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I understand that Rand's epistemology holds that man forms concepts by differentiation.

We begin the formation of a concept by isolating a group of concretes. We do this on the basis of observed similarities that distinguish these similarities from the rest of our perceptual field. (OPAR, p. 77)

Rand held that the mind begins tabula rasa- no concepts.

Man is born with an emotional mechanism, just as he is born with a cognitive mechanism; but, at birth, both are "tabula rasa." It is man's cognitive faculty, his mind, that determines the content of both. (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 28)

Her belief in the "tabula rasa" implies that we begin without any ideas at all. This would mean that we have to form EVERY concept ourselves, from the axioms up. How, if our ability to form concepts is based upon differentiation, do we come upon the first concepts? We would have to find something to differentiate even these from, obviously. How would we differentiate them? Presumably by reference to the concept of "identity", which according to Rand is what allows for the formation of the concept "difference". (Correct me if I'm wrong about that.) So, if we have to be able to differentiate to form concepts, and we have to form a concept (of "identity") to differentiate, how do we arrive at any concepts at all?

I've found one thing that sort of addresses the issue:

The (implicit) concept "existent" undergoes three stages of development in man's mind. The first stage is a child's awareness of objects, of things—which represents the (implicit) concept "entity." The second and closely allied stage is the awareness of specific, particular things which he can recognize and distinguish from the rest of his perceptual field—which represents the (implicit) concept "identity." (Intro to Objectivist Epistemology, 6)

How does the child differentiate the entities from the rest of its perceptual field without already knowing what an identity is?

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Man forms concepts by measurement omission, by taking only what's in common in some concretes. For example, it is not important if a table is made from wood or plastic, it is still a table if it has flat surface that rests on supports. Concept formation, however, does not always involve differentiation. For example, the concept “existent” refers to anything that exists, and the concept “existence”, or “reality”, is everything that exists.

Now, man has inborn ablity to form concepts. That ability does not require having concepts to function, but only being able to perceive reality. And at the beginning it is not an easy process — you won't find little baby dealing with abstract categories, only with basic concepts like “man”, “toy” or “food”.

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A has always been A, except for that one time A was having an identity crises back in the 90s and thought it was X, because he wanted to be cool. Luckily, Woody and the rest of the Gang got him to snap out of it and now A knows that he is A and is once again leading the alphabet.

<_<

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Man forms concepts by measurement omission, by taking only what's in common in some concretes. For example, it is not important if a table is made from wood or plastic, it is still a table if it has flat surface that rests on supports. Concept formation, however, does not always involve differentiation. For example, the concept “existent” refers to anything that exists, and the concept “existence”, or “reality”, is everything that exists.

But could he form the concept of "identity" through that process? How would he identify things to remove measurements from without it?

Now, man has inborn ablity to form concepts. That ability does not require having concepts to function, but only being able to perceive reality. And at the beginning it is not an easy process — you won't find little baby dealing with abstract categories, only with basic concepts like “man”, “toy” or “food”.

Isn't this equivalent to saying that we are born with the concept of "identity" in implicit form? How would you maintain that we are born tabula rasa under this premise?

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How, if our ability to form concepts is based upon differentiation, do we come upon the first concepts? We would have to find something to differentiate even these from, obviously. How would we differentiate them? Presumably by reference to the concept of "identity", which according to Rand is what allows for the formation of the concept "difference".

How does the child differentiate the entities from the rest of its perceptual field without already knowing what an identity is?

The answer is that all knowledge comes from perception. We do not start off with concepts, but we do have the ability to perceive. For example, you can perceive the difference between these two symbols on your screen (as differentiated from the white background): # *. If one then sees these symbols in other contexts, one can then begin to realize there is a similarity involved.

Take this string: ## . & ( @

On the perceptual level, the only two symbols that are similar are the two # symbols. Now, conceptually, in order to retain these symbols in one's mind, one forms a concept, such as "number" (sign). From then on out, anytime one sees this symbol # it is called "number" (sign).

One does not need a conceptualization of this process, nor even the concepts "difference" and "similarity" in order to perceive the difference and the similarity -- it is given in perception. All naming it does is give it a cognitive identification that will last longer than the perception.

Some people may think this is not a good example because there is not actually one word summarizing it, and it happens to be a proper name, and the two symbols are identical (aside from position) and so forth, but it makes easy use of perception available in a posting, since it is hard to point to a cat, say, on a computer screen (without designing a web page or an image file). But, basically, one perceives differences and similarities, and then integrates together the similarities without conceptually identifying this process until much latter.

A higher level concept based on the example would be "symbol", after one has conceptualized "period" (.), "ampersand" (&), "open parenthesis" ((), "at sign" (@); the differentiation is from the background and each other, and then the similarities, say between @ and @, are integrated together to form the individual concepts; then one notices a broader similarity, that they are all symbols. And probably latter still that they are abbreviations for concepts -- i.e. @ is the abbreviation of "at" and & is the abbreviation for "and".

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Isn't this equivalent to saying that we are born with the concept of "identity" in implicit form?
You'll have to be more explicit here. What do you mean by the concept of identity "in implicit form"? Could you make this more concrete. Remember, the stage you're talking about is a child who is under 2 years old. What abilities of that child are you asking about?

