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The Logical Leap by David Harriman


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I should add that as with concept formation, the formation of a generalization has to be a range of contextually similar objects / events understood causally. In other words, one couldn't go from say a ball rolling when kicked to air blowing up a balloon when breathed into, and come up with a generalization with just those two discrete instances of causation. One could begin to get the concept of causation, but not a law of nature. So, similarity and range of the observations plays a crucial role. Newton saw heavenly bodies and falling apples as being similar given his context of knowledge, whereas others would have seen them as discrete (especially since heavenly motions where considered in a class by themselves for so long). Harriman goes through many examples of false generalizations basically due to rationalism (not studying the facts) or over-generalizing (generalizing outside the range of that which is observed). As an example of the first, the ancients thinking that the heavenly bodies are carried around on chrystal spheres; and of the second, a boy thinking that everything he kicks will roll (when only round things will roll).

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The whole history of philosophy of science seems to do that. Do you mean it is only the name, Objectivism, that makes this special?

The whole history of philosophy did not have Miss Rand's understanding of concept formation. Generally speaking, if they talked about natural laws at all, they were stating it as an intrinsicist who thought (on some level) that those laws existed out there in reality and caused things to act in certain ways. With Objectivist epistemology under his belt, Harriman makes use of the measurement-omission and open-endedness of concepts to show how one can go from the observation of some instances to generalizing about all instances (within that range of observations). So, he is adding something new to the discussion, he's adding the Objectivist epistemology to the field of philosophy of science.

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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.

I noticed that this comment was left unanswered and wanted to point out that is entirely a rash and unfair statement given the fact that it hasn't been proven (nor disproven, for that matter) whether McCaskey has made any statements against Objectivism. If he indeed has, then it is completely understandable that Peikoff be incensed that such a person be on the ARI Board of Directors. In my opinion, Peikoff should not have allowed the release of the letter (as McCaskey claims he did) without making a full statement of the facts he refers to.

Edited by Sir Andrew
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I noticed that this comment was left unanswered and wanted to point out that is entirely a rash and unfair statement given the fact that it hasn't been proven (nor disproven, for that matter) whether McCaskey has made any statements against Objectivism. If he indeed has, then it is completely understandable that Peikoff be incensed that such a person be on the ARI Board of Directors. In my opinion, Peikoff should not have allowed the release of the letter (as McCaskey claims he did) without making a full statement of the facts he refers to.

Andrew,

Read the letter more carefully. Peikoff isn't claiming that McCaskey denounced Objectivism. He is claiming that McCaskey denounced the new book, and that such denouncement amounts to a denouncement of Objectivism. That's why so many people (especially students and academics) think Peikoff has acted seriously unjust. Criticizing Peikoff's (or Harriman's, or anyone's) latest ideas is not synonymous with rejecting Objectivism, and therefore shouldn't affect one's standing within Objectivist organizations. Also note that the substance of McCaskey's criticism is public (on Amazon.com). His criticism is hardly a denouncement. And even if it were, most of the criticism is directed at Harriman's handling of the history (McCaskey's philosophical criticisms are tied to historical cases). Is challenging the historical work of Peikoff's friends now grounds for removal? Finally, even if Peikoff were right and McCaskey actually is in disagreement with Objectivism, Peikoff doesn't even hint at a reason for thinking McCaskey immoral. Yet his letter places McCaskey in hell. WTF!? is all one can say to that part of the letter, I think.

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I'd like to point out once again that we don't have the full context of what went on between Dr. Peikoff and McCaskey. If he spoke out against Objectivism, then yes, he ought to be removed from the ARI board. Dr. Peikoff indicates that this is what happened and that it wasn't just about the book. So, according to Dr. Peikoff's position, McCaskey did say something against Objectivism qua philosophy. What that was, none of us know, and we have to leave it at that. We would have to know what else was said about the book. After having read the book, I do think McCaskey's review of it is off the mark, but he doesn't say anything about the philosophy behind it. I'll repeat again that in issues such as this where I don't have all the facts, my benefit of the doubt goes to Dr. Peikoff because of how he handled himself in the past regarding issues of Objectivism and followers of the philosophy.

