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The Logical Leap by David Harriman


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The added underlining shows that these two statements do reconcile.

Where I saw a contradiction was with McCaskey saying that Peikoff "preferred to have it stand as is", and Peikoff saying that he had to agree to release it unedited, so as to avoid the charge of conspiracy. I do believe Peikoff was put in a tight spot, though, and given the choice between 1) withholding the email, 2) rewriting it, or 3) simply agreeing to it as is, he made the right choice.

But isn't there a 4th choice? Couldn't Peikoff have made a counter-offer to McCaskey, that he would allow the release of the unedited email, only if it is was published with a follow-up explanation to provide a better context to the public? That would have made the most sense. Did he have some reason not to do that? Maybe he didn't think the situation would blow up like it did, so he didn't want to waste any more energy on it. What do you think?

Edited by brian0918
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My speculation on this is that McCaskey set the condition, expecting Peikoff to request an edit, and Peikoff acquiesced, without asking to do so--either because it didn't occur to him or he simply didn't care to do so.

But it does not matter whether Peikoff had the option to make an edit, or whether he knew he had the option. Once released with his acquiescence, he could have issued a clarifying statement immediately, instead what he said was that that letter would be his only statement.

(So frankly I see no rationale for the people who somehow argue it is wrong to analyze Peikoff's stance on the basis of what was originally a private e-mail, given that he chose to stand by it without alteration when it did, with his foreknowledge and acquiescence, come out. This is one of those points that certain people I've run into elsewhere insist on hammering on, and it simply doesn't matter.)

Now we have the new statement which resolves absolutely none of the factual issue that supposedly is at the heart of this (McCaskey's alleged deviations from Objectivism), but does come across as petty and vindictive. The one positive thing I got from it was the evidence that Peikoff presented that he didn't routinely work to push people off the ARI board simply because he disliked them, but unfortunately we still have nothing but bare assertions on his part that McCaskey is not an Objectivist. I believe that this statement has merely fanned the flames of this dispute, and brings nothing to the table that could be used to settle it.

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Also in that Noodlefood thread, T Norsen (physics prof. Travis Norsen presumably) points out that McCaskey wrote he "rarely spoken with Dr. Peikoff and never about this book. He did not seek me out for a first-hand discussion; he indicates here he is not interested in having one. I presume he formed his judgments based on whichever emails Mr. Harriman forwarded to him...". This implies David Harriman had a role in forming Peikoff's opinions by being an agent of distortion. This doesn't excuse Peikoff, but there is another player involved here that has escaped much scrutiny.

Referring to characters from Shakespeare's Othello as analogs, there is possibility that Harriman has played the role of Iago to Peikoff's Othello and McCaskey's Desdemona in order to protect himself and his own status. Peikoff has given Harriman credit for teaching everything he knows about physics in the audio lecture version of this material. A deficiency in the theory due to Harriman teaching Peikoff an essentialized version of the history of physics would be mainly Harriman's fault.

Harriman does not have a good track record in physics in my own judgement due to having indulged in the "Theory of Elementary Waves" nonsense.

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If I recall correctly, Harriman was a TEW detractor, and the late Stephen Speicher was the TEW advocate.

He switched teams then. At the end of "The Philosophic Corruption of Physics" he described the theory of elementary waves as "a very promising" approach.

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It would appear that my recollection was correct (though it doesn't disprove the possibility that at some time he was a TEWer).

This article gets us back on track though. From the third paragraph:

"There is a point at which it becomes arbitrary to simply claim the existence of some unspecified error."

Indeed.

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Where I saw a contradiction was with McCaskey saying that Peikoff "preferred to have it stand as is", and Peikoff saying that he had to agree to release it unedited, so as to avoid the charge of conspiracy. ...

Hi Brian,

These don't contradict, either. McCaskey did not say why Dr. Peikoff "preferred to have it stand as is." Perhaps McCaskey did not know why, as they appear to have had little communication. In any case, Peikoff just now offered his explanation.

