneself and one’s life. I don’t know if Nozick would have been open to the way I latched his intrinsic value necessarily to life. He might have gone on to say of his intrinsic value that not only does it have a sense not talked about by Rand, but additionally the sense she squarely opposed. That is, additionally, his intrinsic value (not mine) might be a realm floating on its own whether or not living things (or God) exist and connect with it. He took there to be an objective basis of intrinsic value. That basis is not life, but organic unity, which includes life but is something more general. Because there are degrees of organic unity, he has a way to roughly rank various intrinsic values in relation to each other. So, for example, a human life could be ranked higher than a redwood or a painting due to the greater organic unity of a human being and its life (its making a life, as Nozick would say). One of my favorite closing passages among novels I got to read in high school is the one recited in the clip I link below. It speaks great truth, though from my perspective, the element of saying memory is not necessary for love is incorrect and the idea that love continues even were everyone to die is incorrect. Thank you all for your thoughts on issues in this essay.
  16. Quine’s “Two Dogmas” It was Quine's essay "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" (TD), published in 1951, that brought his debate with Carnap over the analytic-synthetic distinction to widespread attention among philosophers. In this essay, Quine argues against the validity of the distinction. Carnap wanted to maintain a sharp distinction between analytic statements depending entirely on the meanings being used and synthetic statements making assertions about the empirical world. Quine's alternative view had it that all statements face the world as part of a corporate body of statements. On this view, experience bears the same kind of evidential relation to the theoretical parts of natural science as it does to mathematics and logic (see also Quine 1954). One of Quine’s aims in “Two Dogmas” is to argue that no sharp distinction can be drawn between analytic statements and synthetic statements. Analytic statements are ones alleged to be “true by virtue of meaning and independently of fact” (TD 21). Truths grounded in fact are known as synthetic truths; statements of such truths are called synthetic statements. Quine reminds the reader that meaning “is not to be identified with naming” (TD 21). My height and my stature (under one of its definitions) name the same thing and mean the same thing. Likewise for three and drei. In general, however, concepts with different meanings can name the same thing, as my right hand and my writing hand. Quine writes of terms, but these are terms working in a certain way, terms employed in statements admitting of truth or falsity. Quine’s “terms in statements” would seem not far from “concepts in propositions” which is the technical vocabulary adopted by Rand. Turning to general terms like right hand, Quine observes that we must distinguish between the meaning of the term and the extension (the referents) of the term. Think of the essence of right hands. Instead of thinking of the essence in the Aristotelian way—as inhering in those hands (actual and possible)—let it inhere in the term. That thought is the meaning of a general term, and, like Aristotelian essence, it is not one and the same as the thing signified (TD 21–22). I better hit the gavel for Rand at this point. We speak of the meanings of words, but words are only markers for concepts, “and the meaning of a concept consists of its units.” We define concepts “by specifying their referents.” Concepts and definitions are certain ways of specifying referents (ITOE 44). I look up the word derelict in my dictionary and find one of its meanings: abandoned property; especially, a ship abandoned at sea. Knowing how to apply the latter term (grammatically, a phrase), I might now use this sense of the word derelict. The word being defined and its definition have the same meaning. They are cognitively synonymous. Quine thought that the useful conceptions of meanings come down to (i) giving synonyms or (ii) making significant utterances (1948, 11). Rand held that when we make significant utterances that engage concepts, or general terms, those concepts have definitions specifying their referents. (Prior to being able to state propositions in which concepts figure, a concept like ball is [marked by a word and] nested in image and action schemata [ITOE 13, 20, 43]. Presumably, this rudimentary mentation, alternative to explicit propositions and definitions, informs them.) Quine notices that there are definitions of a sort that are not simply the giving of synonyms, and he calls these sorts of definitions explications. “In explication the purpose is not merely to paraphrase the definiendum [the term being defined] into an outright synonym, but actually to improve upon the definiendum by refining or supplementing its meaning. But even explication, though not merely reporting a preexisting synonymy between definiendum and definiens [the definition], does rest nevertheless on other preexisting synonymies. . . . Any word worth explicating has some contexts which, as wholes, are clear and precise enough to be useful; and the purpose of explication is to preserve the usage of these favored contexts while sharpening the usage of other contexts. In order that a given definition be suitable for purposes of explication, therefore, what is required is not that the definiendum in its antecedent usage be synonymous with the definiens, but just that each of these favored contexts of the definiendum, taken as a whole in its antecedent usage, be synonymous with the corresponding context of the definiens. “Two alternative definientia may be equally appropriate for the purposes of a given task of explication and yet not be synonymous with each other; for they may serve interchangeably within the favored contexts but diverge elsewhere. By cleaving to one of these definientia rather than the other, a definition of explicative kind generates, by fiat, a relation of synonymy between definiendum and definiens which did not hold before. But such a definition still owes its explicative function, as seen, to preexisting synonymies.” (TD 25) When philosophers lay out theories of good definition, they are theories of an explicative kind of definition (see Kelley 1988, chapter 3). Consider Rand’s definition of reason as the faculty that identifies and integrates the evidence of the senses. In my dictionary, I find reason defined as the capacity for rational thought, rational inference, or rational discrimination. The terms rational and thought go to already familiar synonymies with reason. The differentia within the rational, in this dictionary definition, are the discriminatory and the inferential. Rand’s definition stays close to the common usage reflected by the dictionary, but it replaces discrimination and inference by their kin identification and integration, it eliminates the non-explicative rational, and it adds a base for the activities of reason, specifically, deliverances of the senses. Rand’s definition is explanatory of the common usage found in the dictionary, and it is tailored to tie neatly to a particular wider philosophical view. Quine could say this is a fine explicative type of definition. Rand has given the term reason a new synonymy. The various contexts in which reason under the dictionary definition is properly used remain contexts in which reason under the new, explicative definition is properly used. The new definition covers the processes of drawing distinctions and making inferences. The new definition also applies to the wider processes of identification and integration of sensory evidence, processes in which the narrower processes are embedded. Quine would stress that, nonetheless, “such a definition still owes its explicative function . . . to preexisting synonymies” (TD 25). Quine is being too short here. Quine’s argument against the idea that there are clearly statements true purely by virtue of meanings, and true independently of fact, hangs on his conception of meaning. We have joined Quine in saying that meaning is distinct from reference. We have not allowed that meaning can be independent of reference. The meanings of my right hand and my writing hand differ, but both meanings are specifications of a referent. Similarly, the meanings of right hand and writing hand differ, but both are specifications of the extensions (the referents) under those concepts. Quine’s conception of meaning is shriveled into “synonymy of linguistic forms” (TD 22). He allows that a logical truth such as “Every tall man is a man” has a guarantee of truth that rests on more than one’s experiences of facts about men. He realizes that logical truths are sometimes called analytic, but his target is other statements taken for analytic: statements reducible to logical truths by synonymies, statements reducible to logical truths by meaning. Quine shares with defenders of analyticities the conviction that logical truths are true, and true regardless of particular facts to which they are applied. If there are statements reducible to logical truths by virtue of meaning and independently of fact, then their truth would be guaranteed by virtue of meaning and independently of fact. A candidate analytic statement from Kant would be “Bodies have location.” (A contrasting synthetic statement would be “Orbiting bodies are weightless.”) One who has the concept body knows that having location is part of the meaning of the concept. Substituting “Things having location (and . . .)” for body yields the logical truth “Things having location (and . . .) have location.” Now, we know “Necessarily, things having location (and . . .) have location.” Does only that sense of necessity attach when we claim “Necessarily, bodies have location”? Quine disputes the idea that purported analyticity of a statement can be adequately explained by cognitive synonymies and logical truth (TD 29–31). Analyticity cannot be explained by a sensible conception of meaning joined with logical truth. An adequate way of distinguishing analytic from synthetic statements has not been produced. Quine uncovered a narrow, but serious, problem for the analytic-synthetic distinction. It would seem that there are wider problems for the distinction that he passes over because of his cramped conceptions of meaning, definition, and essential characteristics. References Kelley, D. 1988. The Art of Reasoning. W. W. Norton. Rand, A. 1990 [1966–67]. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd edition. Meridian. Quine, W. V. O. 1948. On What There Is. In Quine 1953. ——. 1951. Two Dogmas of Empiricism. In Quine 1953. ——. 1953. From a Logical Point of View. Harvard. ——. 1954. Carnap and Logical Truth. In The Ways of Paradox and Other Essays. 2nd edition. 1976. Harvard.
