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The Solution to the Problem of Universals

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ThomasF
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For the moment, I'll just say that one reason I was worried about derailment is that I find some of the themes that inspired my "meta-argument" post to be tremendously interesting. So interesting, in fact, that I would take much more pleasure, in the short run, in writing about them than I will find in defending my ideas on universals.

Sigh....You come up with a theory that not only flies in the face of Objectivism, but also flies in the face of reality, you then claim it is compatible with Objectivism, which it isn't, and then you think your assessment of levels of Objectivists is so profound that you post it elsewhere on the Internet.

Is a person who has a philosophy biased? I suppose in a sense, but for an Objectivist adherence to reality is a virtue -- it's called rationality -- so the "bias" is towards the facts of reality and his understanding of existence.

But, I have to agree with Tenure. Like all other pseudo-Objectivists or pretenders to the philosophy, you want your ideas to be considered compatible with Objectivism, when they are clearly not so, and then you want to insult those who disagree with your assessment.

There are major flaws to your supposed solution, as I have pointed out, and you make no references to the facts of reality to support your conclusions. In Objectivism, all knowledge is reducible to the facts of reality -- something that you can point to and say this is what I mean. But, in your terminology, that would be anthropocentric, and therefore irrelevant, which means to say that you, in fact, reject Objectivism.

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There are major flaws to your supposed solution, as I have pointed out, and you make no references to the facts of reality to support your conclusions. In Objectivism, all knowledge is reducible to the facts of reality -- something that you can point to and say this is what I mean. But, in your terminology, that would be anthropocentric, and therefore irrelevant, which means to say that you, in fact, reject Objectivism.

I think this pretty much sums up my view as well. When one makes a claim to have discovered a significant flaw in a philosopher's ideas, it is inadequate to simply dismiss her formulations by implicitly re-stating the ideas of her philosophical predecessors (Plato and Kant) when her epistemology indeed corrects the errors of those predecessors. Furthermore, one has to demonstrate a more than superficial grasp of the ideas one claims to be refuting, and a more than superficial grasp of the errors of her philosophical predecessors. This is particularly true when one is grappling with a subject such as Universals, a subject which has been at the core of Western philosophy's 2500 year history. The originator of this thread, unfortunately, has demonstrated neither.

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[Note to readers: if you are not interested in the "meta-argument" tangent and want to read a post about universals, feel free to skip this one. It is long.]

In order to clarify my "meta-argument" post, I will give the broad reasons behind the post, detail why I chose the particular wording I did, and then explain why I posted it here.

As I indicated above, I am convinced that people's values affect their psycho-epistemologies. (Note that "affect" is a different word than "corrupt.") Nietzsche said it best:

O Voltaire! O humaneness! O nonsense! There is something about “truth,” about the search for truth; and when a human being is too human about it—“il ne cherche le vrai que pour faire le bien” [“he seeks the true only to do the good”]—I bet he finds nothing!

I won't right now comment directly on what I think Nietzsche means there, but hopefully its connection to the present topic is not obscure. When we believe in something, value something, this belief tends to put a bias into our evaluation of evidence. Evidence that appears to confirm our beliefs is vetted more tolerantly than evidence that appears to challenge them.

(My belief is that this bias is just part of being human. Being biased like this is not, in itself, a symptom of immorality. Because the relationship between science and philosophy is so poorly understood, I hesitate to mention this, but science has been making interesting headway in studying cognitive biases. The phenomena that I am interested in here are coming to be well documented.) If bias is part of being human, then, in the final analysis, it is not whether or not we are biased, but how we deal with our biases that we should be measured by.

That's a very cursory examination of the broad reasoning behind my post, but now I will move on to consider some of my specific diction.

When When Thomas M. Miovas, Jr. says:

Is a person who has a philosophy biased? I suppose in a sense, but for an Objectivist adherence to reality is a virtue -- it's called rationality -- so the "bias" is towards the facts of reality and his understanding of existence.

