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Objectivist Mereology

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Huh? Objects exist independently of belief THEREFORE one cannot verify whether or not an entity exists? That doesn't follow in the least. I don't see how you get total epistemic agnosticism about the existence of objects on the basis there being an objective reality.

It's not a matter of "following". It's a simple matter of logic.

"I will verify whether X exists"

Since X is a specific entity, i.e. *this* keyboard, it makes no sense to say I will "verify" its existence. It's this keyboard. I don't see how this can be debated with Oists, since existence is the first axiom, and Ayn Rand makes it clear that we don't "verify" or "prove" the axioms.

Maybe I imagine something in my head, and think (for whatever reason, insanity, delusion, religion, prior experience with something similar to it) that something like it exists. One day I stumble upon something that resembles what I imagined. Did I "verify" that the entity *in my head* exists? The entity in my mind is mental, it doesn't exist, it lacks location. I cannot "verify" if it exists because it doesn't exist by definition. I didn't "verify" whether the entity I stumbled upon existed either, I just observed it. Nobody has ever verified an entity's existence, we just discover entities that exist.

This just seems pigheadedly silly. I can point to a swarm of bees and say "swarm". Oh look, an entity, an object.

This shows you do not understand the difference between a product of the mind, a concept, and an entity. If you point to it and name it, you are treating it as if it were a single entity. However most people will take your implied meaning by the common definition of swarm: a group of... Now you are defining a concept "swarm" as the grouping of all these little bees.

Let's remove linguistic connotation. You point and say "X". I look and I see a bunch of buzzing dots. I'm not sure if you are pointing at the dot and naming it X or if you are telling me that you will you "X" as a convenient shorthand to mean "a bunch of buzzing things close together". The issue is that I have already identified the entity "dot" because each one has shape. Perhaps your vision is poor or whatever and you see a single shape, a blob. You look and see "buzzing blob". You do not identify the entity "dot" (or bee). You point and say "X!". I am not sure what you mean so I catch a bee and show it to you, or I bring you closer to the bees. Now you understand. You point at a bee and say "bee", then step away and hold out your arms and say "X". Now I understand that "X" is a conceptual grouping of bee entities, and I assume the grouping criteria (the relationship) is proximity/distance.

If you look at the bees and see individual bees then "swarm" is a concept, a relationship amongst entities (bees). If you look and do not identify the individual bees *at all*, then you are identifying it as a single entity. As long as what you point to has shape, it is identified as an entity.

But the swarm is composed of parts, namely individual bees.

To everyone, I think, the collection of symbols "swarm" does indeed refer to a conceptual grouping of individual bees by proximity (perhaps a biologist would have more criteria but the common man probably not).

The objective existence of an object isn't impugned by saying that it is composed of parts. Your argument seems to be that somehow bees "really" exist but swarms don't.

Who said anything about existence being "impugned"? I'm talking about logical communication. You have not understood my argument. Concepts (such as mental groupings) exist as products of the Mind IF that concept is based on perceptually identified entities (such as bees). So when you point at a bee and say "bee" then point at a collection and say "swarm", the conceptual grouping "swarm" exists as a mental grouping of bee entities. However, only entities themselves can logically perform actions or be acted upon. Therefore it makes no sense, logically, to talk about kicking 'a' swarm. Swarm just refers to a mental grouping! Are you kicking someone's mental processes? Whatever you're kicking, it has shape, it's an entity (a bee).

As above, I don't see how you can meaningfully distinguish between entities and "conceptual associations".

Easily. Entities have shape. Concepts do not. Concepts are mental relationships between entities. An entity is a single, independent existent. Concepts are plural in that we need at least two entities to form a concept and dependent in the sense that they depend upon the Mind.

Which is the cloud of atoms I call my body? The group of cells I call my blood? Which is the association of gears I call my grandfather clock? Which is the association of letters I call a word, or words I call a sentence? I think these kind of cases show why the retreat into the self-evident existence of some limited class of objects is problematic.

No, it only shows your lack of understand the difference between objects and concepts. When you point to blood and name it, without identifying any other parts, you are treating it as a single independent entity not comprised of parts. As soon as you point to cells and define "blood" as "group of these entities" then "blood" is referring to a conceptual grouping.

This is a matter of logic. When you identify individual entities and then mentally group them together, the word you use to refer to this mental grouping refers to a concept.

This seems the most obviously false thing you write. The first counterexample that comes to mind is the search of physicists for black holes.

If they cannot even imagine it, let alone point to it, they have no idea what they're even searching for. This reminds me:

"It is not possible to put forward a strict definition of... existence."

"Catholic teaching virtually asserts that God's existence can be proved."

"Existence is at once familiar and rather elusive. There is more than a little difficulty in saying just what existence is.

from the Catholic encyclopedia.

The idea is similar. How can they even begin to "prove" that God exists if they don't even know what it means to exist? What the hell are they proving? Likewise, how can a physicist "verify" a black hole exists if s/he cannot even imagine it, let alone point to it?

We have some entity we think exists,

If you claim X exists, your first step is to point to it.

If you want us to assume X exists, you at least have to show us what it looks like.

that our working model of the universe predicts exists, so we go out and look to verify its existence.

Predict that a thing exists? This is highly illogical language. Predict means to guess something about the future. You're predicting that a entity will exist at some time in the future?

Verify its existence? Before you can verify it, you have to know what you're looking for.

The second is, well, the everyday experience of accepting through testimony the existence of things that aren't self-evidently obvious, like atoms or Somalia.

An atom is a hypothesis, an entity that is assumed to exist for the purposes of a theory to explain a phenomenon of Nature. "Let us assume atoms exist, and they look like tiny little balls" *point to a ball*. You don't "verify" that atoms exist. At best you provide evidence and argument to convince someone to believe your theory. The hypothesis is just an unjustified, unverified assumption for the purposes of explaining the theory (by definition of hypothesis).

And third, you've inadvertently answered the question in arguing that its incoherent. Your answer is that only self-evidently existent objects exist, and that there do not exist any objects such that they are the sum of two or more distinct objects.

lol, of course, no object IS two objects, much less the "sum" of two objects (whatever that means). That would be a contradiction. An object is an object is an object. "The sum of" objects is a conceptual grouping of objects.

We live in a radically impoverished universe if this is accurate. But more to the point, you don't actually argue for why any of this is so. You just assert it.

I'm sorry you see it this way.

Skepticism is fine, but not skepticism for skepticism's sake. If you disagree you need to provide an alternate version or say why what I said is wrong.

Dr. Peikoff: "This term [entity] may be used in several senses. If you speak in the primary sense, “entity” has to be defined ostensively—that is to say, by pointing.

Agreed.

A random mental collection of things or even a real random collection of real things, is not an entity. I was going by Aleph-O's presentation of mereology re one's left toe nail and the Eiffel Tower as an example of a mereological entity when I was arguing against mereology as a legitimate field of research.

A key word you use is "random". I think you use this to distinguish between collections of entities which you have already mentally grouped via your experiences thus far in life and those which you have not mentally grouped. The ones you have not grouped (such as a toe and Harvard) you describe as "random". Someone else, however, may have stubbed their toe repeatedly while at Harvard and thus have formed the mental grouping "Harvard and toe" because s/he associates his/her toe with Harvard. Aleph will probably argue similarly, that your use of "random" is more an indication of your personal groupings than a reason to discount 'a' group as "an object".

This is why we need to distinguish clearly between object and concept. An object is that which has shape. We point to it and name it. You cannot point to 'a' group. You point to what you have identified as "swarm" and the alien from another planet just sees bees (individual shapes). It is when you make clear that you are referring to their spatial relationship when you say "swarm" that the alien understands the concept "swarm". When we look, independently of conceptualization, we just see individual entities, bees.

