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The Logical Leap by David Harriman


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Philosophers have to be taken literally and not figuratively. If Whewell is saying our conscious mind controls perception and perception is our contact with the world, then he is effectively saying that our mind creates reality, which is a Kantian premise.

Ludwig von Mises did lots of very good economics from essentially Kantian epistemological premises. No one here has been arguing that Whewell is right about Fundamental Ideas or that we should ignore his bad ideas, only that he may have done a lot of good work on induction in spite of these flaws. Is that much different than recommending a book by Mises on economics?

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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

Thank you for your input. I realize I don't know much about Whewell and may do further reading on him, but probably by reading his own books. I don't generally like to go by anything other than the originals versus reviews or second hand sources for the philosophers I study. It may be a while, however, as I am way behind on Objectivist reading material and can't run out and buy books right now due to my economic situation. I do appreciate the paper you wrote, but I don't think it brings out enough of what made Whewell so great. So, I'll keep all of that in mind when I do further research.

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I'd like to state my position on John McCaskey a little more clearer, especially since David Veksler, the owner of objectivismonline.net is taking a definite stance against Dr. Peikoff. After having read "The Logical Leap" twice carefully, and with my background in physics and philosophy, and as a long-term Objectivist, I have to say that "The Logical Leap" presents an astounding answer to the problem of induction, so certainly David Harriman and Dr. Peikoff deserve praise for their efforts. The answer is not only the Objectivist epistemology whereby referents of a concept differ by only a measurement, thus justifying going from some to all of a class in a generalization, but also Harriman's presentation that generalizations have many parallels to concept formation, that there is a hierarchy going from the perceptually self-evident to higher-level generalities, just as there are for concepts. And Harriman presents the evidence in a very clearly logical form.

Recall that logic is the non-contradictorily identification of the facts of existence as given by observation. And the facts as presented by Harriman lead to a necessitation of coming to the generalization oneself, if one is familiar at all with the physics, simply by following the facts. And yet, McCaskey does not positively support the book and continues to support William Whewell, who at a minimum has very many mistaken philosophical views. So, unless McCaskey simply doesn't see it, just doesn't get the presentation of "The Logical Leap", then I think he is committing an injustice by not going into the philosophy behind the book and not supporting it enthusiastically. If there are factual errors in the book -- and even McCaskey is hesitant to say they are actual factual errors -- then these can easily be corrected and it wouldn't change the philosophical importance of the book. Even with the errors McCaskey hesitantly points out, if true, do not detract from the evidence and the philosophy presented in "The Logical Leap." All that would be required is deleting a few sentences or adding a paragraph to conform to scholars who have also studied the history (if they are correct in their understanding of the history).

So, "The Logical Leap" objectively deserves much praise and deserves to be a part of the philosophy of science teachings at major universities. Whether it will get this type of audience is unknown at this point in time, but certainly McCaskey's review won't help it get into academia. The philosophy of Objectivism, when it hits upon a great solution to a long-standing philosophical problem, deserves praise and admiration, not a dismissal because maybe a few facts are wrong.

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The philosophy of Objectivism, when it hits upon a great solution to a long-standing philosophical problem, deserves praise and admiration, not a dismissal because maybe a few facts are wrong.

Anything not written by Rand is not Objectivism.

Edited by ~Sophia~
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David Harriman brings up an interesting issue regarding causation and patterns that I think is germane to the current debate over Peikoff and McCaskey. Some people are basically taking the position that because Dr. Peikoff is the common element for all of the schisms in Objectivism over the past 30 years, then he must be the cause. They see a continual pattern between Dr. Peikoff and him having a philosophical falling out with certain (formerly) respected members of the Objectivist community. David Harriman calls this the fallacy of substituting an observed similarity for a cause. Starting on page 194 "Acidity", he outlines a few examples of this error.

Back when chemists were trying to figure out what made something an acid, one of the leading chemists thought that the cause must be oxygen because oxygen was common to all acids. Turns out this wasn't the case anyhow, since there are a few acids that don't even have oxygen in them, but he kept insisting this was the case. After further investigations, the cause was found to be hydrogen, which was common to all acids and was identified as the cause because of its chemical reactiveness. Harriman gives the example of someone going to parties and drinking Scotch and Soda, Whiskey and Soda, and Bourbon and Soda, and concluding since Soda was common to all, then it must be the Soda that is getting him drunk. Another example from me is that a common element of house fires is windows. All houses have windows, so this being a common element, windows must be the cause of house fires. Obviously this isn't the case, as one is substituting a common pattern or element if one thinks that windows is the cause of house fires.

