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Concept Formation Problem

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All three of the following statements seem convincing. But they seem inconsistent with each other.

1. Two or more percepts with the same essential qualities must be observed to form a concept of those essential properties.

2. We are not able to observe any consciousness except our own.

3. We have a concept of "consciousness".

The paradox is that we have a concept of consciousness even though we only observe our own mind at work.

All three of these statements are tenets of Objectivism. How are they reconciled?

Edited by ctrl y
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2. We are not able to observe any consciousness except our own.

Correction: We are not able to directly observe any consciousness except our own.

We have a concept "atom" as well, and I don't think anyone has actually observed even a single one of those.

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Perhaps understanding the observability of the effects of consciousness in others and realizing that it is the same result that is caused by our own directly observable consciousness. Therefore the observation of the same effects in others would be enough to include them in the concept . I think Peikoffs statement about induction is relevent. "induction only works for honest folks." paraphrased.

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We may not be able to experience or observe someone's actual conscious mind, but we can observe that they act in a way that would demand such a device.

When we see a monkey, we know this creature doesn't have the same kind of consciousness as KendallJ ( Or so I would hope :D ).

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ctrl y, what you're suffering from is a Cartesian approach to consciousness. Well, either that, or a confusion over the hierarchy of concepts. The problem with the concept of consciousness, is that it is such a fundamental concept, we tend to forget that a fundamental concept does not mean low-level. It is far, far from the first concept we form. I mean, yeah, we are conscious, but we aren't aware of that fact until a long time after we've formed a lot of other concepts.

Consider the question, 'Why am I here?'. It's a fundamental question, but we don't start seriously asking such a question until about the time of adolescence. We ask it once we've seen enough of life, once we've started to leave the safety of home, once we've started to rely on ourselves for goals, for the impetus to act -- we can't rely on, and we grow rebellious towards parental commandments.

Now, consciousness, we don't form a concept of that until we've formed concepts of other things -- simply because consciousness is consciousness of something; it's impossible for you to think, "I am conscious" before you've actually consciously observed reality, just as it is impossible to question, "Why am I here?" or "What is my purpose?" before you've had experience of self-reliance.

Consciousness is an attribute of all our mental activities, and until we have a sufficient experience of acting consciously, we cannot move beyond the state of being aware of something, of a mental process separate from pure sense perception (Rand cites the experience of closing your eyes, but observing that his mind doesn't disappear when he closes his eyes).

The concept formation of the concept 'consciousness' then basically involves the extrapolation of the attribute 'consciousness' from a great multitude of experiences of one's relation with the rest of reality.

If you have the 2nd edition of ItOE, flick to page 245/246 and she discusses this there. If you don't possess ItOE, I highly suggest you go out and get it.

Edited by Tenure
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We may not be able to experience or observe someone's actual conscious mind, but we can observe that they act in a way that would demand such a device.

When we see a monkey, we know this creature doesn't have the same kind of consciousness as KendallJ ( Or so I would hope :dough: ).

Since it is external behavior we observe, how does one distinguish between pretense/acting on the one hand, and true motivation on the other? Verisimilitude is the actor's bread and butter. How do you detect it?

ruveyn

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  • 4 months later...

I just realised, my original reply was incomplete.

I started off saying how we do not immediately arrive at a concept of consciousness. That is quite different from a direct observation of our own consciousness.

My point was that, it takes a whole load of time to build a concept of our own consciousness, beyond the immediate experience, "I choose this; I choose that; I see this; I taste that; etc". As such, it doesn't seem ludicrous that one can reason that other people have consciousness, by observing their behaviour. The observation of our own consciousness is immediate, but the concept of it is not - therefore, it's not impossible to think that we could form a concept of other people as being conscious, by observing their behaviour. We just have to stick to an objective form of proof, that knowledge can only start with what we observe and cannot accept arbitrary considerations, e.g. 'What if this is just a highly complex robot in a man-suit?'

Edited by Tenure
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All three of the following statements seem convincing. But they seem inconsistent with each other.

1. Two or more percepts with the same essential qualities must be observed to form a concept of those essential properties.

2. We are not able to observe any consciousness except our own.

3. We have a concept of "consciousness".

The paradox is that we have a concept of consciousness even though we only observe our own mind at work.

All three of these statements are tenets of Objectivism. How are they reconciled?

Consciousness is a higher level concept that does not depend on percepts. We can observe our own 'inner world' and compare those to the 'outer world' and thus form a concept of 'thought' as opposed to 'perception'. When we begin to focus on some thoughts to the exclusion of others, just as we can focus on some perceptions to the exclusion of others, we can then begin to form higher level concepts, ones that do not directly depend on percepts. Consciousness is one of the conclusions of higher level concepts.

I hope this resolves your paradox! ^^

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Since it is external behavior we observe, how does one distinguish between pretense/acting on the one hand, and true motivation on the other? Verisimilitude is the actor's bread and butter. How do you detect it?

ruveyn

You don't. 'True motivation' is kantian idealism in the form of knowledge which is somehow gained by an infallible means. It is impossible. If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like duck, then goddam it call it a duck. If we learn more later, great. Until then we have to rely on what we know now.

In this case lying, acting, pretense and deception are also acts of consciousness. So it is hard to go wrong in the way you postulate. Someone or something is not conscious, but it is going take action to deceive us? The reverse case of something possessing consciousness but pretending to be inert is not just plausible it actually happens all the time as a tactic used by predators in nature. But the possibility of being fooled in a particular case doesn't make knowledge in general impossible, it just re-emphasizes again that all observation is by particular finite means. More observation and expanded limits of knowledge is the only remedy.

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Its hard for humans to determine conciousness, because we are (as far as we know) the most concious beings and we can only see this matter subjectively.

I think we're all throwing bits and peices of information in because we're lacking a true, fundamental question here. I think first off, we need to determine a definition, what causes conciousness, and what its essential properties are.

Remember, these are my personal views!

What is conciousness?

The ability to comprehend and analyze sensory information, and utitlize that information towards finding a personal means of satisfaction different from instinct survival.

There are three levels of conciousness- primal (as in the case of animals), social (the ability to relate and recognize others, higher forms such as apes) and spiritual (humans, such as metaphysics).

What causes conciousness?

I believe that conciousness is caused by the diffusion of electricity in the brain. Some people become more self-aware than others by developing curiousities and investigating the questions. Given this, you can say conciousness is self-driven. So if I'm wondering what the purpose of life is, I'm going to read and investigate and FOCUS on that one question as opposed to Susie who may be questioning about five other things and choose to focus on what shoes she wants to wear. There is then a diffusion of electricity when I stimulate my brain with more information, making more nueral connections in my brain and making me more self-aware.

Now be it, Susie and I have the same LEVEL of conciousness, we can both think on a spiritual level but I am more self-aware driven by curiousities that may have been shaped by past events in my life or experiences. Remember, we are animals. So if I was younger, and my hand was slapped compared to a child who's hand wasn't slapped, I may be more curious as to why that slap hurt or why I was slapped to prevent me from being slapped again.

A concept of survival of fittest on a larger scheme of things.

I did have to write this in a small amount of time, so I'm going to apologize right now for any nuances or errors, but I'll have to come back later and make sure it doesn't sound like complete gibberish.

For a bit more explanation, I would look into spatiotemporal continuity.

Events create questions, what determines the difference in self-awareness is the motivation to find the answers.

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