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Thoughts on an article on the concept "universe"? by Alex S.

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It is discussions like this on Objectivist boards that lead me to believe that "Objectivists" are morphing into a conglomerate of some reasonable people and some wackos.

I find your remarks to be rather disconcerting. Exactly which Objectivists are you slurring, and why?

p.s. I may have little time, if any at all, for this forum today, but I will be looking for your response when I return. You have made a serious charge which needs to be defended, or retracted.

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I have difficulty with the universe as just a collection of things. Isn't it more than that?

No.

Rather, it has to have some attribute that enables it to be the "container" of all things.
Why do "things" need a container? Are you saying that we cannot have existence unless there is a container for existence?

To say the univerese is a collection presupposes that is has to be something specific apart and distinct from its identity as a collection of things I would think. Having trouble conceptualizing this.

I have a large collection of books. Is my collection "something specific apart and distinct from its identity as a collection of [books]?"

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Please explain exactly what you mean by "mass." Be specific.

Atoms of elements all have an atomic mass. When I say the universe has mass, it is because the universe is the totality of all existing things. Since my body and presumably other people's bodies and laptops consist of atoms, they also have total masses. When you add up all of the masses of everything in the universe, you get the mass of the universe. I never said anything about weight which is the result of the pull of gravity on certain masses. As to the claim that the universe has size, it is quite simple: I have size, my laptop has size, and so do you. We are all in the universe (or rather a part of the universe). The universe must then have size. *Whether at any given moment the specific size of the universe can be determined is unclear to me. But it does have size, just as it has mass. As to shape, it seems that one would have to be viewing the universe from outside of the universe to view its shape, which is impossible.

But, yes, any talk of the universe not having size or mass is nonsense. This is what bothers me, Stephen: words have meanings - and if someone wants to say that mass has one meaning when applied to me or my laptop, but not when it comes to adding up all the people and laptops and other things that exist - then they are engaging in nonsense. (And when engaging in nonsense becomes extensive - as it sometimes does among so called Objectivists, and, of course, other people - they then can be safely called "wackos."

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I find your remarks to be rather disconcerting. Exactly which Objectivists are you slurring, and why?

p.s. I may have little time, if any at all,  for this forum today, but I will be looking for your response when I return. You have made a serious charge which needs to be defended, or retracted.

I am not slurring any Objectivists. I am slurring "Objectivists." Notice that I put it in quotes, which means - sarcastically - that I am actually referring to non-Objectivists - who happen to be posting on an Objectivist message board.

I am "slurring" anynone who willfully is engaging in nonsense. To any whom to the shoe fits . . .

P.S. And please don't take it to mean that I mean you, Stephen. You seem to be even further versed and grounded in Objectivism than I am. But perhaps I am much less tolerant than you. The things I am certain of I am certain of. The word "size" has a meaning. So does "mass." I don't change that meaning just because I am talking about something very big.

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To say that the universe has size and mass, doesn't seem to say anything new or important, and it perhaps confuses the issue.

The universe is not an entity in its own right. It is merely the sum of individual entities/existents. It does not gain any attributes over and above the attributes of the entities/existents that it is composed of.

Since the univserse is merely the sum of all entities, when you say that the universe has mass, it means only that the sum of all entities has mass. Can a sum have mass? The sum of masses, is a mass, yes, but the sum itself doesn't have mass. Nor does a sum as a sum have any attributes, which would then include size, by the same logic. This is why phrasing it the way you did, has potential to confuse people.

So, if what you mean is that the sum of the masses of the entities that compose the universe, is a mass... well duh. Thus, nothing important is being said.

If what you mean is that the sum, as a sum, has mass, this would be wrong.

Since the phrasing doesn't indicate which of these is meant, the reader is ambiguously trapped between something unimportant and something wrong. Thus, confusion.

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So, if what you mean is that the sum of the masses of the entities that compose the universe, is a mass... well duh.  Thus, nothing important is being said.

You have hit the nail on the head EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!

I admit I have said nothing important. One golf ball has mass, so does a whole bucket of them.

The point is that, in this particular thread, nothing important needs to be said.

Being a fly-swatter is not important. Sometimes, when a silly statement is uttered, a reasonable person just needs to state the simple and obvious, like I did. I really am sorry that I didn't have anything more dramatic to say. But the circumstances just didn't require any heroic speech.