This summarily precludes all groupings from qualifying as objects, be it "toe and Harvard" or "arm and leg".

By the way, a human being qua entity is not a collection of three trillion cells; a human being is an entity -- one thing.

Human the entity is of course, an entity you point to and name "human". Human the concept may be referring to a spatial relationship amongst 3 trillion cell entities, although I think it is considerably more complicated than that.

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I think we need to distinguish mental entities (i.e. conceptualizations) from existential entities (i.e. The Eiffel Tower) in order to resolve this. 1) In the primary sense, an entity is one thing out there -- one object, like a baseball or a glass of water; 2) in the secondary sense, an entity is something considered in isolation from its surroundings -- a two foot by two foot section of your yard or the top of one's desk. Those are existential considerations made by a human mind. 3) Concepts are mental entities, something specific in the mind -- the concept "cat" or the concept "table." What some people seem to be claiming is that 4) anything considered by the mind at one time is also a mental entity -- i.e. the stuff on my desk (which might be papers, a computer, an ashtray, some pens, etc.).

I think 1, 2, and 3, are legitimate usages of the term "entity" but what I am arguing against is the consideration of a mental grouping (the stuff on my desk) as being an entity, even though, in a sense, one knows what I am talking about specifically when I say the stuff on my desk. In other words, if 4 is a legitimate usage of the term "entity" then that might be the grounds for saying that a set (a mental grouping) is an entity. So that, if one groups together things like one's left toenail and the Eiffel Tower mentally, then that mental grouping is an entity.

I'm mostly stating this for clarification of what I think the distinctions are. I think Miss Rand clarified in ITOE 2nd ed. that a pile of something (even just stuff on a desk) is not an entity in the Objectivist sense of the term; which would imply that a mental grouping per se is also not an entity in the Objectivist sense.

Regarding the swarm of bees, I think this would be an entity in the secondary sense of the term"entity" in that the swarm tends to act together -- i.e. to ward off intruders to the bee hive. This would be like Dr. Peikoff's example in the Lexicon of a breeze being an entity in the secondary sense.

What I am arguing against is the idea that one could mentally group together the bee swarm, the tree they live in, the dog running away from them, and the leaves that are falling as being one entity, which seems to be similar to one's left toenail and the Eiffel tower. That is they might be temporally grouped together (things happening at one time) or psychologically associated together (Harvard and stumping one's toe); but I wouldn't call these an entity.

A psychological association might perhaps be considered one mental entity if the association is so tight that one cannot separate them (and this can lead to psychological ills, not being able to separate them, that is); but I don't know I would consider that to be one entity even mentally.

So, I think the onus of proof is on he who asserts that a grouping (existential or mental) is an entity, and why one would consider such to be an entity. Would treating such as "one thing" be helpful? Let's say in a fit of rage someone knocks all the stuff off their desk top; is considering all the stuff knocked to the floor as one thing helpful? Or is it more helpful to consider it as a bunch of discrete entities flying off the desk more helpful cognitively?

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I think we need to distinguish mental entities (i.e. conceptualizations) from existential entities (i.e. The Eiffel Tower) in order to resolve this.

A mental entity is just any object I imagine, a square, a leprechaun, etc. The distinction from an existent entity (Eiffel Tower) is that existent entities have presence i.e. location. The leprechaun is not located anywhere, I am just visualizing it.

1) In the primary sense, an entity is one thing out there -- one object, like a baseball or a glass of water;

This is circular, an entity is a thing, these are synonyms. When you say "out there" I think you're invoking presence/location.

2) in the secondary sense, an entity is something considered in isolation from its surroundings -- a two foot by two foot section of your yard or the top of one's desk. Those are existential considerations made by a human mind.

I don't know what you mean by "in isolation from its surroundings"? A portion of your yard is conceptual in the sense that you draw an imaginary line in your yard. There is no independently existing entity "portion of yard" lying there. You had to perform an imaginary operation (drawing a boundary) and then identify the result of this operation. At best I can think of this as an entity you imagine, that has shape but not location.

3) Concepts are mental entities, something specific in the mind -- the concept "cat" or the concept "table."

I must strongly disagree with this. Concepts lack shape and cannot qualify as entities in any sense.

What is the shape of up?

What some people seem to be claiming is that 4) anything considered by the mind at one time is also a mental entity -- i.e. the stuff on my desk (which might be papers, a computer, an ashtray, some pens, etc.).

Right. Essentially anything that can serve as the subject of a sentence, whatever we can utter that we have a mental association with, somehow qualifies as an entity. However entities are causal primaries. This means there are concepts which we understand that are not causal primaries, which means not everything we understand and think about qualifies as an entity.

Regarding the swarm of bees, I think this would be an entity in the secondary sense of the term"entity" in that the swarm tends to act together -- i.e. to ward off intruders to the bee hive. This would be like Dr. Peikoff's example in the Lexicon of a breeze being an entity in the secondary sense.

I think having more than one "sense" of using the word entity just muddles communication and leads to confusion at best, while at worst it can lead to paradox, misintegration, and a logical breakdown. We need a single way to use this word, and I propose shape. When you look you just see bee. The "acting together" is a mental criterion by which you group multiple entities. Allowing groupings of entities to qualify as an entity leads to absurdity.

What I am arguing against is the idea that one could mentally group together the bee swarm, the tree they live in, the dog running away from them, and the leaves that are falling as being one entity, which seems to be similar to one's left toenail and the Eiffel tower. That is they might be temporally grouped together (things happening at one time) or psychologically associated together (Harvard and stumping one's toe); but I wouldn't call these an entity.

But you decided a bunch of bees could be an entity. So there is no reason a priori to say other groupings of entities can't be entities. This is avoided if we just stick to the shape definition.

A psychological association might perhaps be considered one mental entity if the association is so tight that one cannot separate them (and this can lead to psychological ills, not being able to separate them, that is); but I don't know I would consider that to be one entity even mentally.

A psychological association is an entity? Why? What qualifies as an entity? It sounds like you are just saying that whatever seems significant to a person is an entity. However, irrespective of our identification, entities just have shape.

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I think Altonhare and Aleph_O are trying to define the term "Entity" in some formal logic manner, when it cannot be so defined because it must be grasped inductively and ostensively. That is, it can only be grasped by pointing to individual entities and saying, "This is what I mean." And I don't think shape is the basic criteria, since an entity has so many more attributes and aspects, why single out just one of them as being the most important?

Regarding concepts as being claimed to be mental entities, I agree with what Miss Rand said in that perhaps another term ought to be used, but no one has come up with anything better than a "mental entity." A concept is one thing in the mind, and it is specific, it is a mental integration of information into one mental thing.

Edited by Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

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I think Altonhare and Aleph_O are trying to define the term "Entity" in some formal logic manner, when it cannot be so defined because it must be grasped inductively and ostensively. That is, it can only be grasped by pointing to individual entities and saying, "This is what I mean." And I don't think shape is the basic criteria, since an entity has so many more attributes and aspects, why single out just one of them as being the most important?

I agree with Thomas.

Juxtaposing the Lexicon entries for Entity and Axiomatic Concepts leads me to conclude that "entity" is an axiomatic concept. The definition of entity must be ostensive, therefore entities as different things that can be pointed at are not necessarily commensurate with each other in their attributes.

A proposed entity which is the sum of two disparate elements, such as the Eiffel Tower and a banana peel, cannot be pointed at so it is invalid. A collective noun such as the wind or a swarm (of bees) or flock (of birds) can be validated by pointing at it. A valid collective noun has elements that are causally related to each other but not themselves necessarily entities.

