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The Logical Leap by David Harriman


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My thoughts, from my blog -- http://danedgeofreas...houghts-on.html

A Summary of My Thoughts on the Peikoff/McCaskey Affair

Over the past few weeks I've been digesting the details of the Peikoff/McCaskey affair and the subsequent fallout in the online Objectivist community. A few days ago I wrote a short, 4-page essay about this issue and the possible implications for the future of the Objectivist movement. While I wrote this in large part to clarify my own thoughts, I originally intended to publish it in full.

But I have a tendency to get wrapped up in controversies of this kind, and I've grown weary of the heated polemics on both sides. For this reason and others, I'm only going to post three general conclusions that came out of my reflection and research. I don't plan to spend too much time defending these conclusions; I'm ready to move on to other things.

1. Over the last decade, the ARI has experienced unprecedented growth in its income, project support, positive publicity, and large-scale dissemination of Objectivist ideas. I believe that this degree of success is due primarily to the expert leadership and organizational management of Yaron Brooke and his team. The new tendency to hire business and public relations professionals in leadership positions, rather than PhD intellectuals, is a very positive trend for the ARI which I hope will continue in the future. This is not to say that the ARI board of 1990 was of poor quality, but that the current group is better equipped to carry out ARI's mission.

2. Based on the unprecedented success of the current ARI leadership, I believe that they are more than competent to make board-level decisions without threats from Dr. Peikoff or anyone else. Such threats are unnecessary and display a disregard for the board's track record of success and professionalism. While I am sure that the board can benefit from Dr. Peikoff's experience and philosophical expertise, his forcing a decision on the McCaskey issue by threatening to leave the ARI called into question the board's integrity. His behavior has led many to question whether Dr. Peikoff has de facto control and veto power over board decisions. I believe that it is primarily this aspect of the affair, along with Dr. Peikoff's harsh tone in his written responses, that has caused such an uproar in the Objectivist community.

3. The explosion of publicity of Ayn Rand's ideas, along with rapid technological advances in communication (Facebook, blogs, Twitter, etc.) has significantly decentralized the dissemination of Objectivist ideology. While the ARI is still HQ for the Objectivist movement, it is no longer the sole voice of rationality in today's culture. This, too, is a positive trend. For a number of reasons, I would encourage those interested in intellectual activism to strongly consider forming their own non-profit organizations without a strongly dependent relationship with the ARI. There are certainly benefits to associating one's organization with the ARI, but this is not the ideal set-up for every activist venture under the sun.

--Dan Edge

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

AR: Epistemologically, not metaphysically

That's different from what marc claimed.

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.

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Ayn Rand's theory of concept-formation is remarkable. As it identifies the correct method of forming an abstraction from particulars, a great theory of induction could be built from it.

...

As to induction, no generalization can be formed without reference to higher level concepts, in particular verbs. Therefore the construct of a "first-level generalization" composed "only of first-level concepts" is impossible in principle. As such it is no base for a valid theory. To quote Miss Rand: "If the foundation does not hold, neither will anything else."

I thought this sounded familiar...

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That's different from what marc claimed.

From Marc.

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.

Anything metaphysically that you can perceive directly (i.e.: entities) is the basis for an epistemologically based first-level concept.

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From Marc.

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.

Anything metaphysically that you can perceive directly (i.e.: entities) is the basis for an epistemologically based first-level concept.

No concept is metaphysical in any way except the trivial one in that a concept is an attribute of the mind that has it, making it an existent. That is just a confusing misstatement.

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No concept is metaphysical in any way except the trivial one in that a concept is an attribute of the mind that has it, making it an existent. That is just a confusing misstatement.

Thanks Grame. Slipped my mind.

edit to add:

And 'concept' is perceivable directly via introspection.

Edited by dream_weaver
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There are a few things that I do not understand.

In Chapter 4 "Newton's Integration" in the subhead "The Discovery of Universal Gravitation" on page 136 (ppb), Harriman says that the radius of the Earth had been measured accurately and that Newton accepted 60 Earth radii as the distance to the Moon, which was pretty close. I understand that within the limits of the tools of the time that this was true and that this was close enough. But throughout, it is clear that close enough was not good enough for Newton. He was a meticulous experimenter. That actually squares better with other claims. First, Stephen Hawking's claim (in God Invented the Integers) that Newton was dissatisfied with his measurment of the Earth's radius. Also, Newton's quarrel with John Flamsteed was famous. Newton demanded the Royal Astronomer's data for the orbit of the Moon, and Flamsteed kept putting him off. Newton was, again, dissatisfied with the existing approximations and demanded better facts. Harriman tells a different story.

On page 137 ppb Harriman talks about a magnet with a static electrical charge having two kinds attractions with different causes.

