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The Logical Leap by David Harriman


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This is interesting, and I appreciate the replies to my previous posts. It seems as if some people are reading what I read on Whewell and coming to different conclusions. I basically said: THERE'S A K

I don't know why West took down his post about the NoddleFood posting regarding the controversy, but I thank him for supplying the link. In that post there is a letter from David Harriman saying that

Those interested in Whewell, and especially the debate he got into with John Stuart Mill over the nature of induction, may find interesting Reforming Philosophy: A Victorian Debate on Science and Soci

What theory of induction are you talking about? Have I missed something? Did someone publish an Objectivist theory of induction?

I agree, there is no real "theory of induction" elaborated in the book, so to the degree that it was advertised as such, that was inaccurate. The book attempts to validate induction by showing past examples of its successful use in scientific discovery. Those examples could certainly have been idealized by Harriman, to make the lessons more clear. But it's possible that he over-simplified, and disregarded some necessary component of the discovery process (which is McCaskey's claim in the Amazon review).

I don't understand why McCaskey was not more involved in the writing of this book, given that the history of the concept of induction is his area of expertise. He does even garner a mention in the Preface.

Edited by brian0918
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I agree, there is no real "theory of induction" elaborated in the book, so to the degree that it was advertised as such, that was inaccurate. The book attempts to validate induction by showing past examples of its successful use in scientific discovery.

Certainly there is no full-blown theory of induction, but to my knowledge the ideas laid out in the second chapter grounding our very first instances of induction in our firsthand perception of causality is new, and certainly consistently fits with Objectivist epistemology. At the very least, this chapter makes the book more than just an argument by examples for the validity of induction.

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I agree, there is no real "theory of induction" elaborated in the book, ...
I asked that of Thomas, because from his post it sounded like he was talking about some theory of induction that existed before Harriman's book. I haven't read the book, and Thomas said he hadn't either. So, I assumed he was talking about some theory that predates this book, and I wanted to know what that was. Re-reading his post, perhaps he was talking about the OTI course and not about an actual theory of induction.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I asked that of Thomas, because from his post it sounded like he was talking about some theory of induction that existed before Harriman's book.

Sorry, I didn't know you wanted a response from me earlier. Yes, it is my understanding that Dr. Peikoff layed out induction and that it followed the general principles of The Objectivist Epistemology in his taped lecture course "Induction in Physics and Philosophy." From what I've heard about that, he does do that, he does show that induction done properly follows the conceptual method outlined in ITOE. The main difference is that induction involves finding the cause of an action, whereas ITOE doesn't go into causation explicitly. Harriman's book is based upon this course, and it may be necessary to take that course to get the full range of what Harriman is talking about.

I'm basing my ideas of what others have said about this course and what Dr. Peikoff has said about induction through the years since presenting this course. I haven't taken the course yet, but that is how it has been described to me. And when I have presented induction with examples as I have done in this thread, those people have told me that what I write is compatible with "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" and Harriman's general presentation. I will have to buy a copy of the course, but I am unemployed right now and can't afford to spend $200 on a course.

So, I'm thinking that McCaskey may have been talking against induction as presented by Peikoff, which is an application of ITOE, but we don't know all the facts yet.

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Rand did not elaborate on what exactly she thought induction was. But she did say :

The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction.

So we know she held concept formation to involve induction.Peikoff has at least at some time in the past claimed the opposite.So far Harrimans book claims the same as Rand on Pg.35. Now if I don't know if Peikoff still holds this to be true, but if so it could be the source of the disagreement between himself and McCaskey. It would only be speculation to say if it was though.

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Sorry, I didn't know you wanted a response from me earlier. Yes, it is my understanding that Dr. Peikoff layed out induction and that it followed the general principles of The Objectivist Epistemology in his taped lecture course "Induction in Physics and Philosophy." From what I've heard about that, he does do that, he does show that induction done properly follows the conceptual method outlined in ITOE. The main difference is that induction involves finding the cause of an action, whereas ITOE doesn't go into causation explicitly. Harriman's book is based upon this course, and it may be necessary to take that course to get the full range of what Harriman is talking about.