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When you add up all of the masses of everything in the universe, you get the mass of the universe.  I never said anything about weight which is the result of the pull of gravity on certain masses.  As to the claim that the universe has size, it is quite simple: I have size, my laptop has size, and so do you.  We are all in the universe (or rather a part of the universe).  The universe must then have size.  *Whether at any given moment the specific size of the universe can be determined is unclear to me.  But it does have size, just as it has mass.  As to shape, it seems that one would have to be viewing the universe from outside of the universe to view its shape, which is impossible.

This illustrates the importance of stating (and checking) one's premises. The Durande, answer me this: in your view, does the universe have spatial boundaries? Does it have an "edge"?

If the answer to this question is "Yes," then you must justify this belief of yours, as you would have the burden of proof. If the answer is "No," then you must justify how it makes sense to say that an unbounded universe can only have a finite amount of "stuff" (an idea which is on the face of it unintelligible). Either way, and as it stands right now, you are simply asserting your beliefs -- and the alleged "wacko" nature of those who would disagree -- without stating and justifying your premises.

If the universe had spatial boundaries, I agree that it would be absurd to deny size to the universe. But I do not believe that the universe has spatial boundaries, and it is this belief of mine which underlies my denial that the concepts of "shape," "size," or "mass" are applicable to the universe.

The essay which was the impetus for this thread was authored by myself. It explains why an unbounded universe does not have a "size" nor a specific quantity of entities -- and why this implies no infinity or contradiction whatsoever. The link to my essay is:

http://www.geocities.com/rationalphysics/U...nded_Finite.htm

If you have not done so already, I encourage you to read it before you make any additional use of epithets to describe those such as myself.

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Since the univserse is merely the sum of all entities, when you say that the universe has mass, it means only that the sum of all entities has mass.

It is a classic case of the fallacy of composition to assume that, since the entities we observe within the universe have a mass (or size), therefore the totality must have a mass (or size). If the totality lacks a characteristic that the components possess -- e.g., spatial boundaries -- then the inference from part to whole is invalid. One must first justify that the whole is similar enough to its parts to warrant the inference -- which, through all the rhetoric so far, has nowhere been done.

-- Alex

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It is a classic case of the fallacy of composition to assume that, since the entities we observe within the universe have a mass (or size), therefore the totality must have a mass (or size).  If the totality lacks a characteristic that the components possess -- e.g., spatial boundaries -- then the inference from part to whole is invalid.  One must first justify that the whole is similar enough to its parts to warrant the inference -- which, through all the rhetoric so far, has nowhere been done.

-- Alex

Alex I want to say I really enjoyed your article.

I understand the fallacy of composition as it applies to the universe. It has been made clear that the universe itself lacks characteristics of the entities within it. Now we know what the universe does not have, I want to explore what the universe DOES have i.e., what are its characteristics, attributes etc in the positive sense.? Is all we can say about the universe is that it is a collection of all entities but it does not share those entities characteristics other than the fact that it exists? This almost makes the concept of "universe" meaningless. The universe is subject to the Law of Identity. Then what is its identiy in POSITVE terms rather than stating what it is not

Michael

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It is a classic case of the fallacy of composition to assume that, since the entities we observe within the universe have a mass (or size), therefore the totality must have a mass (or size). If the totality lacks a characteristic that the components possess -- e.g., spatial boundaries -- then the inference from part to whole is invalid.

Right, which was my reasoning for saying that "the sum as a sum has mass" is wrong.

I havn't actually gotten around to reading your essay, but If I understand your position, I agree with it completely. Are you working on any other interesting theories?

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You have hit the nail on the head EXACTLY!!!!!!!!!!!

I admit I have said nothing important. One golf ball has mass, so does a whole bucket of them.

The point is that, in this particular thread, nothing important needs to be said.

Being a fly-swatter is not important.  Sometimes, when a silly statement is uttered, a reasonable person just needs to state the simple and obvious, like I did.  I really am sorry that I didn't have anything more dramatic to say.  But the circumstances just didn't require any heroic speech.

I think you may be underemphasizing the importance of keeping a crystal clear understanding of everything one deals with. While you may not think this issue of great importance, a physicist would probobly disagree.

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...

Is all we can say about the universe is that it is a collection of all entities but it does not share those entities characteristics other than the fact that it exists? This almost makes the concept of "universe" meaningless.

...

It certainly is not meaningless. As I see it, one of its primary purposes is economy: it is far easier to say and think 'universe' than it is to say and think 'the sum of all that exists'.

