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Everything posted by Boydstun

  1. Plas, No one has thought Galt's speech contains all of Objectivist epistemology. I did not say, imply, or insinuate it did. I cited Rand's 1960 remark that it did not. The novel thing and the most remarkable thing about Rand's theory of concepts is her analysis of them in terms of measurement omission, which she published, as you know, in ITOE. I have not said there is nothing more to be done in developing her theory of concepts, in its several interlocking aspects, that is significant. My view of it is quite the contrary. But this part of Rand's philosophy that she delivered in ITOE joined with what she delivered in Galt's speech constitutes a systematic philosophy, and the philosophy at this level of its development was Ayn Rand's own achievement, I'm pretty sure. Additional insights and refinements in this philosophy have been made by others besides Rand, but these are upon a full-blown philosophy in place in her own texts.
  2. The Washington Post notice has it, somewhat like Jim’s statement in Huffington Post, that “Mr. Branden helped develop Rand’s ideas into a philosophical construct that became known as Objectivism.” Really? Rand introduced the name Objectivism for her philosophy in the Preface to the book For the New Intellectual (October 1960). That book contained her essay “For the New Intellectual” and principal philosophical passages from her novels, including Galt’s speech. In the Preface, Rand described a treatise on her philosophy she was writing. It would include a theory of concepts, which was a major piece of her philosophy not exposed in her fiction. Readers here know that she delivered that missing portion of her philosophy in print in 1966–67. In his Basic lectures (as transcribed in Vision) and in his The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Branden gave Rand sole credit for that theory of concepts. Perhaps the forthcoming Rand biography by Shoshana Milgram will include specifics of the intellectual relationships between Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden over the course of their association (to 1957 anyway).
  3. I’m not in a position to assess the insights, importance, or originality of Nathaniel Branden’s ideas in clinical psychology over his lifetime. Some psychology having bearing there bears also on philosophy. Cognitive developmental psychology, but also psychodynamics, bears on the philosophic question “What is man?” and contributes to concepts of mind and psyche wielded by philosophers. What is the constitution of the soul remains a principal issue for philosophy, from times of Plato and Aristotle to times of Augustine, Avicenna, Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and our own, now informed by modern psychology and neuroscience. One accomplishment of Branden during his years with Rand, was the articles (mostly psychology) he published in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist. Another was his systematic presentation of Rand’s philosophy in the taped lecture series “The Basic Principles of Objectivism.” That is comparable to Leonard Peikoff’s lecture series “The Philosophy of Objectivism” (1976), which Peikoff later transformed into the book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR). Branden’s lecture series was transcribed into the book The Vision of Ayn Rand in 2009. That is not to say Branden’s lectures were transformed into a book. Branden did not mold the lectures into a book acceptable to himself either during or after his association with Rand. Because some of his thinking in psychology, and even his definition of reason, changed during those later decades, a book laying out his revised philosophy later in life would have likely differed somewhat from what he’d have written had he transformed “Basic” into a book while still working with Rand. The book Vision, the transcription of “Basic,” is valuable for tracing further development of ideas in Objectivism from the ‘60’s to Rand’s last years (i.e., to Rand's philosophy as in OPAR). James Peron is a friendly acquaintance of mine because we worked together on some Libertarian Party campaigns more than three decades ago. I gather from some of his writings on Facebook that he has continued bright and addicted to reading and learning. There is one statement he made in his notice concerning Branden in Huffington Post that I’d like to wavy-line. “Branden systematized Rand’s philosophy, something she had not done, and presented lectures on the ideas, published as The Vision of Ayn Rand.” I was exposed to Rand's philosophy in the '60s through her fiction. I then followed elaborations and innovations within the philosophy through the nonfiction of Rand and her associates, including Nathaniel Branden to the split in 1968. The philosophy was a systematic one for me. I never heard Branden's "Basic Principles of Objectivism" lectures and only learned their content decades later by Vision. In 1976 Leonard Peikoff put together a similar set of lectures, in coordination with Ayn Rand, giving a systematic presentation of her philosophy. There too, same goes. It was already a systematic philosophy, and I knew what it was before hearing those lectures in '77. What I object to is the idea---which is also put about by Yaron Brook (in oral remarks) in connection with Peikoff’s 1976 systematic presentation of Rand’s philosophy and subsequent book