  17. ~Revised Titles~ Ayn Rand and Aristotle: Axioms and Their Validation James G. Lennox January 10, 2020, Ayn Rand Society APA Eastern Division Meeting, Philadelphia Commentator: Michail Peramatzis, Oxford University Aristotle and Rand on the Standard of Value Greg Salmieri February 27, 2020, Ayn Rand Society APA Central Division Meeting, Chicago Commentator: Joseph Karbowski, Ludwig Maximilian University ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I plan to attend both sessions. These papers will be among those appearing in the coming fourth book in the series of the Ayn Rand Society (University of Pittsburgh Press). The books published in the series so far are: Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue (2011) Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge (2013) Foundations of a Free Society (2019)
  18. I learned only today of a book out in 2018 on Kant's thinking about logic. It is titled Kant and the Science of Logic: A Historical and Philosophical Reconstruction. The author is Huaping Lu-Adler, and the press is Oxford. I've ordered this book for myself, I don't expect to say more about it online. I want however to share a very good window into the book at the Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews here.
  19. 946, Isn't it easy and an everyday thing for people to choose reason to a great degree? Surely one was choosing reason and learning what it is, even without the later concept of it, by one's desire and efforts to acquire language in early childhood. People seem enmeshed in their reason, and that applies to my religious friends too, even the ones stuck in the more ignorant, feeling-dominated sects. Of those last, I notice we have fine economic commerce with each other, and we enjoy each other in our practical, rational activities. I wanted to add to your accumulation, in an earlier post, of Rand's dark-future-outlooks and highly deterministic personal developments: Rand 1957 was projecting a future. It was pretty dark, and I think not only for the purpose of making the light lighter. Outside the USA, there were to be only Peoples States, it seems. In the USA were to be great economic regulation and growing political tyranny. Happily, since 1957, though Peoples States are still around, such as in Venezuela and Cuba, such States are far from gripping the whole world outside the USA. Inside the USA, nothing getting close to the controls in The Moratorium on Brains happened. Brash interventions such as Nixon's wage-and-price controls have become just eyeball-rollers today. During the big contraction and financial crisis of 2008, some banks and other companies were bailed out by the government (by us), but the Obama administration didn't nationalize the banks, which in earlier times would have been a serious option on the table, and for the fictional Pres. Thompson would have been a no-brainer. As Rearden is carrying the young government man Tony in his arms, where Tony dies, Rearden thinks of this young man as having been made by schooling and the wider culture. It's not entirely deterministic, of course, because Tony's time with the productive enterprise had brought him round to reach for fresh right and to protect the mills. Rand later expanded greatly on what she had given to Rearden's thoughts there. That was in her essay called "The Comprachicos" which is included in the book The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. It is a very dark and heavily deterministic picture she paints there of the US educational system. The picture is entirely foreign to any of my experience with the system here, public grade and high and State university (for first degree) at that very era she was writing about. But the relevant point here is how rare and hard she thought it was for a student to become an independent and rational individual given such type of formal education.
  20. Calling President Trump, calling Mr. Trump: Suspend the 500 million dollars in annual aid to Zambia until the prisoners are freed. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-50901537
  21. 946, America and the world are not going to ever adopt full freedom according with Rand's theory of individual rights and proper, limited function of government; or full freedom as drafted under any other libertarian, limited government theory. It will not matter how far people become rational (apparently, in the last 500 years in the West, they have become more rational on average) or how much they are manipulated by freedom lovers by irrational appeals. Such an understanding and care for freedom that Objectivists have will not be happening. In America we are going to have a mixed economy, Social Security, and Medicare even through the lives of our grandchildren. I discourage young people from becoming consumed with political or other social causes. The present American situation is no excuse for not successfully making a good life for yourself. Just shed the grip of public affairs, and get on with making a pile of money, seeing the world, or accumulating and reading a private library with the size and heft of mine. No social excuses. Rand has helped many to their personal liberation, and how many others can be helped to that liberation of reason is secondary even when focus is simply on the other's own personal well-being. When the focus is on influencing politics or culture, the proper attitude is suspicion that one is losing one's focus on what should matter most.
  22. I recently eliminated all of those essay-threads that I had created for the Boydstun Corner at OBJECTIVIST LIVING because the advertising at that site has made it no longer appropriate for sustained serious compositions and reading thereof. I've been making some of those old studies available at OBJECTIVISM ONLINE, and I think this one fits well in this sector. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Thomas S. Kuhn I. Searching In Thomas Kuhn's view, observation and experiment are essential to scientific understanding of the world (1990 [S], 42), but observation and experiment, in an established science, are guided and made sense of by one or another paradigm (S 109). Under the notion paradigm, Kuhn means to include theories, theoretical definitions, natural laws, particular models, and preeminently, concrete problem-solutions that exemplify theory and law, giving them empirical content (S 182–89). Scientific concepts, laws, and theories are presented and comprehended not in the abstract alone; but with applications to some concrete range of phenomena, purely natural, such as freely falling bodies, or natural-within-contrivance, such as pendulums (S 46–47, 187–91). Normal science undertakes ever more exact and subtle experimental and observational investigation of "facts that the paradigm has shown to be particularly revealing of the nature of things" (S 25), determination of facts that "can be compared directly with predictions from the paradigm theory" (S 26), and articulation of the paradigm theory (S 27–29). These are roles of observation in science, I should say, even if we should reject Kuhn's distinction between normal and revolutionary periods of science as too sharply drawn. One illustration of normal science would be the ongoing investigation of neutrinos. The existence of neutrinos is a fact established in 1956 (they were then detected) within the theoretical framework of quantum mechanics and detail conservation of energy. The characteristics of neutrinos are facts particularly revealing of the nature of elementary-particle interactions. The further, more refined determination of neutrino characteristics bears on the correctness and further refinement of a number of interconnected paradigms. Elaborate observations of solar neutrinos the past few decades provide quantitative constraints on models of nuclear reactions in the sun's core and on models of the sun's magnetic fields. And they provide constraints on the fundamental theory of neutrinos and of the electronuclear forces of nature (Bahcall 1990). Elaborate observations of cosmic neutrinos, these past few years [1], to ascertain whether they change flavors, hence whether they possess nonzero mass, inform efforts toward a Grand Unified Theory that may eventually supercede or subsume the Standard Model for elementary particles and their forces (Kearns, Kajita, and Totsuka 1999; Feldman and Steinberger 1991; Weinberg 1999). And they bear on current cosmology, under purview of general relativity. Other normal-science investigations framed under the paradigm of general relativity are these: The finding of pulsar binary neutron stars has yielded, as hoped, empirical data for comparison with predictions from general relativity in the context of strong gravitational fields, predictions such as the rate of the orbital precession of the major axis of the stars' elliptical orbit and red-shifting of the pulse-clock (Piran 1995). Observation of quasi-periodic X-ray emissions from neutron stars pulling in matter from gaseous companion stars are yielding data indicating that, as predicted by general relativity (contrary the prediction from Newtonian gravitation), there is, just outside the neutron star, an innermost circular orbit for captured gas (Cowen 1998). Black holes are entities conceived and cultured solely by general relativity. Astronomical search for black holes and their distinctive features may yield an overwhelming vindication of general relativity (Lasota 1999). There are three points made by Kuhn concerning the role of observation in science with which I should take some issue. One is his claim that "no part of the aim of normal science is to call forth new sorts of phenomena" (S 24). "Even the [normal-science] program whose goal is paradigm articulation does not aim at the unexpected novelty" (S 35). "Normal science does not aim at novelties of fact or theory and, when successful, finds none" (S 52). But scientists will be human, chronically so, hoping to catch something unexpected and momentous in their instruments, not only expected and readily comprehended phenomena. X-ray astronomer Bruno Rossi writes: "The initial motivation of the experiment which led to this discovery . . . was a subconscious trust of mine in the inexhaustible wealth of nature, a wealth that goes far beyond the imagination of man. This meant that, whenever