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The Logical Leap by David Harriman


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I was just reviewing my notes on Peikoff's course on Induction and found it had more mathematics in it than the subsequent book does. Harriman dumbed down the presentation even further from the necessary limitations of a lecture series for a general audience.

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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.

Is that a yes? Or just: the poll expects that people who voted had read the book? People certainly have posted about it without reading the book, as you would, of course, know. To form an opinion from that and vote based on it is certainly within the norm of behavior for people here.

If some forty people here have read the book, only a small fraction of them are posting about it.

Midy

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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.

I found the paper interesting. He mentions Rand as the root of his choice of theories of induction, and, in his summary, he repeats that theories of induction that relate it intimately with concept-formation was his focus. He doesn't need to keep mentioning her name, as the reader is expected to be able to keep in mind what her emphasis is, and the material fits that perspective, so there is no confusion.

Mindy

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My point about the paper -- and I'm glad it is being brought up in several forums -- is that he had ample opportunity to clarify what a concept is by referencing to the Objectivist epistemology, but he didn't do that in this paper. For the paper to have been a proud supporter of Objectivism,he would have had to at least mention Miss Rand's definition of a concept and how it relates to reality. The other philosophers he mentions just had a vague idea of what a concept is, and he could have clarified what they were talking about by referencing Ayn Rand and the Objectivist epistemology. In other words, he does not come across as a strong supporter of Objectivism in that paper. However, if it was his doctorate thesis, then maybe he couldn't do that, but it is strange that he would mention Miss Rand and Dr.Peikoff in passing but give no voice to their ideas in a paper on concepts and induction. Now, it was written 6 years ago, so maybe he didn't know how to tie it all together, but he should have mentioned what Miss Rand thought about concepts to get the readers into the proper mind-set as to what he was talking about when he was talking about conceptualization. The paper does not show a strong support for Objectivism on philosophical terms.

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My point about the paper -- and I'm glad it is being brought up in several forums -- is that he had ample opportunity to clarify what a concept is by referencing to the Objectivist epistemology, but he didn't do that in this paper. For the paper to have been a proud supporter of Objectivism,he would have had to at least mention Miss Rand's definition of a concept and how it relates to reality. The other philosophers he mentions just had a vague idea of what a concept is, and he could have clarified what they were talking about by referencing Ayn Rand and the Objectivist epistemology. In other words, he does not come across as a strong supporter of Objectivism in that paper.

He states quite clearly on the very first page the purpose of that paper:

"My goal instead is simply to introduce you to a line of British philosophers from Francis Bacon (1561–1626) to William Whewell (1794–1866) who, like Rand, held induction to be closely associated with concept-formation."

It's an overview of historical thought. It strikes me as inappropriate to expect a paper whose stated purpose is to explore various historical views of the connection between induction and concept-formation to come out strongly supporting Rand. He states quite clearly that he will not elaborate his own position in this paper; that's not his purpose. Just because one is an Objectivist doesn't mean that one can't write papers on other, related subjects.

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Is that a yes? Or just: the poll expects that people who voted had read the book? People certainly have posted about it without reading the book, as you would, of course, know. To form an opinion from that and vote based on it is certainly within the norm of behavior for people here.

If some forty people here have read the book, only a small fraction of them are posting about it.

Midy

Within the first two pages of this topic you were asked by the original poster and another participant to either read the book so you can stay on topic or cease to post on this thread.

So I would take that as a yes, the intention of the OP is that it be voted on by people who have read it.

As to your assertion here:

"People certainly have posted about it without reading the book, as you would, of course, know."

My post was strictly in the role of moderator and done only because two users (one being the OP)had already objected to the content you were contributing. Had another mod who had read the book been active at the time I would have left it for them to handle.

At this point you are disrupting the thread for whatever personal reasons you may have. Any further post of your on this topic that does not address the content of the book, or any content that contains unnecessary personal sniping will be removed.

To be clear-if you have a response to this post of mine a private message would be appropriate.