The different kinds of casual relationships between a whole and its parts in a machine, an animal, a group of animals, a fluid, a hay bale or a stamp collection are incommensurate and no further conclusions can be drawn. If mereology is understood as trying to do exactly that then it is a dead end field. Mereology could be furthered by making a taxonomy of these types of causal relationships, making it a kind of meta-science or a part of the philosophy of science.

edit: casually to causally in bold

Edited by Grames

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I agree with Thomas.

Juxtaposing the Lexicon entries for Entity and Axiomatic Concepts leads me to conclude that "entity" is an axiomatic concept. The definition of entity must be ostensive, therefore entities as different things that can be pointed at are not necessarily commensurate with each other in their attributes.

A proposed entity which is the sum of two disparate elements, such as the Eiffel Tower and a banana peel, cannot be pointed at so it is invalid. A collective noun such as the wind or a swarm (of bees) or flock (of birds) can be validated by pointing at it. A valid collective noun has elements that are causally related to each other but not themselves necessarily entities.

The different kinds of casual relationships between a whole and its parts in a machine, an animal, a group of animals, a fluid, a hay bale or a stamp collection are incommensurate and no further conclusions can be drawn. If mereology is understood as trying to do exactly that then it is a dead end field. Mereology could be furthered by making a taxonomy of these types of causal relationships, making it a kind of meta-science or a part of the philosophy of science.

edit: casually to causally in bold

I have been working specifically on the issue of shape and boundedness in relation to the concept entity. I think when I'm done I will be able to show from Oist epistemology that one cannot induce the concept entity without either. It is the essential characteristic that separates it from the concept existent.Ill add that this is not from "deduction" but rather verified by ubiquitous observation.

Edited by Plasmatic

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A precise equation, with range and domain over the real numbers, is perfectly defined at every point

How, if infinity is disallowed, can something have range and domain over the real numbers? If we're talking about pure mathematics, a real number can always be expressed as an infinite sequence of digits in any base. Furthermore, there are more real numbers than integers in a very fundamental way. If we're talking about practical application, how many measurements would it take to verify that the length of two rulers were EXACTLY the same qua real numbers?

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How, if infinity is disallowed, can something have range and domain over the real numbers? If we're talking about pure mathematics, a real number can always be expressed as an infinite sequence of digits in any base. Furthermore, there are more real numbers than integers in a very fundamental way. If we're talking about practical application, how many measurements would it take to verify that the length of two rulers were EXACTLY the same qua real numbers?

You can't, because it would take infinitely many-- for physical measurements we're stuck with the rational numbers. That's just because to specify a real number always requires some infinite process of completion (like regarding them as infinite decimals, Cauchy sequences or Dedekind cuts) that can't actually be performed with physical measurement, as whatever you're measuring with has nonzero length and hence some error associated to it, and you can't make infinitely many measurements. So real numbers are concepts of method; applying them as lengths of physical objects is improper. This, of course, doesn't make real numbers any less important in mathematics.

These measurements are contextual anyway, so infinite measurements really wouldn't be of much use. The ruler that you'd like to verify has length exactly pi is at some microscopic level a ragged collection of atoms anyway. But that's what sigfigs are for.

The section "Exact Measurement and Continuity" in ItOE is a really good exploration of the issues.

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I think Altonhare and Aleph_O are trying to define the term "Entity" in some formal logic manner, when it cannot be so defined because it must be grasped inductively and ostensively. one mental thing.

But this is exactly what I'm doing. I have never pointed at a thing without shape. I have never imagined a thing without shape. In fact, I can neither induce nor rationalize 'a' shapeless "thing".

That is, it can only be grasped by pointing to individual entities and saying, "This is what I mean." And I don't think shape is the basic criteria, since an entity has so many more attributes and aspects, why single out just one of them as being the most important?

I didn't say "most important". I'm saying the most essential, primitive attribute. Just try to imagine an entity without shape. Visualize it. Or try pointing to one. It cannot be done. You point and say "swarm" and the alien just sees bees (individual entities, shapes).

Shape, in fact, seems axiomatic. How will you argue for 'a' shapeless "thing"? First you will have to visualize or point to a thing, which will already have shape. You try to talk about or imagine things for the purposes of discussing if it can be shapeless, but you already see its shape.

Regarding concepts as being claimed to be mental entities, I agree with what Miss Rand said in that perhaps another term ought to be used, but no one has come up with anything better than a "mental entity." A concept is one thing in the mind, and it is specific, it is a mental integration of information into one mental thing.

I don't see the difficulty with a quest to name "mental entities". They're called concepts. Up is a concept. Love is a concept. The leprechaun I'm imagining is a nonexistent entity. This keyboard is an existent entity.

I agree with Thomas.

Juxtaposing the Lexicon entries for Entity and Axiomatic Concepts leads me to conclude that "entity" is an axiomatic concept. The definition of entity must be ostensive, therefore entities as different things that can be pointed at are not necessarily commensurate with each other in their attributes.

Like I said, it's impossible to point at that which lacks shape. Shape is axiomatic.

A proposed entity which is the sum of two disparate elements, such as the Eiffel Tower and a banana peel, cannot be pointed at so it is invalid. A collective noun such as the wind or a swarm (of bees) or flock (of birds) can be validated by pointing at it.

When does the swarm suddenly not qualify as an entity then? When the bees are each an average of an inch apart? A foot? A meter? A light year?

What if I bring a banana peel and slap it against the Eiffel Tower so it sticks and point at them?

A valid collective noun has elements that are causally related to each other but not themselves necessarily entities.

Everything is causally related to some degree. When do you draw the line?

I have been working specifically on the issue of shape and boundedness in relation to the concept entity. I think when I'm done I will be able to show from Oist epistemology that one cannot induce the concept entity without either. It is the essential characteristic that separates it from the concept existent.Ill add that this is not from "deduction" but rather verified by ubiquitous observation.

Looking forward to seeing that.

How, if infinity is disallowed, can something have range and domain over the real numbers?

What do you even mean by an entity having "range and domain"?

If we're talking about pure mathematics, a real number can always be expressed as an infinite sequence of digits in any base.

Could you show me an example of a number actually expressed as an infinite sequence? What's this "infinity" and how will I know when I've reached it?

Furthermore, there are more real numbers than integers in a very fundamental way.

Did you count them?

If we're talking about practical application, how many measurements would it take to verify that the length of two rulers were EXACTLY the same qua real numbers?

Measurement is always limited by one's reference standard, which is given 1. If a ruler is a little shorter than your reference standard all you can say is that its length is <1. If its a little longer than it's >1. You can guess at values in between, but all we can *know* from a measurement are statements of the form "A is longer than B". Any quantitative information, such as A and B are around the same length, or A is twice as long as B, are guesses.

You can't, because it would take infinitely many-- for physical measurements we're stuck with the rational numbers. That's just because to specify a real number always requires some infinite process of completion (like regarding them as infinite decimals, Cauchy sequences or Dedekind cuts) that can't actually be performed with physical measurement, as whatever you're measuring with has nonzero length and hence some error associated to it, and you can't make infinitely many measurements. So real numbers are concepts of method; applying them as lengths of physical objects is improper. This, of course, doesn't make real numbers any less important in mathematics.

These measurements are contextual anyway, so infinite measurements really wouldn't be of much use. The ruler that you'd like to verify has length exactly pi is at some microscopic level a ragged collection of atoms anyway. But that's what sigfigs are for.

The section "Exact Measurement and Continuity" in ItOE is a really good exploration of the issues.