IHow would you maintain that we are born tabula rasa under this premise?
The child of 1 or 2 has a mind and sense organs, and some abilities. So, tabula rasa does not mean blank of these type of abilities.

A child might start to form some idea of "drinky stuff". Milk, water, orange-juice. He begins to have a notion of "same stuff" or "stuff that I drink" or whatever other wordless equivalent goes on in his head. At some stage, he may even come up with some "name" (like Mmm-ma) for what we might term "liquids this baby likes to drink". Very roughly, that's the elementary form in which the first concepts are formed.

What aspect of this are you asking about?

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On further thought, I think what you are asking is how we form the concept "identity", as in the axioms, existence, identity, and consciousness. These are the starting point of all knowledge, but they are given in perception. In other words, when you perceive, say, a cat, you are perceiving it as one thing -- one entity. It's identity is given in perception on that level, that it is something specific that is given to your on the perceptual level. In other words, you perceive that cat, you don't perceive eyes over here, legs over there, and the tail somewhere else. You perceive the entity.

But the concept "identity" is only implicit for very young children. You don't start a child off by pointing to things and calling them entity or identity. You point to a cat and say "cat," you point to a dog and say "dog," you point to a table and say "table". However, implicit in forming those concepts is the idea that they are identifying specific entities that exist in reality. The concept for the particularity of entities is "identity", but a child is not going to have that concept. The differentiation is something differentiated from nothing, or this ---> # versus this ---->

So, we are not born with the idea of identity in our consciousness; it is something we perceive and then conceptualize.

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But the concept "identity" is only implicit for very young children.
I wouldn't grant this unless "implicit notion" is defined and concretized a bit more.

For instance, if a child is at the stage of recognizing different colors, but has not yet put together the various colors into some categories, would "blue" be an implicit concept to such a child? If that's the way the term is used, then a child may also have an "implicit concept" of identity. I can't say so, but I don't know.

However, more often I've seen terms like "implicit concept" used to mean some stage just before the actual final verbalization. Now, we're speaking of a child who -- in some sense -- has started to recognize blueness. In a wordless way, he's started to see that the blue cup and the blue spoon look similar. [usually, it's the adults who are pointing this out to him; but, no matter.] If this is the type of referent for the term "implicit concept", then I'd say the child does not have an implicit concept of "identity".

A child might recognize specific identities of specific objects, but has not "implict concept" of identity, in the second sense (see above).

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Isn't this equivalent to saying that we are born with the concept of "identity" in implicit form? How would you maintain that we are born tabula rasa under this premise?
The point is that man has the innate faculty to differentiate and integrate (also the ability to choose), but the ability to do these things is not the same thing as having the concept of doing these things. "A thing" and "a concept of a thing" are not the same, which is obvious for something like actual dogs versus the concept of dogs; when the thing in question is an aspect of the mind, it's harder to see that a fact of the mind is not the same as a mental grasp of that fact.

SN correctly points out that tabula rasa does not mean "empty head". Man is born with very many innate abilities, such as the ability to see, digest, walk (the latter requires physical development to be realized, but the mental ability is innate). Obviously man cannot be born free of any and all mental properties which would have to be learned using... something that they would have to learn. Tabula rasa refers to man's lack of innate knowledge.

Questions about how we discover the identify of things out there are interesting, but also complex and hard to determine scientific aspects of developmental psychology, which are outside the scope of philosophy. The main problem is that our experimental subjects would be infants, who are not very good at filling out questionaires.

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Questions about how we discover the identify of things out there are interesting, but also complex and hard to determine scientific aspects of developmental psychology, which are outside the scope of philosophy

I disagree that the discovery of entities is outside the scope of philosophy, since it speaks directly to the tabula rasa / innateness debate. I believe it lies at the heart of philosophy, at least as long as the answers are not certain.

I think when we start with entities as the basics of epistemology, we have not traveled all the way down the awareness "stack" which has reality at its "layer 0" (forgive the engineering analogy). I believe the first thing we perceive is not entities, but attributes. In sensing attributes, a child first perceives only random sensory inputs. Immediately the mind begins organizing these inputs in terms of similarities and differences - that is our innate mechanism. When a similarity is found, for instance, in our visual perception, when location of several colored or shaded areas stay within the same proximity, disconnected to other areas, we form the concept of a separateness of those areas. That concept is an entity.