I'm basing my ideas of what others have said about this course and what Dr. Peikoff has said about induction through the years since presenting this course. I haven't taken the course yet, but that is how it has been described to me. And when I have presented induction with examples as I have done in this thread, those people have told me that what I write is compatible with "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" and Harriman's general presentation. I will have to buy a copy of the course, but I am unemployed right now and can't afford to spend $200 on a course.

So, I'm thinking that McCaskey may have been talking against induction as presented by Peikoff, which is an application of ITOE, but we don't know all the facts yet.

Peikoff has said, and I think it's been agreed in the past by most, that you can't add to Objectivism. You can merely apply. APplication of it is not necessarily applying it consistently. Any theory posited not only can be criticized but must be.

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So we know she held concept formation to involve induction.Peikoff has at least at some time in the past claimed the opposite.
I believe you're reading too much into Peikoff's answer to that question from OTI. He is not presenting concept-formation as something that is unrelated to induction. In fact, he goes on to explain how induction is involved. If it was a pre-prepared remark rather than a response, or if it was a written text, the formulation would likely have been different, to make the exclusion of induction and then its inclusion in the next sentence, more clear.
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I believe you're reading too much into Peikoff's answer to that question from OTI. He is not presenting concept-formation as something that is unrelated to induction. In fact, he goes on to explain how induction is involved. If it was a pre-prepared remark rather than a response, or if it was a written text, the formulation would likely have been different, to make the exclusion of induction and then its inclusion in the next sentence, more clear.

I would happy to read the inclusion line. If you'd point it out to me I would appreaciate it.

Edit: for the record even what he says about "No generality involved" is contra ITOE. Taken together with" induction is not involved in concept formation" it's hard to see your point. But I do agree it's not the same as a published statement. I know he has revised much of his theory because upon questioning him after listening to his induction lecture he conceeded openly some faults via email to me. Hopefully this is another instance of that.

Edited by Plasmatic
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I would happy to read the inclusion line. If you'd point it out to me I would appreaciate it.
In both the paragraphs you quoted, he says that induction is different but then goes on to show how related they are. The second one in particular: where he says that when you get to 10 tables, you're already doing some induction.

In no way am I saying that those quotes are consistent with things that Rand has said: they aren't. I just think you're reading too much into an oral impromptu answer. It has been ages since I listened to OTI, but if there was something like this in the prepared portions, or if LP formulated something like this in a written work, it would be completely different. My guess is that he would formulate it differently.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I looked up the work "inchoate" which McCaskey uses in regards to the presentation of induction, and basically it means that it is not formed correctly or is incomplete, so McCaskey is disagreeing with the presentation of induction in both Harriman's book and in Dr. Peikoff's lecture series on induction. Definitions of inchoate. This might imply that McCaskey thinks that the Objectivist epistemology is also inchoate, which would imply a non-acceptance of the Objectivist epistemology.

I certainly agree that all new theories coming out of leading Objectivists need to be scrutinized to see if they are both coherent with Objectivism and with reality, and I don't think Dr.Peikoff would disagree with that. But obviously from the letter presented, Dr. Peikoff is proud of his achievement and proud of Harriman's contribution, so I would see where he would think calling these inchoate would be an insult. It will be interesting to see the correspondence of McCaskey and the other scientists if that is ever released.

Anyhow, not having taken the course and not having read Harriman's book, I won't be able to comment further on the disagreements. I'm ordering the book so that I can read it over.

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This might imply that McCaskey thinks that the Objectivist epistemology is also inchoate, which would imply a non-acceptance of the Objectivist epistemology.

Against his being a noted scholar accepted by ARI, with a teaching record and years of involvement promoting Objectivism, you propose the mere logical possibility that criticism of the book could, in some possible scenario, imply his not agreeing with Objectivist epistemology? That is irrational.

"Irrational" is the correct word because it means acting against the evidence in an individual's possession, which is precisely what you are doing here.

It is this unthinking loyalty to figureheads that defeats Objectivism's claim to be a system of thought.

