Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

The wording of the consciousness axiom?

Rate this topic


james_h
 Share

Recommended Posts

Doesn't this just make Rand's "axioms" simply a variety of Kantian transcendental induction whereby the thinker is able to reach conclusions about what is required for knowledge to be possible in any coherent way?  That is a form synthetic a priori statement?

I understand the desire to use "axiom" to refer to a statement that should be obvious, and is in any case taken without proof.  But, normally "axioms" are thing that are used together with rules of inferences to deduce things.  If these "axioms" aren't used in deduction, then what is the point?

The best way to prove that the axioms of Objectivism are not valid is to deny them. If you do not exist and you are not conscious and you are the same thing as a bag of jelly beans then what are you basing your argument on?
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 64
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

[re-formatted 1/09/05 06:54 PM post with jedymastyr quotes:]

Actually, the inference that other humans are "conscious" is a _sub_-conscious, pre-conceptual, _implicit_ knowledge which infants grasp from observing the behavior of parents (or their equivalent). The axioms are _implicit_ knowledge from infancy.

There certainly is! Inferring the nature of the consciousness in other animals is a task for comparative psychology. All we can do is observe an animal's behavior and infer

from that what it _might_ or might not be aware of. To be more certain, requires experimentation geared to eliminating some possibilities and reinforcing others.

After enough evidence is gathered (see the OPAR chapter regarding "certainty"), you can then infer something which might be valid.

Just for example, if you feed squirrels peanuts, you'll observe there are _individual_differences in their responses; some search out the food more quickly and effectively than others; but they all (in a given group) seem not to "see" the food, but rather "smell" it's existence and location. Yet they apparently can navigate tree branches by sight fairly well. Do their consciousness' have seperate _modes_ of operation for the different actions in regard to the different objects involved?

This is assumed (as far as I know) correctly from the lack of any identifiable equivalents to animal perceptual organs. The logical inference is that any _perception_ of reality has to come from some physiological organ _similar to_ an animal's organ of perception. If any plant had an _awareness_ (even at a very primitive level) of that-which-is-outside-itself, it would have to have consciousness of two facts: that-which-is-outside-itself -- and itself. So far, only animals have this awareness.

ELS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Actually, the inference that other humans are "conscious" is a _sub_-conscious, pre-conceptual, _implicit_ knowledge which infants grasp from observing the behavior of parents (or their equivalent). The axioms are _implicit_ knowledge from infancy.

I think that begs the question. Implicit knowledge subsumes more than just the axioms, and the issue remains whether or not a chain of reasoning is required to attribute what may be axiomatic to you -- your own state of consciousness -- to another.

p.s.. I think you need to work some more on that quoting process. :(

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that begs the question. Implicit knowledge subsumes more than just the axioms,

Absolutely. My point was only that the axioms are implicit from infancy:"...in every state

of awareness, from the first sensation...(AR, ITOE)"

and the issue remains whether or not a chain of reasoning is required to attribute what may be axiomatic to you -- your own state of consciousness -- to another.

Stephen, I think you may be confusing two different issues here.

You're right about a chain of reasoning required to attribute any _specific_ state of consciousness in another as equivalent to my content (or, for that matter, all of the steps in any specific operation or process of consciousness), but that's a seperate issue from attributing equivalence to certain general states of consciousness, without which any explanation of consciousness is impossible.

Remember the analytical philosopher's standard arguments (e.g., Quine's "Gavagai" from "Word and Object") about not being able to attribute _anything_ to another's consciousness because consciousness is all "personal"? They based their theories of linguistic interpretation upon this idea.

In other words, what's axiomatic to my consciousness is axiomatic to any and every consciousness. The principles are the same for all; no matter the specific concretes of content and/or process.

Since I know you know all this, I'm not sure exactly how to interpret your criticism!

p.s.. I think you need to work some more on that quoting process.  :D

How's this? :)

ELS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Stephen, I think you may be confusing two different issues here.

You're right about a chain of reasoning required to attribute any _specific_ state of consciousness in another as equivalent to my content (or, for that matter, all of the steps in any specific operation or process of consciousness), but that's a seperate issue from attributing equivalence to certain general states of consciousness, without which any explanation of consciousness is impossible.