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I disagree that the discovery of entities is outside the scope of philosophy, since it speaks directly to the tabula rasa / innateness debate. I believe it lies at the heart of philosophy, at least as long as the answers are not certain.
I disagree with your disagreement, because you're not understanding what it is that is outside the domain of philosophy. The question of the cognitive mechanisms by which infants receive sensations which gives rise to percepts is a highly complicated scientific matter that can only be answered by specialised investigation using special tools. Philosophy can say what "identity" is, but cannot tell you what the facts of the brain are that explain aspects of reality that the mind can focus on. To give one example, it is a fact that human hearing cannot classify as a group acoustic frequencies related by the function Nj. This fact is only knowable by specialized scientific investigation. What's weirder is that amplitude perception is based on exponential ratios.
I think when we start with entities as the basics of epistemology, we have not traveled all the way down the awareness "stack" which has reality at its "layer 0" (forgive the engineering analogy).
It is a mistake to start with entities, rather than existents, as the "basics" of epistemology.
I believe the first thing we perceive is not entities, but attributes.
I don't believe it. Now the interesting question is how we can determine who's right. Your position has a disadvantage compared to mine, that you seem to be claiming that we can perceive attributes without perceiving the entitities that we're perceiving the attributes of. Surely we can agree that that isn't possible.
In sensing attributes, a child first perceives only random sensory inputs.
The problem here is that there some fast and loose going on with terminology. You can't sense an attribute, you perceive them. You have sensations, coming from your sensory organs, and those give rise to percepts (or perception) in the mind. We should be careful about the term "child" -- children don't perceive anything random, they perceive stuff rather systematically, though somewhat differently from adults. Let's shift the attention to prelingual infants. The problem with infants is partly physical and partly mental. Their physical problem is that they have bad bodies which really messes with the actual sensations, like the fact that they haven't developed enough myelin to insulate their nerves (in other words, I'm referring to a non-philosophical medical fact). Then in addition they need to learn basic conceptualization which is part and parcel of the business of how we perceive. An example of that is the perception of color, which is only possible when specific color concepts are formed (otherwise, you just have a sensory continuum).
Immediately the mind begins organizing these inputs in terms of similarities and differences - that is our innate mechanism.
That's a theory: here's another. Infants start by not distinguishing things at all, and only after repeated stimulus are they able to learn to differentiate. In other words, children start with sensory unity, learn to differentiate, then eventually re-integrate. Philosophically speaking, I must be right. Scientifically speaking, well, we'd have to engage in some specialised experimentation to figure out which it is. For my money, the interesting question is, what does it take for an infant to notice that two stimuli are actually distinct. Part of the answer lies in the changing physical capacities of infants and their sharpening ability to locate boundaries.
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I agree with SoftwareNerd that an implicit concept requires one to get to the similarity stage at a minimum. In order to form the concept "blue" as he points out requires one to be able to perceive the similarity between two or more things that are blue in color. Once one is aware of the similarity, the next step of concept formation is giving it a name and then a definition.

The steps of concept formation are differentiation, integration, naming the item, and giving it a definition to keep that concept apart from others.

In what way is one having the implicit concept "identity" before one has the full concept?

I think, given some of the replies, that it must be stressed that we perceive entities, and not disconnected attributes. The senses and the nervous system automatically integrate our sensations together so that we are aware of entities rather than sensations. In other words, we are not aware of discrete spots of blue, but rather some specific thing / entity that is blue. And the entities are automatically differentiated from the field of vision or the field of touch, and so on for the rest of the senses that give us entities on the perceptual level. Taste and smell are two senses that do not give us the awareness of an entity in total, but only their tastes and odors; taste and smell qua sensory equipment, of man, are not well developed compared to the eyes and the skin. While it may be true that our eyes and optic nerves or our skin and tactile receptors must develop before we are aware of entities, this does not require any conceptual effort to be accomplished. Once we learn how to focus our eyes, we perceive entities. It is after this physiological integration that we do conceptual integration that does require mental effort -- i.e. to form concepts.

I think in answer to the idea that we can have the implicit concept of "identity" from early on (thus making it an axiom) is that we do perceive entities, and we become aware of the similarity of this and that with regard to them both being an entity. A young child perceives, say, a dog and a cat, qua entities, and the similarity that is grasped early on is that this is a thing (a cat) and this is a thing (a dog). The "thisness" of the perceived entities is the implicit grasp of identity.

And it is only after we form the concept of the entity that we can form the concept of its attributes. In other words, concepts of attributes are a higher level of differentiation and integration than that of the conceptualization of the entity. It requires a conceptual effort for a child to focus in on the attribute of blue differentiated from the entity before he can grasp the similarity between the blue cup and the blue spoon. He has the concepts of "cup"and "spoon" before he has the concepts "blue", "round", "weight", etc.

To put this in a directly perceptual grasp on the screen, this ---> A <--- is not perceived as three lines intersecting, but rather as one thing, the letter "A". It is only after grasping it qua entity (or qua letter) that we can then mentally take it apart into line segments, which does require mental effort. As presented on the screen, due to the light colored background, the overall shape of the A stands out (is differentiated from) the background and is perceived as one thing automatically by the visual receptors and optic pathways and visual cortex.

Edited by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.
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I disagree with your disagreement, because you're not understanding what it is that is outside the domain of philosophy. The question of the cognitive mechanisms by which infants receive sensations which gives rise to percepts is a highly complicated scientific matter that can only be answered by specialised investigation using special tools. Philosophy can say what "identity" is, but cannot tell you what the facts of the brain are that explain aspects of reality that the mind can focus on. To give one example, it is a fact that human hearing cannot classify as a group acoustic frequencies related by the function Nj. This fact is only knowable by specialized scientific investigation. What's weirder is that amplitude perception is based on exponential ratios.