This is exactly what is being discussed in another thread (a tangent discussion in the thread titled, "Defining 'initiation of force'"), and your question emphasizes why thinking is more easily achieved by using concepts over phrases, whenever possible.

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It certainly is not meaningless. As I see it, one of its primary purposes is economy: it is far easier to say and think 'universe' than it is to say and think 'the sum of all that exists'.

Does this mean that the concept "universe" is more of an epistemological concept rather than a metaphysical concept. Metaphysically, what is a sum anyway--its nothing but a collection of stuff.

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Alex I want to say I really enjoyed your article.

I understand the fallacy of composition as it applies to the universe. It has been made clear that the universe itself lacks characteristics of the entities within it. Now we know what the universe does not have, I want to explore what the universe DOES have i.e., what are its characteristics, attributes etc in the positive sense.? Is all we can say about the universe is that it is a collection of all entities but it does not share those entities characteristics other than the fact that it exists? This almost makes the concept of "universe" meaningless. The universe is subject to the Law of Identity. Then what is its identiy in POSITVE terms rather than stating what it is not

Michael

Something VERY crucial needs to be said here: Entities do not simply exist within the universe. They are the universe. THAT is the key to this debate. You guys are thinking of the universe as a container. It is not. It is things. *To paraphrase Ayn Rand: The universe is everything that exists.

She never said, and to my way of thinking, never could have thought of the universe as a container of everything. The universe is everything. (That is, the sum total of everything.

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Alex I want to say I really enjoyed your article.

Thanks, Michael. I'm glad.

I understand the fallacy of composition as it applies to the universe. It has been made clear that the universe itself lacks characteristics of the entities within it. Now we know what the universe does not have, I want to explore what the universe DOES have i.e., what are its characteristics, attributes etc in the positive sense.? Is all we can say about the universe is that it is a collection of all entities but it does not share those entities characteristics other than the fact that it exists? This almost makes the concept of "universe" meaningless. The universe is subject to the Law of Identity. Then what is its identiy in POSITVE terms rather than stating what it is not

You raise a good question; it's one that I've thought about a lot. There are two issues here: 1) what attributes the universe possesses as a whole, and 2) whether the universe as a whole needs to be able to be ascribed attributes in order to possess identity.

As for 1), I don't know of any attribute that can be ascribed to the universe as a whole (or at the very least, none the philosophy alone can ascribe). To quote Ayn Rand:

"[D]o you know what we can ascribe to the universe as such, apart from scientific discovery? Only those fundamentals that we can grasp about existence. Not in the sense of switching contexts and ascribing particular characteristics to the universe, but we can say: since everything possesses identity, the universe possesses identity. Since everything is finite, the universe is finite. But we can't ascribe space or time or a lot of other things to the universe as a whole" (ITOE, p. 273).

The universe is everything that exists; it is not an entity in it's own right (and it is entities from whence we get the idea of attribute to begin with). It's just not at all clear how the universe could possess a "particular characteristic." Observe that Ayn Rand above is maintaining that, qua philosopher, we cannot ascribe "particular characteristics" to the universe. We can say many things positively about the universe -- it is governed by natural laws X, Y, and Z, for example, or subsumes entities A, B, and C -- but to ascribe a characteristic to the universe as such is something that I do not know how can be justified.

As for 2), the universe as a whole does not need to possess a "particular characteristic" in order to have identity. Entities must have characteristics, but the universe is not an entity. But this does not mean that the universe lacks identity. On the contrary, existence is identity, and the universe obviously exists. And what exists are a multitude of entities with specific identities. This is all that is needed to give the universe as such identity: its identity is such that it subsumes entity A, natural law B, relationship C, etc.

The universe is everything that exists. As such -- and far from lacking identity -- it contains all the identity (i.e., existence) one could or should every want.

Let me know if I failed to answer your questions; if so, feel free to re-ask them.

-- Alex

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Something  VERY crucial needs to be said here:  Entities do not simply exist within the universe.  They are the universe.  THAT is the key to this debate. You guys are thinking of the universe as a container.  It is not.  It is things.  *To paraphrase Ayn Rand: The universe is everything that exists.

She never said, and to my way of thinking, never could have thought of the universe as a container of everything.  The universe is everything. (That is, the sum total of everything.

I am not maintaining, and nor have I read anyone on this thread as maintaining, that the universe is a "container" over and above that which exists (and if anyone did maintain this, then I disagree with them). What has been maintained -- by myself, and by Ayn Rand as well -- is that "universe" (or, as Ayn Rand stated this point, "existence") is a "collective noun" subsuming all that exists. This is not metaphysical collectivism. This is simply considering the universe as a whole.