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To get back to the book, "The Logical Leap," because we don't have enough information about the resignation of McCaskey, I would say that Harriman's book does present Objectivism in a positive light and makes reference to the Objective theory of concepts and Objectivist epistemology, at least in the first chapter, which is an overview of the philosophic perspective he is going to be taking throughout the book. And I suspect those of you who claim he makes no general theory of induction explicit, that maybe you have read the book too quickly, because he is very clear about the general principle. On page 26:

In utilizing concepts as cognitive tools, he is thereby omitting the measurements of the particular causal connection he perceives. "Fire" relates the yellow-orange flames he perceives to all such, regardless of their varying measurements; the same applies to "paper" and to the process of "burning". Hence his first statement of his concrete observation "Fire burns paper." This statement is simply a conceptualization of the perceived data -- which is what makes it a generalization.

And on page 28:

A generalization is the conceptualization of cause and effect; i.e. induction may be described as measurement-omission applied to causal connections.

In other words, Objectivist epistemology is the answer (measurement-omission, open-endedness, etc.) as it applies to conceptualizing the actions and changes we observe in reality all around us. The conceptualization of such actions automatically makes them universal, provided one can identify the cause, which on the perceptual level is given in observation.

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The conceptualization of such actions automatically makes them universal, provided one can identify the cause, which on the perceptual level is given in observation.

The causal process is only a perceptual given for certain very simple causal processes, such as the example chosen in the book of the child pushing the ball. It is certainly possible to perceive a causal process but not have the tools to conceptualize it yet.

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And on page 28:

Quote

A generalization is the conceptualization of cause and effect; i.e. induction may be described as measurement-omission applied to causal connections.

In other words, Objectivist epistemology is the answer (measurement-omission, open-endedness, etc.) as it applies to conceptualizing the actions and changes we observe in reality all around us.

:):thumbsup: Yup!

Edit: Just wanted to add to the voting deal that I am studying the book AND I havent even voted so.....

Edited by Plasmatic
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Yes, I understand that not all causality is given in perception, and I wasn't trying to say that it was. What I meant was that insofar as we can identify the cause perceptually, then our conceptualizing it makes it a universal proposition and generalization. That's the starting point, and as far as causation and perception goes, I wrote a few essays on that topic here.

The most important point to grasp in the first chapter (all I've read so far) is that it is the act of conceptualization that leads to a universal generalization. The integration with causation is very important, at least for physics, especially since physics has become dynamics for the most part. So, conceptualizing something acting or changing is already a large part of the initial steps needed to come up with a universal generalization that comes from the Objectivist understanding of concepts being integrations and open-ended. As Harriman points out, conceptualizing various fires into the concept "fire" automatically includes all fires everywhere, because that is the nature of a concept.

By the way, this is what was missing in that paper by McCaskey. He didn't go into the Objectivist epistemology, leaving concepts vague in the paper, and he didn't identify the causative element making an observation of an event a universal generalization. I should say, I suppose, that neither of the philosophers he mentions had accomplished this. The Objectivist understanding of concepts is what makes the universal generalization valid, and it was the misconception of concepts early on that made it impossible to come up with a generalization of generalizations. Without a proper understanding of concepts, it just isn't possible.

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Thomas I recommend reading "Freeing Aristotelian epagoge from prior analytics II 23." from McCaskey.

Can you give me a link, is it on his website? And I'm not condemning McCaskey anyhow, just in case someone got the wrong impression. I'm just saying that, at least in that one paper, he did not present the Objectivist epistemology, which would have clarified what those philosophers were talking about re concepts.

As to McCaskey's review of the book and his talking about additional steps Galileo had to take to arrive at certain conclusions, I think he's right. However, Harriman doesn't take one on a step by step analysis of Galileo. That might take an entire book by itself. Instead Harriman gives a very good overview of Galileo's method and how he was able to reach generalized conclusions due to conceptualization and context of knowledge. One can clearly see what Galileo is doing in the first part of chapter two, and how he was able to formulate general principles of motion from his observations and conceptualization, which is the point of the book. So, I think I would agree that they are arguing the details. But we still don't know if McCaskey said anything against Objectivism, which is the contention of Dr. Peikoff.

I'm finding "The Logical Leap" to be a very dense book requiring very careful reading, and I have a degree in physics and philosophy and am somewhat familiar with the history of physics. So, if you are not understanding it, read it more carefully. I certainly wouldn't call it inchoate. If the purpose of the book is to give a general overview, Harriman does do that.