He is missing the point of my "meta-argument" so wildly that he may have ended up inadvertently arguing for my side. Really there could hardly be a worse thing for a philosopher to say, in the present context, than that his philosophy is "biased" toward reality. (What I mean by "in the present context" is that this is a great, if somewhat tongue-in-cheek thing to say when talking about your philosophy's epistemology or its metaphysics, but when you are talking about the psycho-epistemology you think your philosophy cultivates in its adherents, you've made a grave error.) To see why this is a very bad thing to say, one only has to recognize that there is not a causal relationship between one's explicit philosophy (e.g., Objectivism) and one's psycho-epistemology. It is entirely possible to be an utter villain, a habitual evader, and a very knowledgeable Objectivist at the same time.

(If this last assertion seems implausible to you, I refer you to Leonard Peikoff's 2004 DIM Hypothesis lectures. In one of the Q&A sessions, Dr. Peikoff makes this very point quite explicitly. I do not have the time to make a full and original argument for the point here.)

Another point: it is very, very dangerous to say "My philosophy is so good that it's biased toward reality; since adopting it, I'm practically on auto-pilot toward the truth!" (I am hoping and assuming that Mr. Miovas did not mean anything like that.) I hope that it is obvious why this is dangerous. I will happily expand on this point if anyone should like.

Now, it is possible that Mr. Miovas did not mean that Objectivism cultivates a psychological or psycho-epistemological bias toward reality in its adherents, and that he meant instead the method of Objectivism brings about in its adherents a methodological bias toward reality. That I would just plain agree with.

I am a huge fan of Ayn Rand's method. I greatly admire the way Objectivism develops the primacy of existence in metaphysics into the priority of induction over deduction in reasoning. This may just be my favorite thing about Objectivism: I could go on and on about how powerful and useful it is. But that would be preaching to the proverbial choir.

Not only do I admit that Objectivism has a real methodological advantage over other approaches to philosophy, but I am an enthusiastic trumpeter of this fact. But even if Mr. Miovas was indeed referring to this methodological advantage when he said that Objectivism is biased toward reality, our agreement does not take us very far. Mr. Miovas, as I read him, is not content to leave the "bias" towards reality in Objectivism's catalog of methodological virtues. What he seems to be saying is that this "bias" towards reality somehow inoculates him and other Objectivists against the bias in evaluating foreign and threatening arguments which was the subject of my "meta-argument" post. I reject this completely.

The reason I reject this postulate of inoculation is that Objectivism involves a profound respect for ideas. This is not a weakness of Objectivism at all. On the contrary, it is another one of Objectivism's many great virtues. But this virtue has consequences that make it necessary for Objectivists to pay more explicit and consciously directed attention to their psycho-epistemological hygiene than other thinkers, not less, as Mr. Miovas seems to me to have implied.

Let's say that Objectivism's powerful method makes knowledgeable Objectivists 10 times less likely to make a biased reading of an argument. If that's so, then I would argue that the passion for ideas that goes hand-in-hand with being an Objectivist makes Objectivists 10 times more likely to react with wild passion rather than calm reason when confronted with a foreign and threatening argument. In other words, it's a wash, a net of zero. Objectivism just amplifies everything, raises the stakes; it does not inoculate against bias.

In my experience (I arrived at this conclusion inductively), Objectivists tend to be acutely aware of their methodological virtues and advantages, and dangerously unaware of the heightened tendency to bias that their passion for ideas promotes (when debating foreign and threatening ideas).

When I wrote:

I say “should be” disturbing, and this is a characteristically careful choice of words on my part. I hope Objectivists are disturbed at this prospect, because being disturbed would evince a healthy commitment to their own values, and a healthy response of profound unease when these values appear to be (and “appear to be” is another careful choice of words) threatened.

There was a reason why I called attention to my wording so very explicitly. I was saying "Hey, Objectivists! Pay especially close attention here, because I know this will be controversial! I think the passion that arises from your philosophy's commitment to ideas is a GREAT VIRTUE!"