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I'm re-reading "The Logical Leap" and I will stress again that it is not a book that can be grasped well if one reads it quickly. It's been decades since I have been directly involved in the study of physics, so I am appreciating the carefulness in which Harriman presents his case. Throughout the book he has theory and practice, and one cannot simply gloss over the physics as the method he is outlining comes, in part, from his study of the history of physics. And I've noticed that the beginning chapters on Galileo and Newton are experiments that one could do in one's own home without much effort, if one wanted to confirm the findings in a first-hand manner. But I think the study of the physics is a background to his (and Dr. Leonard Peikoff's) theory of induction, which is presented very clearly.

Of course, the methods are applicable to other fields, even ones that are not so thoroughly mathematical, so long as one makes careful observations centered around causes. And I think to say that the book is inchoate, as McCaskey did, is to overlook the significance of such a book that actually demonstrates the inductive method so thoroughly on one main topic. Harriman, being a man of induction, expects the reader to grasp what he is talking about inductively -- through the examples -- even though chapter one covers all the basics. That's one reason why I say it must be read carefully.

I haven't seen anything else said about this book, but given someone who has written so thoroughly on induction and concept formation (in papers available on his website), I fail to see where the book fails. It comes across to me as so well integrated that to deny it is to become involved in contradictions.

What is the nature of a universal truth? It is a careful observation of reality with an eye on the causal relationships one observes, carefully noted, and seen how they relate in a conceptual manner. It is the conceptualization over a range with measurements omitted that makes it an abstraction -- i.e. that makes it a universal truth. And since most universal truths in physics comes in the form of algebraic or higher-level mathematics that omit measurements, the mathematics is what gives a demonstration of their universality. That's the key to the whole book.

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Andrew,

Read the letter more carefully. Peikoff isn't claiming that McCaskey denounced Objectivism. He is claiming that McCaskey denounced the new book, and that such denouncement amounts to a denouncement of Objectivism. That's why so many people (especially students and academics) think Peikoff has acted seriously unjust. Criticizing Peikoff's (or Harriman's, or anyone's) latest ideas is not synonymous with rejecting Objectivism, and therefore shouldn't affect one's standing within Objectivist organizations. Also note that the substance of McCaskey's criticism is public (on Amazon.com). His criticism is hardly a denouncement. And even if it were, most of the criticism is directed at Harriman's handling of the history (McCaskey's philosophical criticisms are tied to historical cases). Is challenging the historical work of Peikoff's friends now grounds for removal? Finally, even if Peikoff were right and McCaskey actually is in disagreement with Objectivism, Peikoff doesn't even hint at a reason for thinking McCaskey immoral. Yet his letter places McCaskey in hell. WTF!? is all one can say to that part of the letter, I think.

Criticism of the book for the book is a different issue entirely. I shall quote Peikoff's letter directly:

"[McCaskey's] disagreements are not limited to details, but often go to the heart of philosophic principles at issue"

The key phrase here is "philosophic principles". If McCaskey has criticised Objectivist principle, then he has departed from Objectivism. Like I said, we have not seen this criticism, and may never see it.

Edited by Sir Andrew
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The concept of causation has to be formed first, by induction. It is a first order concept, formed by observing the relationship between pushing and the ball rolling; drinking water and thirst being slaked; screaming and the breast appearing (not one of Harriman's examples). What those examples are supposed to show is how the concept of causation is acquired.

I haven't read Harriman's book yet, but are you suggesting that all concepts are formed by induction, or that causation is a special case of a concept that has to be formed by induction? I don't think concept formation and induction are the same thing. Causation is perceived directly, in the same manner as the child perceives a particular table. The child perceives the force required to push the ball directly. Causation, like all first level concepts, is directly available through perception. Saying all S is P (induction) is a different thing than first forming the concept S, and the concept P (concept formation).

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Hi Richard, been a while. You'll have to read the book to get the full answer, but basically the principles of concept formation and the principles of scientific induction are very similar -- both omit measurements and both focus on similarities and differences. And there are first-level generalizations just as there are first-level concepts. As Harriman explains much later in the book, the process of induction is relating two (or more) concepts in a causal manner. That is, the contents of one concept are related to the content of the other concept in terms of cause and effect. Harriman basically states that the only valid generalizations (or induction) are relationships between cause and effect. So something like "All swans are white" is not a valid generalization because there is no cause identified and no cause and effect relationship between them. His early examples of directly perceived causation relationships are observing fire burning paper and a boy pushing on a ball. "Fire burns paper" and "Pushing makes the ball roll" are two examples of a first-level generalizations that are directly available to perception (once the individual concepts are formed). There is a wealth of detail in the book, so I recommend that it is read carefully. It is a great integration of physics and philosophy.