technical progress opened up a new window into the surrounding world, I felt the urge to look through this window hoping to see something unexpected" (1977, 39). Kuhn does say that "without the special apparatus that is constructed mainly for anticipated functions, the results that lead ultimately to novelty could not occur" (S 65, emphasis added). So I should productively construe the statements of his that I have quoted in the preceding paragraph as delineation of the strain that he calls normal science which in truth is found within a broader, richer actual practice of science. Kuhn errs secondly, though only slightly, in his contention that "the act of judgment that leads scientists to reject a previously accepted theory is always based upon more than a comparison of that theory with the world. The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other" (S 77, further, 147). Not always so. We continue to test empirically whether any mass-energy can be transported faster than vacuum c (Alväger, Farley, Kjellman and Wallin 1964; Brecher 1977; Chiao, Kwait, and Steinberg 1993). Some of these experiments, in the last two decades, have helped to articulate more finely the light-speed postulate of relativistic kinematics. But it is perfectly possible that such tests in the future could dispositively contradict the postulate. That would be the demise of special relativity regardless of the existence of competitor theories. Without viable alternative kinematics already on the stage or in the wings, what should we do if the light-speed postulate were empirically refuted? We should take our cues from the particulars of the failure and from our old, very successful special-relativity kinematics, and then develop a new and better kinematics. Again, we continue to test a principle of general relativity, the principle of the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass. These tests are not simply tests that help us articulate the paradigm, as when we search the heavens for evidence bearing on whether Einstein's field equations should include a nonzero cosmological constant (Krauss 1999; Cowen 2000). No, tests of the equivalence of inertial and gravitational mass cut to the quick of general relativity (Wald 1984, 8, 66–67; Ciufolini and Wheeler 1995, 13–18, 90–116). As I understand it, if gravitational and inertial mass are not precisely equivalent, then gravity cannot rightly be made geometric. And we have no viable alternative (nongeometric) to general relativity waiting in the wings. Were gravitational and inertial mass shown inequivalent by experiment or observation, then theoretical physicists would scramble to construct a replacement theory. We need not already have a competing theory to prefer over general relativity in order to reject the latter on experimental or observational grounds [2]. II. Seeing Kuhn errs thirdly, and most seriously, in his (inconstant) denial that in our scientific observations we can always separate and adequately express what we literally perceive and what we take those percepts to indicate. Having learned prevailing scientific concepts, theories, and natural laws under exemplifying concrete observational applications, one is not able to see the phenomena in those applications entirely freely of the prevailing conceptual apparatus (S 46–47, 111–12, 186–89). Scientific observational phenomena are to some extent inextricably structured by the scientific, theoretical paradigm under which one is operating (S 111–35, 147–50). "Looking at a bubble-chamber photograph, the student sees confused and broken lines, the physicist a record of familiar subnuclear events" (S 111). To enter the physicist's scientific observational world, the student undergoes "transformations of vision," like coming "to see a new gestalt." Hardly. Throughout the student's entry into the observational world of physics, all participants easily, routinely, and expressly distinguish between what of the physicist's observational world is commonsense perception and what is scientific interpretation, however automatic the latter may become (cf. S 196–98). A bubble-chamber photograph provides detailed records of particle events "in a form that experienced physicists can interpret at a glance" (Breuker et al. 1991, 61). The photographs from bubble, cloud, or spark-streamer chambers never do yield a strictly perceptual particle-interaction gestalt in the way, say, that an X-ray photograph of a hand yields a strictly perceptual hand-skeleton gestalt. In the hand X-ray, given our ontogeny and our ordinary visual experience with hands, we are required to see the hand-in-the-image. We can tell ourselves, truly, that what is before us when we see the hand-in-the-image is only the trace of a hand, shadows of hand preserved on film, but we cannot avoid seeing the hand-in-the-image all the same. That is our perceptual constitution. Gestalt shifts too, such as in the Necker cube, are mandated by our primate perceptual constitution. We can tell ourselves that before us are only lines on paper, but we are required to see one cube or the other, with alternations every few seconds (Logothetis 1999). Contemporary elementary-particle tracking is mediated by vast electronic and computer processing systems, embodying painstaking deliberate interpretations. What is perceptually obligatory in the resulting computer-image displays are things like colors, lines, and 3D perspectives; all of these, self-conscious visual aids to scientific, interpretive observation. Kuhn writes: "Since remote antiquity most people have seen one or another heavy body swinging back and forth on a string or chain until it finally comes to rest. To the Aristotelians, who believed that a heavy body is moved by its own nature from a higher position to a state of natural rest at a lower one, the swinging body was simply falling with difficulty. Constrained by the chain, it could achieve rest at its low point only after a tortuous motion and a considerable time. Galileo, on the other hand, looking at the swinging body, saw a pendulum, a body that almost succeeded in repeating the same motion over and over again ad infinitum." (S 118–19) To be sure, Kuhn was "acutely aware of the difficulties created by saying that when Aristotle and Galileo looked at swinging stones, the first saw constrained fall, the second a pendulum" (S 121). Yet Kuhn will not let go his continual equivocation on see and its cognates (S 196–97). He maintains that an embracer of the new paradigm of mechanics—such was Galileo—is not an interpreter of swinging stones as pendulums, but "is like a man wearing inverted lenses," like a man who's vision has adapted to those lenses (S 122). "Galileo interpreted observations on the pendulum, Aristotle observations on [constrained] falling stones" (ibid.). That is inaccurate, I should say. Rather, Galileo and we interpret swinging stones as pendulums, on which we then make further interpretative observations. Similarly, one may interpret the swinging stone as in Aristotelian mechanics, as a constrained body working its way to the lowest feasible point. We can deliberately, with training, switch our interpretative perspectives: Aristotelian, Galilean, Newtonian, Lagrangian. Kuhn suggests that the contemporary scientist "who looks at a swinging stone can have no experience that is in principle more elementary than seeing a pendulum. The alternative is not some hypothetical 'fixed' vision, but vision through another paradigm, one which makes the swinging stone something else" (S 128). I suggest, to the contrary, that developmentally, epistemologically, and evidentially, it is a swinging stone that is most elementary for everyone. It is with respect to analysis that we "see" (take) the pendulum as most elementary. I do not mean to contradict Kuhn's thesis that scientists do not come to reject scientific theories on account of uninterpreted observations (e.g. S 77). We can recognize that and assimilate that without conflating what we literally perceive and what we make of those percepts in thought. III. Saying According to Kuhn, "there can be no scientifically or empirically neutral system of language or concepts" (S 146). Moreover, since we have no rudimentary paradigm-neutral observation language, the pendulum and constrained fall must be simply different perceptions, rather than "different interpretations of the unequivocal data provided by observation of a swinging stone" (S 126). Kuhn has in mind "a generally applicable language of pure percepts," where, by the term percepts, he apparently thinks not of swinging stones, but of more primitive constituents that compose our perceptions of swinging stones. Attempts to construct such a language of pure percepts have not fully succeeded, and anyway, all such projects "presuppose a paradigm, taken either from current scientific theory or from some fraction of everyday discourse, . . . . [thereby yielding] a language that—like those employed in the sciences—embodies a host of expectations about nature and fails to function the moment these expectations are violated" (S 127). I should say, with Willard Quine, that we do indeed have a trustworthy scientifically neutral system of observation language appropriate and necessary for the physical sciences. This is not a rarified, fully reductive language of "pure percepts," but a natural language of posited objects and events (1969 [EN], 74–79; 1995a [N], 252, 254; 1995b [SS], 10–21, 27–29, 35–42; cf. 1951, 293–98). Swinging body and pendulum are both legitimate expressions of things observed[3], the former providing a fallback in cases of dispute over the latter. "What counts as an observation sentence varies with the width of community considered. But we can always get an absolute standard by taking in all speakers of the language, or most" (EN 88; also N 255; SS 22, 42–45). Pendulum, damped harmonic oscillator, and electron-positron track may be rightly spoken of as observed in the narrower, scientific community. But when necessary, scientists can shift gears and recognize those items as interpretations of more widely accepted and developmentally prior observed items. Our broadest and most rudimentary observation language is our language of everyday experience, in which we report "it is raining" or "the iron is on" and in which we generalize "swinging suspended bodies