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Thomas this quote from McCaskey's book Regula Socratis may show how his thoughts relate to Harriman"s book:

By this

understanding of induction, an ampliative induction, i.e., one that does not include

a complete enumeration cannot be certain. Bacon argues against this whole

approach. (Buridan and Valla had partly anticipated him here). He argues, in effect

(now going well beyond Buridan or Valla), that in a valid induction, ampliation

occurs not at the propositional level but at the conceptual level. An open-ended

induction is made valid not by adding more propositions, but by properly

identifying the formal causes of the constituent concepts. If mortality is ‘being

subject to the cessation of life,’ then all men are mortal. This is assured not by

surveying many men, but by correctly identifying the essence of mortality.

Consider the case of the white swans. A series of white swans are observed,

and it is concluded that all swans are white. A black one appears. Is the hypothesis

refuted? That depends on what is meant by black, white, and swan. A defender of

the hypothesis could reply, ‘That black thing is not a swan,’ or ‘That swan is not

black; it is white.’ If all sea-level samples of water boil at 'B'°F, and then one is

found not to, do we conclude that not all water boils at 'B'°F, or do we conclude

that the sample is not water? Bacon is claiming that an hypothesis is only as good as

its constituent concepts. There can be no method for determining whether an

inductive conclusion is true or false that does not also address whether the concepts

are correctly defined. Moreover, Bacon says not only that an inductive inference is

only as good as its constituent concepts but also that an inductive inference can be

278

fully as good as its constitutent concepts. An inductive inference can be as certain as

the meaning of the terms it uses. If the terms are properly defined, the induction

can be certain.

For Bacon, induction is not primarily about propositions. It is about concepts.

For him, induction is not the inference of a proposition from other propositions. It

is the identification of the essence of concepts. If the concepts are ill-formed, that is,

if they are mere idols, they corrupt all thinking. But if they are well-formed and

their essences properly identifed, propositional inferences can be drawn with

certainty and liberty. At one level, then, Bacon is returning to a conception of

induction that predominated in antiquity, invented by Socrates, adopted by

Aristotle, articulated by Cicero. In it, a conclusion can be drawn that applies

beyond the particulars that went into its formation because a concept can be

formed that refers to particulars other than those that went into its formation. But

in another sense, Bacon went well beyond any of his predecessors. His proposed

integration of concept-formation, propositional inference, causation, practical

efficacy, and a methodical approach to identifying the essence of properties was a

remarkable synthesis. Baconian induction was something old, but on both a

practical and theoretical level something very new.

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Thanks for the link, I will read his paper. But the problem with the example you presented is the one I mentioned in his other paper -- he doesn't bring the Objectivist understanding of the nature of concepts into play, which would greatly clarify what a valid concept is and what is not a valid concept. Bacon seems to be on the right path, but because he doesn't really know what a concept is as precisely as Ayn Rand, he can't quite put it all together. And neither can McCaskey. One of the problems was how does one get to a universal, which Ayn Rand answered superlatively. There were all sorts of misidentifications of the nature of concepts that hindered coming up with Dr. Peikoff's and Harriman's solution, based upon the Objectivist epistemology. Again, it just can't be done without understanding concepts the way Ayn Rand understands them. And I'm disappointed McCaskey didn't bring in more of Objectivism into his writings.

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The paper can be found here:

http://www.johnmccas...r%20II%2023.pdf

Ok, I've read the paper, and while it seems that McCaskey can analyze philosopher's texts -- perhaps better than a lot of philosophers -- I see no indication from either paper that he is an Objectivist or that he is writing from an Objectivist perspective. He certainly doesn't use Objectivist terminology nor bring in what Miss Rand wrote to further clarify what he is talking about. These papers are important for the history of philosophy, and I learned a lot from reading them (because I hadn't read those works before in my philosophy classes). However, if no one had told me that he was an Objectivist, Ii wouldn't have a clue from these two papers.

Is there anything he has written -- a philosophical paper -- that shows that he understands and applies Objectivism? That's what I'm looking for. In other words, I think it is obvious from my own writings on my own website, that I am taking Objectivism seriously and write from that perspective. Where is the evidence that McCaskey is doing likewise? I just don't see it from the examples presented so far.

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Ok, I've read the paper, and while it seems that McCaskey can analyze philosopher's texts -- perhaps better than a lot of philosophers -- I see no indication from either paper that he is an Objectivist or that he is writing from an Objectivist perspective. He certainly doesn't use Objectivist terminology nor bring in what Miss Rand wrote to further clarify what he is talking about. These papers are important for the history of philosophy, and I learned a lot from reading them (because I hadn't read those works before in my philosophy classes). However, if no one had told me that he was an Objectivist, Ii wouldn't have a clue from these two papers.