OPAR---that Rand’s philosophy as set out in 1957 (in Galt’s speech) was not yet a systematic philosophy. That is incorrect. To say that someone made a systematic and comprehensive presentation of Rand’s philosophy, such as Branden and later Peikoff accomplished (with the luxury of many more words than Galt’s speech and without the constraints of fictional context), should be kept separate from the idea that her mature philosophy of 1957 was one standing in need of being made systematic. A famous example of an unsystematic philosophy is that of Nietzsche (say, Gay Science forward). He was opposed to system, and he achieved having a philosophy without it being a system. (I know there is one scholar today who thinks he has at last, thank God, figured out a system to Nietzsche, but that is an outlier view among the scholars.) When one reads Galt's speech, one knows this is a systematic philosophy, more specifically, that it is a foundationalist sort of philosophy. One knows the philosophy has axioms, is based on the senses, with reason as tied to the senses. One knows the axioms and corollaries, one knows the point at which value enters this metaphysics, one knows this ethic's chief virtues and how they are related to the three cardinal values and what is the base given for why those are the three cardinal values. Rand's philosophy 1957 is what we call a systematic philosophy. She could have dropped dead right then, rather like what happened to Nietzsche, and scholars coming along later could see that hers was a systematic philosophy, from theoretical philosophy to ethics, and his was not.
  4. . David Kelley has some remarks on the life and work of Nathaniel Branden here. There is also an audio of NB’s at one of DK’s summer seminars in that notice. Some ideas of Branden’s I find of philosophic significance are in these posts: 11/24/14, 8/30/14
  5. Thanks Greg. I look forward to learning more about the Axiom of Archimedes. I've had some exposure to it from measurement theory, but need to learn more. Scratch hardness of a solid is one physical property; dent hardness of a solid is another physical property of a solid. The Rockwell hardness test is a measure of dent hardness, not scratch hardness.
  6. . Things to Come We watched this 1936 film recently. Raymond Massey (who played Gail Wynand in the Fountainhead film thirteen years later) delivers lines like “Why have we left it all to the fools and brutes?” Sound familiar?
  7. . Opening in USA on 28 November: The Imitation Game
  8. . SL (#12) No. Rand did not make an error peculiar to ordinality. In my view, she had an incorrect view of the different kinds of measurement, ordinal to rational, in that she supposed use of a measurement scale weaker than ratio scale (which she called extensive measurement and which is a type of ratio measurement) can eventually be supplanted with ratio-scale measurement once we know enough about the nature of the area to which the weaker (less structure) sort of scale is presently being applied, viz., in the areas of personal value rankings and in psychophysical measurements (Those two areas were her examples, and they are appropriate examples. She may have been unaware of the physical examples of ordinal measurement, used in my 2004 paper and in Binswanger 2014.) As I have shown, that misunderstanding of Rand---a misunderstanding of all sorts of other smart folks I've met---does not undermine her measurement-omission model for analyzing concepts one bit. To say the concept counting number allows in its scope positive integers of any value, though each must be of some value is indeed a case of measurement omission, and that type of measurement scale (the counting sequence) is known as absolute. Rand did not use an example from that category of measurement. Her premier example was length, which is in the category of ratio scale. That was the right way to start, because it is the prototypical type of measurement people are familiar with, and of course, it is a very important type of measurement. From there she went on to give a measurement-omission analysis of the concept shape. It turned out she did not actually know how to measure shape and her allusions to integral calculus in that regard really was a derailment into how to measure area and volume, when shape is really independent of size. Not to worry. In my paper, I gave the correct way of measuring shape and showed how it fits just fine with a measurements-omitted analysis of the concept shape. That too is ratio-scale measurement. I think I threw you off in #5 in saying that the type of measurement involved in counting is not novel to Rand's theory. That was a poor statement of what I was getting at. What I meant is that the membership relation in a collection being counted is not novel to Rand's theory of universal concepts as opposed to any other theory of universal concepts, realist or nominalist. They all take instances to be substitutable with each other as instance of the concept, and that sort of substitutability is part of what the child has to grasp in grasping one of the principles of counting, namely the principle that items in a collection may be counted in any order. See further "Universals and Measurement." My 2004 essay has been online for most of the last ten years since its original hardcopy publication in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. Online it has had thousands of reads, and they never stop, pleased to say.