return to rest" or "if it is snowing, then it is cold" (N 252, 254–55; SS 22–26). That last ordinary observation sentence is an example of what Quine calls an observation categorical, which is an empirically testable hypothesis, standing (as Popper would have it) as not yet shown false. Quine supposes, reasonably I think, that an empirically testable scientific hypothesis can be cashed out as an elementary observation categorical (N 255; SS 43–47). The detection of cosmic background microwave radiation, for example, cashes to visible records of activities in an antenna (which antenna cashes to . . . ). Quine realizes, of course, that scientists do not trace all the links from their hypothesis to observational categorical. "Still, the deduction and checking of observation categoricals is the essence, surely, of the experimental method, . . . . [and it remains] that prediction of observable events is the ultimate test of scientific theory" (N 256). Quine recognizes that some hypotheses thus far not testable are accepted, rationally, even in the hard sciences. They may be accepted because "they fit in smoothly by analogy, or they symmetrize and simplify the overall design. . . . Moreover, such acceptations are not idle fancy; their proliferation generates, every here and there, a hypothesis that can indeed be tested. Surely this is the major source of testable hypotheses and the growth of science" (N 256; also SS 49). Can we test whether spacetime is curved? Well, yes, indirectly, more and more, we can. Kuhn overrated the difficulties of vocabulary translations between alternative paradigms (S 149, 201). He did seem to allow that eventually translation can be effected (S 201–3). Such has been effected between Newtonian gravitational theory and general relativity, and gradually physics has attained more and more tests between those deep and grand theories, tests such as that for an innermost circular orbit about a neutron star. Notes 1. This study was composed in 2000. 2. Hilary Putnam points out that Kuhn exaggerates in asserting that a paradigm can never be overthrown in the absence of a competitor paradigm. But Putnam then deflates the demerit of the exaggeration by posing as a hypothetical counterexample to Kuhn's universal claim only a Goodmanesque scenario: the world simply starts to behave radically differently. Barring such an implausible scenario, Putnam then expressly affirms the Kuhnian generalization at issue (Putnam 1974, 69–70). My counterexample scenarios (failure of light-speed postulate or failure of principle of equivalence) are intended to be entirely, mundanely realistic. 3. Rudolf Carnap (1966) likewise recognized that what in one context of inquiry should be taken as inferred from what was observed could in another context be rightly taken as simply observed (Suppe 1977, 47). References Alväger, T., Farley, F.J.M., Kjellman, J., and I. Wallin 1964. Test of the Second Postulate of Special Relativity in the Gev Region. Physics Letters 12:260. Bahcall, J.N. 1990. The Solar-Neutrino Problem. Sci. Amer. (May):54–61. Brecher, K. 1977. Is the Speed of Light Independent of the Velocity of the Source? Phy. Rev. Ltrs. 39(17):1051–54. Breuker, H., Drevermann, H., Grab, C., Rademakers, A.A., and H. Stone 1991. Tracking and Imaging Elementary Particles. Sci. Amer. (Aug):58–63. Chiao, R.Y., Kwait, P.G., and A.M. Steinberg 1993. Faster than Light? Sci. Amer. (Aug):52–60. Ciufolini, I., and J.A. Wheeler 1995. Gravitation and Inertia. Princeton: University Press. Cowan, R. 1998. All in the Timing. Sci. News 154:318–19. ——. 2000. Revved-Up Universe. Sci. News 157:106–8. Feldman, G.J., and J. Steinberger 1991. The Number of Families of Matter [= Three]. Sci. Amer. (Feb):70–75. Kearns, E., Kajita, T., and V. Totsuka 1999. Detecting Massive Neutrinos. Sci. Amer. (Aug):64–71. Krauss, L.M. 1999. Cosmological Antigravity. Sci. Amer. (Jan):52–59. Kuhn, T.S. 1990 [1970, 1962]. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 2nd ed. Chicago: Univerity Press. Lasota, J-P. 1999. Unmasking Black Holes. Sci. Amer. (May):40–47. Logothetis, N.K. 1999. Vision: A Window on Consciousness. Sci. Amer. (Nov):69–75. Piran, T. 1995. Binary Neutron Stars. Sci. Amer. (May):53–61. Putnam, H. 1974. The "Corroboration" of Theories. In Scientific Revolutions. I. Hacking, editor. 1981. New York: Oxford University Press. Quine, W.V.O. 1951. Two Dogmas of Empiricism. In Philosophy of Science: The Central Issues. M. Curd and J.A. Cover, editors. 1998. New York: W.W. Norton. ——. 1969. Epistemology Naturalized. In Ontological Relativity and Other Essays. New York: Columbia University Press. ——. 1995a. Naturalism, or, Living within One's Means. Dialectica 49(2–4):251–61. ——. 1995b. From Stimulus to Science. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Rossi, B. 1977. X-Ray Astronomy. Daedalus 106(4):37–58. Suppe, F. 1977 [1973]. The Search for Philosophic Understanding of Scientific Theories. In The Structure of Scientific Theories. 2nd. ed. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. Wald, R.M. 1984. General Relativity. Chicago: University Press. Weinberg, S. 1999. A Unified Physics by 2050? Sci. Amer. (Dec):68–75.
  23. Capturing Quantity Part 3 “With the grasp of the (implicit) concept “unit” man reaches the conceptual level of cognition which consists of two interrelated fields: Conceptual and the Mathematical. The process of concept-formation is, in large part, a mathematical process” (ITOE 7). Rand registers the substitution sense of units by the locution some . . . any. That expression is logical quantification, which is a logical support of the mathematical concept number and which is applicable to mathematical objects and their principles. An elementary mathematical application would be at the start of a proof saying, “Construct any triangle ABC.” One understands that one needs to construct some triangle, but it could be any triangle and that each vertex is to be labeled one (some) of A or B or C, but any one of them, provided the letter is not already selected for another vertex. Or a proof might begin by saying, “Consider any rational number q.” One understands that one is reflecting on some rational number, that it can be any rational number, and that although the particular number is unspecified, it is to be regarded as a particular number throughout the proof. Rand applies the logical quantification some . . . any three times to any concept in her mensural objectivist theory of concepts. Firstly, a concept means some one of its instances, any one (also true, degenerately, for proper-noun concepts). Secondly, the some . . . any quantification is used in regarding common distinctive dimensioned characteristics of items indicated by a defined concept in her theory. For example, Rand takes locomotion and consciousness to be the basic common characteristics distinguishing animals within the broader class of living things. (Sponges are animals, but she was apparently taking animal somewhat more narrowly.) An animal must possess some form of locomotion and consciousness, but it can be any form of these. Similarly, being a living thing, an animal must possess some form of internally generated actions, but these may be any such form, including the actions that are locomotion and consciousness (ITOE 24–25). Thirdly, the logical quantification some . . . any is applied to measurement values of the common distinctive dimensioned characteristics. For example, the form of consciousness of a type of animal must have some scope, but may have any finite scope (ibid.). Then too, functions, including functions of consciousness, have measurable dimensions. So in saying the consciousness of a type of animal serves to preserve the life of the individual animal and its species, one is saying consciousness of the animal type has a measurable scope in perpetuating the life of that animal. To be an animal, it must have some scope of consciousness and some coordinate scope to which consciousness preserves its life, but any measure-value of such scopes will qualify for animal (ITOE 22; OE 18–21). In Part 2, I introduced the core cognitions Carey discerns pertaining to quantity, or magnitude: (i) parallel individuation of small sets and (ii) analog magnitude representations of number. Carey observes that those core cognitions require something like linguistic and logical quantification in the prelinguistic infant. She calls this cognitive power set-based quantification. The term set here and in (i) means only definite collection. The prelinguistic infant must be able to select collections of individuals to quantify arithmetically in analog magnitude number representations (OC 136–37). That ability to select collections in the tasks exhibiting either of the two core quantitative cognitions need not have “the representational force of set-based quantification” (OC 255). In neither of those two core cognitions are prelinguistic symbols required for the logical quantifications marked in English by singular/plural constructions or by the terms each, every, any, some, more, a, and so forth (OC 254–57). Along with many other authors, Carey thinks “human evolution bequeathed us with innate knowledge of language, which we can imagine takes the form of a language acquisition device (LAD). The LAD guides the learning of natural language syntax, morphology, and phonology” (OC 247). From experimental results, Carey concludes that the process of learning one’s native language likely helps to avail and deploy the logical cognition that is set-based quantification. But that logical cognition is not a creature contrived by language. The young infant distinguishes between individuated entities such as objects and nonindividuated entities such as sand, and compares representations of sets of objects with respect to both continuous and discrete quantification. Also, at least by the time the infant is about a year old, he or she has constructed her first object kind-sortals, distinguishing kind-sortals from properties in categorization, individuation, inductive inference, and language. . . . Natural languages most likely have the quantification machinery they do because of the quantificational resources of prelinguistic mental representations (both ontogenetically and phylogenetically), as these were drawn upon in creating the language-acquisition device. (OC 