Irrationals such as pi are not actually numbers, but processes (operators). Pi expresses an operation such as making successively high order polygons. The term "irrational number" is a misnomer. Pi invokes the *concept* of a circle, i.e. the concept of incessantly making a higher and higher order polygon. This is different than O, which is an object many would call a circle.

Edited by altonhare

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Irrationals such as pi are not actually numbers, but processes (operators). Pi expresses an operation such as making successively high order polygons. The term "irrational number" is a misnomer. Pi invokes the *concept* of a circle, i.e. the concept of incessantly making a higher and higher order polygon. This is different than O, which is an object many would call a circle.

I think we're saying the same thing here, but IMO it would be strange to say that an irrational number is a process in mathematical formalism, since we can treat them along with the rationals as stand-alone "completed" numbers just fine, i.e., they form an ordered field, you can manipulate them in algebraic equations, and so forth. You are correct that to really say what pi is, you need some kind of construction like inscribed/circumscribed polygons about a circle, or the Leibniz series 4 - 4/3 + 4/5 - 4/7 + ... that can be made as precise as you like in principle, whether people actually ever get around to calculating the bajillionth digit of pi or not.

However, when you're done with your calculation arising from a physical problem and end up getting sqrt(2)pi/7 as your answer, you round to a decimal approximation that's appropriate to the context of your problem. In this sense real numbers are concepts of method and are not to be applied literally to physical measurements.

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I think we're saying the same thing here, but IMO it would be strange to say that an irrational number is a process in mathematical formalism, since we can treat them along with the rationals as stand-alone "completed" numbers just fine, applied literally to physical measurements.

How is pi() a standalone, completed "number"? i.e. a finished result? Mathematically pi() represents, as you said, a series. Not just any series, but one for which we can always write an additional term. So pi() represents an operation, something that hasn't been done yet. Specifically what hasn't been done yet is adding in the nth term in the series. So we work with the symbol pi() until we're ready to get a finished result, at which point we finally calculate a number and replace pi() with it.

i.e., they form an ordered field, you can manipulate them in algebraic equations, and so forth.

You cannot manipulate that which is indefinite, undetermined, or neverending. Manipulations of pi() in algebraic equations and so forth are founded on the tacit assumption that pi will be converted into a number at the end, so we can say that we were just dealing with that number all along.

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How is pi() a standalone, completed "number"? i.e. a finished result? Mathematically pi() represents, as you said, a series. Not just any series, but one for which we can always write an additional term. So pi() represents an operation, something that hasn't been done yet. Specifically what hasn't been done yet is adding in the nth term in the series. So we work with the symbol pi() until we're ready to get a finished result, at which point we finally calculate a number and replace pi() with it.

If you really want to know, formally pi is treated is the set of all equivalence classes of equivalent Cauchy sequences of numbers-- in effect pi is defined to be *all possible sequences of rational numbers* which converge to it. As such, I guess if you like you could choose a representative sequence like (3, 3.1, 3.14, 3.141, ...) and view it as a mapping from the natural numbers into the rationals. You could do the same where the nth term of the sequence is filled by the rational number you get when you approximate pi using inscribed/circumscribed regular polygons of n + 3 sides, and these two sequences would be regarded as "the same number" since the difference between them tends to zero as you look at terms further and further along (but don't ask me to prove that for you on the spot).

The class of all such sequences are regarded mentally as the number pi. You can then add, multiply, etc., these sequences by adding and multiplying their representatives term by term. This is what I mean by pi being treated as a completed object. So treated in this way you can "add" pi and sqrt(2) fine.

Notice I say you can "treat" pi this way, i.e., regard it formally this way. None of this sequence business invalidates your other point that we eventually need to work with a rational approximation of pi to actually get an idea of its value, which I agree with completely. You may also object to manipulating sequences as manipulating "completed infinities", which I certainly sympathize with. But in effect the value of such a formalism is to assure us that no matter how close of an approximation we want, we can always handle manipulating real numbers as though they were rational numbers once and for all. Also this conception of the real numbers lets us talk about topology, but never mind that.

You cannot manipulate that which is indefinite, undetermined, or neverending. Manipulations of pi() in algebraic equations and so forth are founded on the tacit assumption that pi will be converted into a number at the end, so we can say that we were just dealing with that number all along.

Sure; I have no problem with treating pi as a variable that you eventually substitute a suitable rational number into after a certain point. But we weren't really dealing with 3.14 all along-- we were dealing with *pi* all along. This is important since otherwise we'd have to do the same calculation over again if we wanted to work with 3.14159. That'd be the frozen abstraction fallacy.

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pi is treated is the set of all equivalence classes of equivalent Cauchy sequences of numbers
No, with the equivalence class of Cauchy sequences method, a real number is an equivalance class of Cauchy sequences, not a set of equivlaence classes of Cauchy sequences.

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No, with the equivalence class of Cauchy sequences method, a real number is an equivalance class of Cauchy sequences, not a set of equivlaence classes of Cauchy sequences.

Correct, cheerfully withdrawn. :)

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It's not a matter of "following". It's a simple matter of logic.

"I will verify whether X exists"

Since X is a specific entity, i.e. *this* keyboard, it makes no sense to say I will "verify" its existence. It's this keyboard. I don't see how this can be debated with Oists, since existence is the first axiom, and Ayn Rand makes it clear that we don't "verify" or "prove" the axioms.

The form of one of these existential claims is more: "I will verify whether there exists an X such that it has such and such properties." When I ask, "does my keyboard exist?", that's what I'm asking: Does there exist an object such that it is a keyboard and it belongs to me? This is an important semantic distinction between your reading of existential claims and mine, I think. To verify the existence of the object I go out, look for an object that satisfies those criteria, then pat myself on the back. Note that this is not trying to prove "existence exists". There is a distinction between the fact of existence as such and the existence of individual existents which you don't appear to be making.

Maybe I imagine something in my head, and think (for whatever reason, insanity, delusion, religion, prior experience with something similar to it) that something like it exists. One day I stumble upon something that resembles what I imagined. Did I "verify" that the entity *in my head* exists? The entity in my mind is mental, it doesn't exist, it lacks location. I cannot "verify" if it exists because it doesn't exist by definition. I didn't "verify" whether the entity I stumbled upon existed either, I just observed it. Nobody has ever verified an entity's existence, we just discover entities that exist.

Well, you're right - we don't carry around objects in our heads. So I'm not comparing two distinct objects and fallaciously identifying like in your example. Rather, I carry around the criteria for applying a predicate, and when I observe an entity that satisfies the criteria for the predicate, I've verified the existential claim that there exists an X such that (whatever the predicate specifies).

When you point to blood and name it, without identifying any other parts, you are treating it as a single independent entity not comprised of parts. As soon as you point to cells and define "blood" as "group of these entities" then "blood" is referring to a conceptual grouping.

My claim is that we use reason to construct our ontologies from percepts. Yours seems to be that our ontologies are direct, perceptual determinations on top of which we build an apparatus of hierarchical conceptual groupings via reason. I have three objections.

I. Existence is not a perceptual determination.

Wax argument (paraphrasing Descartes)

Take a piece of wax. Melt it. It changes in color, shape, extension, smell, texture temperature, etc. But I know that it's the same piece of wax. My senses tell me that the object on the table has nothing in common with the object I put into the fire, but my reason tells me that it's the same one. Because I changed all my percepts of the object, but maintained my awareness of the same object's existence, I must not grasp the object's existence as a perceptual determination, but rather as a rational determination justified by percepts.

Uncertainty argument.

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) Whether or not an object exists is a perceptual determination.

(3) It is impossible to doubt a perceptual determination.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

You have to reject one of the premises. (1) is obviously true, so that means either we reject your claim (2), or the veridicality of our perceptions, something Rand refused to give up.