  9. Take the property of solids: scratch hardness. They have other types of hardness, such as dent hardness, and levels of dent hardness may be ordered with all the structure of ratio scales. However, when it comes to scratch hardness, we order the levels of hardness only with the less elaborate structure of the ordinal scale. To my knowledge, no one has ever been able to analyze scratch hardness such that measures of it would meaningfully have the full structure of ratio scales. It could well be that the property of scratch hardness is a magnitude structure that simply has no more structure than has ordinal scale. The ordinal scale we use for scratch hardness is called the Mohs scale. The instances of scratch hardness of a solid must have some measure-value of scratch hardness to fall under the concept scratch hardness, but may have any measure-value of scratch hardness. The measurement-omission key to concepts works fine for all measurement types, from ordinal to ratio. Similarly it stands with with rankings of preferences in utility theory. The ordinal case of the Beaufort scale of winds for sailing is especially interesting to me. Looking at the linked chart, consider it without the parenthetical (Wind Speed) and the column for speed. Wind speed is a more recent addition, changing the meaning of the scale (made possible by our later ability to measure wind speeds). By the original descriptions of conditions by which a given level on the scale (first column or third) is to be identified, it is clear the scale was originally an measure (merely ordinal) of strength in effects of wind. That is a pretty complex property, and the later correlations with ranges of wind speed (speed is a ratio measure, both numerator and denominator being ratio measure themselves, allowing ratio of them to be taken) is a correlation with, and a partial cause of, that complex property. But wind speed is not that complex property itself and does not transmute the original ordinal measure of that complex property into a ratio one.
  10. No. It is not a misnomer. Ordinal measurement is a kind of measurement. Suspension of particular measure values on an ordinal scale along dimensions shared by instances falling under a concept, where ordinal scaling is appropriate to the magnitude character of those dimensions, is measurement omission. The idea of measurement omission---suspension of particular measure value---can be applied in the case of any of those measurement scales, ordinal to ratio.
  11. SL, The definition of measurement I follow is the one on the first page of the first volume of Foundations of Measurement: the association of numbers (include characters like vectors and quaternions as well) to the attributes of some class of objects or events “in such a way that the properties of the attribute are faithfully represented as numerical properties.” What I call a magnitude structure are concrete relations in the world (or in our perceptual and thinking operations) to which application of a measurement scale is appropriate. Where I say magnitude, some others say quantity. Same difference. By appropriate, I mean, in this context, as in my 2004 Universals and Measurement: All of the mathematical structure of the measurement scale is needed to capture the magnitude structure of concretes under consideration. It means as well that all the magnitude structure is describable in terms of the mathematical structure of the measurement scale. (As noted [12] in the paper, I take this norm from Robert Geroch’s Mathematical Physics and adapt it for our broader context.) Some conceptions of measurement are so loose that they would rate numbers on football jerseys as a measurement, which they call nominal measurement. I exclude that under the definition of measurement as I mean in the definition above. Mere distinct individuality, and even mere individuality with mere membership, does not a magnitude structure make, at least not in my book. I’d say the concepts same, different, and membership are logically prior to the concepts magnitude or measurement. The technical analysis of the various types of measurement, the various types of scales, is cast in terms of logically prior elements of logic (such as the logical connectives and, or, . . .) and elements of set theory (such as membership). So I do not go along with Rand’s attempt to analyze connectives such as and in terms of measurement omission. But I stay with her idea that all concretes stand in magnitude relations, at least to the level of ordinal structure, with other concretes. Though I exclude the logical and set-theoretic presuppositions of measurement from the measurement-omission model, it remains with me that all concretes can be brought under some concept(s) or other under the measurement-omission model. That remainder is large and a substantive conjecture. I’m not talking about the genesis of concepts here, only possibilities of analysis of concepts (and similarity relations) in terms of measurement omission. Because of the logical priority (however might stand genetic priority) of logic and set theory in relation to theory of measurement, I approach a book aiming to analyze such things as sets in terms of measurement—as I gather, so far, is an aim in Robert Knapp’s book—with much wariness. SL, I’ll have to pass on physical magnitude structures, such as studied in relativity, to which affine geometry, affine measurement, is appropriate. Digging into my relativity books would take me too far from other studies in which I’m immersed for a book I’m writing. I’ll neglect the additional relations and axioms that are progressively added to logical and set-theoretic relations and axioms for analysis of the hierarchy of measurements from ordinal to ratio, but here are examples for the salient types of measurement we actually go about. I take these from Patrick Suppes' Representation and Invariance of Scientific Structures (2002, 118), without further comment, although with hyperlinks to my pertinent previous expositions. These are one-dimensional scales; a similar story goes for hierarchies of geometry. Ordinal ­– Mohs hardness scale; Beaufort wind scale; qualitative preferences. Hyperordinal – perceived pitch and loudness; utility. Interval – temperature;* potential energy; cardinal utility. Ratio – mass, distance, electric current, voltage.
  12. Robert Knapp's book aims to make the case that mathematics, all of it, is best characterized as the science of measurement, direct or indirect. In that general outlook, as well as in its general outlook that mathematics is about the world, it seems to fit comfortably with Ayn Rand’s theory of concepts in terms of measurement-omission. The fit is not good when examined more closely. To characterize mathematics as the science of measurement, we need to integrate such a perspective with modern theory of measurement as lain out in the three-volume work Foundations of Measurement. Therein one learns the ordered, hierarchical relations of the various measurement structures, which for single-dimension measurement includes these plateau: absolute (counting), then ordinal, then ratio measurement. That middle one is extremely important for Rand’s measurement-omission analysis of concepts. She mistakenly supposed that all magnitude structures in the world or in consciousness possess the suit of traits making ratio measurement appropriate to them, but that we have ordinal measurement to make do when we have not yet learned to apply ratio measurement to a domain (such as to value relations and to states of consciousness). That mistake is easily remedied, and does not undermine her measurement-omission way of analyzing concepts: There are magnitude structures in reality to which these various forms of measurement are appropriate, including structures for which ordinal measurement is appropriate, but ratio measurement is not.* Counting is often thought of as a way of measuring, and that is also the way it is analyzed by the authors of Foundations of Measurement. In Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, counting was not what Rand had in mind, in topic, as measurement. To have a theory of concepts in which counting was the type of measurement being omitted in conceptual abstraction from instances would not be a novel theory, for that much is true of any theory of concepts. But to say that conceptual abstraction can be understood as not only that which-one sort of suspension of specifics, but further, as suspension of particular measure-value along shared dimension(s) of the particular instances falling under the concept, now that, that is a distinctive theory. Let measure-value be so little as relative places in a linear ordering, even then the theory is substantial and original. Yet in Dr. Knapp’s book, I’m finding no treatment of ordinal measurement, hyperordinal measurement, or in the case of multidimensional magnitude structures, such geometries as affine (which is the measurement structure appropriate to spacetime in the situations for which special relativity applies). Our author goes with a definition of measurement stated by Rand, one that (unfortunately for her theory of concepts) implies that all measurement is ratio-scale measurement. I say broaden your definition of measurement. Knapp does portray counting as a form of measurement, in addition to ratio-scale measurement; the forms of measurement between them in the hierarchy of measurement is neglected. Oddly, for a treatment of mathematics aiming for concordance with Rand’s epistemology, there is no consideration of ordinal measurement in this book. Please correct me if I’m wrong. Odd too is the treatment of groups as measurement of symmetry taken as related to the broader category similarity, yet without assimilation of Rand’s measurement analysis of similarity into the account. Again, please correct me if I’m just missing it.