We'll have to parry on this one a little more. But before we get into what may be a semantic stand off, can you give me a short statement of the scope of philosophy? I am a self-confessed dilettante in this area.

However, your example of acoustical frequency groupings vs. amplitude groupings is faulty. The argument that Nj doesn't hold true for frequencies ignores a basic truism about frequencies: that powers of two are recognizable, and therefore classifiable as related frequencies. You must understand that any frequency you can identify is based on an arbitrary time unit. If you choose a time unit which is an integral multiple of the period of the waveform, then the equation stated holds true as a recognizable class of frequencies. That amplitude perception is based on exponential ratios, is simply a transform from the exponential to the linear in terms of our perceptions. I would dispute that amplitude could be classified by human subjects, as you seem to imply.

It is a mistake to start with entities, rather than existents, as the "basics" of epistemology.I don't believe it. Now the interesting question is how we can determine who's right. Your position has a disadvantage compared to mine, that you seem to be claiming that we can perceive attributes without perceiving the entitities that we're perceiving the attributes of. Surely we can agree that that isn't possible.

No, apparently we can't agree on this basic. Surely I don't need to identify instances where you perceive attributes of an entity without knowing the exact nature of the entity. I would, in fact, argue that entities cannot be perceived directly, but must be inferred from the sum of their attributes.

The problem here is that there some fast and loose going on with terminology. You can't sense an attribute, you perceive them.[\quote]

I guess we have an semantic dispute here. I believe you sense an attribute, and that the sum of your sensations is integrated into the perception of an ent

Edited by agrippa1
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But before we get into what may be a semantic stand off, can you give me a short statement of the scope of philosophy?
Let me quote from OPAR p. 289:

Philosophy by its nature has to be based only on that which is available to the knowledge of any man with a normal mental equipment. Philosophy is not dependent on the discoveries of science; the reverse is true. So whenever you are in doubt about what is or is not a philosophical subject, ask yourself whether you need a specialized knowledge, beyond the knowledge available to you as a normal adult, unaided by any special knowledge or special instruments. And if the answer is possible to you on that basis alone, you are dealing with a philosophical question. If to answer it you would need training in physics, or psychology, or special equipment, etc., then you are dealing with a derivative or scientific field of knowledge, not philosophy.

However, your example of acoustical frequency groupings vs. amplitude groupings is faulty. The argument that Nj doesn't hold true for frequencies ignores a basic truism about frequencies: that powers of two are recognizable, and therefore classifiable as related frequencies.
If you have some experimental evidence to show that the Nj relation is perceptible in the frequency domain, go for the gusto and trot it out. (Of course there is no question that if you can abstract a numeric frequency and have either highly restricted data or a computational aid that you can analyze the Nj relation, but that is not the same as auditorily perceiving an exponential frequency relation). Another example would be perceptual relations of visible light which for humans is based on continuous ranges of the EM spectrum. There's no rationalist explanation for why color percepts can't involve discontinuous percepts, and in fact you can't even know that it's a fact about humans without undertaking special scientific investigations.
Surely I don't need to identify instances where you perceive attributes of an entity without knowing the exact nature of the entity.
What relevance would that have to the question? You started by arguing that a child (infant) initially only perceives attributes and does not perceive entities. Interjecting the spurious amplification "knowing the exact nature of the entity" is unrelated to the point under discussion -- entities precede attributes; man first perceives that there is an entity, then grasps its nature (attributes). In that order. Man does not grasp floating attributes and then surmise that there is an entity having those attributes. It is not necessary to know the exact nature of an entity before you can perceive the entity (please tell me that you at least recognise that fact)!.
I would, in fact, argue that entities cannot be perceived directly, but must be inferred from the sum of their attributes.
BTW in using the expression "perceive directly", are you suggesting that there is such a thing as indirect perception, i.e. are you toeing the Cartesian / representationalist line? Anyway, I argue that attributes cannot be perceived without first perceiving the entity having the attribute, and that attributes are understood and perceived after the entity. Philosophically speaking, I'm right, and scientifically speaking, I invite you to show me the factual counter-evidence that supports your position and refutes mine.
I guess we have an semantic dispute here. I believe you sense an attribute, and that the sum of your sensations is integrated into the perception of an ent
It does seem to me that you're approaching the question from a representationalist perspective. This actually isn't as semantic issue, it's a substantive one. You're positing an additional, intermediate step in the causal chain from external object to mental grasp, namely "sensations", or as Cartesians often call it "sense data". There is no reason to believe in such a thing; but maybe it would be more productive for me to refer you to Huemer's dissertation. Although I can't possibly endorse his total misunderstanding of Objectivism, the diss is an excellent disposal of representationalism and skepticism
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You started by arguing that a child (infant) initially only perceives attributes and does not perceive entities. Interjecting the spurious amplification "knowing
the exact nature
of the entity" is unrelated to the point under discussion -- entities precede attributes; man first perceives that there is an entity, then grasps its nature (attributes). In that order. Man does not grasp floating attributes and then surmise that there is an entity having those attributes. It is not necessary to know the exact nature of an entity before you can perceive the entity (please tell me that you at least recognise that fact)!