II. Groups of entities are not concepts.

(1) Groups of entities consist of entities.

(2) Concepts exist in the mind.

(3) That which exists in the mind cannot consist of entities.

(4) Concepts cannot consist of entities. (2&3)

(5) Groups of entities cannot be concepts. (4&1)

III. Some objects are reducible to their parts.

(1) There exist entities that are nothing more than the sum of their parts.

(2) Sums of parts are conceptual groupings.

(3) Conceptual groupings exist in the mind.

(4) Sums of parts exist in the mind. (2&3)

(5) There exist objects which exist in the mind. (4&1)

Again, you have to reject a premise, since you explicitly deny (5). (1) is just manifestly obvious (see below), while 2 and 3 are your claims.

lol, of course, no object IS two objects, much less the "sum" of two objects (whatever that means). That would be a contradiction. An object is an object is an object. "The sum of" objects is a conceptual grouping of objects.

Why is this contradictory? There are objects which have parts, which can in turn be objects.

(1) A music box is an object.

(2) Gears are objects

(3) A music box is composed of gears.

(4) An object is composed of objects.

I don't understand how you can deny (4) with a straight face. It forces you to deny one of the trivially true claims in 1-3. Such an implausible position really requires some actual argument - because despite complaining about my apparantly unjustified skepticism, you haven't actually provided a single warrant for your epistemology. You've just asserted its truth.

Edited by cmdownes

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My claim is that we use reason to construct our ontologies from percepts. Yours seems to be that our ontologies are direct, perceptual determinations on top of which we build an apparatus of hierarchical conceptual groupings via reason. I have three objections.

I would like to address your objections without endorsing anything Altonhare may have written.

I. Existence is not a perceptual determination.

Wax argument (paraphrasing Descartes)

Take a piece of wax. Melt it. It changes in color, shape, extension, smell, texture temperature, etc. But I know that it's the same piece of wax. My senses tell me that the object on the table has nothing in common with the object I put into the fire, but my reason tells me that it's the same one. Because I changed all my percepts of the object, but maintained my awareness of the same object's existence, I must not grasp the object's existence as a perceptual determination, but rather as a rational determination justified by percepts.

No, the object's existence was a perceptual determination at every step. It is the object's identity as a solid and the object's identity as a liquid being causally related by time and heat that is rationally determined. Consciousness is identification.

This is what I refer to as the "magic trick" argument. Present an object, put it through some transformation, present the changed object, then assert some ridiculous proposition based upon the sameness or the change that evades causality. "How'd you do that?" is an unanswerable mystery without identity and causality.

This is schematically similar to the argument that a straight stick that appears bent in water shows the senses are unreliable because they report illusions. The argument is false because the conclusion that the stick bent is a rational determination (an incorrect one) based upon the uncensored and uninterpreted sensory report of how light bends as it crosses an air-water boundary.

Uncertainty argument.

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) Whether or not an object exists is a perceptual determination.

(3) It is impossible to doubt a perceptual determination.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

You have to reject one of the premises. (1) is obviously true, so that means either we reject your claim (2), or the veridicality of our perceptions, something Rand refused to give up.

Man's perceptions are finite. He does not perceive everything, it is only possible to doubt the existence of objects that are not perceived. (1) and (2) do not apply to the same object at the same time.

Of course you could insist on doubting the existence of an object that is in front of you, but that would merely demonstrate volition.

II. Groups of entities are not concepts.

(1) Groups of entities consist of entities.

(2) Concepts exist in the mind.

(3) That which exists in the mind cannot consist of entities.

(4) Concepts cannot consist of entities. (2&3)

(5) Groups of entities cannot be concepts. (4&1)

Crudely equivocates the referent of the concept of "concept" with the referent of a different concept.

III. Some objects are reducible to their parts.

(1) There exist entities that are nothing more than the sum of their parts.

(2) Sums of parts are conceptual groupings.

(3) Conceptual groupings exist in the mind.

(4) Sums of parts exist in the mind. (2&3)

(5) There exist objects which exist in the mind. (4&1)

Again, you have to reject a premise, since you explicitly deny (5). (1) is just manifestly obvious (see below), while 2 and 3 are your claims.

Again, crudely equivocates the referent of the concept of "conceptual grouping" with the referent of a different concept.

Why is this contradictory? There are objects which have parts, which can in turn be objects.

(1) A music box is an object.

(2) Gears are objects

(3) A music box is composed of gears.

(4) An object is composed of objects.

This is not a contradiction.

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Prof. K: I would like to ask you to clarify your use of the term "entity." Specifically, on page 15, in speaking of perceptual entities, you state, "entities are the only primary existents." Now, does this imply that you grant that there is a metaphysical status of entity apart from whether or not something is a perceptual entity?

For example, is it in principle possible for a perceptual entity to be composed of constituents which are metaphysically themselves also entities, such as a brick wall with the individual bricks also retaining their status as entities?

AR: Certainly. What about human beings? Heads, arms, and legs can be cut off and they are entities. But I was speaking here in the context of entity as against attribute or action. Actually, I was speaking here in the Aristotelian sense of the primary "substance"—which is a very misleading term, but what he meant was that the primary existent is an entity. And then aspects of an entity can be identified mentally, but only in relation to the entity. There are no attributes without entities, there are no actions without entities.

An entity is that which you perceive and which can exist by itself. Characteristics, qualities, attributes, actions, relationships do not exist by themselves.

But, now, if you ask me what is the relationship of parts <ioe2_265> of an entity to the entity: metaphysically they exist, so that if you, for instance, cut off the legs of this table, the top will exist by itself and the legs will exist by themselves.

Now, epistemologically, you could regard the top and the legs as attributes of the table in the sense that, if you cut them off, what remains is no longer a table. But that would be only an epistemological method of regarding a part of an entity [as if the part were an attribute]. Metaphysically, the separated parts will continue to exist, only they will no longer be in the form of a table.

You know, there is a great validity in looking at it that way, epistemologically, provided you always remember the metaphysical difference [between parts and attributes]. Length cannot exist without something which is long; an action cannot exist without something that acts. But parts of an entity can exist separately; but if they are separated, the entity is no longer the same kind of entity.

For instance, if you remove the picture tube from a television set, you will have a tube on one side and a box on the other. They still exist. But if you regard a television set as an entity, then if you remove that which makes it a television set—the works—what remains is no longer a television set, even though the parts exist separately. Or, if you cut a man's head off, what you have is a corpse; you have parts of a man but it is no longer a man. In that sense, you could regard parts as an attribute of a given entity—as that without which it would no longer be the same kind of entity. But, metaphysically, you must always remember that the parts can exist separately, whereas attributes and actions cannot exist apart from the entity.

Included in the very concept of attributes is the fact that they are parts which you can separate only mentally, but which cannot exist by themselves. That is the difference between "part" and "attribute."

...............

AR:—is hung on an ineffable substratum. No—the attributes are the entity, or an entity is its attributes. The attributes are really separable only by abstraction.

When you form concepts of attributes, all you have done, if you are precise about it, is to have mentally stated, "By 'length' I mean a certain aspect of an existing entity, by 'color' I mean a certain aspect of an existing entity"—parenthesis: "which cannot, in fact, be separated from the entity." That is implicit in forming the concept. Therefore, <ioe2_267> once you say that anything, anything whatever on any level, can be separated from an entity and can exist, it doesn't matter whether it deteriorates in two days or two centuries. If it can exist by itself, it is a part and not an attribute.

Edited by Plasmatic

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No, the object's existence was a perceptual determination at every step. It is the object's identity as a solid and the object's identity as a liquid being causally related by time and heat that is rationally determined. Consciousness is identification.