Regarding your suggestion of a 4th option, Peikoff did not need to negotiate with McCaskey regarding publishing a follow-up explanation to provide context for his original e-mail. Peikoff' always had the option to offer a follow-up explanation, as he may judge appropriate. He chose to publish a follow-up explanation yesterday. He could file another tomorrow.

--OT

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These don't contradict, either. McCaskey did not say why Dr. Peikoff "preferred to have it stand as is." Perhaps McCaskey did not know why, as they appear to have had little communication. In any case, Peikoff just now offered his explanation.

I agree. Not a contradiction, just misleading, though probably not intentionally so.

Regarding your suggestion of a 4th option, Peikoff did not need to negotiate with McCaskey regarding publishing a follow-up explanation to provide context for his original e-mail. Peikoff' always had the option to offer a follow-up explanation, as he may judge appropriate. He chose to publish a follow-up explanation yesterday. He could file another tomorrow.

Yes. That's not significantly different from the 4th option I suggested. The point is Peikoff could have added the necessary context, while still allowing McCaskey to publish a truly "unedited" email, to avoid the charge of conspiracy.

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Personally, I consider the issue to be settled after Dr. Peikoff and Yaron Brook came out with their statements. As a board member, McCaskey needed to stand by the major products and procedures of The Ayn Rand Institute. Since he failed to do this, he had to be removed from the board. ARI is promoting Ayn Rand's philosophy and major applications of Objectivism, and board members need to be able to back that up with their personal approval. Yaron Brook indicates that they have ongoing serious discussions of all issues related to promoting Ayn Rand, so the call that they do not have such discussions is unfounded. ARI is not there to promote academic style disputes with Objectivism or its applications, it is there to promote Objectivism, so those looking for some sort of academic outlet for their discussions of Ayn Rand need to go elsewhere, and I am satisfied with their statement. I will continue to support ARI intellectually, morally, and financially (as I can afford it), and hope they do well after this outbreak of confusion.

I do think, however, that if you have not yet read "The Logical Leap" then you cannot say much else regarding how ARI or DR. Peikoff are handling themselves regarding this dispute. "The logical Leap" is a great book and I am very happy that ARI sponsored it. The book coupled with Dr. Peikoff's course, "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" solve the primary problem of induction, which answers the question of how scientists can be confident in going from the study of some items of a class and ascribe studied properties to all of that class. The answer is measurement-omission, the same answer there is for the problem of universals. Since the items in the class only differ by a measurement, a cause bringing an effect on some members of the class will have the same effect on any member of the class.

Even though I do consider the matter to be settled to my satisfaction, I will probably continue to read the William Whewell book "Theory of Scientific Method" out of personal curiosity and as a further means of assessing McCaskey's intellectual stature. It doesn't look good so far after reading the first chapter, which was an extremely rationalistic discussion about axioms and definitions in geometry. Since Whewell considers major ideas to be innate and controlling perception, he is like Kant; because he is extremely rationalistic, he is like Descartes. That is not a good combination for a student of Objectivism to be promoting, as Dr. McCaskey is doing on his website via academia.

I'm working 10 hour days throughout the week and working Saturdays, so it may be a while before I can give my report on Whewell.

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Personally, I consider the issue to be settled after Dr. Peikoff and Yaron Brook came out with their statements.
From all your public statements, it is clear that you always were on the ARI/LP side of this argument rather than on the McCaskey side. So, I assume the published statements were not addressed primarily to people like you, but to ARI supporters and donors who had expressed displeasure about this particular episode.

The real proof of the pudding then, will be the effect the statements have on those other folk. There was a little new information in the statements, but not much; so, while they might have some impact, but I doubt they have changed anyone's view in any important way. If someone were to tell me that they were a little cross at ARI or LP about this particular incident, but now feel that ARI and LP acquitted themselves with great justice and skill, I'd be surprised .