"However, when Newton proves that the moon and the apple fall at rates that are precisely in accordance with a force that varies with as the inverse quare of the distance from Earth's center -- then there can be no doubt that the same cause is at work."
But is it not true that both static charge and magnetism are inverse square forces? Kepler thought that perhaps the planets were magnetically attracted to the sun, for instance. Would not magnetic attraction, static charge, and gravity, all have the same inverse square property? Of course, among the differences would be the lack of "negative" gravity, and a different constant. Still all three follow the same form of F = k(B1 * B2) / r^2, where B1 and B2 are the measures of the Bodies (mass, static charge, magnetic charge) respectively. So, merely following an inverse square law does not prove that the apple and the moon move as a consequence of the same dynamic force.

I am reading the book now, and I read the discussion here and on other Objectivist boards and in Amazon, and no one mentioned this, or a couple of other points I will address later.

Edited by Hermes
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On page 137 ppb Harriman talks about a magnet with a static electrical charge having two kinds attractions with different causes. But is it not true that both static charge and magnetism are inverse square forces?

The constant is different for those forces, but in Newton's time experimenting with electricity had barely begun. Franklin's experiment happened many decades after Newton's death so there was no general awareness that electrical forces could be large enough to take into consideration. If the Earth did have a large net electric charge there would be mutual repulsive forces everywhere, which are not observed. Lastly, because magnets always come in dipoles they follow an inverse cube law, but I don't known if Newton knew that.

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The constant is different for those forces ... If the Earth did have a large net electric charge ... because magnets always come in dipoles they follow an inverse cube ... law ...

Thanks for sending me to the CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, Grames. For the magnetic field due to a magnet, if the distance from the magnet is great compared to the length of bar, then, yes, field strength diminishes by the cube of the distance.

I was referring to the Force between magnetic poles.

F equals (mu subzero over 4pi) times ((M * m)/r^2)

The point is that Harriman claims that the fact that the Apple and the Moon both obey an inverse-square law is proof that their motions have the same cause. It is not. Harriman himself a few sentences above talks about magnetism and static electical charge, both of which are forces that act according to an inverse square law and which, in fact, cause central force motion similar.

Edited by Hermes
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I was referring to the Force between magnetic poles.

Without getting too deep in the weeds, the mere fact that there are two types of magnetic poles and two types of magnetic forces (attractive and repulsive) rules out magnetism as the explanation for the attraction now attributed to gravity. The attraction of an apple toward the center of the earth is the same regardless of the orientation of the apple, it does not have a pole.

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... rules out magnetism as the explanation for the attraction now attributed to gravity. ...

Normally, I would not care if someone misunderstands an obvious statement. I am not advocating any such theory. My point was a simple criticism of what I considered inexact language by David Harriman

On page 137 ppb Harriman talks about a magnet with a static electrical charge having two kinds attractions with different causes.

Other forces are inverse-square as well. So, that is necessary, but not sufficient. It is not the essential distinguishing characteristic. If you want to fill in what you think David Harriman must have meant by what Isaac Newton must have thought, that is your privilege. All I did was read the words written by the author.

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[shea Levy] was an OAC student who dropped out due to the controversy, arguing that "the climate at the ARI will be incompatible with the needs of an academic."

Just FYI: I dropped out of the OAC at the end of last semester due to having too busy a schedule, before LL was even completed. That being said, had I not dropped out then I would have certainly dropped out by now due to this mess.

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Another update: Following Shea Levy's lead, Rory Hodgson (a former regular on this forum) has also resigned from the OAC program, and encourages other OAC students who are worried about the anti-academic environment of ARI to follow suit, in hopes that they will change their policies. The crux of his concern:

(1) Shea did not drop out of OAC because of the Peikoff-McCaskey problem. He dropped out several months prior because the course load was too much.

(2) Rory does not seem to understand the "non-dissent" policy. It applies to board members and employees only, and it applies to in-public communication only. It does not apply to students, to OCON speakers, or to grant recipients. It applies only to those who are or should be taken to be spokes people for the institute.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Since Harriman's book discussed causation throughout, I have decided to post the following essay to OPAR in this thread. It deals with causation given in perception. In the future, after re-reading OPAR, I may decide to write my own book on Objectivism. But I am finding out that OPAR covers what I wanted to cover but in a highly condensed version.