But to talk about THE object's existence, to grasp that underlying unity, is a rational determination. If existence were purely perceptually determined, then we would instead interpret the liquid and the solid different objects at time t and time t+1 which are causally linked.

Man's perceptions are finite. He does not perceive everything, it is only possible to doubt the existence of objects that are not perceived. (1) and (2) do not apply to the same object at the same time. Of course you could insist on doubting the existence of an object that is in front of you, but that would merely demonstrate volition.

Volition doesn't undermine the argument in any way I can see. I don't understand. Also, it is most certainly possible to doubt the existence of things I perceive - I doubt the existence of the pool of water I see on the horizon on hot, sunny days.

Crudely equivocates the referent of the concept of "concept" with the referent of a different concept.

Since the only premises which employ the term "concept" are :

(2) Concepts exist in the mind; and,

(4) Concepts cannot consist of entities,

The equivocation has to take place here.

Explain how I'm equivocating on "concept" between (2) and (4), and why both aren't true of one or the other senses of "concept" you think I'm employing.

Again, crudely equivocates the referent of the concept of "conceptual grouping" with the referent of a different concept.

(2) Sums of parts are conceptual groupings.

(3) Conceptual groupings exist in the mind.

Same for this.

This is not a contradiction.

Of course it isn't. But altonhare denies (4), and (4) follows from 1-3.

Thanks Plasmatic, that's the most direct treatment of this issue I've ever seen in Rand's corpus. What's the source?

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But to talk about THE object's existence, to grasp that underlying unity, is a rational determination. If existence were purely perceptually determined, then we would instead interpret the liquid and the solid different objects at time t and time t+1 which are causally linked.

The solid and the liquid are in a sense different objects, which is why we refer to one as solid and one as liquid. The difference is plain, as is the similarity. The stuff that was solid was turned to liquid by melting it. The persistence of the stuff is the similarity, or underlying unity. That persistence was perceived, not reasoned. In this example, if one stood by and witnessed the entire process of melting then even that causation was perceptually determined. There is no need for, and no room here for rationality to determine anything, or do anything at all.

Volition doesn't undermine the argument in any way I can see. I don't understand. Also, it is most certainly possible to doubt the existence of things I perceive - I doubt the existence of the pool of water I see on the horizon on hot, sunny days.

No, that is an incomplete description of what is happening. That you see something that looks like a pool of water on the horizon is undeniable. The identification of that appearance as an actual pool or as a mirage is the rational determination. It takes an act of will of deny what you perceive is as it appears. A desert mirage is a perfect example, it is an application of knowledge to identify water on the horizon as an illusion. Lacking that knowledge or the will to integrate with consistency what you see with what you know, doubt would never occur to you.

However, existence is prior to and independent of consciousness. The example above does not work in reverse. Just because you judge the pool on the horizon to be a mirage, doesn't make it one if it was an actual pool. Rational determinations are fallible. Being able to doubt something does not ultimately prove anything. The only means of proof is to appeal to reality, which must ultimately be an appeal to perception. Perception is not fallible because it isn't rational, it isn't volitional, it is automatic.

Since the only premises which employ the term "concept" are :

(2) Concepts exist in the mind; and,

(4) Concepts cannot consist of entities,

The equivocation has to take place here.

Explain how I'm equivocating on "concept" between (2) and (4), and why both aren't true of one or the other senses of "concept" you think I'm employing.

Whatever the material neurological analog of a concept might be in the brain(2), it is not identical with the epistemological use to which a concept is put (4) which often refer to entities outside the brain. Or perhaps the equivocation is the phrase "exists in the mind". Concepts exist in the mind but they 'consist' of referents (often entities) which usually do not.

(2) Sums of parts are conceptual groupings.

(3) Conceptual groupings exist in the mind.

Same for this.

Same as above.

Of course it isn't. But altonhare denies (4), and (4) follows from 1-3.

Altonhare is ... beyond the scope of my post.

Thanks Plasmatic, that's the most direct treatment of this issue I've ever seen in Rand's corpus. What's the source?

The source is Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology 2nd Ed Appendix—Entities and Their Makeup.

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Hey cmd, before I respond I want to say I appreciate your constructive criticism and commentary.

The form of one of these existential claims is more: "I will verify whether there exists an X such that it has such and such properties."

You are not, in this case, talking about a particular thing. You conceptualizing based on particular things you have already observed. You're guessing that you may observe in the future something that is hard, round, etc. Can a thing be both hard like wood and round like a balloon? You're not talking about verifying the existence of a particular thing.Then you stumble across a baseball. Did you verify the baseball existed? No, you just observed it and it happens to share conceptual characteristics with things you have already observed. The baseball is a particular thing that exists. Your concepts of round and hard are just characteristics of things you have observed before.

I am simply arguing that you do not and cannot verify whether a particular thing exists.

When I ask, "does my keyboard exist?", that's what I'm asking: Does there exist an object such that it is a keyboard and it belongs to me? This is an important semantic distinction between your reading of existential claims and mine, I think. To verify the existence of the object I go out, look for an object that satisfies those criteria, then pat myself on the back. Note that this is not trying to prove "existence exists". There is a distinction between the fact of existence as such and the existence of individual existents which you don't appear to be making.

I'm making the distinction between verifying the existence of a particular thing and simply observing that which happens to share conceptual characteristics with things you have already observed.

Well, you're right - we don't carry around objects in our heads. So I'm not comparing two distinct objects and fallaciously identifying like in your example. Rather, I carry around the criteria for applying a predicate, and when I observe an entity that satisfies the criteria for the predicate, I've verified the existential claim that there exists an X such that (whatever the predicate specifies).

You may have verified that there is an entity with such and such characteristics, but you didn't verify whether *a particular thing* exists.

My claim is that we use reason to construct our ontologies from percepts. Yours seems to be that our ontologies are direct, perceptual determinations on top of which we build an apparatus of hierarchical conceptual groupings via reason. I have three objections.

I. Existence is not a perceptual determination.

Wax argument (paraphrasing Descartes)

Take a piece of wax. Melt it. It changes in color, shape, extension, smell, texture temperature, etc. But I know that it's the same piece of wax. My senses tell me that the object on the table has nothing in common with the object I put into the fire, but my reason tells me that it's the same one. Because I changed all my percepts of the object, but maintained my awareness of the same object's existence, I must not grasp the object's existence as a perceptual determination, but rather as a rational determination justified by percepts.

First off, I don't really understand the distinction you're trying to draw between us. I take in direct percepts that define my ontology and then draw deductions/conclusions from that. You construct your ontology from percepts. So we both build our ontologies from percepts.

Second off, I agree that existence is not a perceptual determination. I've been pounding on that, in fact. I observe that which exists. I don't determine, verify, etc. if *this* thing exists. I observe it. That's my whole argument against people talking about verifying whether X exists. If they have not observed X then X is not something particular and since everything that exists is something particular, they are not verifying whether X exists.

You might say that the mental conceptualization represented by X exists. But when you stumble upon the baseball you cannot make the leap to saying you verified *it* (qua it) exists.

I have observed a balloon and a block. I felt and saw sharp edges on the block but not on the balloon. I refer to this comparison as "round" versus "blocky". I also felt that the balloon was squishy/soft, I could push in on it. The block I could not. I refer to this comparison by describing the balloon as "soft" and the block as "hard".

I wonder if there is an object that is both round and hard. I don't think there's any reason not, so I guess there is one. I discover a baseball. It is both round and hard. I did not verify whether *the* baseball existed. I simply discovered something which I could describe via previous conceptualizations. The fact that I guessed right is good luck or good intuition.

Uncertainty argument.