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I'm working on a post to explain this in detail. Their are NO concepts that are perceptual only! At least according to Rand and ITOE. "Percieving a table" is not possessing the concept table.

Edit: well I'll have to qualify the above when I post.....Sensations aside

Edited by JASKN
Copy-and-pasted intended double-post
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Hi Thomas, it has been a while indeed! I'll have to read the book before posting further on this subject. I know concept formation and induction are similar, but they are not the same thing, which was the general point of my post. After reading the book, I may start a seperate thread on this issue re: induction vs. concept formation and the role direct perception plays in each. Also, I know the importance of causation with respect to induction, but the key point is not just any causation, but formal (essential) causation.

Edited by RichardParker
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Hi Thomas, it has been a while indeed! I'll have to read the book before posting further on this subject. I know concept formation and induction are similar, but they are not the same thing, which was the general point of my post. After reading the book, I may start a seperate thread on this issue re: induction vs. concept formation and the role direct perception plays in each. Also, I know the importance of causation with respect to induction, but the key point is not just any causation, but formal (essential) causation.

Richard there is a discussion on this topic going on in the" Induction through deduction" thread.

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I've been think more about the supposed appeal to authority that Dr.Peikoff made in his letter to Arline Mann, and thanks to Bob Gifford on FaceBook, I now think it was not appeal to authority. Dr. Peikoff was simply giving the context in which he was emphasizing that his endorsement meant something and that he would not have given an endorsement lightly. He was not saying that it was a great book because he said so and he wasn't saying one has to accept that it is a great book on his say so. He was simply making his position clear. After having read the book and being in the process of re-reading it, I have to agree with Dr. Peikoff's assessment, and if he wants to make it a touching stone for members of the board of ARI, that's his prerogative given his association with ARI. Using his authority is not appeal to authority. He simply saying he doesn't want members of the board to be against this particular book. And McCaskey is definitely against the book regarding the theory behind it if you read his resignation letter more carefully. He's saying he cannot stand behind this book, which is a great application of the Objectivist epistemology. So, on those terms, I can see why Dr. Peikoff doesn't want him on the board of ARI (who at a minimum have to stand by their own product) and have to stand by Objectivism every step of the way.

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I'm working on a post to explain this in detail. Their are NO concepts that are perceptual only! At least according to Rand and ITOE. "Perceiving a table" is not possessing the concept table.

When someone says that something is given in perception for man, he is not saying all you have to do is to look and the concept will pop into your head automatically. There is a certain amount of mental work that has to be done even on the level where everything is given in perception but one still has to think about it. So, I for one, was not trying to imply that first-level concepts or first-level generalizations was given totally on the perceptual level. However, since everything is given in perception, the process of forming the concept and of forming the generalization is easy enough that a child could do it with little effort. The conceptual consciousness does not work automatically without some volitional effort to at least focus on reality in a specific manner to get the data in a direct manner.

I don't have my ITOE in front of me (it's packed away), but I think that is what Miss Rand says in the book. "Given in perception" means that you have all the data necessary to come to a certain integration if you bother to do it, which is a volitional act.

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When someone says that something is given in perception for man, he is not saying all you have to do is to look and the concept will pop into your head automatically. There is a certain amount of mental work that has to be done even on the level where everything is given in perception but one still has to think about it. So, I for one, was not trying to imply that first-level concepts or first-level generalizations was given totally on the perceptual level.

There are others claiming exactly the above though.

However, since everything is given in perception, the process of forming the concept and of forming the generalization is easy enough that a child could do it with little effort.

True as well for forming the generalizations that are the concepts within propositions!

don't have my ITOE in front of me (it's packed away), but I think that is what Miss Rand says in the book. "Given in perception" means that you have all the data necessary to come to a certain integration if you bother to do it, which is a volitional act.

Yes a volitional AND conceptual process! See My last post in the other thread.

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Yes a volitional AND conceptual process! See My last post in the other thread.

Conceptual means making an integration, so I don't see the difference you seem to be indicating. The conceptual process is making integrations.