And when I wrote:

Out of courtesy, benevolence, and prudence I shall be assuming that the denizens of this forum are all Objectivists of the first rank, until or unless the evidence becomes preponderant to the contrary. What I will not assume, since I believe it would be foolish, is that the potential threat to the integrity of Objectivism’s theory of universals is not affecting my readers’ readings of my solution.

I meant every word.

Therefore, Nyronus, when you wrote:

[Y]ou picked a really, really, bad spot to propose your idea. You don't debate someone on one thing, and then turn around and question his ethical premises.

I cannot imagine what evidence from my post you thought justified the charge that I had challenged your ethical premises. When I said I would assume that all denizens of this forum are Objectivists of the first rank, my statement directly undercut and flatly contradicted any future attempts to read my argument precisely as you seem to have read it. I most emphatically was not questioning your ethical premises. By here saying that I questioned your ethical premises, you are coming very close to assuming what you are trying to prove.

When you then wrote:

You have, in the middle of a debate with Objectivists, made a statement that implies that Objectivists, by their very nature, are (or have a strong possibility to be) mentally handicapped by their belief systems.

Implications aside for the moment, this is not what I wrote. On the very direct contrary, what I wrote was very deliberately written with just the words that it was in an attempt to undercut the foundation of this very interpretation. My preemptive attack on this interpretation was two-pronged: First, I emphasized that there is nothing unethical about being made uneasy by foreign and threatening ideas, and that, on the contrary, Objectivists' defensiveness of Ayn Rand's ideas is a virtue to be admired. Second, I explicitly stated that I would be assuming that the denizens of this forum have such self-control that they have mastered any tendency toward bias that is contained in the virtue of taking ideas seriously.

Since there was no basis in evidence for reading my post the way you did, what happened? You state clearly that you read my putative insult as an implication. This is tantamount to granting that there is no explicit basis in my post for your interpretation.

Since I take it that you think that my post was inappropriate for the context, and that this is ultimately what justified your drawing the inferences that you did, then I would like to explain why I posted it, aware of the context as I was, and why I still find arguments that it was insulting unpersuasive. As I said at the beginning of this post, I planned to address the broad reasons behind my "meta-argument," then explain my diction, and then explain why I posted it in the first place, in the context of this thread. It is to this last task that I now turn.

I am going to try and take a shortcut to showing my reasons for posting what I did in the in-medias-res way that I did.

I think it is a fair bet that many, maybe most readers of this forum are familiar with Diana Hsieh's NoodleFood blog. Not too long ago, she posted there some insightful criticisms of online forums. She said of this forum:

[T]he only public discussion forum that I regard as remotely Objectivist is ObjectivismOnline. The contributors can be far better than found elsewhere, but I still think the forum suffers from the standard problems of that medium.

If that reads to you as an example of 'damning with faint praise,' you're reading it the same way I am.

Mrs. Hsieh continued:

[T]houghtful and productive discussion is a rarity on most discussion boards, whether supposedly Objectivist or not. Mostly, the threads consist of discombobulated streams of unjustified assertions, ill-considered opinions, nasty remarks, ignorant assumptions, and outright dishonesty. [My emphasis.]

To this I say: word.

Mrs. Hsieh does not spend any space asking why online forums are so notoriously useless for productive discussion. I myself have spent quite a lot of time wondering about this, or rather, wondering about a larger issue of which this is an instance.

In "The Anatomy of Compromise," Ayn Rand wrote: "In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins." I believe that this principle extends to the realm of psycho-epistemology. In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who have different psycho-epistemologies, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins. I believe that online forums tend to be hostile environments for sustained, productive, reasoned discussion and debate because they are de facto collaborations between people who are serious about ideas and those who are "serious" about ideas only when it suits them.

No matter if my "third rank" Objectivists are an infinitesimal minority here, if there are any here at all, they are determining the character of this forum.