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) Whether or not an object exists is a perceptual determination.

(3) It is impossible to doubt a perceptual determination.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

You have to reject one of the premises. (1) is obviously true, so that means either we reject your claim (2), or the veridicality of our perceptions, something Rand refused to give up.

2 is absolutely not my claim. Entities exist whether we perceive them or not. I observe that which exists doesn't mean that which I don't observe doesn't exist.

II. Groups of entities are not concepts.

(1) Groups of entities consist of entities.

(2) Concepts exist in the mind.

(3) That which exists in the mind cannot consist of entities.

(4) Concepts cannot consist of entities. (2&3)

(5) Groups of entities cannot be concepts. (4&1)

Your first statement is misconceived. You are misusing the word "consist". 'A' group is a concept, a mental construct, and cannot be said to "consist" of anything. This is why it contradicts your correct statement (4). Concepts, by definition, do not "consist of" entities.

"Groups of entities" do not consist of entities. Its a concept, a mental association of entities.

III. Some objects are reducible to their parts.

(1) There exist entities that are nothing more than the sum of their parts.

(2) Sums of parts are conceptual groupings.

(3) Conceptual groupings exist in the mind.

(4) Sums of parts exist in the mind. (2&3)

(5) There exist objects which exist in the mind. (4&1)

Again, you have to reject a premise, since you explicitly deny (5). (1) is just manifestly obvious (see below), while 2 and 3 are your claims.

Why is this contradictory? There are objects which have parts, which can in turn be objects.

The problem here is the way you're using the word "object" or synonymously "entity". When we point at something and name it (treat it as an object) it is taken at face value. It is a single standalone thing. When you start talking about *how* it was made, *what* it is made of, etc. you are describing and conceptualizing. You point at a table and say "table". The ET just sees one standalone thing. The table is an object. The ET knows nothing about what it is made of, how it was made, what it's used for, etc. When you talk about what the table is made of you are conceptualizing it, i.e. you are using the word "table" to refer to the concept of cutting wood into specific shapes and putting it together so people can eat off it... etc. When talking about table qua table, or any entity qua entity, it is not "made of parts". In the primary sense an entity is simply that which you point at and has shape. There is no caveat for being a "sum of its parts". As soon as you talk about it being a sum of other entities you are dealing with a concept and not an object. You are dealing with the concept of atoms bonding or chopping trees etc. No entity, in the primary sense, is a "sum of parts". In the primary sense "entity" encompasses a single distinguishing characteristic, shape.

(1) A music box is an object.

(2) Gears are objects

(3) A music box is composed of gears.

(4) An object is composed of objects.

I don't understand how you can deny (4) with a straight face. It forces you to deny one of the trivially true claims in 1-3. Such an implausible position really requires some actual argument - because despite complaining about my apparantly unjustified skepticism, you haven't actually provided a single warrant for your epistemology. You've just asserted its truth.

The problem here is in (3). You went from music box qua music box in (1) to music box that was made by putting these entities (gears) together in this specific way in (3), which is explicitly a concept. The act of putting together the music box with gears is conceptual. This is an equivocation between music box the object and music box the concept.

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The problem here is in (3). You went from music box qua music box in (1) to music box that was made by putting these entities (gears) together in this specific way in (3), which is explicitly a concept. The act of putting together the music box with gears is conceptual. This is an equivocation between music box the object and music box the concept.

Altonhare is not applying Objectivist thought correctly, and I wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that he advocating a position consistent with Objectivism here.

The act of perceiving, identifying and naming a particular object as a music box is a conceptual act. A concept means its referent(s) and all of its attributes, known and unknown. As the excerpt from ITOE Appendix above shows, a part is a type of attribute. Regarding an entity as a perceptual primary and an entity as abstraction comprised of parts as if they were two separate phenomena is simply ludicrous. They are the same. There is not even a metaphysical vs. epistemological distinction to be made, they are both epistemological perspectives on the same concept.

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Altonhare is not applying Objectivist thought correctly, and I wouldn't want anyone to get the impression that he advocating a position consistent with Objectivism here.

The act of perceiving, identifying and naming a particular object as a music box is a conceptual act. A concept means its referent(s) and all of its attributes, known and unknown. As the excerpt from ITOE Appendix above shows, a part is a type of attribute. Regarding an entity as a perceptual primary and an entity as abstraction comprised of parts as if they were two separate phenomena is simply ludicrous. They are the same. There is not even a metaphysical vs. epistemological distinction to be made, they are both epistemological perspectives on the same concept.

Concepts can indeed refer to attributes.

The problem we have here is that "collection of entities" refers to some attribute of entities such as proximity. Since attributes cannot perform actions we cannot logically use concepts such as groups/collections in a sentence as if they were entities. Often we do this anyway as a convenient shorthand and, if the terminology and the abstraction is familiar enough, no meaning is lost.

On the other hand, the entity itself is what you see before you, something you take at face value. Your understanding of the entity (how it was made, how it was put together, what it is used for...) is in your mind. The abstraction/conceptualization in your mind cannot perform actions or be acted upon. You cannot kick "it". It makes no sense to. You can kick the entity, the man or the bee or the dog. You cannot kick your mental association between entities, no matter how strong your mental association may be.

Edited by altonhare

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The solid and the liquid are in a sense different objects, which is why we refer to one as solid and one as liquid. The difference is plain, as is the similarity. The stuff that was solid was turned to liquid by melting it. The persistence of the stuff is the similarity, or underlying unity. That persistence was perceived, not reasoned. In this example, if one stood by and witnessed the entire process of melting then even that causation was perceptually determined. There is no need for, and no room here for rationality to determine anything, or do anything at all.

I don't think you're grappling with the main thrust of the argument, which is that if we change all of the perceptual qualities and still know it's the same object, that knowledge can't be a perceptual determination. Take a more radical example, boiling water. We know the water and the steam produced by boiling are the same material, but this isn't something we become aware of automatically. We need to reason about it.

No, that is an incomplete description of what is happening...Perception is not fallible because it isn't rational, it isn't volitional, it is automatic.

I still don't understand. I'm not arguing here that our perceptions are fallible or whatever, just that I can doubt the veridicality of something's existence - not my perceptions in general - which you seem to agree with albeit in a limited way. Really, it seems like you're denying (2): "Whether or not an object exists is a perceptual determination," insofar you talk about doubting the existence of a pool of water on the horizon as a rational determination. Which is what I'm trying to motivate with this argument.

Whatever the material neurological analog of a concept might be in the brain(2), it is not identical with the epistemological use to which a concept is put (4) which often refer to entities outside the brain. Or perhaps the equivocation is the phrase "exists in the mind". Concepts exist in the mind but they 'consist' of referents (often entities) which usually do not.

I mean, if Altonhare wants to adopt the position that concepts refer to things outside the brain which are entities, have parts etc etc, then that's fine. The problem is that denies all this. So under his views, the reading you give (4) - an epistemic one that refers to the referent of the concept in question - is impossible. I'll grant that under your reading this argument is no good, because your reading tacitly acknowledges the conclusion that there really are groups of things in the world.

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I don't think you're grappling with the main thrust of the argument, which is that if we change all of the perceptual qualities and still know it's the same object, that knowledge can't be a perceptual determination. Take a more radical example, boiling water. We know the water and the steam produced by boiling are the same material, but this isn't something we become aware of automatically. We need to reason about it.

I agree that some knowledge is a conclusion of a process of reason. Some things that are perceived can only be understood in terms of a sophisticated reasoning process. But if only some of the perceptual qualities are changed, or all of the perceptual qualities are changed but not all at once then persistent existence is perceptual. If you mean instances where we have to appeal to some principle such as the conservation of mass in order to account for the perceptual magic of the water that disappears when it boils away, sure I agree this is an application of reason. But that only makes the issue indirect because ultimately the principle of conservation of mass is rooted in other, prior observations and reasoning.