The ARI and LP have always had a set of detractors who seem obsessively focussed on being "anti" something. However, most who disagreed with ARI's handling of this incident were not like that; and, what I see now is not so much an change of heart as much as a tiredness over focusing on "what went wrong". Since ARI is the only decent Objectivist activist organization with a very broad reach across various US-based activities, the lack of a decent alternative means that many will support it rather than make perfection the enemy of the good. I see an attitude of "let's let the semi-apology from ARI be the thing that let's us close this and move on, continuing to support ARI with the understanding that it is flawed in ways we did not previously consider."

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Even though I do consider the matter to be settled to my satisfaction, I will probably continue to read the William Whewell book "Theory of Scientific Method" out of personal curiosity and as a further means of assessing McCaskey's intellectual stature. It doesn't look good so far after reading the first chapter....

It is unreasonable to be assessing a scholar in the way you state above simply based on the fact that he finds some value in the works of a particular thinker.

Many thinkers, despite being wrong on many things (and usually someone who's philosophical views are explicitly formulated and well grounded in reality can see through their mistakes), can otherwise still be a source of valuable insights.

I am not in the position to comment on Whewell but I came across a post on Noodlefood about his work. This is what the poster wrote:

The man *coined the term "scientist,"* created an updated version of Bacon's theory of induction (which he believed was the true scientific method), and I'm learning that he was instrumental in convincing the academic world that science should be used to better the conditions of society and human life. (Before his time, scientific work was still more or less done to satisfy curiosity or make a name for oneself, with little practical benefit.) That's in addition to his various contributions to several real fields of science. He was a genius and polymath who had a great wealth of knowledge from many fields of science, both theoretical and practical.

The more I learn about Whewell, the more insulting Harriman's claim of him being a "Kantian" becomes. He rejects Kant's "Copernican Revolution" (which I take as an essential feature of Kantianism). And his thinking on the "Fundamental Ideas" seems to me to be more of a confusion on how we perceive the world, and an attempt to criticize the empiricist view that all knowledge comes from experience or sense data, the "objective" features of the world: he wanted to stress the role of the subject who gains knowledge of the world, and in this respect he unfortunately shares some features in common with Kant. But I don't think it was enough of an influence to really call him a Kantian.

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I am not in the position to comment on Whewell but I came across a post on Noodlefood about his work.

Second-hand quotes aren't going to cut it in this issue. I read "The Logical leap" for myself, and I am reading Whewell for myself. And as to assessing an intellectual based upon the work he promotes, it certainly is legitimate. I'm not here claiming McCaskey is a Whewellian, but only that he thinks Whewell was important as to what science was all about, and I am determining that for myself. However, I already know McCaskey white-washes the Kantian elements of Whewell in his paper "Induction and Concept-Formation in Francis Bacon and William Whewell" since McCaskey talks about the Fundamental Ideas without bringing in Whewell's belief that these are innate and control perception (according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, which McCaskey endorses).

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The key to a first-level concept is that it requires no prior concepts to form it. To quote Miss Rand from her discussions of first-level concepts in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology:

"[A]lthough there is an element of the optional for certain first-level concepts, the logical determination of which concept is primary, or first, and which is derivative depends on whether that second concept required the conceptualization of the first, before it could be conceptualized. P. 211.

This is an incorrect reading of what is meant by "first-level concept" as used by Peikoff and Harriman. Rand uses the term in two different ways and she is very careful to distinguish the two as in an epistemological sense and a metaphysical sense at the bottom of pg. 214 in ITOE. Specifically she says that "[a]ll the things which you can perceive directly [and conceptualize] without presupposing in that concept some other conceptual material, those are first-level concepts." Meaning: anything that you can perceive directly is metaphysically a first-level concept.

In the epistemological sense: any concept which is logically dependent upon other concepts is not first-level.

Grasping the difference really requires knowing more than just ITOE and certainly more than one or two sentences taken out of context. With the proper grounding though the difference could be understood by integrating everything referred to in the Index of ITOE under "Concepts: first-level", or at minimum from pg. 204 - 214.