I have been online for a while, and in all of this time I have been paying very close attention to this issue. Absolutely all the evidence I have ever encountered points toward only one conclusion: a sort of Gresham's Law of debate is in operation throughout the Internet. Bad writers drive out good. The public forums teem with crypto-sophists (a very apt coinage on my part, I think), while serious discussion is driven out to private lists.

Unlike many critics of public forums, I do not think the problems of the medium are inherent. This is a matter of sanction of the victim. Honest and serious thinkers and writers (writers like Nyronus) collaborate with the crypto-sophists because, I think, they simply cannot maintain a belief that people who seem to share such similar values and ideas are, in fact, crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs.

The problem is greatly exacerbated by the parochial nature of online forums. ObjectivismOnline, for example, I take to be a place suited to ARI-friendly Objectivists. As long as all parties to a discussion here seem to agree on fundamentals, the crypto-sophists are unlikely to be noticed. Their telltales and shibboleths will be camouflaged against the background of (apparently) shared values, ideas, and approaches. The crypto-sophists only really become exposed, and potentially visible when there is a debate taking place. The more fundamental the debate, the more contentious the issue, the more the crypto-sophists are going to stand out.

Enter the non-Objectivist critic of Ayn Rand's metaphysics.

I know, before I begin, that this forum's culture (like all public forums everywhere) is dominated (on Ayn Rand's "collaboration" principle) by crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs. (Keep in mind: this does not mean that the crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs are in the numerical majority. As I said: if even one in every hundred participants here is of this sort, the whole forum's culture has to have been compromised by this.) I also know that talented, intellectually honest, and psycho-epistemologically healthy writers are here too. What I don't know is which members are which.

My writing on the problem of universals, and on other subjects, has been badly misread in this thread. Bad misreadings, in fact, have predominated. As I see it, there are two principal reasons this has happened.

First, and foremost, this has happened because philosophy is hard. Not getting a strange new idea on the first reading is, in my view, the norm, even for the VERY BEST readers of philosophy. I once wrote this on my blog, which I think bears repeating here and now:

One of the things I find most striking about Objectivism is its subtlety. I’m in the minority. The lucidity of Ayn Rand’s writing, I think, tends to fool her admirers nearly as often as it fools her critics. She reduces complex issues to essentials, casts fine lines of distinction in sharp relief, illuminates the obscure, and penetrates the impenetrable. She makes it look easy.

It’s not easy.

Let me emphasise: when I say that the inherent difficulty of philosophy is, in my judgment, the principal reason why I have been repeatedly misread I am not f#@&ing kidding. I really, I mean REALLY, yes REALLY REALLY mean it. Got it? I don't mean that my amazing brilliance is just too dazzling for you mere mortals to apprehend. You dig? I mean exactly what I wrote. I don't mean that if you dunces could just stop mindlessly worshipping Ayn Rand you'd clue in. Savvy? I mean exactly, I mean ex-goddamn-actly what I say. Clear?

Phew!

That said, the second principal reason I have been repeatedly misread is that the culture of this forum has been hijacked by crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs.

Again, to inoculate against possible misreading: Let me emphasise: when I say that the culture of this forum has been hijacked by crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs I am not f#@&ing kidding. I really, I mean REALLY, yes REALLY REALLY mean it. Got it? I don't mean that you, Nyronus, or you Mr. Miovas, or any of the rest of you, or all of you in aggregate are crypto-sophists or clueless poseurs. You dig? I mean exactly what I wrote. I don't mean that you are, any of you, helpless, hapless lemmings who follow crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs off a cliff. Savvy? I mean exactly, I mean ex-goddamn-actly what I say. Clear?

What I am saying is far more subtle.

Oh, one more thing. When I say that I have been badly and repeatedly misread, I mean just that. I do NOT mean "If you could read, you clueless n00bs, you would agree with me." I mean: you have not read me correctly, and do not yet even understand what I am saying, which is obviously prerequisite for you to agree or disagree with it.