  13. The recent untimely death of actress Elizabeth Pena, reminded me of a film of hers I like a lot and which may be a good one for many here. It is called Lone Star.
  14. Jon, This discussion has been a good exploration. Quite stimulating. I’d say your two-year-old self is still a fact of reality in your present life because all life requires a developmental history. Your present age is something that exists now. It and your developmental history are facts now. Your two-year self stands in real unbroken concrete relations to your present self, including a real, definite temporal separation. In addition, our organs, most of our neurons, and some of our skills (perceptual, motor, memorial, and linguistic) we have now we’ve kept since two. To some extent the two-year old continues to live in us now.
  15. Jon, Consider also that what we experience as a present instant is about a fifth of a second in duration. All kinds of neuronal processes have begun and done within that one second. Drilling on down to nuclei of the atoms composing us, an event can have begun and done in 0.000000000000001 seconds. A fifth of a second is 0.2 seconds. That is a lot of pasts, presents, and futures within what we are experiencing as a present time. If all that exists within our present 0.2 seconds fully exists, then that's a lot of pasts and futures contained therein that fully exist. And anyway, we don't really want to limit our sense of what exists in the present to a maximum duration of 0.2 seconds. As I type, the sun is setting, and the cornbread is baking in the oven. These are what's happening right now. How big is the intended now? Surely it's more than our minimum span of perceptual awareness. Stephen
  16. No, Jon, it's not correct that the past is nonexistent. It's just not a present existent, and that is not the same thing as nonexistent. Existence as a whole includes all existents. It includes all the actual things and their identities, which includes their potentials and their histories. All of those things are part of existence. It includes all the actual things of the past and what identities and potentials they had. It includes all present existents and their identities (on this we agree). It includes all potentials of present things. There is no implication that past, present, and future exist at the same time, only that they all exist, that they and all existents in them are all part of existence.
  17. Markness, You remarked “I think that a man can’t survive if he is not part of the group.” On the material level, we are all certainly surviving much better as part of our societies, interacting with others electronically and in person, than we would be in an area without other people. On the psychological level, we need (at least everyone I’ve known needs) interaction with other humans, even when we are adult. Individuality within genuine fellowship is possible here in America and, I'm pretty sure, even in more collectivist countries of Europe, where there is freedom of movement and association. If you are subject to a mandatory period of national service, such as the military draft, then yes, for that period, individuality is more seriously compromised. I’d be careful in supposing the enormous numbers of people who disagree with you over such things as altruism, self-reliance, taxation, government enterprises, and supremacy of the society over the individual, do not respect individuality at all and are entirely set against rationality. Listen to all they say and consider all they do. It can be painful to have one frustrating discussion after another with acquaintances all around you. Nietzsche wrote of that pain in the late nineteenth century. He was of a personality who liked to have lively, real-thinking discussions with people he met, but usually it was hopeless. It was like they were coming from different planets. You may find it enjoyable to try to contact other people in your area who have some friendly interest in Ayn Rand’s ideas. You might have to put out a personal ad saying you are in search of making the acquaintance of people with that interest. If they are just too rare there, that would be one more incentive to change countries. I don’t know how old you are, but from nineteen on I had a lover, and it was an age of two against the world, and we had each other as sanctuary. Here’s hoping. (I’m sorry if my writing is hard to understand.) Stephen
  18. Jon, the view you expressed of not knowing one’s own beginning is certainly right, and likewise that aspect of one’s own death. Lucretius had the latter point right: “When we are here, death is not come. When death is come, we are not here.” You wrote: “All we will ever know is the now, we can know of no beginning nor end. Therefore we will 'forever' exist in the now. In that sense at least, we are immortal.” That reminds me somewhat of Rand’s next-closing line as narrator for the death of her heroine of We the Living. “A moment or an eternity—did it matter? Life, undefeated, existed and could exist.” There is no present self without memory, a working memory at least, and for the more extended self, a long-term semantic memory (knowledge of facts, language) and a long-term episodic memory (including autobiographical memory). I expect you have noted that in your remarks the now ranges from time to strike one key to time to have a human life. There is something right about that. The existence of one’s present self requires memory making past episodes and past learning part of one’s present self, and the happiness of the present is an assembly from the past, short and long. You floated the idea that “the past is not a fact that characterizes the world now. It is non-existent.” That goes too far. The geological formations of the earth today are present indicators of their real past process of formation. The processes of the past were real, their order and their durations are real facts we aim to discover. The past is a reality, totally set, and some of it can be learned by us now, becoming part of our semantic memory and enriching us with reality. Very particular facts of past existents are not facts of present existents, to be sure. But facts of the past—what existed and occurred in the past—belong to some of the past, to the present, and to all of the future. The future is not totally set, but it too has its now facts of it already, such as the conservation of mass-energy. It has further now-set facts ready for us to discover. One’s mortality is an available fact of the future, even though the time of that occurrence in the future is not a present determinate fact. I don’t mean it’s simply unknown, I mean there is nothing to that issue there to be known. The future is a fact. Hopefully a good one for you and for those you care about, hopefully some of them beyond your own full stop, beyond you in the very real future, future always becoming a fully determinate now. With memory of you, as those now ceased whose memory has been part of you.
