Objectivism Online Forum

# Vik

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5

1. ## This has always bugged me (eternal, finite universe, plenum)

I should elaborate on the hierarchy involved. The concept of point refers to a specific location. We identify specific locations by reference to nearby entities. In geometry, points are defined by use of a coordinate system. The x-y-z coordinate system was defined after someone noticed some tiles in the corner of a room. The polar coordinate system was developed after the ancients considered circles and chords. Before you can even think of defining a coordinate system, you need to consider spatial relationships among real objects. Your computer monitor is the above the floor. One could not deny that the monitor really is above the floor. The concept of "above" applies to an existent relationship involving two other existents. The monitor is an entity. The floor can be viewed as part of another entity. The concept of existent permits you to subsume under and focus on the relationship. It permits you to subsume under and focus on that which depends on entities but can be studied separately. So entities are not the only existents. Relationships are existents too.
2. ## This has always bugged me (eternal, finite universe, plenum)

The concept of a "plenum" depends on a concept of space. Since children do not begin their lives knowing about points defined by coordinate systems, we should not take the concept of space as an unquestioned primary. The standard of objectivity demands that we take some time to understand how a concept as abstract as space derives in a logical fashion from perceptual observation. Towards that end, I pose four questions to you: 1. What facts in reality give rise to the concept of space? 2. What concepts did you need to form before you could form a concept of space? And before those concepts? 3. What did you need to know in order to form a concept of space? 4. How did you form the concept of space? What similarities and differences were you concerned with?
3. ## "the nature" of X

The concept "identity" does not indicate the particular natures of the existents it subsumes; it merely underscores the primary fact that they are what they are. ~~Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology 2nd ed, "6. Axiomatic Concepts", pg. 59 The meaning of a *concept* includes all referents, known and unknown, but leaves unspecified whatever variation exists among referents,. among the same kinds of existents. A concept means existents viewed a certain way. The wiktionary has a definition of "nature" that reads: "The innate characteristics of a thing. What something will tend by its own constitution, to be or do. Distinct from what might be expected or intended." This could be applied to explanation and prediction. The *nature* of polyurethane *is* the chemical structure viewed in terms of how that structure causes the action-potentials of the material. When you view existents as members of a group of a similar existents, you are dealing with units. A concept IS a mental integration of units. Here, the "nature" of existents viewed as members of a group of similar existents and integrated by a concept IS the existents viewed in terms of entity-based causation. A thing is everything that it is. A valid concept is an abstraction whose ultimate foundation can be found in perceptual experience of what is.
4. ## The Universal Liar?

Why? And what conceptual roots applied to what concrete examples merged to produce this definition?
5. ## Eternal entities

Indeed. A material *is* its chemical arrangements. A triangle *is* a closed geometric figure with three angles. A thing is its properties. Existence *is* identity. A thing does not "cause" its identity.
6. ## Eternal entities

How about the properties of "things"? The plastic polypropylene does not "cause" its chemical arrangement any more than ice causes its crystal lattice, or a flame causes its shape, or a triangle causes its number of angles.
7. ## What are some good introductory texts for biology?

Specifically I'm looking for books that follow hierarchical order better than any others and aids the reader in organizing material conceptually.
8. ## The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts

This now sells for under \$30.
9. ## How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation

http://www.hblist.com/lecs/faq.htm#Book Editing will take a year.
10. ## Reason and logic

Are you suggesting that we need a concept of "truth" before we can form a concept of "reason"? What antecedent knowledge do we need before we can have a concept of logic? I know that at some point I must have distinguished conclusion from perception. I think that distinction would have been necessary because of a concept of error. But I'm not sure what else was needed.
11. ## Sensations and memory

When you recall a perception of a computer monitor, are you able to recall individual sensations? When you recall a perception of a computer monitor, what is the image *composed* of? If you want to resolve an apparent contradiction, consider the facts on which claims depend.
12. ## attribute vs quality