Is there anything he has written -- a philosophical paper -- that shows that he understands and applies Objectivism? That's what I'm looking for. In other words, I think it is obvious from my own writings on my own website, that I am taking Objectivism seriously and write from that perspective. Where is the evidence that McCaskey is doing likewise? I just don't see it from the examples presented so far.

Hi Thomas, Im not sure why Dr. McCaskey hasnt chosen to write explicitly on Oism. I do think that his choice of study reflects that he is attempting to establish a historical context to which Oism can draw. That being said Oism stands on its own. Perhaps all this will encourage him to do just that?

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I'm about half way through "The Logical Leap" and I'm finding that Harriman's examples are plenty enough to make his point integrated with Objectivist epistemology that any reader interested in the history of philosophy of science can grasp the principles he is illuminating with the examples. That the power to abstract and to omit measurements and the open-endedness of concepts is what makes induction possible. Other philosophers had been close to the answer (McCaskey's papers show this), but since they didn't have the proper understanding of concepts, they couldn't advance further.

It is important to realize that the validity of induction does not rest on the question: Why is reality consistent? Which I think a lot of more modern philosophers get caught up on. Reality is consistent because it exists and is something and can only act in certain ways dependent upon the nature of the entities acting. At the level of induction in the philosophical hierarchy, this fundamental fact of existence is a given -- in fact it is given in perception and is covered by the Objectivist metaphysics. Induction is about once one understands that reality is consistent, how does one move from particulars to abstractions, and the Objectivist epistemology answers that: measurement omission within a range and the open-endedness of concepts.

I love the way Harriman is handling physics and philosophy, and I think this book ought to be a must reading for philosophy of science classes. He clearly illustrates how one goes from the observation of particulars to forming abstractions and finding the laws of nature through measurement omission, when one is focused on the cause of the observed changes.

In one sense,one might say that the cause is the frame of reference of the concepts being understood and identified, though Harriman doesn't use that terminology.

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I finished "The Logical Leap" and I think Harriman does an excellent job of showing how induction works from the very large (the solar system) to the very small (the atom), so as he says near the end, he himself uses the inductive method to come up with what the inductive method entails. And since he did cover such a wide range of instances, he has basically proven that induction is the only valid method of understanding existence. Any other method, as he demonstrates, leads to errors and invalid concepts and non-logical or self-contradictory statements or contradictions with the facts of reality.

Induction basically comes down to observing existence first-hand, forming valid concepts, and then integrating new knowledge based on those beginning points of first-level concepts and first-level generalizations. As it is with concepts, the first-level generalization are practically given in perception; that is (given his efficient cause perspective) one can easily relate one thing to another conceptually on the perceptual level. As an example, when I type on my keyboard, words show up in the text editor. All I have to do is to type and I can see the characters show up in the editor. The generalization would be that typing via a computer in a text editor leads to words appearing on the screen in front of one's eyes. And on this level, even a child can grasp it and use a computer to communicate with friends.

As to whether or not Harriman covers every detail of every scientist's context and meanderings of not accepting his own conclusions, I think it is unnecessary to go into that kind of detail. After all, he wasn't studying the context of, say, Newton's mind, but rather distilling out the essence of Newton's method along with a host of other successful scientists. He didn't need to recreate the specific and numerable steps each scientist took. All he needed was a general overview of the process and using the scientist's own discoveries and their process to show that induction is not only valid but necessary for one to arrive at broad generalizations (the laws of nature) that are true to reality.

And I will emphasize again that induction is not about, "Why is reality consistent?" That it is consistent is given in perception and is a part of metaphysics, not epistemology. Harriman outlines the epistemology of great scientific minds; and in so doing, can revive the field of physics, if this book is taken seriously by some future philosophy of science professor in academia. The book ought to be considered a must read for anyone interested in the philosophy of science.

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Typing on your keyboard does in no way establish a causal connection because you see words come on the screen. That is a strictly post hoc view of induction.

Also, I disagree that all induction is "perceptual". Many inductive claims go against what we observe directly.