  19. Sense of Smell May Predict Lifespan If this study stands up, it seems to me it could be developed into a tool for older people in making their decisions about the rate at which they should be spending their savings. A couple of fine-thinking essays related to this thread are these: Would Immortality Be Worth It? Stephen Hicks (1992) Can Art Exist without Death? Kathleen Touchstone (1993)
  20. There are comments from Irfan Khawaja on the film Atlas Shrugged III here. I didn't see it myself, as it did not show at my town, and the nearest showing was over an hour away.
  21. To the values of what the publisher notes to be inside the following book, I'd add the sheer joy of it: Inside Interesting Integrals by Paul J. Nahin (Springer 2014)
  22. I should add that there is a dedicated site for Robert Knapp's book here: http://mathematicsisabouttheworld.com/ NB, Is your idea that the brain is an analog machine in its activities supporting perception and in its activities supporting our conceptual activities as well? Is your idea that the brain's analog activities supporting our conceptual activities are experienced as analogies, hence the pervasiveness of analogies in our conceptual operations?
  23. Robert Knapp makes his case that mathematics springs from and is shaped by requirements of indirect measurement in a new book: Mathematics Is about the World: How Ayn Rand’s Theory of Concepts Unlocks the False Alternatives Between Plato’s Mathematical Universe and Hilbert’s Game of Symbols Robert E. Knapp (2014)
  24. Of related interest: The One Hundred Books Facebook Users Love The Atlantic – 9/8/14 Rand’s books did not make the top 100. If you click on the graph, you will see there is noted correlation of mentions of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, which is to be expected. Other noted correlations of The Fountainhead in the graph are: Kane and Abel, The Godfather, Shantaram, and Midnight’s Children. So perhaps fiction readers here would also value those four books.
  25. SL, There are concretely real relations in the world, and among such relations are the physical relations of space and time. They are more than the relations of abstract geometry or topology, for not all of those have the honor of being instantiated physically in some particular physical situation that is being scientifically comprehended. To say that some geometric abstract spacetime is what is being encountered in some concrete situation is to say the relations in that structure are concretely real relations in that situation. Do you agree that there are such things as concretely real relations? To say Yes to that is not to say those concrete relations are concrete entities. Is that what you mean by reification of spacetime, taking a relation for an entity? I think the entity way of looking at physical spacetime might be what is called the substantival view in philosophy of physics today, in contrast to a purely relationalist view. Two good books on these different interpretations and related issues are: World Enough and Space-Time John Earman What Spacetime Explains Graham Nerlich I don’t know if you have heard the GR saying for the layman: “Spacetime curvature tells mass-energy how to move; mass-energy tells spacetime how to curve.” I expect a purely relational case for spacetime might be made even in this dynamic. But I personally would not start with a presumption that a purely relational case for spacetime can be made, and that a substantival account is up-front an error, specifically a reification. Stephen
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