You say "entities precede attributes", and then clarify that you mean "man perceives"... are you making a metaphysical AND epistemological claim here? As far as I've read on this great thread, this has been a more or less epistemological discussion. Regardless, I'm not sure that it is untenable that perception of attributes precedes perception of objects. Especially if the object being perceived is unfamiliar or strange to the perceiver (that is unidentifyable by recognition or repetition of the similar). Furthermore, I don't think it's philosophically nutty to hold that objects are constituted by the arrangement of their components (attributes/organs/parts) rather than determined by identity.

BTW in using the expression "perceive directly", are you suggesting that there is such a thing as indirect perception, i.e. are you toeing the Cartesian / representationalist line?

I don't think that you need to drag Descartes into this, or indirect perception. I am thinking that what one has is only direct perception of components; and that one never has direct perception of the whole.

Anyway, I argue that attributes cannot be perceived without first perceiving the entity having the attribute, and that attributes are understood and perceived after the entity. Philosophically speaking, I'm right, and scientifically speaking, I invite you to show me the factual counter-evidence that supports your position and refutes mine.

Like I said, I don't think your philosophically "right", you might have a perfect Objectivist understanding of identity; but there has been a long history of the problem of the relationship of parts to wholes in philosophy; and it is tied to very old discourses of A=A, (Parmenides as opposed to Hericlitus for example; and all the way to contemporary
Complexity Theory
).

It does seem to me that you're approaching the question from a representationalist perspective. This actually isn't as semantic issue, it's a substantive one. You're positing an additional, intermediate step in the causal chain from external object to mental grasp, namely "sensations", or as Cartesians often call it "sense data". There is no reason to believe in such a thing; but maybe it would be more productive for me to refer you to
Huemer's dissertation
. Although I can't possibly endorse his total misunderstanding of Objectivism, the diss is an excellent disposal of representationalism and skepticism

Admittedly I haven't looked at Huemer's work; I don't think you need to bring Descartes or (representationalism) into it; and I would be more inclined to read references on cognitive scientific work in this area. I certainly don't think it is outside of philosophical debate, though I think there are at least two questions here, what constitutes an "A" and how do we recognize (perceive) an A?
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You say "entities precede attributes", and then clarify that you mean "man perceives"... are you making a metaphysical AND epistemological claim here?
As a philosophical question, it's an epistemological claim: indeed, I don't know of a sensible theory whereby attributes are metaphysically separable from entities. As is probably univesally known, I'm not a Platonist, and I don't think Plato would be one if he were alive.
Regardless, I'm not sure that it is untenable that perception of attributes precedes perception of objects. Especially if the object being perceived is unfamiliar or strange to the perceiver (that is unidentifyable by recognition or repetition of the similar).
Okay, but you're falling into the same trap that agrippa fell into, of conflating the perception of some entity with the correct identification of the entity. You don't have to know the nature of the blob in order to perceive that there is an entity. Besides, note that his claim was a developmental psychological one. My main point here has been that scientific facts about the human mind are not the same as philosophical facts, so rationalization about how infant minds operate has no cash value when the subject matter is in fact a fundamentally scientific question.
Furthermore, I don't think it's philosophically nutty to hold that objects are constituted by the arrangement of their components (attributes/organs/parts) rather than determined by identity.
Sorry, I can't guess what that means. "Identity" and "attributes" are basically the same thing.
I don't think that you need to drag Descartes into this, or indirect perception. I am thinking that what one has is only direct perception of components; and that one never has direct perception of the whole.
I need to drag Descartes into this at least for a moment, so that I can understand agrippa's claim. It seems to me that he's assuming indirect realism, and there is a direct causal connection between that horror (well, offense) and the view that postulates intermediate sense data as something that mediates between the external world and the mind. Maybe that's not what he had in mind: people use "senses" in a lot of ways. However, I know of no more reliable test of the Cartesianness of a man's epistemology than to ask "Do you agree that man does not directly perceive entities?"
I certainly don't think it is outside of philosophical debate, though I think there are at least two questions here, what constitutes an "A" and how do we recognize (perceive) an A?
My contention is that philosophy does answer the first question, and for the kind of "how do we" developmental cognitive questions that pertain to the deep mechanics of human perception -- the stuff that's rooted in neural latency, mechanical properties of the cochlear membrane, and so on, as well as the stuff inside the signal-processing black box between our ears -- I claim that question has to be decided scientifically, because in fact we cannot directly see the mechanisms of perception, and we do have to conjecture (substantially at this point) about how the Pac-man (Kanizsa) triangle illusion works.
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You say "entities precede attributes", and then clarify that you mean "man perceives"... are you making a metaphysical AND epistemological claim here?

<snip>

Like I said, I don't think your philosophically "right", you might have a perfect Objectivist understanding of identity; but there has been a long history of the problem of the relationship of parts to wholes in philosophy; and it is tied to very old discourses of A=A

<snip>

I certainly don't think it is outside of philosophical debate, though I think there are at least two questions here, what constitutes an "A" and how do we recognize (perceive) an A?