Given Rand's departure from Aristotle's theory of universals, it might be worth bringing up Aristotlean categories: ποιόν poion, of what kind or quality. e.g.: green, loud, sour, curved, hot I've picked up on these two words being used together in multiple texts. Right now in ITOE the relevant passage (where "concept" is defined) is: ...A concept is a mental integration of .... "The units involved may be any aspect of reality: entities, attributes, actions, qualities and relationships" Before this I didn't know the difference between attribute and quality. In the dictionary, one of of the definitions of quality, is a distinguishing characteristic So then I assume in the context of this, and other Objectivist texts which mention both attribute and quality, that the word "attribute" subsumes "qualities". Is there any particular reason why these two words need to be used at the same time? Isn't it enough to just mention attributes? .
13. ## attribute vs quality

The index of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology 2nd ed does not mention all appearances of "attribute". Here are some more: "3. Abstraction from Abstractions", pg. 25-26 "4. Concepts of Consciousness", pg. 31-32 "6. Axiomatic Concepts", pg. 56 And here is what I think of attributes: Attributes are attributes of something. A thing is its attributes. Attributes of actions do not exist apart from the actions. Attributes must be mentally isolated from entities or actions through a process of abstraction. Adjectives name concepts of attributes. Mental states have attributes too, namely such attributes as content and action. Attributes are measurable. Attributes must be discovered before their causes can be discovered. Actions are attributed to entities. The concept of "attribute" is formed by distinguishing it as an aspect of the character, the identity, of the thing.
14. ## Conceptual lineage

Above the level of conceptualized sensations and metaphysical axioms, every concept requires a verbal definition. Paradoxically enough, it is the simplest concepts that most people find it hardest to define — the concepts of the perceptual concretes with which they deal daily, such as "table", "house", "man", "walking", "tall", "number", etc. There is a good reason for it: such concepts are, chronologically, the first concepts man forms or grasps, and can be defined verbally only by means of later concepts — as, for instance, one grasps the concept "table" long before one can grasp such concepts as "flat", "level", "surface", "supports". Most people, therefore, regard formal definitions as unnecessary and treat simple concepts as if they were pure sense data, to be identified by means of ostensive definitions, i.e. simply by pointing. There is a certain psychological justification for this policy. Man's discriminated awareness begins with percepts; the conceptual identifications of daily-observed percepts have become so thoroughly automatized in men's minds that they seem to require no definitions — and men have no difficulty in identifying the referents of such concepts ostensively. ~Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, "5. Definitions", pg. 49-50 I'm taking this to mean that after so many levels of abstraction, you NEED formal definitions. I can define "colors" ostensively, but that concept is NOT first-level. It takes years for children to reach "colors" as such.
15. ## Conceptual lineage

You can sweep your arm around your room and say "furnishings", but that doesn't make the concept first level. You had to know about such things as tables and chairs.
16. ## Conceptual lineage

Mere causal requirement is NOT the same thing as logical foundation. They do NOT completely overlap. It is not integration that makes me think that the concept "life" is formed later. It's that I need knowledge about specific kinds of organisms before I can abstract the actions that make them LIVING organisms. Again, I could NOT distinguish life from non-living animate matter without a great deal of knowledge. And neither could you.
17. ## Conceptual lineage

The requirement of a knowing subject is NOT the same thing as the kinds of relationships that "consciousness" bears to "concept", "axiom", "propositions", "thought". Those relationships have more in common with the kinds of relationships that "existence" bears to "concept", "axiom", "proposition", "thought". I identified several concepts that I believe I need to form before I can form the concept of "life". I emphasize that it took me a long time and a lot of knowledge before I was able to distinguish living organisms from non-living but animate matter. In the face of that evidence, I do NOT see how life can be first-level for the reason that I could NOT make the conceptual distinction implicitly or otherwise. There are other problems with the idea that "life" is axiomatic. Axiomatic concepts forbid alternatives because axiomatic concepts represent an integration of ALL existents. Life does NOT integrate all existents. At best, it can only imply them through consciousness by the virtue that consciousness is not possible without life.
18. ## Conceptual lineage