$$$$$$$$$$$$$

Causation as a Corollary to Identity

In OPAR, Dr. Peikoff talks about causation as a corollary to the axiom of identity. I think that needs to be unpacked a bit, as I have noticed that students of Objectivism don’t quite understand the Objectivist position on causation. All of the axioms are given in perception. That is, all one has to do is to make an observation of existence and do an abstraction and one will have the axioms and their corollaries. The axiom of identity is gained by observing that existence is made of certain specific existents that are given in perception. We observe a rock, a cat, a dog, a glass, a tree, a cloud, etc. No conceptualization or thinking is required to observe these things – all one has to do is to observe. The senses are axiomatic in this manner – they do not require any conceptual input and we have no control over how we see things volitionally with our senses. Hence they are automatic and considered to be correct and not needing of any conceptual fine tuning. So we observe these entities or existents and we form the implicit concept of “identity” or “It is something specific.” But we also notice something else that is immediate after grasping identity – those specific things act in specific manners – the rock rolls down the hill, the cat meows, the dog runs, the glass breaks when dropped, the tree waves in the breeze, the clouds move across the sky. In other words, what we notice is that we live in a dynamic universe – that the entities we observe are not static and unchanging, but rather do change, and that this is a fundamental aspect of existence. Hence the need for a corollary to identity – one that conceptualizes that things act. This concept is “causation” it is the widest abstraction we have for the fact that entities are capable of changing or acting. This abstraction of causation is an abstraction from the concept of “identity” – it is an abstraction from an abstraction. We observe the dog (identity)and that it is barking (causation), barking is something a dog does. The concept of “causation” covers any action or change that an entity does or is capable of doing, past present and future. It is the widest abstraction we have for the dynamism of existence. And like the axioms, their corollaries are validated via direct observation – we observe entities acting; we observe entities, their attributes, and their actions. That which is given in perception does not require proof, because we directly observe it – in this sense, the seeing is the proof – that a dog barks or a cat meows is not something that has to be proven, because it is observed. And under the Objectivist understanding of causation, the entity acting is the cause and its action is the effect – the dog is the cause of his barking, the glass (what the glass is) is the cause of it shattering when dropped.

Some students of Objectivism that have a prior conception of causation generally have difficulties with this. Usually because they take causation to mean one entity acting on another and the second entity doing something. But Objectivism has a different approach. The one entity acting on another is Aristotle’s efficient causation, and it is the last remaining conception of causation from Aristotle in common usage today. But, as we have seen, causation is not primarily about interactions, it is about entities acting and this is directly observed that causation stems from identity. Some students using the efficient causation conception of causation have difficulties with volition in man, wondering what causes it. They are looking for something acting on man (internal or externally) that leads to the action of directing one’s own consciousness. However, no such causative agent is required under the Objectivist understanding of causation. Directing one’s own mind is an action one observes oneself doing. Just as one observes oneself walking, one can introspectively observe oneself directing oneself. And just as for the observing the dog barking, no proof is required in observing oneself directing one’s own consciousness. Observing oneself making choices and directing one’s own mind is proof enough, since all observation are observations about some aspect of existence. Hence there is no conflict between the Objectivist understanding of causation and free will in man – directing one’s own consciousness is something a human beings does. Or to put it another way, the individual is the cause of the action of directing one’s own consciousness.

In summation, the concept of “identity” designates “it is”, while the concept of “causation” designates “it acts.” “It acts” is a causative statement – it (cause) acts (effect). And if one re-integrates one’s understanding of this formulation and understanding of causation, then cause and effect are given in perception insofar as we observe the entity doing something or acting and changing.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

I added my review of The Logical Leap to my website.

I don't think your review was very well formulated, as it jumps all over the place. I think one has to realize that Harriman is coming at physics from an Objectivist point of view and this can be confusing to those who do not understand the inductive method Harriman is outlining. None of the typical assertions about induction or the scientific method apply to his thesis. He starts afresh with observations and shows how one can reach valid scientific conclusions based upon induction. So the falsifiability idea is moot, that is not where he is coming from. As to some of the specifics you tried to bring up, I think you are wrong on those and I stand by what Harriman wrote. he lays out a very logical treatise -- logic as the art of non-contradictory identification of the facts of reality as given by observation. I think one has to rememeber that Objectivism is a new philosophy, so it has a new approach to age-old questions. Harriman definitely validates the inductive method, it is not floating abstractions tied to nothing, as many people try to characterize the scientific method.

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I was thinking about what I wrote,and I might come across to some as someone who wants to disregard facts for the sake of standing by Harriman. That is not my stance, but I do question the previous "review" about thrown objects following an ellipse rather than a parabola. It was always taught to me as being part of a parabola, not part of an ellipse. So I would need further details, and maybe a parabola is approximate, but close enough for most estimates as to where a baseball will land when thrown.

Besides, those wanting to focus on factual details of "The Logical Leap" and not get the philosophy behind it are basically not seeing the forest for the trees. By focusing on those kinds of details you are not seeing the wonderful and all embracing integrations that Harriman is making -- how he totally validates induction as a method of getting to know reality and reality's laws of nature. It's like shooting a BB gun at a tank. Or I am reminded of those who want to reject "Atlas Shrugged" because there are some factual errors in it, such as when Dagny lands in Atlantis. When one's engine is cut off, one does not pull up, one has to increase air speed over the wings in order to gain lift. So, since Dagny pulled up, some content that she would be dead and there would be no more story. In other words, it's OK to be factual, but don't throw out a whole approach on some rationalistic intention of showing there was a factual error that has little or no impact on the thesis anyhow. Dagny survived to land in the valley, and Harriman's thesis survives even with (perhaps) a few factual errors, that are contentious anyhow.