Being good at spotting trends, I noticed early on that the Gresham's Law of forums was playing an important second fiddle to the principal violin of the general difficulty of reading philosophy as a factor contributing to misreadings. So I posted my "meta-argument" post, knowing full well the context of this thread and proceeding anyway, for at least these three reasons: First, I wanted to bring the culture of this forum out of the subtext and into the open. This, on the principle that "sunlight is the best disinfectant."

Second, I wanted to put the crypto-sophists and clueless poseurs on notice, saying, in effect: "I know your telltales and shibboleths. I can see you coming before you've rolled out of bed in the morning. I will call you out if it seems appropriate, and when I do, I will proceed to just manhandle you with reasoned argument. Since you are who you are, you will of course learn nothing from this, but others watching the proceedings will."

Third, I wanted to address lurkers of various types. I will leave unsaid what types. I note for now that much of what I write here is written as much for lurkers or third parties as it is for active participants.

Well, that's about all I want to say on these topics for now. Hopefully this has been interesting or valuable. In summary and conclusion: reading is an art and a discipline; the principle of the primacy of existence should guide the interpretation of posts in public online forums, but, as a rule, doesn't.

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The failing of Objectivism is that it takes the metaphysical commensurability of diverse and discrete entities as a given, and does not provide any validation of this position.

Since perceptual commensurability is given, someone who thinks metaphysical commensurability needs to be explained is someone who doubts the validity of the senses. If we were not perceiving reality as such but only the universals, that would explain metaphysical commensurability.

Since Objectivists take the validity of the senses to be axiomatic, we see no need to explain metaphysical commensurability. The senses do not deceive us, if we see commensurabilty it is because it is metaphysically given. The metaphysically given does not need to be validated.

ThomasF, the things you say about Huemer, Ryan et al and how they have come to their own idea of the problem of universals may be true. Your argument about existence being a metaphysical plenum may address flaws in their understanding of the problem, only they can say. Perhaps you should try it out on them?

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Grames, et al.: my next post will focus on addressing why I think my approach is valuable for Objectivists, why I think identifying the ultimate metaphysical basis of commensurabilty is something philosophy needs to do, and related topics.

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Oh boy, this was an interesting topic. ThomasF, I think you underestimate Ayn Rand's understanding of the problem of universals. In one sense she has already found a solution which is very similar to yours. She states repeatedly that all existence is relational. This means that even though existents are distinct, they are also connected. Rand also says that the essence of concept formation is measurement omission. Obviously this implies that she acknowledges that existence is measurable, which precisely entails the relational nature of existence. Relations underlie measurement. Measurement in turn, if you did not quite capture it, is the process of identifying similarity and difference. I think Stephen Boydstun has done some interesting work in this regard and I am anxiously awaiting further developments from him:

http://rebirthofreason.com/Articles/Boydst...t_Program.shtml

Kent Palmer (a mystic Sufi thinker!) once created a metaphor to capture the relationship between objects and relations that I to this day find very enlightning, namely the conjunction. What is a conjunction? It can be represented as a "+"-sign, and it has the effect of holding two separate entities together, while at the same time holding them apart. Thus A+B is a conjunction, where the "+" both makes the objects A and B distinct while at the same time forming a relation between them. I find that metaphor quite profound and I am sure that it can be refined within the context of Objectivism.

Now, Ayn Rand was not a professional philosopher. From an academic point of view she barely published anything, and therefore her philosophy at most counts as a sketch of a philosphy. That is a bit harsh on her because her sketch followed her own philosophy: they were the bare essentials. Although there is plenty of room for "fleshing out" her philosophy and in many areas take it to a whole new level, she didn't leave out any essentials from philosophy, including metaphysics. What Boydstun is doing is to try to flesh out the underlying metaphysical structure of measurement. It wouldn't surprise me if the end result of a long such inquiry is a mathematical theory of how the mind and existence *must* be in order to result in precisely that objective, relational universe we live in.