The phrase A is A is primarily a metaphysical issue, but the original posting also brought in epistemological issues of how concepts are formed. In other words, an entity is what it is qua entity; and it is not anything other than what it is. But the fact that an entity has parts does not mean that it is made up of numerous entities. A computer, for example, is made of many numerous parts, but it is one thing --like a lap top computer that you can pick up and carry with you. All of those parts go with you; it's not as if you have to pick up each individual key button or the hard drive separately from the lap top.

Regarding perceiving an entity, you may be referring to the fact that we cannot perceive the back side of an entity from the front or the bottom from the top, but that isn't what perception means in man anyhow. For example, when one perceives a coke can in front of oneself, one perceives a cylindrical can that is painted -- you perceive the coke can; you don't perceive the paint here, the roundness over there, and the coldness somewhere else, it is all one thing: the real thing, as Coca-Cola used to advertise it :P

Some of the posting here may or may not have been referring to representationalism, but Objectivism is one of the few philosophies out there that says that we perceive reality as it actually is -- that our senses give us exacting data about what an entity is, and that it is given to us directly. No conceptual or mental effort is required for perception under normal circumstances; however, if it is foggy, say, or the thing is far away and difficult to perceive qua entity, it is certainly possible to interpret what one is perceiving using mental effort to be able to identify it -- i.e from a distance a flapping flag might look like something that is blinking off an on, but after some effort one realizes that it looks that way because of the fact that sometimes one is seeing it on edge, so it seems to disappear.

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If you have some experimental evidence to show that the Nj relation is perceptible in the frequency domain, go for the gusto and trot it out.

It's clear I misunderstand what you mean by the exponential relationship.

I was thinking of the easily and accurately recognizable perception of frequencies related by powers of two.

The mind easily equates frequencies of 220Hz, 440Hz, 880Hz, etc., in fact we have a conceptual term that encompasses all of these exponentially related freqs: 'A'

Where's our disconnect?

BTW, thanks for the philosophy scope quote. I'll have to mull that one over. At first blush it seems there's a contradiction (with objectivism) there:

"... ask yourself whether you need a specialized knowledge, beyond the knowledge available to you as a normal adult, unaided by any special knowledge or special instruments."

These are subjective: "specialized knowledge," "normal adult," "special instruments." They somewhat muddle the meaning of the statement. If humanity was blind, and I was born with sight, my eyes would be "special instruments," and thus any observations I made based on my visual perception of reality would be off limits from blind-mankind's philosophy? The statement about "normal adult" has some serious implications for the primacy of the individual. It seems to put a scope on philosophy based on the arbitrary, average of humanity. By logical extension, it also implies that the scope of philosophy is different for every human being. This can't be what she meant?

I don't see a rational distinction between sensory instruments granted us by nature, and those developed by man to extend and improve his perception of reality. Is there a metaphysical difference? Also, if science answers (or studies) a question pondered by philosophy, does that question automatically become exempt from philosophical exploration?

Edited by agrippa1
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Objectivism is one of the few philosophies out there that says that we perceive reality as it actually is -- that our senses give us exacting data about what an entity is, and that it is given to us directly. No conceptual or mental effort is required for perception under normal circumstances...

This is interesting. I'm having trouble understanding how we perceive an entity without sensing its attributes. When I see a can of coke, I immediately see a can of coke, and it seems effortless. Sometimes, however, I'll see a can of something else colored red with white letters. I still perceive a can of coke, until I take a closer look, and see that it's say, Joe's brand cola. What I've done is not perceive the entity (can of coke) prior to determining its attributes. I believe what I've done is use my previous experience with cans of coke, and when faced with a new source of sensation (which I distinguish visually as an entity by its connectedness with itself, disconnectedness with its surroundings) I integrate a number of attributes such as size, shape, color, until my mind chooses an abstract that matches that entity, that is, a can of coke. Later, as I continue to gather sensory information, I notice a contradiction between the new entity and the concept "can of coke" and my mind is forced to gather more attributes (exact color, shape of printed symbols) until I find a higher level abstract (can of soda) with which to classify it. I then store the particular attributes in memory and the next time I see a can of Joe's Cola, I'll immediately classify it as such, and not confuse it with a can of coke.

I believe, but of course can't prove, that every time a new entity enters my perceptual reach, I process each attribute instantaneously, looking for specific clues which will most quickly provide an identifying category. I believe that the integration is usually done very quickly, and that there is a mental tension which exists if the integration is not done quickly. This tension is may be best illustrated by the "What the h**l is that?" paralysis we often undergo as we try to integrate a new, unfamiliar entity. Once I make the integration and classify it to a level needed to integrate the new entity into my immediate model of reality (uh, oh), I can continue on with whatever I was doing.

By "model of reality" I acknowledge that our perception of reality is not a perfect match for reality. You've probably had many instances in which something catches you by surprise, that is an entity you thought was one thing turns out to be something else. Our model of reality is one that is consistent with itself and with all sensory inputs. As such, it is consistent with reality, and is therefore a correct representation of reality. It's important to understand that our sensation and perception of reality is based on electrical signals into our brain. We process these electrical signals until our minds create a model that is consistent with all the signals. Whether that model is "reality" or just a model of reality is a matter of eternal debate.