Speaking of collections, the shoe actually is on the other foot: it is you who have been committing fallacies involved with confusing "collections" and individuals. You said:

"...any honest observer would conclude that since atoms have mass, and in the universe there are a lot of atoms, then the universe has mass."

This is a textbook example of the fallacy of composition, asserted as a claim that one would be dishonest to reject. If you do not concede that this is a logical fallacy, then I will let it be decided by the readers of this thread who is being dishonest, and who is not.

-- Alex

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I have mass, you have mass, my laptop has mass, if I keep adding these things  up until I have included everything in the universe, then the universe has mass.  Please, don't be ridiculous.  Ayn Rand herself said that the universe is the total of everything that exists, but it doesn't take her to strengthen this argument...

This last point should be much stronger: "Ayn Rand herself" would not agree with this argument, and in fact would by all indications reject it. Her statements on this issue are of no help to The Durande. As I quoted Ayn Rand in my essay, and as I quoted her earlier in this thread:

"[D]o you know what we can ascribe to the universe as such, apart from scientific discovery? Only those fundamentals that we can grasp about existence. Not in the sense of switching contexts and ascribing particular characteristics to the universe, but we can say: since everything possesses identity, the universe possesses identity. Since everything is finite, the universe is finite. But we can't ascribe space or time or a lot of other things to the universe as a whole" (ITOE, p.273).

To me, this clearly states that one at least needs scientific discovery -- i.e., something more than what philosophy can provide -- to ascribe "particular characteristics to the universe." (One could also interpret Ayn Rand as saying that one cannot ascribe "particular characteristics to the universe" regardless of what science says, but this is besides the point.)

Thus, let there be no doubt: contrary to what The Durande implies above, Ayn Rand's recorded statements are of no help to his attempt to philosophically deduce that "mass" is applicable to the universe.

-- Alex

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"[D]o you know what we can ascribe to the universe as such, apart from scientific discovery?  Only those fundamentals that we can grasp about existence.  Not in the sense of switching contexts and ascribing particular characteristics to the universe, but we can say: since everything possesses identity, the universe possesses identity.  Since everything is finite, the universe is finite.  But we can't ascribe space or time or a lot of other things to the universe as a whole" (ITOE, p.273).

You could not have put it ANY better!!!!!

Existence has mass. So has the universe. And please, you know very well that I am not obligated to accept anyone's idea of what fallacy I am committing. I could just as easily say that by citing someone's idea of a fallacy, thatyou are making the classic argument from intimidation as described by Ayn Rand herself.

It is VERRRRRRRRRRY simple: I have mass. (undeniable). I am part of the universe. (undeniable). The universe, therefore, has some quantity of mass. (undeniable) I am sorry if these facts perturb you. But if one of them is wrong, please tell me which one and how. And please, use a reality-based argument- not citing some invented fallacy that I am committing. Resorting to naming fallacies rather than referring to reality is a form of rationalism. Please try to tie everything you say to the world, not to other abstractions like "fallacies."

Until you prove that I am not part of the universe, or that I do not have mass, you will have said nothing that I need to respond to. I am out of this thread until I see something written that is relevant to whether I have mass or am or am not part of the universe.

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How could one know, short of omniscience, that everything which exists has mass (or any other specific attribute)?

The only thing we can say of everything which exists is that it exists and has identity.

OH MY GODDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD!

Lets just say it reeeeeeeeaaaaaaallllllyyyy simply:

I really dont care if there are some imaginary things (?) that don't have mass.

The fact is that I have mass.

I am a part of the universe (whether you like it or not).

Therefore, the universe has some mass.

You see, even if you add a lot of zeroes (your imaginary things which dont have mass) to my mass (on earth it weighs about 188 pounds) on the moon about a 6th of that I believe (It is still the same mass), you still get a universe that has mass. I am not separate from the universe, I am a part of it. Add all the zeros to the atomic masses of all the atoms in me and my laptop and YOU STLL GET A UNIVERSE THAT HAS SOME MASS. I use capitals here because I don't possibly know ANY other ways that I can say it than I have already said on this thread.

Why is this so hard to understand?????

Please people.

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Existence has mass.  So has the universe.  And please, you know very well that I am not obligated to accept anyone's idea of what  fallacy I am committing.  I could just as easily say that by citing someone's idea of a fallacy, thatyou are making the classic argument from intimidation as described by Ayn Rand herself.