So clearly, push, roll, resist and hammer are first-level concepts in that they are directly perceivable.

As to your other objections about the words a, it, to: anyone considering this issue is not a child, we are not first-level creatures. This is an issue that requires more than child speak. I suppose that Harriman could have composed the first chapter out of sentences like "Balls roll." and "Walls stand.", but I'm sure you'll acknowledge that communication would have suffered.

Hopefully you will now retract your superficially absurd estimate of "The Logical Leap" until you further study the issue. Thank you in advance for doing so.

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What is a first level concept?

What I call the "first level" of concepts are existential concretes—that to which you can point as if it were an ostensive definition and say: "I mean this."

The overall rule for what is first-level is: those existential concretes which are first available to your consciousness. But they have to be concretes. A first-level concept cannot be one which, in order to indicate what you mean by it, requires other concepts, as is the case with "furniture."

All the things which you can perceive directly [and conceptualize] without presupposing in that concept some other conceptual material, those are the first-level concepts. And if you want to form "animal" first and species later or vice versa, that is optional. But you couldn't have the concepts "love," "truth," "justice" as first-level concepts. You don't perceive them perceptually, directly.

Motion and pushing can be perceived directly. We also perceive things moving and things pushing, but that does not make the moving or pushing less demonstrable. A definition in words would require prior concepts, but if what was in the written definition determined what was first level then there could be no such thing as a first level concept. What makes a concept second level or higher is that it means, it refers to, it points at or indicates, other concepts.

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Rand uses the term in two different ways and she is very careful to distinguish the two as in an epistemological sense and a metaphysical sense at the bottom of pg. 214 in ITOE.

Im unsure how you derived this dichotomy.

Prof. F: So Objectivism holds that there are first-level concepts?

AR: Epistemologically, not metaphysically.

ITOE 214

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Im unsure how you derived this dichotomy.

Etiquette first: please, it is absolutely essential that you attribute your quotes, for your sake, for my sake and for everyone who reads this thread's sake. It is a pet peeve of mine.

It appears from the short snippet you have quoted that I may have misspoken about how Rand designated the difference, though I am unwilling to concede this until I have again carefully reexamined the entire conversation from ITOE pg. 204-214. However, I am quite sure that she was making a distinction.

More important to me though is the point I was raising with ZAC D. and on which I would like to hear your position: are first-level concepts anything that is directly perceivable? Are actions such as "push", "roll", "resist" and "hammer" first-level concepts?

If you agree that directly perceivable actions are first-level concepts, then I don't think the rest will be a problem.

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Are actions such as "push", "roll", "resist" and "hammer" first-level concepts?
It is clear that these are extremely low-level concepts that are almost ostensive.

Q: What do you mean by push?

A: This!

One can point out that one has to first conceptualize that there is something that one is pushing. However, I don't see how this distinction is so important. In other words, even if Zac D. is right about Rand's terminology, it is nit-picking and to claim that the difference between a first-level concept and an almost first level concept is a vital part of the foundation is simply untrue.

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It is clear that these are extremely low-level concepts that are almost ostensive.

Yes, I think we agree and I would say they are ostensive.

One can point out that one has to first conceptualize that there is something that one is pushing.

If someone said this I would point back to the ITOE discussion Grames quoted and say that "push" can be demonstrated without any other "conceptual material"; it can be demonstrated with concrete particulars.

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More important to me though is the point I was raising with ZAC D. and on which I would like to hear your position: are first-level concepts anything that is directly perceivable? Are actions such as "push", "roll", "resist" and "hammer" first-level concepts?

This, along with several other things to do with TLL, is on the shelf for me at the moment. I am extremely busy coaching wrestling at the moment. It is really important to me to settle these things with the required effort to be certain of what is claimed of others and what conclusions I draw from that.

But I will have much to say in the future. Particularly on induction, "ampliation" and concept formation.....

Edited by Plasmatic
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