284–85) Carey allows that the prelinguistic capability that is set-based quantification underlies natural language quantification, although prelinguistic set-based quantification does not invoke symbols marking it, such as will be available in a natural language such as English (OC 296). Our language has markers for distinguishing singular and plural, and it has approximate mathematical quantifiers such as more, some, and many. As we know from logic texts, the logical quantifiers a, some, and every (or all or any) work in the absence of the successor function. The latter takes thought beyond logic to mathematics, specifically to the infinite set of natural numbers, the counting numbers. Part 1 included a reiteration (from Boydstun 2004, 301n40) that it is not until around age 3 that children demonstrate an implicit grasp of the principles of counting. Those five stated principles, which are from Gelman and Gallistel 1978, do not include an implicit grasp of the successor function nor a generative base for an inexhaustible supply of number names. By age 5, some children will have extended the number to which they can count to 20. They do not yet comprehend that the integers are endless, but they can count and have been doing so for a year or two (Gelman and Meck 1983, 357–58). By age 3, the child has been talking and thinking in concepts for a couple of years. First year, first word is the rule of thumb. Rand’s measurement-omission theory of concept formation is readily adaptable to that circumstance. Grasp of units under a concept in their substitutional aspect need not include grasp that items potentially qualified for placement under the concept are endless. Neither does it require the 3-to-4 year old’s implicit mastery of the five principles of counting. The limited scope of prelinguistic set-based quantification implicated in parallel individuation of sets may suffice for the some . . . any logical quantification Rand proposed as implicit in the grasp of a first common-noun word such as ball. (That word and the concept it marks is an example of what Carey calls an object kind-sortal in the last block quote above [see OC 263–83].) Rand’s idea that entry into conceptual thought is attained with implicit grasp of the concept unit includes the four claims designated below. I shall use the concept ball as example of an earliest concept because that was the first word of the child whose development I have been privileged to witness since his birth. LS – Substitution unit is logically implicit in ball. LM – Measure-value unit is logically implicit in ball. ES – Substitution unit is implicitly employed in comprehending ball. EM – Measure-value unit is implicitly employed in comprehending ball. The first two are true, and between them it is LM, when greatly generalized, that is distinctive in Rand’s analysis of concepts, including universal concepts. However, the present essay is concerned only with ES and EM. I have related the result that ES looks true, based on research on infants, as reported in Carey 2009. ES is not a claim about concept formation uniquely Rand’s. When greatly generalized, EM is Rand’s distinctive claim concerning concept formation. Carey’s core cognitions and representations in preverbal infants are tacit; they are not articulated in language. They are privately articulated iconically, wordlessly. Nevertheless, for the mind cognizing them—preverbal infant, nonverbal animal, or adult human—they are conscious articulations, they are explicit in that mind, even if wordless. Additionally, there is knowledge in that mind “embodied in the computations carried out over explicit representations” (OC 64). This is like our meaning in saying that a competent speaker of natural language is systematically governed by certain rules of syntax without being able to state those rules (Boydstun 2004, 300n35; cf. Campbell 2002). When Carey argues that a cognitive power of set-based quantification is required for the two core cognitions pertaining to magnitude, she is arguing not only a logico-mathematical entailment, but an implicitly operating cognition. Similarly, Carey’s elementary set-based quantification is implicitly in operation in core cognitions of quantity, or magnitude. Such implicit set-based quantification is required for ES. Preverbal set-based quantification is operationally implicated in both ES and in parallel individuation of small sets for the infant at 10-to-12 months. At that age, parallel individuation of small sets is limited to having no more than three items. Why is ball applied to any of more than 3 of them in the infant’s experience? I think this is because applying ball to one in hand or one recalled does not create the demands on working memory present in the parallel-individuation experiments eliciting comprehension of numbers to 3. Application of ball requires only recognition memory and long-term memory. (On the developmental time line of explicit memory, see Hartshorn et al. 1998.) I should head off a natural error. It is natural to think that parallel individuation of small sets is a primitive ability to count to 3. It is not. At its adult level of development, parallel individuation of small sets has advanced from 3 to 4. A child with the ability to count to say 20 has a numerical skill and comprehension markedly distinct from that in parallel individuation of small sets. (Note that the other core cognition pertaining to quantity—analog magnitude representation of number—is not limited to a small number of distinct ranked magnitudes; see also Piazza 2011.) Moreover, an adult with Williams syndrome can have some command of language, but be unable to count (Johnson 2005, 144). That is not a counterexample to ES. The individual with that syndrome could possess the (delayed) power of parallel individuation of small sets and the set-based quantification that entails, which latter is required for ES to be true. The Williams individual has working memory, so I venture the possibility that these individuals have the power of parallel individuation of small sets and its implicit set-based quantification prior their first word. I cannot venture as a possibility with any backing that the Williams child has the power of analog magnitude representation of number, for these children have deficits in spatio-visual skills. If such a child were not in possession of the perceptual ratio-scaling discrimination characteristic of analog magnitude representation of number, yet had ball, then that child’s concept of ball would seem unlikely to require EM. It could still be the case that ball for the normal one-year-old might require such perceptual ratio discriminations in addition to set-based quantification, application of both to balls of different sizes, and a grasp of the invariant shape across ball size. That is, consistent with research, it could still be the case that EM is at work in the first word of the normal child. Notice that capabilities for parallel individuation of small sets and capabilities for analog magnitude representations of number, as well as the set-based quantification operative in them, are possessed by animals other than the human. It is a live option that Rand was right in saying that grasp of unit is key to conceptual capability. Concerning neurological distinctiveness supporting that distinct human grasp, I would look to the secondary sensory cortices (greater surface relative-area in humans compared to chimps) and to language areas (OC 268–85; Dehaene and Brannon 2011, chapters 17, 19; Johnson 2005, chapter 7; Deacon 1997). Rand’s EM is probably on the mark for ball and other early concepts. It is off the mark for colors. When the toddler tells you a light on the Christmas tree to which you point is blue, that the next is red, and so forth, there is no EM at work. The fact that we can, with scientific advance, resolve colors into dimensions and scale them is not to the point of the operationally implicit (ITOE 13–14). There are other means available for delivering similarities given in perception for conceptual identification, means that do not operationally entail implicitly the scaling of quantities along dimensions (Boydstun 2004, 291–93, Analytic Constraint, and Nosofsky 1992 cited therein; Jetton 2011, 225–27). ES is enough in such cases. Rand was off the mark, as I have noted before, in her complete generalization of LM and EM to all concepts. They cannot hold for concepts logically presupposed by measurement in its essentials (e.g. essentials in Suppes 2002, 25–26). For instance set-based quantification in schematic form is implicit in all early concepts for which LM and EM hold, and not the other way around. All the same, Rand’s theory of concept genesis has more (even more) consonance with cognitive psychology’s understanding of the infant and toddler today (2013) than with that understanding twenty-three years ago, when I first opened Rand’s work in that light. References Boydstun, S. 1990. Capturing Concepts. Objectivity 1(1):13–41. ——. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 5(2):271–305. Campbell, R. L. 2002. Goals, Values, and the Implicit: Explorations in Psychological Ontology. JARS 3(2):289–327. Carey, S. 2009. The Origin of Concepts. Oxford. Deacon, T. W. 1997. The Symbolic Species: The Co-Evolution of Language and the Brain. Norton. Dehaene, S., and E. Brannon, editors, 2011. Space, Time and Number in the Brain. Academic Press. Gelman, R. and C.R. Gallistel 1986 [1978]. The Child’s Understanding of Number. Harvard. Gelman, R., and E. Meck. 1983. Preschoolers’ Counting: Principles before Skill. Cognition 13:343–59. Hartshorn, K. et al. 1998. Ontogeny of Learning and Memory in the First Year-and-a-Half of Life. Developmental Psychobiology 32:69–89. Jetton, M. 2011. The Sim-Dif Model and Comparison. JARS 11(2):215–32. Johnson, M. H. 2005 [1997]. Developmental Cognitive Science. Blackwell. Nosofsky, R. 1992. Similarity Scaling and Cognitive Process Models. Annual Review of Psychology 43:25–53. Piazza, M. 2011. Neurocognitive Start-Up Tools for Symbolic Number Representations. In Dehaene and Brannon 2011. Rand, A. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness. 1964. Signet. ——. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd edition. Meridian. Suppes, P. 2002. Representation and Invariance of Scientific Structures. CSLI.