It is VERRRRRRRRRRY simple: I have mass. (undeniable). I am part of the universe. (undeniable).  The universe, therefore, has some quantity of mass. (undeniable)  I am sorry if these facts perturb you. But if one of them is wrong, please tell me which one and how.  And please, use a reality-based argument- not citing some invented fallacy that I am committing.  Resorting to naming fallacies rather than referring to reality is a form of rationalism.  Please try to tie everything you say to the world, not to other abstractions like "fallacies."

Until you prove that I am not part of the universe, or that I do not have mass, you will have said nothing that I need to respond to. I am out of this thread until I see something written that is relevant to whether I have mass or am or am not part of the universe.

The virtue of my position is that my response need only involve stating the issues explicitly. I ask the readers of this thread to consider them for themselves:

1) Whether it constitutes the "argument from intimidation" to cite and explain a well-established logical fallacy in order to expose an opponent's errors;

2) Whether The Durande's post once again confuses a) the conclusion that the universe has an particular thing within it that possesses a mass, with b] the conclusion that the universe as a whole possesses the characteristic of mass;

3) Whether this confusion is at the heart of the fallacy of composition.

(And let us not forget all the other objections/proofs of my position I have brought up within this thread that The Durande apparently believes he can ignore until I try to prove that he massless, or that he lives outside the universe.)

-- Alex

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2) Whether The Durande's post once again confuses a) the conclusion that the universe has an particular thing within it that possesses a mass, with b] the conclusion that the universe as a whole possesses the characteristic of mass;

-- Alex

Once again, and for the last time, I am not merely "within" the universe. I am a "section" of the universe. The universe is every thing that exists. My cells are a part of the universe. The universe does not "contain" my cells; the universe "consists" of my cells (and cells of others and atoms and also sub-atomic particles.) The universe is NOT like my house, which has me "in" it. The universe is "my house and me and my furniture and the dust."

The universe is NOT a container with things "within" it. The universe IS the THINGS.

Since a golf ball has mass, so does a pile of them. And there isn't any "well established fallacy" that can blank out facts, as far as I know.

Ayn Rand would flip over in her grave if she could see what you and others have written on this thread. In fact, I am going to take a road trip up to the Kensico Cemetery to make sure the ground in front of her headstone is not a mess. Catch you when I get back.

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I think The Durande is treating mass as different to other attributes. Just because there are yellow things in the universe, he would not say the universe as whole is yellow, but he thinks it is OK with mass because mass is something you add up.

The mass of a set of N objects is the sum of the masses of the individual objects. So you can attribute mass to the universe as a whole by observing only one object (his laptop) that has mass. But Alex is saying it is not valid to consider the universe as a set of N objects in the first place, because you are stealing the concept of "number."

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I think The Durande is treating mass as different to other attributes. Just because there are yellow things in the universe, he would not say the universe as whole is yellow, but he thinks it is OK with mass because mass is something you add up.

The mass of a set of N objects is the sum of the masses of the individual objects. So you can attribute mass to the universe as a whole by observing only one object (his laptop) that has mass. But Alex is saying it is not valid to consider the universe as a set of N objects in the first place, because you are stealing the concept of "number."

Well then, Leonard Peikoff also stole the concept of number. Or , more exactly the concept of "total" which includes the concept of "number." He wrote "The universe is the total of that which exists. . ." Quoted from the Ayn Rand Lexicon, which cites his "Philosophy of Objectivism" lecture series.

****Notice that it does NOT say that the universe merely contains the total of that which exists. He said it IS the total of that which exists. I don't see how it could be any clearer. The universe IS me, my cells, my laptop, its molecules and atoms.

All of those things are things BASED ON THE FACT THAT THEY HAVE MASS. Refer to any periodic table of the elements, it will also tell you the atomic masses for any element.

Now, if you want to make the argument that, while the universe IS me, my cells, my laptop, its atoms, the atoms in my cells, the dust on my laptop, and these things DO have mass, but the universe which IS all of these things combined somehow DOES NOT HAVE MASS, then you are free to do so. But from this point onward you can be sure that you are wrong. If you are not willing to use Peikoff's definition of the Universe, or allow my assertion that I, my laptop and everything else has mass, or further admit that the Universe is all of these mass-having things and much more, then what is the point?

The proper Objectivist standpoint is that the universe (the sum total of everything which exists) has mass. The universe is NOT a "diferent kind of thing." The universe IS everything. Everthing has mass.

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