What's impressive to me, even though some of the examples are hard for me to follow, is the vast integrations made by the great men of science given the writing style of Harriman. By staying on the conceptual level and not having a lot of mathematical equations written out in mathematical notations, the breath and scope of the integrations becomes more clear. That is, one can clearly identify the conceptual / integrations they are making because Harriman uses fully spelled out sentences instead of mathematical symbols. I heard him say once that he does it that way to help to avoid rationalism. But coming from a mathematical and physics background, I think it is more difficult to follow because I have a hard time retaining the paragraph versus retaining the equation. So, I wish he would have done both, but I think that is a stylistic issue and not a substance issue. However, I can see where this book would drive rationalists crazy :)

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I'm working on a post to explain this in detail. Their are NO concepts that are perceptual only! At least according to Rand and ITOE. "Percieving a table" is not possessing the concept table.

I now have "The Logical Leap (TLL)" and have begun reading it, and so wanted to address this issue re: perception's role in induction. Plasmatic is creating a straw man argument here. I didn't say that there were any concepts that were perceptual "only." In fact, my post only addressed concept formation in the sense that a child directly perceives a *particular* table.

What I implied was that the child first grasps first-level generalizations such as 'pushing this particular ball requires force to make it role' through direct perception. To quote directly from TLL, page 19 (asterix mine): "A 'first-level generalization' is one derived *directly* from perceptual observation, without the need of any antecedent generalizations."

Edited by RichardParker
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Strawman? Against the argument you hadn't even made yet? Please note I didn't even say your name. But alas I do take issue with several things in TLL as far as I have gone with it so far. I took issue with the same points in the original lectures as well. But I'm still sorting things out.

Since your post directly followed mine, I presumed you were referring to my post. I apologize if this was not the case. Just to clear the air, however, I do not think that first-level generalizations nor first level concepts are formed without conceptual processing. When a child first perceives a particular table, it can only identify it ostensively as an entity, as a particular thing, no more. Only after it has perceived at least two instances of tables, has noted their similarities and their differences from other non-table entities, does the child ostensively have the concept 'table.' When it can finally point to a particular table and say table does it have the concept in the full sense.

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Since your post directly followed mine, I presumed you were referring to my post. I apologize if this was not the case. Just to clear the air, however, I do not think that first-level generalizations nor first level concepts are formed without conceptual processing. When a child first perceives a particular table, it can only identify it ostensively as an entity, as a particular thing, no more. Only after it has perceived at least two instances of tables, has noted their similarities and their differences from other non-table entities, does the child ostensively have the concept 'table.' When it can finally point to a particular table and say table does it have the concept in the full sense.

Agreed! Air cleared. :thumbsup:

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When it can finally point to a particular table and say table does it have the concept in the full sense.

I'd add that it makes it more certain that the child knows the concept if he can point to a particular table that he has never seen before and identify it as a table.

(As a side note, I wonder if the chimpanzees who have been taught to communicate (e.g., Koko) would pass this test. If so, the next bar would be the ability to form a heirarchy of concepts.)

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I've now read "The Logical Leap" twice carefully and I look for ward to discussing it. I think Harriman has reached a landmark with this book, which clearly outlines the inductive process as a step by step process of coming to understand existence in terms of causality. I think this is a revolutionary application of the Objectivist epistemology. While some may have wanted Harriman to have made that a bit more explicit, I think the philosophy and the inductive generalizations he understands stemming from the history of science is great. And I do think that if this book is taken seriously, it will have a tremendous impact on the philosophy of science and on science itself. The examples are logically presented and from real-world experiences and real-world investigations. It's not a floating abstraction but rather is a proof that if you want to understand existence then one ought to follow the method outlined. Basically, this means observe reality, organize your observations according to cause and effect, determine their exact relationship, and form a generalization from that data and that integration. These generalizations become the laws of nature, and have predictive qualifications that can be further checked out and integrated. I highly recommend reading the book.

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Basically, this means observe reality, organize your observations according to cause and effect, determine their exact relationship, and form a generalization from that data and that integration.

I have not read this book but if this is what the book outlines then I don't see this as anything novel or revolutionary. This is how scientific method looks like in practice and when things can be directly measured scientists apply this process every day without much difficulty. The method has not been under dispute.

-----------------

Not that I am stating anything new but what I find is the challenge (and what made Ayn Rand a unique thinker) is the application of this process to integration of abstract concepts, to social and political issues, to those aspects which are not directly measurable in a way science is.

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