  24. Capturing Quantity Part 2 Psychologists cited in my 1990 and 1991 include Renée Baillargeon, Randy Gallistel, Rochel Gelman, Alan Leslie, and Elizabeth Spelke. With those writers, Susan Carey records her agreement “that the cognition of humans, like that of all animals, begins with highly structured innate mechanisms designed to build representations with specific content. I call the mental structures that represent them ‘core cognition’” (2009, 67). It is the word content in Carey’s description of these core cognitions that makes them decidedly innate cognitive systems (cf. Jetton 1995, 73; Touchstone 1996, 117–18). Those contents are not obtained by individual learning. This would draw a smile from Leibniz, but frowns from Locke, Helmholtz, Piaget, and Rand. It gets frowns from some of Carey’s colleagues as well (2009, 68–69). The dissenters argue that all cognitive content and the cognitive systems composing that content are learned ultimately from elementary perceptual and sensory-motor experience. For the pure empiricists, it is learning all the way down. Rand was of that view. "To focus his eyes (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to perceive the things around him by integrating his sensations into percepts (which is not innate, but an acquired skill), to coordinate his muscles for the task of crawling, then standing upright, then walking—and, ultimately, to grasp the process of concept-formation and learn to speak—these are some of an infant’s tasks and achievements . . . ." (Rand 1970, 191; cf. Bennett 1966, 98–99; Touchstone 1996, 166) Carey works assiduously, through laboratory research, to specify innate core cognitive systems. These cognitive systems she identifies as core are specific to different domains of experience. There are only a handful of these core systems (at least only a handful discerned so far), and two pertain to cognition of magnitude. Another pertains to object, another to intentional agency. All innate core cognitive systems are perceptual input analyzers, all aid acquisition of experientially learned skills and knowledge, and all remain in use throughout child and adult life. These innate core cognitive systems are to be understood as gotten by evolution and instituted in the individual simply by brain maturation, which may or may not be sufficient by time of birth (Carey 2009, 55–69; cf. Macnamara 1986, 72–74, 191–92). In an extended sense, that could be said to be a purely empirical view, with the human species and its earlier lineages being said to have learned by population experience (cf. Jetton 1995, 67–68). But Carey does not select that wide arc as a type of learning, and I shall accede to her denomination of the core cognitions as innate, rather than empirical. It should be understood that these innate cognitive systems and their outputs upon their analyses of experiential inputs are devoid of the spiritualism endemic in the old rationalist theories of innate ideas. I should mention that Carey does not confine the possibility of innate representations to the core cognitive systems. We may also have innate cognitive systems poised to deliver content (e.g. the representation cause) that spans various core cognitions (Carey 2009, 215–18, 240–46; see further, Baillargeon and Carey 2012). Integrating the research reported and analyzed in Carey 2009, Origin of Concepts (OC), with Rand’s thinking on concepts and mathematics in infant and child development is not most importantly concerned over the issue of whether the core systems Carey calls innate are best said to be innate in Carey’s mild and purely natural sense. What matters most are sequence, functions, interrelations among skills, and interrelations among contents. There is a key choice of terminology made by Carey to which I strongly object. She calls the innate core cognitions conceptual. Their contents are concepts, in her choice of terminology. Core cognition has rich integrated conceptual content. By this I mean that the representations in core cognition cannot be reduced to perceptual or sensori-motor primitives, that the representations are accessible and drive voluntary action, and that representations from distinct core cognition systems interact in central inferential processes. (OC 67; see also 97) Carey goes on to specify that “the format of representation of core cognition is iconic rather than involving sentence-like symbol structures” (OC 68; further, 104–5, 134–35, 195–96). My instant response would be: “Then those representations are schemas, not concepts” (Flavell 1963, 52–58; Jetton 1991, 70–72; 1998, 102–11). Very occasionally, Carey herself refers to a preverbval infant general representation by schema rather than by concept (OC 195–96, 241, 244). It has been my view, consistent with Rand’s, that what C. S. Peirce and Terrence Deacon call purely iconic representations are not concepts. They are prerequisites for indexical and fully symbolic representations, but only the latter two are concepts by Rand’s account and mine. With more reflection, I need to revise my view, though it will yet be a view consistent with Rand’s and one under which I shall yet object to Carey’s choice concept, rather than schema, as name for the representations exercised in core cognitions. The photo of me displayed at the top of the left margin is an iconic representation of me because it resembles me, and one can associate it with me on that account. It occasions also an indexical representation of the approximate elevation of the sun above the horizon, indicating that circumstance in one’s association through grasped causal relations (rather than simply through perceived similarity). That the photo is associated with photo is by convention, and this is symbolic representation. So say Peirce and Deacon. Digging further into Carey’s book, I find that when she wrote iconic she meant it in the more general sense of the pictorial, which would include not only the iconic in the strict Peirce-Deacon sense, but the indexical as well. To now I have thought of Rand’s view of earliest concepts, those marked in the single-word stage of language acquisition, as being indexical representations, not symbolic representations in the strict sense. That is incorrect, and it is an internal tension in my 2004. On the one hand, I had written: By 24 months, the child is using two-word utterances such as . . . “I know [how to do it]” (Bremner 1994, 252–53; Nelson 1996, 112, 124–25). Up to about this time, when grammar begins to develop, “words learned remain tied to their world models and do not form systems of their own” (Nelson 1996, 128). In terms of Deacon’s iconic, indexical, and symbolic levels of representation (1997, 70–83), I should say that concepts at the single-words stage are indexical representations, and these concepts will become symbolic representations with the onset of grammar. Rand’s conceptual level of representation cuts across Deacon’s indexical and symbolic levels. (Boydstun 2004, 300n37) On the other hand, I had noted a way in which Rand’s thesis “a concept identifying perceptual concretes stands for some implicit propositions” is true even for the toddler at the single-word stage of language acquisition (ITOE 48, 21). He cannot state propositions, but by the time he can say ball (ba) for a ball, the word can mean a suite of image and action schemas into which he knows a ball fits (Boydstun 2004, 290). I was correct in thinking the representation of named classes of objects at the single-word stage to be indexical, but incorrect in thinking of them as not also symbolic in the strict sense of Peirce-Deacon. At the single-word stage the child has gotten symbolic representation, in which the word is a conventional representation for the class, not associated with the class simply by support of causal connection or simply by similarity. Having the reliable word for the concept caps the concept’s definiteness, even though the word is not yet set in grammatical expressions. So it remains that, contrary to Carey, I shall reserve concept for the representation in the first word of language competence and beyond. Before that, schema (see also Mandler 2010). I reported in 1991: "Jean Piaget (1954) concluded from his investigations that infants first acquire a notion of enduring objects at nine months of age. Until then, if a toy attractive to the infant were covered