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In efficient causation, one thing acting on another and leading to a change in the second entity is a causal connection. Just as the boy kicking the ball causes it to roll, so typing on your key pad causes words to appear on the text editor screen. You typing is the cause of the words appearing on the screen.

Also, I didn't say that all induction is perceptual. I said that is where you start in making inductive generalizations. But certainly, all inductions come from observation. In fact, it is observations that are integrated in a true inductive generalization. As far as your claim that proper inductions can lead to generalizations that contradict observation, perhaps you can give a few examples.

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I finished "The Logical Leap" and I think Harriman does an excellent job of showing how induction works ...

I don't have this book, but from your description I'm unclear about the author's main point.

When one sees something happening over and over again and see that there are no exceptions, one often generalizes this into an idea about causation. I assume this is widely understood and is not a novel idea. However, some such ideas about causation are held as hypotheses while others are held more firmly. If we leave aside arguments like "It is a fact, because scripture says so", the modern-day arguments revolve around this: When is some idea just a hypothesis? What aspects make us more certain about one hypothesis compared to another? When does a hypothesis become firm knowledge? Some say -- in effect -- that all ideas about causation are hypotheses of varying strengths and that there is no such thing as firm knowledge. They will say that we simply go with our most reliable hypotheses and get along rather well that way. Others think that firm knowledge actually exists. Still others say that knowledge can be firm within a context.

Whether we're going going from weak hypotheses to strong hypotheses, or from hypotheses to firm induction, the question is: what takes us from one stage to the next? Someone who has interacted with very young children will know that they routinely opt for hasty-generalizations. It is like the cat who won't sit on a cold stove after being burnt just once. Young kids appear to go through a phase like that. With more experience comes more seemingly contradictory experience and the young child refines his rules and realizes that one observation does not lead to an induction. A child might observe something and ask: "Do all XYZs have ABC?", which is a question he never thought to ask before. As the child gets older he forms an unspoken rule of epistemology that goes something along these lines: an induction requires some number of confirming observations and an absence of contradictory ones.

This idea -- of induction coming from a numeracy of confirming observations coupled with the absence of contradictory observations -- might be where most adults stop with their implicit ideas about induction. However, philosophers who explore this explicitly realize that it is insufficient to stop here. Some -- famously Bacon -- did not believe that enumeration was sufficient. They explored methods by which we can become more certain of our knowledge. Some say that we have to understand the underlying causes to be really sure: if X leads to Y every time without contradiction, we still have a hypothesis. However, is we understand the detailed reasons of why X leads to Y, we go from weaker to stringer hypothesis, or from hypothesis to induction.

With that background, my question is this: what particular ideas does Harriman present that are novel, compared to the couple of existing approaches to induction?

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With that background, my question is this: what particular ideas does Harriman present that are novel, compared to the couple of existing approaches to induction?

Harriman dismisses the numeralizing of incidents as sufficient to be a good induction, he says one has to understand the cause of the interaction to form a valid and true generalization. For example, the ancients could see that the sun rose every day, but without knowing the cause they couldn't generalize that it would rise every day. Once it was understood that the earth orbits the sun and rotates, then one can generalize about not only the day and night sequence, but also the seasons.

While other philosophers discussed induction -- Aristotle, Bacon, and others -- what they didn't have was the Objectivist understanding of concept formation or how we actually arrive at universals or generalizations. A lot of philosophers who discussed the laws of nature, implied that the laws were out there directing things in reality (at least implicitly). Harriman used the Objectivist understanding of concept formation to show that the laws of nature are valid and true generalizations -- a relationship between what is out there and our conceptual mechanism. He also uses the Objectivist understanding of concept formation to explain that the broader the generalization, the greater the range one has to observe and conceptualize. Newton not only studied earthly phenomena (the apple and other things falling and moving), but also studied objects in the heavens (the moon, planets and comets) so that his generalization was greater and more fundamental than Galileo's. And as I mentioned in my review, Harriman discusses not only that aspect of physics but also discusses how induction brought about an understanding of atoms and that they exist, so his generalization is wider yet.

Harriman basically demonstrates (and probably proves by his own standards) that induction is the only way to conceptualize the universe; that one has to observe existence and having the cause in mind (or causality as a frame-work, context) organize the interactions of things over a wide range and generalizing about these interactions. This is how we develop the laws of nature.

So, it is new in that it is not intrinsicist about the laws of nature, but rather objective about them and how we develop them.

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