Mindy

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Regardless of the intellectual debate, an organization like ARI must have a consistent stance and a chain of command. ARI might be making the right or the wrong decision, but having no unified, official stance and issue like this will always be wrong. So I agree with Peikoff's email that one of them had to go.

The clear expression of priorities here is worth noting. "Regardless of intellectual...ARI must have consistant...and ...command." This puts face above facts, and control above truth.

"ARI might be...right or wrong...but...no...official stance...wrong." Here, again, right, truth, and reason are subordinated to face, reputation, and appearance.

Ropoctl has it right. He speaks the sentiments expressed in Peikoff's letter as well as agreeing with them. But if reason is an absolute, reason never takes a back seat. And if ARI isn't about reason, it isn't about Ayn Rand.

Mindy

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I am not standing by Peikoff no matter what, which would imply loyalty to a man instead of loyalty to existence. It is not irrational for me to conclude that Dr.Peikoff knows a great deal about Objectivism, and that I don't know what McCaskey's understanding of Objectivism is. I haven't read anything by McCaskey that would lead me to think that he has a firm grasp of Objectivism. Yes, he was hired by ARI and he was promoting Objectivism, so presumably, he understood Objectivism to some degree and knew what he was promoting. But even promoting is not the same things as understanding. Glenn Beck promotes Atlas Shrugged, and he doesn't understand it very well -- he is certainly no Objectivist. I can't really say anything about McCaskey not knowing him and not knowing his understanding of Objectivism. So, yes, there is a possibility that he is rejecting some aspect of Objectivism which leads him to reject the ideas in Harriman's book. I don't know that for a fact, and won't until see more of what McCaskey has to say, but calling a theory inchoate means that he is certainly not accepting it as presented. Whether that is a rational claim or not, I don't know, since I haven't read the book. But in issues like this, my benefit of the doubt (not having all of the facts) definitely goes to Dr.Peikoff because of what I know about him and other schisms that have come about.

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I am not standing by Peikoff no matter what, which would imply loyalty to a man instead of loyalty to existence. It is not irrational for me to conclude that Dr.Peikoff knows a great deal about Objectivism, and that I don't know what McCaskey's understanding of Objectivism is. I haven't read anything by McCaskey that would lead me to think that he has a firm grasp of Objectivism. Yes, he was hired by ARI and he was promoting Objectivism, so presumably, he understood Objectivism to some degree and knew what he was promoting. But even promoting is not the same things as understanding. Glenn Beck promotes Atlas Shrugged, and he doesn't understand it very well -- he is certainly no Objectivist. I can't really say anything about McCaskey not knowing him and not knowing his understanding of Objectivism. So, yes, there is a possibility that he is rejecting some aspect of Objectivism which leads him to reject the ideas in Harriman's book. I don't know that for a fact, and won't until see more of what McCaskey has to say, but calling a theory inchoate means that he is certainly not accepting it as presented. Whether that is a rational claim or not, I don't know, since I haven't read the book. But in issues like this, my benefit of the doubt (not having all of the facts) definitely goes to Dr.Peikoff because of what I know about him and other schisms that have come about.

Is there anything in all of this to warrant evaluating your allegation that McCaskey may be manifesting a disagreement with Objectivist epistemology above the level of uninformed gossip? I don't know when I've heard anyone justify themselves in terms of being unaware of the relevant facts, so extensively as this. Logically, it ought to read with an apologetic tone, only it doesn't. Yet, you embed a renewed assertion that there is reason to suppose he is in fact rejecting Objectivism, and not just criticizing the book. I find that disreputable, and an injustice to McCaskey's reputation.

Mindy

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I wonder why Prof. Norsen's criticism didnt draw the same response?

If Prof. Norsen has no ties to ARI then he is beyond Peikoff's reach and cannot be harmed. Prof. McCaskey tried to avoid damage to ARI by resigning, but the precedent has now been set. Any active academic who wants to be involved in any serious discussion of Objectivism cannot afford to be tied to ARI in any way so long as Peikoff is tied to it.