So, in the current conflict and in most all of the other conflicts with former Objectivists, yes, Dr. Peikoff was involved; but one has to look at the other elements. There were other people involved in these schisms, and one has to take a look at their disposition regarding being objective and presenting Objectivism consistently. And in all cases so far, it can be shown that those who had a falling out failed to uphold Objectivism properly in all contexts. This is especially true for those having worked for The Ayn Rand Institute as writers or board members. For the most part, they left or were kicked out because they failed to uphold Objectivism properly in all circumstances when it was required to take an objective stance on some issue or another. That is the actual common element that is the cause of the schisms -- a failure to be objective. So, though Dr.Peikoff was involved and was usually the whistle blower, he wasn't the cause, since he has consistently been a great Objectivist in the past and upholding an objective standard each and every time.

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Where has David come out against Peikoff? Was it on the forums? In this topic? Didn't see it myself.

In post #68 of this topic. He makes himself very clear that he is against Peikoff, and if Peikoff was a member of ARI that he should be kicked out. He's also been against Peikoff over on FaceBook. At this point, I think his position is mistaken along the lines of coming to a false generalization re my last post.

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I'd like to state my position on John McCaskey a little more clearer, especially since David Veksler, the owner of objectivismonline.net is taking a definite stance against Dr. Peikoff. After having read "The Logical Leap" twice carefully, and with my background in physics and philosophy...

What is your background in physics and philosophy?

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What is your background in physics and philosophy?

I have a BA in physics and philosophy earned concurrently in four years (double major) about twenty years ago . I don't have a PhD, if that is what you are asking, but one doesn't need a PhD to be able to read "The Logical Leap" as it covers what would be covered in good high school courses in physics and chemistry. The level of philosophy required is probably somewhere between 2nd semester philosophy or a BA, though many people don't have that background and can read Ayn Rand OK. So, I'm not sure why you are asking. I think "The Logical Leap" would make a great college seminar course on philosophy of science for a physics major or a philosophy major, spending one semester on it.

However, I have been studying philosophy on my own for about 25-30 years, and can read higher level physics when required.

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...I'm not sure why you are asking.

You included it in a previous post, and it wasn't clear to me what your background was, so I thought it was relevant to ask.

I'm not interested in debate or discussion on most of the issues raised here, but given that you make claims here and elsewhere against McCaskey's academic work (some of which weighed in on what one should or should not include in academic work as an Objectivist, how one should say it, etc.), I was curious to what extent you have experience with that sort of thing, what kind of issues you may or may not be aware of given that background, that sort of thing.

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I'm not against McCaskey's academic work per se. Judging from the papers available on his website he writes well and intelligently. I can see him supporting Bacon, as Bacon did provide many great leads on how to do science via Induction, but I don't know why he is supporting Whewell, but I don't know much about him. However, since McCaskey is recommending a book written by the author of the Standford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Whewell, he must agree that the article is written well, and I see nothing to support there or in McCaskey's own writing on Whewell. So, it is more of a curiosity. I do think there is an injustice on his review of "The Logical Leap" because the book deserves better from an academician. But at this point, I am not outright condemning McCaskey because I don't see what he did that so upset Dr. Peikoff. His review on amazon.com came after Peikoff's letter, and he's been promoting Whewell for quite some time (as others have pointed out), so that doesn't seem to be the cause. But I also don't see anything written by him on Objectivism, so I can't judge that. So, I'm moderately against McCaskey given what I've said here and in this thread, but I'm not condemning him to hell either. Maybe he just doesn't see the value in "The Logical Leap."

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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 he cannot support Whewell because Whewell was a 19th century Kantian. I have the same views on Whewell and do not understand why an Objectivist or a rational man would continue to support Whewell over Dr.Peikoff and David Harriman who have solved the problem of induction. So, I definitely see no reason to support McCaskey. But I will add that I cannot condemn him at this point since he doesn't seem to be promoting the Kantian aspects of Whewell. In other words, I am in the same position as before the NoddleFood post: I see no reason to support McCaskey on intellectual grounds and I don't see the evidence that he is a good Objectivist, his work at ARI and Anthem notwithstanding.

Here's the link to the NoodleFood posting:

http://blog.dianahsieh.com/2010/10/resignation-of-john-mccaskey-facts.html

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I have the same views on Whewell and do not understand why an Objectivist or a rational man would continue to support Whewell over Dr.Peikoff and David Harriman who have solved the problem of induction.

First, on what specifically are you alleging that McCaskey is supporting Whewell over Peikoff/Harriman? Say in words exactly what McCaskey is supporting Whewell over Peikoff. Which specific statement/conclusion/theory of Whewell's is McCaskey supporting over which statement/conclusion/theory of Peikoff's?

Second, on what evidence do you conclude that McCaskey is supporting Whewell's statement/conclusion/theory over Peikoff's?

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Even if McCaskey is supporting Whewell, and even if Whewell is a Kantian, is there any evidence that McCaskey is endorsing the Kantian parts of Whewell? (Hint: there isn't). I've read Whewell in some detail, and I think the claim that Whewell is in any significant way a Kantian, is false. And this attempt to smear McCaskey by associating him with a not-really-but-maybe-to-people-who-haven't-a-clue-what-they-are-talking-about-Kantian is utterly ridiculous.