Narrower subdivisions can be as abstract as wider integrations. I can tell you several kinds of computer processors, but they don't get you any closer to understanding WHAT a computer processor is or what it's for. What you want are the facts that give rise to the concept. You want *less* abstract, not more abstract. More precise differentiations can be more abstract, depending on what you abstracted them from. If you already have a good definition, reduce the highest level abstractions in your definitions. If you don't, ensure that your differentia contains *less* abstract concepts than the one you're trying to define. Either way, keep your mental eye on what you're ultimately after: the facts of reality that give rise to the cognitive necessity for having the concept. Don't get caught up in definitions at the expense of concrete examples. Don't get caught up in generalizations at the expense of antecedent knowledge.
19. ## Conceptual lineage

Yes, "value" is a higher-level abstraction than "friend". You have to know about entities before you can isolate their actions. Could "mutual valuation" be the genus? There's nothing wrong with the genus being more abstract. Sometimes the genus is reached *after* knowing about various species. You learned about "furniture" after you learned about tables and chairs. The purpose of reduction is to clarify abstract ideas and reclaim objectivity. Definition can be useful in that it helps you reach concretes, which are the foundation of objectivity and a prerequisite for clarification. This fact gives rise to a few guidelines: You reduce the highest level abstractions in your definitions. You ensure that your differentia contains *less* abstract concepts than the one you're trying to define. You keep your mental eye on what you're ultimately after: the facts of reality that give rise to the cognitive necessity for having the concept. And so on. Valuation is rather abstract. You saw that you needed to reduce that one. You also saw that value is more abstract than friend. You are trying to fulfill the third guideline I mentioned, but I've only seen a middle step of that process: an attempt at definition. I'm curious about what your final results will be.
20. ## Conceptual lineage

1. I have no problem seeing that life is implied by consciousness. But I don't see "life" as a base of all other concepts, all axioms, propositions and thought. Existence is unavoidably a logical foundation for concepts (of existents), axioms (about what), propositions (conceptual subsets of units), thoughts (of something). Consciousness is unavoidably a logical foundation for concepts, axioms, propositions, thoughts because consciousness has mental contents. But I see "life" only as a remote causal requirement, not a logical foundation.
21. ## Conceptual lineage

Also, when I hear "lineage" I think "antecedent knowledge" and search what I know of chronological development. If this isn't what's meant, I need clarification.
22. ## Conceptual lineage

The positive claim here is that "life" is a first-level concept. I remember specifically NOT knowing what people meant by "life" until I focused on several kinds of organisms that I knew of. This is a very different experience from having a vague sense of the referents of "existence" and "identity" before learning the words. If "life" really is a first-level concept the way that tables and chairs are, I need convincing.
23. ## Conceptual lineage

I don't see life as first-level. Before I had "life", I had "people", "goldfish", "trees", and so on. Life strikes me as a wider integration than any mammals, fish, or plants. I do not regard "people", "goldfish", or "trees" as more abstract, more precise differentiations of "life". They are things I grouped together as "living things".
24. ## A definition of Reason

You can also apply the term to studying the art of thinking. And to thinking about psycho-epistemology.
25. ## Conceptual lineage

For Harrison: Do you think "value" is LESS abstract than "friend"? When you hear the word "friend", do you think of one? Do you think of the friends of people you know? How quickly can you name non-friend acquaintances? What characteristics distinguish friends from non-friends? How about friends from strangers? These classifications are all within a wider group of concretes. If you stretch your memory, can you recall events with a past friend that highlighted your friendship? Can you think of any events that were involved in them transitioning from a mere acquaintance to a friend? When you hear the word "friend", does any emotional content flash through your mind? If so, what concrete facts were highlighted? What did the emotions point at? I am not advocating that you regard emotions as a tool of cognition. I am only wondering what you do with them. After thinking about all of the above, what concrete situations does the concept of friend *integrate*? To what facts does your concept of "friend" refer to in reality? What facts give rise to the concept of "friend"? The answers to the last two questions are the end results of hierarchical reduction. As you know, concepts are hierarchical. Some are more abstract than others. Therefore earlier explicit concepts are *less* abstract than later concepts. Therefore, it can be helpful to process a level of abstraction before peeling it back to reach earlier knowledge. The bottom of this hierarchy ought to be perceptual-concretes. This method involves traversing the levels of abstraction in the *reverse* order of what was needed to reach the idea. Each stage of this method of reduction could be summarized by the questions: What did I need to know before I could get to the level I'm considering? Is there *another* level before *that* knowledge?
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