with a cloth, the infant would make no attempt to lift the cloth and grasp the toy, even though she were capable (after the fifth month) of performing each of these actions. Piaget concluded that, until the ninth month, the infant does not regard the toy as an enduring entity that continues to exist while not in view; only after the ninth month does the infant begin to infer the continued existence of objects. . . . "Piaget’s observations have been reconfirmed many times, but Piaget’s interpretation is now widely questioned. Infants younger than nine months may fail to lift the cover and grasp the toy not because they lack a notion of enduring objects, but because they are not yet able to coordinate such a means-ends sequence (Baillargeon 1986, 38–39). It is likely that this inability is due to immaturity of the frontal cortex (Diamond 1989). Recent experiments, not demanding coordination of means-ends-sequences, indicate that infants as young as six months (Baillargeon 1986), even four months (Baillargeon 1987), understand not only that objects continue to exist when not seen, but that moving objects continue along trajectories when not seen and that those trajectories could not be through other solid objects." (Boydstun 1991a, 38–39; see also 1991b, 6–7 and Friedenberg 1993, 32–33.) The experimental methods of Baillargeon and other contemporary developmental cognitive psychologists were not available to Piaget. Since my reports in 1990 and 1991, those experimental methods have shown that infants have much of what Piagetians called “object concept” (e.g. Flavell 1963, 129–35) as early as two months. (On brain maturation factors, see also Johnson 2005, 82–85, 146–57, 172–75.) “By two months of age, infants represent objects as spatio-temporally continuous. Not only do they represent objects as continuing to exist behind barriers, they also take evidence of spatio-temporal discontinuity as evidence for numerical distinctness” (OC 40; see also Aguiar and Baillargeon 1999; 2002). Carey analyzes the laboratory evidence that during the first two months, infants acquire the ability to represent and quantify objects from sensory and perceptual primitives. She finds that that evidence can be interpreted otherwise, and she gives some empirical reasons to conclude that “perceptual input analyzers that yield representations of objects are most likely innate” (OC 55; see 55–63). In working memory, we have object representations used to track their individual identity as we perceive them in different locations. These representations are called object files (Kahneman, Treisman, and Gibbs 1992. Characteristics of our operations with these representations include: "(1) privileging spatio-temporal information over property/kind information in individuation and computations of numerical identity; (2) a set-size limit on the number of objects that may be simultaneously attended to and represented in working memory (on the order of three or four); and (3) the capacity to track individual objects through occlusion, with specific spatio-temporal information distinguishing cessation of existence from occlusion" (OC 71–72). Carey adduces evidence that those our adult characteristics of object representation are also found in young infants (OC 72–87). The set-size limitation increases during infancy, reaching the adult level by 10 months. Two core cognitions underlie infant performance in tasks reflecting sensitivity to magnitude. One is parallel individuation of small sets, which supports an infant and adult sensitivity to number. This cognition entertains a small number of object-file representations. Object files of some individuals are held in one bin in working memory while others are held in another. In one experimental task eliciting these operations, an infant watches as graham crackers are placed into each of two opaque containers, which have been shown empty to the baby prior to the deposits. In view of the baby, one cracker is placed in one container. One cracker and another are placed in the other container. Baby (10–12 months) is released to crawl to the containers. Baby heads for the container with two crackers. (Monkey’s also perform such tasks.) Next 2 versus 3. Baby succeeds again. 1 versus 3? Success. 1 versus 4? Failure. 2 or 3 versus 4? Failure. (Feigenson, Carey, and Hauser 2002). The limits on the number of objects that can be simultaneously attended to and represented in working memory are manifest in those results. This characteristic indicates that in such tasks the infants’ sensitivity (implicitly) to number is supported by parallel individuation in small sets, rather than by a second core cognition concerning magnitude: analog magnitude representations of number. In such cognitions, ability to discriminate any two magnitudes is a monotonically increasing function of their ratios. A ratio of 4:1 is easier to discriminate than a ratio of 2:1 or 3:2. The analog magnitude system is “an evolutionary ancient representational system in which number is encoded by an analog magnitude proportional to the number of objects in the set. These representations support computations of numerical equivalence and numerical order” in preverbal infants (OC 123). The individuals whose set sizes are discriminated by that core cognition can be objects or tones (OC 124). Cognition of magnitudes through parallel individuation of small sets has been elicited in preverbal infants using not only objects, but events and tones (OC 148–49). It is parallel individuation in small sets I expect for first rung in the ladder to units in the substitution sense in Rand’s theory of concepts. It is analog magnitude representations of number I expect for first rung to units in the measure-value sense in Rand’s theory. We shall see. (To be continued.) References Aguiar, A., and R. Baillargeon 1999. 2.5 Month-Old Infants’ Reasoning about When Objects Should and Should Not Be Occluded. Cognitive Psychology 39(2):116–57. ——. 2002. Developments in Young Infants’ Reasoning about Occluded Objects. Cognitive Psychology 45(2):267–336. Baillargeon, R. 1986. Representing the Existence and the Location of Hidden Objects: Object Permanence in 6- and 8-Month-Old Infants. Cognition 23:21–41. ——. 1987. Object Permanence in 3.5- and 4.5-Month-Old Infants. Developmental Psychology 23:655–64. Baillargeon, R., and S. Carey. 2012. Core Cognition and Beyond: The Acquisition of Physical and Numerical Knowledge. In Early Childhood Development and Later Outcome. S. Pauen, editor. Cambridge. Boydstun, S. 1990. Capturing Concepts. Objectivity (O) 1(1):13–41. ——. 1991a. Induction on Identity I. O 1(2):33–46. ——. 1991b. Induction on Identity II–XII. O 1(3):1–56. ——. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. 5(2):271–305. Bennett, J. 1966. Kant’s Analytic. Cambridge. Bremner, J. G. 1994. Infancy. 2nd edition. Blackwell. Carey, S. 2009. The Origin of Concepts. Oxford. Deacon, T. 1997. The Symbolic Species. Norton. Diamond, A. 1989. Differences Between Adult and Infant Cognition: Is the Crucial Variable Presence or Absence of Language? In Thought without Language. L. Weiskrantz, editor. Oxford. Feigenson, L., S. Carey, and M. Hauser 2002. The Representations Underlying Infants’ Choice of More: Object Files versus Analog Magnitudes. Psychological Science 13(2):150–56. Flavell, J. H. 1963. The Developmental Psychology of Jean Piaget. D. Van Norstrand. Friedenberg, J. 1993. Intricate Consciousness. O 1(5):29–67. Jetton, M. 1991. Imagination and Cognition. O 1(3):57–92. ——. 1995. Time, Prescience, and Biology. O 2(2):59–104. ——. 1998. Pursuing Similarity. O 2(6):41–130. Johnson, M. H. 2005 [1997]. Developmental Cognitive Science. Blackwell. Kahneman, D., Treisman, A., and B. J. Gibbs. 1992. The Reviewing of Object Files: Object-Specific Integration of Information. Cognitive Psychology 24:175–219. Macnamara, J. 1986. A Border Dispute – The Place of Logic in Psychology. MIT. Mandler, J. M. 2010. The Spatial Foundations of the Conceptual System. Language and Cognition 2(1):21–44. Nelson, K. 1996. Language in Cognitive Development. Cambridge. Piaget, J. 1954. The Construction of Reality in the Child. Basic Books. Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd edition. Meridian. ——. 1970. The Comprachicos. In The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Signet. Touchstone, K. 1996. Mathematics and Intuition. O 2(4):93–182.