Harriman's attempt to smear McCaskey by association with Whewell (someone whose name he doesn't know how to pronounce but is somehow qualified to judge a Kantian) reveals more about Harriman than it does anyone else.

BTW, Thomas, I see you ommitted the SEP passage which discusses Whewell's extensive disagreements with and differences from Kant.

Edited by Atlas51184
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I didn't "omit" anything. I was concerned over the fair use of how much of the article I could quote from the SEP, and besides, it's arguments that Whewell was not a Kantian are not in terms of philosophical fundamentals.

As to how McCaskey is supporting Whewell over Dr. Piekoff and Harriman, he is a professor of studies on induction and makes no reference to "The Logical Leap" on the front page of his website. If he was for Peikoff and Harriman, given his background, he would be fully supportive of their efforts and that they resolved the problem with induction. It's shameful that he is not more supportive of those Objectivist intellectuals.

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As to how McCaskey is supporting Whewell over Dr. Piekoff and Harriman, he is a professor of studies on induction and makes no reference to "The Logical Leap" on the front page of his website. If he was for Peikoff and Harriman, given his background, he would be fully supportive of their efforts and that they resolved the problem with induction. It's shameful that he is not more supportive of those Objectivist intellectuals.

So when you say that McCaskey "supports" Whewell "over" Peikoff, you mean simply that McCaskey "makes reference to" Whewell, but "omits reference to" Peikoff on the front page of his website. And you mean only that, and nothing else. Is that correct?

Does the fact that the front page of his website is devoted to his past courses and his past research on very specific topics in the history of early scientific thought change anything for you?

Does the fact that McCaskey is primarily a historian first, and a philosopher second, change your equation of his rejection of Harriman's historical presentation with a rejection of Peikoff's philosophical explanation? (I know, it's a loaded question - feel free to refute its assumption)

Does the fact that McCaskey's "primary research and writing concern evolving conceptions of induction from the ancient world to the early twentieth century" change anything?

Do you think that, despite all of this information, his home page, which he has setup as his CV, should remove all reference to his past research on Whewell, and promote Peikoff's induction as the solution to the problem of induction? Does that seem appropriate for a historian of philosophy?

Edited by brian0918
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When a historian of philosophy discovers a great new insight into his field of study, then yes, he should at a minimum add a large note on his website announcing "The Logical Leap" and Peikoff's course on "Induction in Physics and Philosophy" have solved a very long standing problem in the history of induction. His review on amazon.com gives the book a short shrift as well. So no I won't be supportive of McCaskey until he is more supportive of "The Logical Leap."

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Thomas,

From the SEP article: "Moreover, and perhaps most importantly for his philosophy of science, Whewell rejected Kant's claim that we can only have knowledge of our “categorized experience.” The Fundamental Ideas, on Whewell's view, accurately represent objective features of the world, independent of the processes of the mind, and we can use these Ideas in order to have knowledge of these objective features. Indeed, Whewell criticized Kant for viewing external reality as a “dim and unknown region” (see 1860a, 312)."

Not fundamental. Right. <_< Some of the important issues on which Whewell and Kant align are issues on which Whewell and Kant and most of philosophy before the 20th century align. Like the belief that necessary truths are a priori. FYI, all of Whewell's work on induction is available (FREE) on google books. You'd be better off knowing what Whewell actually thought, rather than selectively quoting from SEP articles that don't even agree with your interpretations anyway.

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I already have a huge backlog of good Objectivists books I want to read, so Whewell is not high on my list. I see no reason to rush out and read him especially with this controversy, as I think "The Logical Leap" solves the problem of induction and I can now move on to other things. But let me stress again, for the umpteenth time!! that I am not condemning McCaskey. He is not making Kantian arguments himself, and I don't have the evidence that he ever spoke out against Objectivism. By the same token, however, give his intellectual writings and his review of "The Logical Leap" I have no reason to befriend him either.

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Evidently I am being accused of being intellectually dishonest by the moderator board of this forum because I am saying that McCaskey is supporting Whewell over Peikoff and Harriman. But I am merely going by the public record. McCaskey gives very positive reviews of Whewell's work, but doesn't present the same high praise for "The Logical Leap" that was a joint effort by Peikoff and Harriman. As long as that record stands or isn't corrected, then I have no choice except to say that McCaskey is reviewing Whewell at a higher rating than Peikoff / Harriman.

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As long as that record stands or isn't corrected, then I have no choice except to say that McCaskey is reviewing Whewell at a higher rating than Peikoff / Harriman.

Or - and here's a crazy idea - you could just ask McCaskey whether he thinks the Peikoff / Harriman view of induction is an advance over Whewell's view. He seems to have been pretty open about his views and statements throughout this controversy.

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