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  • 6 months later...
That is a common mistake. "White" is actually a mental state that is causally related to energy absorption and emission of EM radiation. One obvious case is that you can close your eyes in a dark room and visualize a white object, without there being any visible radiation in the room. Thus ontology is not the same as phylogeny.

Helen Keller was blind from birth and would have had no memory of "white". She would then be unable to have imagined "white". Despite Ernst Haeckel's mistaken idea regarding embryological parallelism, ontogeny does recapitulate phylogeny when it comes to mental states.

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"Any solution to the problem of universals must not merely account for how we form concepts from diverse similar objects, as Rand does, but must account for the phenomenon of similarity-as-such, must account for commensurability-as-such."

Mr. Thomas. Please forgive my very late question. Could you define in simple terms what you mean by similarity-as-such and commensurability-as-such.? Thank you. Best Regards.

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Helen Keller was blind from birth and would have had no memory of "white". She would then be unable to have imagined "white". Despite Ernst Haeckel's mistaken idea regarding embryological parallelism, ontogeny does recapitulate phylogeny when it comes to mental states.

Can you translate that into English? No, Keller could not have imagined white in the sense that we can, but just as we can imagine radio waves, she could imagine colors. We can also imagine atoms and other subatomic particles, though we've never seen them. I can imagine a unicorn, though I've never seen one. Besides, what you are toughing on is covered in Objectivism in the concept of "perceptual form." Perceptual form is the manner in which we are aware of certain aspects of existence directly via the senses -- i.e. we can feel smoothness and roughness, we can smell something sweet or something stanky, we can see the colors (if we have normal sight), we can see shapes whereas a blind person would have to feel them. In other words, the fact that Helen Keller was blind and deaf doesn't say much about what we are able to conceive. For a normally sighted person, white is given in perception; for Keller it is an abstraction she has to grasp with her mind after learning something about the theory of light. We can't see gamma rays, because we don't have senses for detecting gamma rays, but we can understand them using human reason.

So, can you state more clearly what the heck you are talking about?

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Greetings Mr. Miovas: I admire your prose and think you are intelligent and articulate. Thank you for your speedy reply. I shall address your questions in what seems to me best.

Can you translate that into English?

My brief post was typed in English. The reply was intended as a snappy come back to DavidOdden's parting shot that: "Thus ontology is not the same as phylogeny." Having spent some ink in discussions related to the Evolution vs Creation issue, I am aware of Ernst Haeckel's mistaken argument from his purposefully distorted embryological drawings in support of Evolution. Creationist seize upon that unfortunate episode in the history of science to make a sorry and false case for their fake god. Haeckel's theme was that "Ontogeny Recapitulates Phylogeny"; that is the development of embryos repeats the organism's ancestral evolutionary stages in the course of its development. Mr Odden's metaphor then was that study of the nature of existence was not the same as the evolutionary development of a particular group of organisms. I took this to be in support of his Nominalist assertion that "White" is actually a mental state". In reply to that I noted that Helen Keller, blind and deaf from birth, would be unable to have knowledge of White. Physical material instantiated things exist and have properties. To be conscious of those things requires the conscious organic being to somehow perceive sensations from its sensory organs. To mentally envision White, a conscious organic being must have had at sometime an experience of the sensation of perceiving White. This is because without a perceptional referent a reasoning mind cannot integrate to a concept. Knowledge is held in the from of concepts and is derived from reality. Helen Keller could no more have knowledge of White than Billy Graham can have knowledge of GOD and for the same reason. No sensory perception => no discrete units to subsume => no integration into a concept. Consequently, direct empirical experience from actual reality is necessary to know what White is.

but just as we can imagine radio waves, she could imagine colors

The religious people are very good at believing all sorts of things about their gods. Is there a way for some other conscious mind to distinguish a difference between what they believe about their god or what Helen Keller believed about White or radio waves and what they may be imagining? Does imagination make reality? Or is imagination dependent and contingent to reality?