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Neglecting air resistance (which those that teach that the path is a parabola also do), the path is indeed an ellipse as the object, once thrown, is in free fall, and will enter a (very brief) suborbital trajectory. This, like any non-escape orbit, is an ellipse, but in this case the overwhelming majority of it is below the surface of the earth.

A parabola is the correct solution for a flat earth... and is a perfectly good approximation for things like baseballs and the like, where the area can be approximated as flat earth. If you go back to your textbooks and look carefully you will note that they make the implicit assumption that "down" from every point is parallel to "down" from all other points--which is not in fact true, it's just _almost_ true.

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A parabola is the correct solution for a flat earth... and is a perfectly good approximation for things like baseballs and the like, where the area can be approximated as flat earth.

Right, nowhere in my physics books did they discuss the pull of gravity to be directed at the center of the earth and thereby pulling at an angle from parallel; that is true. Nonetheless, a contextually "close-enough" approximation that is good for everything but high sub-orbital flights is not an error. And it is not a problem with "The Logical Leap." Besides, I don't think Galileo or Newton had the ability to measure with such accuracy that they would have measured an ellipse as opposed to a parabola. So, I think context is crucial. When one is discussing physics and curves and actions, a standard of infinite accuracy is not demanded, and is counter-productive in many cases.

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Right, nowhere in my physics books did they discuss the pull of gravity to be directed at the center of the earth and thereby pulling at an angle from parallel; that is true. Nonetheless, a contextually "close-enough" approximation that is good for everything but high sub-orbital flights is not an error.

Agreed. Also it's handy to use the parabola model in teaching to make the point that gravity does not affect the horizontal velocity, only the vertical velocity. (If someone calls you on it, say "tangential" and "radial".)

And it is not a problem with "The Logical Leap." Besides, I don't think Galileo or Newton had the ability to measure with such accuracy that they would have measured an ellipse as opposed to a parabola. So, I think context is crucial. When one is discussing physics and curves and actions, a standard of infinite accuracy is not demanded, and is counter-productive in many cases.

Newton would be the first to have understood that the motion is really elliptical, actually, since he is effectively the founder of astrodynamics _and_ was the one to realize the motion of a thrown or dropped object is affected by the same force as affects the planets (and more specifically the moon). Galileo would have found it to be news though. Another forebear of Newton's, Johannes Kepler, was able to characterize the motion of bodies in space (e.g., that planetary orbits are ellipses) but did not know *why* they behaved that way nor had any clue that such laws actually applied to things here on the surface of the earth.

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Right, nowhere in my physics books did they discuss the pull of gravity to be directed at the center of the earth and thereby pulling at an angle from parallel; that is true. Nonetheless, a contextually "close-enough" approximation that is good for everything but high sub-orbital flights is not an error.

Ragnar Danneskjöld would disagree, as the curvature of the Earth is a necessary factor to consider when performing long range naval gunfire.

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I will clean up and organize my review over time. I assembled four different sets of notes and presented them in toto on my own website. My goal is to place formal reviews elsewhere. In fact, after posting here, I changed that review a couple of times, adding and removing illustrations. It is stable now. The illustrations from Adler say it all.

As for the ellipse and the parabola, no one so far has identified the essential correlation. No matter what the ellipse and no matter what the parabola, you can always fit some of the apex of the parabola congruent to either of the apices of the ellipse. (That is true for either half of a hyperbola, also.)

Just as two points define a straight line, three points determine a conic section. Given any convenient geometry of scale, if you toss a baseball, any three points near the apex can be fitted to an ellipse (or a hyperbola). If you (or Newton or Galileo) begin with the (rationalist) understanding of central force motion, then you would choose the ellipse for the path of the baseball.

The arithmetic of the parabola is easier. It is not two parametric equations, as for the ellipse. So, it is easier to teach and the measurements of many points on either side of a human scale path do not stray far from the ellipse.

However, if we accept this unconditionally, then, we are saying that the Earth is round, but we can consider it flat. ... or that the Earth is flat unless you need to consider orbital motion. We know that public education follows the Soviet agriculture model. We know that education is dumbed down. Teaching that the path of a baseball is a parabola is part of that. Collect college physics books from the 1950s and 60s and 70s and so on. See for yourself how it is taught now versus how it was taught.

All of that and the long discussion of it on my website is only to underscore the fact that Harriman did not define his audience. He glossed over much.

Edited by Hermes
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