  25. Capturing Quantity Part 1 I completed Capturing Concepts and published it in 1990. In its list of References, there is much relevant research in developmental cognitive psychology published through 1989. There is only one work in that list published in 1990, and that is the expanded second edition of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. The expansion included new material, transcripts from recordings of Rand’s seminar on ITOE a couple of years after ITOE had been published in The Objectivst (1966–67). I have often pointed out that Rand could be wrong in some ways concerning how concepts are formed, yet, in the logical presuppositions of such a proposed process, land on true character of all concretes and a true capability we possess for conceptualizing them around that character. In particular Rand can be wrong in supposing all concepts at all stages of our cognitive development are formed, at least implicitly, by a process of measurement omission, yet be correct in the presupposition that all concretes stand in measurement relations to other concretes and that we can and should conceive things with the appropriate measurement relations recognized and their particular values, within appropriate ranges, omitted for the contraction of concretes into concept. Recall Rand’s picture of our earliest conceptual and mathematical capabilities. In coming to concepts and language we moved from regarding things only as entities to regarding them also as units. "When a child observes that two objects (which he will later learn to designate as 'tables') resemble each other, but are different from four other objects ('chairs'), his mind is focusing on a particular attribute of the objects (their shape), then isolating them according to their differences, and integrating them as units into separate groups according to their similarities. "This is the key, the entrance to the conceptual level of man’s consciousness. The ability to regard entities as units is man’s distinctive method of cognition, which other living species are unable to follow. "A unit is an existent regarded as a separate member of a group of two or more similar members. (Two stones are two units; so are two square feet of ground, if regarded as distinct parts of a continuous stretch of ground.) Note that the concept unit involves an act of consciousness (a selective focus, a certain way of regarding things), but that it is not an arbitrary creation of consciousness: it is a method of identification or classification according to the attributes which a consciousness observes in reality. . . . The criterion of classification is not invented, it is perceived in reality. Thus the concept 'unit' is a bridge between metaphysics and epistemology: units do not exist qua units, what exists are things, but units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships. "With the grasp of the (implicit) concept 'unit' man reaches the conceptual level of cognition, which consists of two interrelated fields: Conceptual and Mathematical. The process of concept-formation is, in large part, a mathematical process." (ITOE 6–7) In “Capturing Concepts” I cited evidence from research that indicates our earliest concepts could not be of the Randian form for concepts. Subsequent research on infant cognition of quantity calls for a revision of my report and conclusion. Here is the pertinent part of what I had written in that 1990 paper: "There is much evidence to suggest that preschoolers typically contrast objects in terms of holistic, dimensionally nonspecific relations of magnitude. Objects intense in size and color are grouped together and segregated from objects not intense in both size and color. It is moreness and lessness across both dimensions that matter for these young children. They are observed trying to seriate objects on two dimensions at once. Quite possibly, they have not only notions of global magnitude polarities, but notions of dimensionally undifferentiated directions of difference. The preschooler’s understanding of global magnitude, however, does not entail an understanding that greater than and less than are necessarily opposing directions of difference. That understanding comes later, with an understanding of the ordering of values along single dimensions (Smith 1989, 165–72; Halford 1984; Chapman and Lindenberger 1988; Minsky 1985, 99–107, 149, 241). "The formation of concepts according to Rand’s formula of measurement omission requires a dimensional understanding of isolated attributes. The dimensions must be accessible but might be scalable only ordinally (ITOE 31–33, 14–15). A child knows size as a dimension when he regards big and little as attributes of a single kind; part identities have then become organized by dimensional kind. He knows size as an ordinal dimension when he regards bigger and littler as necessarily opposing directions of difference. Preschoolers have only a very incomplete and fragmented understanding of these quantitative relations. They do have the beginnings of such understanding (Smith 1989, 168–72; Gelman and Gallistel 1986, 160–67), and perhaps there is enough in some of the preschooler’s domains of knowledge to begin to form concepts along the lines of Rand’s formula. "It is doubtful, though, that preschoolers could hold the full-blown Randian form of concepts; they cannot yet view numbers algebraically. (Could they nonetheless view different values along some dimensions as variables?) It is doubtful, furthermore, that the preschooler’s concepts engage universals full-force; they do not yet realize that counting numbers are endless (Gelman and Meck 1983, 357–58)." (Boydstun 1990, 33–34) Rand had written that “man’s mathematical and conceptual abilities develop simultaneously” (ITOE 9). Research in recent years on infant cognition supports that contention. I am going to present those research results and look at what they say about the relation of first lexical concepts to the quantitative knowledge possessed by the infant at that time. Rand had gone on to say in support of her contention just quoted that “a child learns to count when he is learning his first words.” That latter contention was incorrect. As I noted in “Universals and Measurement” (2004): "The child has gone far beyond learning first words (roughly months 12 to 18) by the time she is learning to count. By 30 months, the basic linguistic system has become established and is fairly stable (Nelson 1996, 106). Not until around 36 months or beyond does the child have an implicit grasp of the elementary principles of counting: assign one-label-for-one-item, keep stable the order of number labels recited, assign final recited number as the number of items in the counted collection, realize that any sort of items can be counted, and realize that the order in which the items are counted is irrelevant (Gelman and Meck 1983; Butterworth 1999, 109–16)." (301n40) This error of Rand’s was pointed out to her in her epistemology seminar (c. 1971). Professor H (who may be Michael Berliner) reminded Rand of her remark on counting and first words. She replied that counting is almost simultaneous with first words, but not quite. H: “You say [counting] occurs shortly afterward. From what I have observed, it seems to occur quite a bit later, so that it seems to be a much higher-level process. AR: It isn’t so much higher-level, but the fact is that you cannot begin to count objects until you have learned to distinguish them, and you cannot distinguish them firmly until you have learned some words—i.e., formed some concepts. Therefore, it is part of the same general development. But a child does have to acquire some conceptual vocabulary, meaning: learn to identity some concretes in reality, before he can begin to count. H: I was taking it too literally. AR: No, if I said “when he is learning his first words,” I meant in the same general period of development. (ITOE Appendix, 200) The question of whether our earliest express concepts, our concepts at the one-word stage of language acquisition, are simultaneous with some quantitative knowledge need not hang on ability to count. It turns out we had some other quantitative knowledge at the dawn of our concepts. We can give Rand a little gold star, or anyway a silver star, for a little prescience in thinking the conceptual and mathematical work abreast each other from the outset. It turns out also that I deserve a little star for something I said about units in “Universals and Measurement.” "Concepts are mental integrations of 'two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristic(s), with their particular measurements omitted' (ITOE 13). "The units spoken of in this definition are items appropriately construed as units by the conceiving mind. They are items construed as units in two senses, as substitution units and as measure values (ITOE Appendix, 184, 186–88). As substitution units, the items in the concept class are regarded as indifferently interchangeable, all of them standing as members of the class and as instances of the concept. Applied to concept units in their substitution sense, measurement omission means release of the particular identities of the class members so they may be treated indifferently for further conceptual cognitive purposes. This is the same indifference at work in the order-indifference principle of counting. The number of items in a collection may be ascertained by counting them in any order. Comprehension of counting and count number requires comprehension of that indifference. "The release of particular identity for making items into concept-class substitution units is a constant and necessary part of Rand's measurement-omission recipe. But this part is not peculiar to Rand's scheme. What is novel in Rand's theory is the idea that in the release of particular identity, the release of which-particular-one, there is also a suspension of particular measure values along a common dimension." (Boydstun 2004, 273–74) My new little lucky star is on account of research indicating that in infancy we already had two branches of quantitative knowledge that are precursors to and instruments for our later grasp of units in the dual sense of substitution units and measure-value units. Remember, this new material we are going to assimilate concerns only genesis of our human cognition, not analysis of its structure, actual or desirable. Still, the stars are sweet. My window into recent research bearing so heavily on our genesis questions pertinent to Rand’s theory of concepts is Susan Carey’s The Origin of Concepts (2009). (To be continued.) References Boydstun, S. 1990. Capturing Concepts. Objectivity 1(1):13–41. ——. 2004. Universals and Measurement. The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies 5(2):271–305. Butterworth, B. 1999. What Counts: How Every Brain is Hardwired for Math. New York: Free Press. Carey, S. 2009. The Origin of Concepts. Oxford. Chapman, M., and U. Lindenberger 1988. Functions, Operations, and Decaloge in the Development of Transitivity. Developmental Psychology 24(4):542–51. Gelman, R. and C.R. Gallistel 1986 [1978]. The Child’s Understanding of Number. Harvard. Gelman, R., and E. Meck. 1983. Preschoolers’ Counting: Principles before Skill. Cognition 13:343–59. Halford, G. 1984. Can Young Children Integrate Premises in Transitivity and Serial Order Tasks? Cognitive Psychology 16:65–93. Minsky, M. 1985. The Society of Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster. Nelson, K. 1996. Language in Cognitive Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Rand, A. 1966–67. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Expanded 2nd edition. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. Meridian. Smith, L. 1989. From Global Similarities to Kinds of Similarities. In Similarity and Analogical Reasoning. Vosniadou and Ortony, editors. 1989. Cambridge.
  • Create New...