In my opinion, to say that the perception of an entity reflects a true state of reality is erroneous, and I believe dreams are proof of that opinion. I believe they include internally generated sensory stimuli which our brains integrate into a dream version of reality. Most of the time you are unable to distinguish that your dream is not actual reality.

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The mind easily equates frequencies of 220Hz, 440Hz, 880Hz, etc., in fact we have a conceptual term that encompasses all of these exponentially related freqs: 'A'

Where's our disconnect?

Well, since you now seem to get the point I was making about exponential relations in the frequency domain, I think the disconnect (disagreement? I don't know what "disconnect" means anyhow) would be over whether you can discover these kinds of facts about human perception just by reason and ordinary observation, with me saying you can't.
If humanity was blind, and I was born with sight, my eyes would be "special instruments," and thus any observations I made based on my visual perception of reality would be off limits from blind-mankind's philosophy?
You know we hate unreasonable hypotheticals: being blind is not man's nature.
The statement about "normal adult" has some serious implications for the primacy of the individual. It seems to put a scope on philosophy based on the arbitrary, average of humanity.
I don't think it has anything to do with the "average" of humanity. What it means is that there are non-normal people who can't see, or can't hear; there are also mentally damaged adults who cannot reason. But philosophical questions can be resolved by reference to ordinary knowledge, meaning among other things stuff that you can see and hear, using reason. So if a person is abnormal because they can't see or hear, or if a person can't reason because they are brain-damaged, that does not then mean that all questions become scientific questions. It means: look at the range of knowledge gainable by man by simple observation of the world combined with reason, without special training or the derivatives of special training (instruments) -- that is the domain of philosophy. It's not a distinction defined by reference to the nature of each individual, it's defined by reference to "man" and what "man" can know by a certain method, in general.

Perhaps it would help to rephrase "philosophical questions" as "questions that can be answered by philosophical methods", idem "scientific questions" are "questions that can be answered by scientific methods". Are you arguing that there is no difference at all between philosophy and science? Let me suppose you will say that is your claim -- then how will you defend your claim? (I reject the claim, so I want to see how you think you can answer any questions in your way of approaching knowledge). If you do think that science and philosophy are different and you just disagree with Rand's line, I want to see how you define the difference.

Also, if science answers (or studies) a question pondered by philosophy, does that question automatically become exempt from philosophical exploration?
Whether or not a question is properly a scientific vs. a philosophical question isn't determined sociologically, by whether professed scientists vs. philosophers are addressing the question. The distinction lies in the nature of the question itself. Thus the claim that there are 15,747,724,136,275,002,577,605,653,961,181,555,468,044,717,914,527,116,709,366,231,425,076,185,631,0

31,296 protons and as many electrons in the universe is a scientific question, not a philosophical one. The question whether "The simplest theory is the best" is not a scientific question, it is a philosophical one (a kind of dumb one at that).

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Well, since you now seem to get the point I was making about exponential relations in the frequency domain, I think the disconnect (disagreement? I don't know what "disconnect" means anyhow) would be over whether you can discover these kinds of facts about human perception just by reason and ordinary observation, with me saying you can't.

By disconnect, I meant the difference between what you meant and what I interpreted, or between what you implied and what I inferred. (as opposed to a disagreement).

It sounds as if you're saying we understand and agree on the exponential relations question, only now you're saying that it's not good enough to show the capability, but I must also show how man could come to recognize that capability with only his reason and "ordinary observation."

Problem is, I don't know what "ordinary observation" means. If you mean unaided human sensory perception, then I guess you have me. Still, I believe the distinction between unaided, and man-developed sensory adjuncts is arbitrary.

(Why the defensiveness? I'm not trying to dispute your point of view, only to understand it.)

"You know we hate unreasonable hypotheticals: being blind is not man's nature."

No, I didn't know that. I don't know what you mean by "unreasonable" in this context. Being blind is not man's nature, because man has evolved a sense of sight. So at this particular juncture in man's evolution, we have sight. Are we to contend that philosophy depends on man's particular evolutionary sensory state? Or that man was pre-ordained to have the senses he has, for instance , to have the ability to sense octaval periodicity, but not to be able to count the frequency of sound to show that octaves represent powers of two? I'm not sure I'd put much stake into a philosophy that relies on a certain, arbitrary state of sensory capability for its basis. In other words, is philosophy by its very nature, man-centric? The continued mention of "man" as the absolute seems to put a sort of mystical value on man's present physical state. Does philosophy take a stance on evolution? Does it believe that the current point in man's sensory/mental capabilities is the ideal? I would prefer a philosophy with a more generalized view of sense and rationality. But maybe that's just me?