Perceptual form is the manner in which we are aware of certain aspects of existence directly via the senses

Hey, cool. Thanks for the info. One class of knowledge comes from reality via perception while another comes from extension of perception through instrumentation and thereby propositional abstractions.

In other words, the fact that Helen Keller was blind and deaf doesn't say much about what we are able to conceive

I respectfully disagree. Concepts are built by integrating perceptions by way of subsuming discrete units using measurement omission. Concepts are what constitutes knowledge and are derived from existence. Without memories of sensory perception or direct sensory perception, a conscious mind would be lost in a fantasy.

for Keller it is an abstraction she has to grasp with her mind after learning something about the theory of light. We can't see gamma rays, because we don't have senses for detecting gamma rays, but we can understand them using human reason.

I agree with you. However, I distinguish classes of knowledge. One based on direct sensory experience and another based on abstraction from propositional assertions. I do not know what to call them, and I strongly suspect that others have made the same distinction. What would knowledge based on sensory perception be called as distinguished from knowledge based on abstractions founded on propositional information.

So, can you state more clearly what the heck you are talking about?

I gave it a try. As time passes, I'll learn more and become more knowledgeable in both ways. BTW, you are a handsome devil. Do people remark that Brent Spinner, TV actor who played Mr. Data on Star Trek, bears a striking resemblance to you? I bet you get all the girls.

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In reply to that I noted that Helen Keller, blind and deaf from birth, would be unable to have knowledge of White.
That's correct: Helen Keller would have no knowledge of "White" (except a verbal description as 'a color', which she could only grasp as "something to do with seeing", which she could not grasp). I assume you noticed my use of "is not the same as" as opposed to "has no connection with". I assume then you are agreeing with my statement, although it superficially appears that you are disagreeing.
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Oh, so much flattery really isn't necessary, especially since it won't help your case :confused:

To mentally envision White, a conscious organic being must have had at sometime an experience of the sensation of perceiving White. This is because without a perceptional referent a reasoning mind cannot integrate to a concept. Knowledge is held in the from of concepts and is derived from reality.

For actual perceptual forms, this is probably correct -- that she could never imagine white as we see white -- nonetheless, she could have a knowledge of white in the same way that we have knowledge about gamma rays. I don't really know what this has to do with embryonic research or why one scientists faking his data gives points to the creationists, because it doesn't. If I lie, it doesn't mean there is a God ;) If you mean to say that Helen Keller could never experience white the way a sighted person can, that's true, but it doesn't mean that she could not conceive that white means a wide variety of frequencies all coming in together; just as we can understand atoms, though we have never seen them. And someone could have made a correspondence to hitting many piano notes at one time; she couldn't hear them, but she could feel the vibrations in her fingertips. So, the information regarding white could have been conveyed to her, even though she couldn't see. And I suppose for her, one could have rigged up some sort of oscilloscope that would translate light into vibrations she could detect. And the same thing must be done for normally perceptual people for things like radio waves or gamma rays.

One class of knowledge comes from reality via perception while another comes from extension of perception through instrumentation and thereby propositional abstractions.

Not so. All knowledge comes from the perceptually self-evident, even that knowledge gained by viewing instruments that can detect things we cannot detect directly via the senses. After all, the instrumentation must register the cause of it's flickering in a means that man can perceive; otherwise, he wouldn't notice any change and would conclude that there wasn't anything being detected. An example is the detection of x-rays by noticing that photographic paper had images in it from placing certain rocks on it. If there was no such way to detect x-rays (say photographic paper had not yet been invented), then man would be at the same stage as previous generations -- having x-rays all about and never being aware of them.

One had to be careful of such phrases as "propositional abstractions" as this implies a floating abstraction or rationalism. A floating abstraction is one that one cannot tie to the evidence of the senses through some chain of reasoning going from the abstract to the particular. Rationalism means thinking in such a way that most or all of one's abstractions are floating and not tied to reality. In short, if your "propositional abstractions" are not tied to reality, they indicate that your mind is not comprehending reality.

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