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Rand did not elaborate on what exactly she thought induction was. But she did say :

Peikoff has at least at some time in the past claimed the opposite. So far Harrimans book claims the same as Rand on Pg.35. Now if I don't know if Peikoff still holds this to be true, but if so it could be the source of the disagreement between himself and McCaskey. It would only be speculation to say if it was though.

That Rand quote of a single sentence will not bear the weight you want to put on it, neither will anything Harriman wrote on page 35. Peikoff understands Objectivism better than you.

That single sentence is taken out of context and does not mean that, it cannot mean that, and I've already explained why. You want to turn Rand's entire epistemology into a giant stolen concept by requiring first level concepts to depend on method of logic which somehow works before a child even has any concepts. That sentence is from the chapter "Abstraction from Abstractions", it does not apply to first level concepts.

Here is more of the context of the passage:

This process of conceptual identification (of subsuming a new concrete under an appropriate concept) is learned as one learns to speak, and it becomes automatic in the case of existents given in perceptual awareness, such as "man," "table," "blue," "length," etc. But it grows progressively more difficult as man's concepts move farther away from direct perceptual evidence, and involve complex combinations and cross-classifications of many earlier concepts. (Observe the difficulties of identifying a given political system, or of diagnosing a rare disease.) In such cases, the knowledge of whether a concrete is or is not to be subsumed under a certain concept does not come automatically, but requires a new cognitive effort.

Thus the process of forming and applying concepts contains the essential pattern of two fundamental methods of cognition: induction and deduction.

The process of observing the facts of reality and of integrating them into concepts is, in essence, a process of induction. The process of subsuming new instances under a known concept is, in essence, a process of deduction.

She is referring to borderline or otherwise unusual cases involving high level abstractions, not the first level concepts of tables and chairs or rolling balls. Repeatedly citing this single sentence in threads about first level generalizations is context dropping.

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Any accusation of McCaskey somehow being against Objectivism qua Objectivism is quite silly, unwarranted and displays ignorance on the subject from someone who would say it. McCaskey has written papers on Rand, concept formation and concept formation in famous historical figures like Bacon before (Here). His own criticism of the book states that a theory of induction based on concept formation is welcome.

This is why Peikoff's statements are so very unjust, even if McCaskey chose to post them. Already we have Objectivists ignorant of McCaskey, his intellectual vigor and his dedication to the philosophy who are making accusations merely on the uninformed opinion of Dr. Peikoff. It's ludicrous. It's as silly as accusing any other long term Objectivist at the forefront of the movement. McCaskey is someone who has done more in academia and more for the ARI and Objectivism in general then most anyone on this board can hope to do.

It's a matter of justice that Peikoff follow up on this. Either he ought to resign himself or offer up a more thorough explanation. As of now, I see McCaskey as totally in the right.

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McCaskey has written papers on Rand, concept formation and concept formation in famous historical figures like Bacon before (Here).

That paper is inchoate. He mentions Miss Rand at the beginning to claim there is a relationship between concept formation and induction, but never again throughout the paper does he mention Ayn Rand, conceptualizing within a range, similarities, measurement omission, or any other understanding of concept formation that she presents, so what did he even mention Miss Rand? The figures involved in that historical outline didn't have a firm grasp of what a concept is or even how induction is related to concept formation. McCaskey gave them a lot of leeway given their misunderstanding and didn't call their theories inchoate.

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Anyone who wants to see how unfounded Grames last post is should read the "Induction through deduction" thread.

EDIT:

Peikoff understands Objectivism better than you.

LOL! Guess I should have just accepted this before I personally emailed him after listening to "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" with enquiries about problems in the lecture. Then I never would have knew I was right and he had enough integrity to say so!

Edited by Plasmatic
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Are the votes limited to people who have read the book?

Mindy

It would seem self-evident that it would be expected of one voting about the quality of a book that they have first hand knowledge of it. I don't know of any other way to have obtain first hand knowledge of a book's quality than by reading it. The exception being perhaps that if a book is composed of several previously published pieces and you had read some or all of them.

Edited by SapereAude
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