I still don't understand. I'm not arguing here that our perceptions are fallible or whatever, just that I can doubt the veridicality of something's existence - not my perceptions in general - which you seem to agree with albeit in a limited way. Really, it seems like you're denying (2): "Whether or not an object exists is a perceptual determination," insofar you talk about doubting the existence of a pool of water on the horizon as a rational determination. Which is what I'm trying to motivate with this argument.

If "doubt the veridicality of something's existence" is taken seriously, it means doubting your senses because your senses are doubtful. If "doubt the veridicality of something's existence" is understood trivially, it means doubting your senses because you can, you have that power. The remaining argument is the argument from illusion, which you have put forward with the mirage example. Illusions are resolved by directly or indirectly getting more data. In the mirage example, this can be walking toward the illusion (direct), or recalling stories of others' encounters with mirages, or recalling the principles of optics (both indirect).

So I stay on track, and for convenience I requote the orginal argument here:

Uncertainty argument.

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) Whether or not an object exists is a perceptual determination.

(3) It is impossible to doubt a perceptual determination.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

You have to reject one of the premises. (1) is obviously true, so that means either we reject your claim (2), or the veridicality of our perceptions, something Rand refused to give up.

Is (1) meant to apply to actually existing objects, or theories (rational determinations) about possible objects? Since you bring up the mirage, I assume the latter. Then (1) is true.

Much can be said about (2) which I have skipped over. Rand said "a sensation does not tell man what exists, but only that it exists." Perceptual presentation of water on the horizon is both true (it really does look like that due to the optics) and false (it is not water). Sensations tell us that something exists but not that it is an object. Percepts make sense of sensations and present objects to consciousness. It is the task of consciousness to apply nonsensory (from memory or higher level reasoning) context to the interpretation of percepts as required. (2) Is true in some contexts but not others. It is usually true.

(3) Is what must be denied. It clearly is possible to doubt a perceptual determination in the trivial sense. Doubt as a conclusion (not an emotion) is clearly an act of reason which makes it volitional. But in the absence of a specific reason one should not doubt a perceptual determination. Doubt with no justification is an example of the arbitrary.

I mean, if Altonhare wants to adopt the position that concepts refer to things outside the brain which are entities, have parts etc etc, then that's fine. The problem is that denies all this. So under his views, the reading you give (4) - an epistemic one that refers to the referent of the concept in question - is impossible. I'll grant that under your reading this argument is no good, because your reading tacitly acknowledges the conclusion that there really are groups of things in the world.

Concur. I have nothing to add.

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I'm making the distinction between verifying the existence of a particular thing and simply observing that which happens to share conceptual characteristics with things you have already observed.

OK, this wasn't a distinction I understood you to be making in earlier posts. Looking back now, I understand. But remember how this all got started: "Science will never answer whether an object such that it is the sum of the Queen of England, the Washington Monument and the quarter in my pocket exists. It's an issue of conceptual analysis". And then you say: "[That's because] it is fallacious to attempt to verify whether this or that entity exists". The problem is that the object I describe in the original passage isn't ostentively identified like *this keyboard* or *that elephant" with lots of pointing and whatnot. Instead I give a definite description of the particular object identifying its salient properties, like "the queen of england", "the keyboard such that it sits on altonhare's desk" or "the man with a glass eye who lives on 42nd St". You're basically just saying that I can't point at something and deny that it exists at the same time - fine. But how is the at all responsive to cases like the ones I've given here? Why can't I verify whether or not "the keyboard that sits on altonhare's desk" exists or not?

First off, I don't really understand the distinction you're trying to draw between us. I take in direct percepts that define my ontology and then draw deductions/conclusions from that. You construct your ontology from percepts. So we both build our ontologies from percepts.

You seem to think that our ontology is something pre-rational, that we grasp immediately via perception. I think that our reason uses percepts as data with which to construct an ontology. You don't think that constructing an ontology is a rational process and I do. I don't understand your confusion.

Second off, I agree that existence is not a perceptual determination. I've been pounding on that, in fact. I observe that which exists. I don't determine, verify, etc. if *this* thing exists. I observe it.

Fine, whatever. I was trying to use terminology you'd find acceptable. Just replace every instance of "perceptual determination" in my arguments with "perceptual observation". This doesn't change the actual force of the arguments in the least.

That's my whole argument against people talking about verifying whether X exists. If they have not observed X then X is not something particular and since everything that exists is something particular, they are not verifying whether X exists.

(1) "If they have not observed X then X is not something particular"

(2) "everything that exists is something particular"

(3) If something hasn't been observed, it doesn't exist. (follows from 2&1)

Unless you're willing to endorse something like Berkeley's immaterialism you need to take a step back. You literally just endorsed the notion that if I don't observe something, it doesn't exist. And (1) is just plainly false as the example of definite descriptions shows - "the keyboard such that it sits on altonhare's desk" is a particular object, even if I never see it.

And you don't ever speak to the wax argument, btw.

2 is absolutely not my claim. Entities exist whether we perceive them or not. I observe that which exists doesn't mean that which I don't observe doesn't exist.

First of all, you basically just implicitly endorsed before that what you don't observe doesn't exist. I don't get why you're hesitating now. And second, don't be intentionally dense. Here's the slightly edited version of the argument:

Uncertainty argument.

(1) It is possible to doubt whether or not an object exists.

(2) One grasps the existence of an object directly via perception.

(3) It is impossible to doubt a perception.

(4) It is impossible to doubt whether or not an object exists. (2&3, contradicts 1)

Now the intended, epistemic reading of (2) should be plain.

Your first statement is misconceived. You are misusing the word "consist". 'A' group is a concept, a mental construct, and cannot be said to "consist" of anything...

Aight. Ditch (1). Now nothing exists which has parts. I hope you're happy. This is a perfectly acceptable position in mereology referred to as mereological nihilism. Of course, combined with your notion that the only entities are those directly grasped by perception, you put us in the remarkably awkward position of saying that all of the objects we interact with on a daily basis don't have parts. See below.

The problem here is the way you're using the word "object" or synonymously "entity"... In the primary sense "entity" encompasses a single distinguishing characteristic, shape.

But you don't justify or provide an argument for ANY of this! Why should I make this bizarre distinction between the table qua entity, which doesn't have parts, and the table qua furniture which does? What philosophical work does this do or what explanatory power does it have? You wriggle out of the argument by making your notion of "entity" so epistemically thin that all it consists of is the direct perception of shape. This has all kinds of peculiar implications. For instance, per you, we never see pieces of furniture, swarms or bags because those are all CONCEPTS and not ENTITIES, and don't perceive concepts. You say in a different post that "You can kick the entity, the man or the bee or the dog" - but you can't even kick the dog, just the entity, the shape which you have associated conceptually to a bunch of dog-like attributes. And I can't even say that I see entities with properties other than shape, if shape is the only content entities qua entities have. If I say "I see something sharp", I can't be referring to an entity. After all, entities just have shape, not properties like sharpness. But I can't see concepts. So I can't ever see anything sharp. Given the outlandish implications of your distinction, why should it be preferred over the common sense notion that there are a bunch of objects out there in the universe, some of which have parts which can in turn be objects? Your reply to the music box business perfectly exemplifies what I'm driving at here.

This is an equivocation between music box the object and music box the concept.

The fact that your distinction generates equivocations like this in everyday speech, that is, that I can't speak univocally about the thing I perceive and the thing which has parts, is a prima facie reason to reject it.

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