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It sounds as if you're saying we understand and agree on the exponential relations question, only now you're saying that it's not good enough to show the capability, but I must also show how man could come to recognize that capability with only his reason and "ordinary observation."
I may have been thinking that we agree but now I'm not sure we do. So let me return to the example. As you mentioned, human perception can perceive the "doubling" relationship; but we don't extract a true exponential relationship in the frequency domain. The fact of this difference in human perception isn't something that you can arrive at philosophically by just observing the world about you, you have to engage in a specialised scientific investigation to make that determination: you need special equipment to create the experimental stimuli and knowledge of the physics of vibrations, you need training in the conduct of psychological experiments, and specialised numerical methods to interpret the data. That's what puts it in the realm of science.
Problem is, I don't know what "ordinary observation" means. If you mean unaided human sensory perception, then I guess you have me.
Yeah, that's what it means.
Why the defensiveness? I'm not trying to dispute your point of view, only to understand it.
Why the accusation of defensiveness and the unwarranted psychologization? There is actually nothing wrong with trying to dispute my point of view: I'm trying to encourage you to do so, especially because I think it will help you to see an important distinction, namely the difference between science and philosophy.
I don't know what you mean by "unreasonable" in this context.
Let's contrast that with a reasonable hypothetical, which starts with "Assume that a man is standing at the corner of Main and State, waiting for the light to change". At this moment, this isn't the case, but it is a scenario that could easily arise without changing the essentials of the players in the hypothetical. On the other hand, it is not a trivial fact that man is a volitional, conceptual being, that he gains knowledge through his sense organs, and that those organs include ones hearing, sight, touch, and smell. In fact, sight is remarkably important for man's knowledge, and the ability (indeed, necessity) to gain knowledge through sense organs is fundamental for man -- sight is one of the two most important sense organs.

I'm not suggesting that one can't engage in a mental exercise of conjecturing about alien creatures with a radically different kind of cognition, I'm saying that you can't redefine man in a fundamental way and still be talking about the same thing. It can be fun to conjecture about space beings that only have ferro-magnetic detectors as sense organs, but those beings aren't men.

Are we to contend that philosophy depends on man's particular evolutionary sensory state?
More accurately, philosophy is homo-centric and the nature of philosophy depends on the nature of man, in particular the concept "knowledge". Men have hair and don't have scales, and the nature of philosophy isn't determined by that fact, because the hair / scales difference doesn't change the nature of knowledge.
In other words, is philosophy by its very nature, man-centric?
Yes. Now we're in the same book, if not the same page. You could change that by changing facts of knowledge, by introducing a new kind of creature with a volitional, conceptual consciousness, assuming you can get them a visa. When that happens, there would have to be a radical realignment of our concepts, and at the very least the creation of new concepts to deal with these new facts.
Does philosophy take a stance on evolution?
For example is there a philosophical answer to whether genetic mutations can accumulate to the point of speciation? No, that's a scientific question.
Does it believe that the current point in man's sensory/mental capabilities is the ideal?
That on the other hand is a philosophical question, which hinges largely on the concept "ideal". A philosophical analysis of the question would require you to define this concept with respect to man, and to have some kind of standard for relating unreality to reality. Round these parts, we deal with that issue mercilessly.
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For example is there a philosophical answer to whether genetic mutations can accumulate to the point of speciation? No, that's a scientific question.That on the other hand is a philosophical question, which hinges largely on the concept "ideal". A philosophical analysis of the question would require you to define this concept with respect to man, and to have some kind of standard for relating unreality to reality. Round these parts, we deal with that issue mercilessly.

The relationship of science to philosophy is a question through the ages. Certainly philosophers and scientists often explore each other's territory. Furthermore, being a scientist doesn't mean one blinds oneself to philosophical questions, and the reverse. Often ideas in science and philosophy are thought simultaneously. Deleuze and Guattari's volume "What is Philosophy?" explicitly examines philosophy's relationship to science and art.

Evolution is certainly such a notion that has been explored by philosophers and of course scientists; and the question of species certainly is.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/species/

Furthermore, contemporary philosophers still publish books addressing the issue of species, here's a review of one:

http://www.electronicbookreview.com/thread...s/morphogenetic

But, I digress... good discussion to watch regardless.

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Actually, I think the thread has digressed a little, but the points are important nonetheless. For example, according to Objectivism, philosophy is a science -- the most fundamental of all the sciences. In other words, it is one's philosophy that leads to coming to understand nature or becoming a mystic; of studying Darwin or studying Jesus. And it was these men's philosophy that led them to becoming a scientist (in the special science sense) or becoming the founder of a religion.

Objectivism is man centered because the whole point of having a mind like a human being is so that one can live more fully than an animal -- that we don't just go around living moment to moment, but rather plan long-range and teach our children how to be rational so that civilization can continue. In a more rational culture, one would not come across Objectivism in one's twenties or thirties, as is what happens to most people, but rather one would be raised in a culture that would take philosophy seriously the whole time one is being raised. Aristotle would not be just someone you heard about in high school, but rather would be the center piece and foundation for the culture.

The point about philosophy being dependent upon man's natural endowments, such as his senses, is very important. Unlike a physicist who has to study nature using specialized tools of investigation and years of study past high school, philosophy can be learned and studied by anyone willing to take a first-hand look at reality as provided by his senses and as understood by his rational mind. Philosophy -- a rational philosophy -- is the science that makes all other sciences possible, and without which there would be no civilization.

So, one does not have to study evolution to become rational, but one does have to be rational in order to study evolution. A philosophy based upon reason -- i.e. philosophy as a rational science -- is the starting point that branches off in to the more specialized sciences.

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