Remember the analytical philosopher's standard arguments (e.g., Quine's "Gavagai" from "Word and Object") about not being able to attribute _anything_ to another's consciousness because consciousness is all "personal"? They based their theories of linguistic interpretation upon this idea.

In other words, what's axiomatic to my consciousness is axiomatic to any and every consciousness. The principles are the same for all; no matter the specific concretes of content and/or process.

Our own consciousness is directly accessible to us via introspection, but we need to observe the actions and identify the nature of another, and connect that nature to ourselves via a process of reasoning, in order to recognize that another possesses a consciousness whose nature is the same as our own.

Since I know you know all this, I'm not sure exactly how to interpret your criticism!
As disagreement?

How's this? :)

Much improved. Thanks.

The quoting facility on the forum is not too intuitive, but most all seem to figure it out after a few posts. It would be good to have a brief explanation of how to use the quoting facility for new members to read.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Doesn't this just make Rand's "axioms" simply a variety of Kantian transcendental induction whereby the thinker is able to reach conclusions about what is required for knowledge to be possible in any coherent way?  That is a form synthetic a priori statement?

Similar, although Kant's transcendental arguments are epistemic in nature (what is required for cognition) and don't claim to make statements about noumenal reality, wheres Rand's are intended to be metaphysical.

I understand the desire to use "axiom" to refer to a statement that should be obvious, and is in any case taken without proof.  But, normally "axioms" are thing that are used together with rules of inferences to deduce things.  If these "axioms" aren't used in deduction, then what is the point?
They do play a role in deduction, however it is a 'negative' role rather than a 'positive' one. Deductions are generally not made directly from axioms of this sort, however the axioms allow one to tell when there has been a mistake in one's reasoning. Think of it as being like a reductio ad absurdum argument in mathematics. If a certain position can be shown to imply statements that are in fundamental violation to a set of axioms, then you know that the position is incompatible with said axioms and must be rejected as long as the axioms are taken to be true. For instance, if a certain set of statements taken together imply that consciousness doesnt exist, then you know that a mistake has been made somewhere. Without taking some statements as axiomatic in this sense, any form of indirect proof would be impossible and there would be no solid basis for discounting arguments regardless of what they implied.

e.g.

axiom a: Existence exists.

(corollary c: Non-existence does not exist)

p: The universe was created at a definite point in time

(c & (p => ¬c)) => ¬p

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our own consciousness is directly accessible to us via introspection, but we need to observe the actions and identify the nature of another,

I assume an infant does "observe the actions and [sub-consciously] identify the nature of another". Otherwise, you can only explain their behavior as a simple awareness of cause-and-effect: they act in a speciifc way (cause) -- and their parents act in a specific way (effect). They recognize the concretes, and learn to use them to satisfy their needs, which is the only way they have at their primitive level to function and survive.

So, infants would be implicitly aware of the axiom of identity, and the principle of causality -- without having any implicit awareness of consciousness in their parents.

Fair enough. That's a possibility. Child psychological experiments demonstrate an infant's awareness of identity and causality.

But I have trouble accepting that an infant could be implicitly aware of identity and causality without _some_, however rudimentary, awareness, some, however primitive, inference, that his parents have _consciousness_, i.e., an awareness similar to his.

and connect that nature to ourselves via a process of reasoning, in order to recognize that another possesses a consciousness whose nature is the same as our own.

Just the give-and-take emotional reactions between parent and child would give the infant an _implicit knowledge_ of a similar consciousness to his own ("connect that nature to [himself]"). No _explicit_ chain of reasoning would be needed at this level of development. How much implicit knowledge, other than axiomatic, the infant may have -- and at what levels during his cognitive development -- is still open for argumentation and scientific experimentation, but his behavior, his actions and reactions, point, in my estimation, to _evidence_ of more awareness of another's consciousness than previously considered.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So, infants would be implicitly aware of the axiom of identity, and the principle of causality -- without having any implicit awareness of consciousness in their parents.

Fair enough. That's a possibility. Child psychological experiments demonstrate an infant's awareness of identity and causality.

But I have trouble accepting that an infant could be implicitly aware of identity and causality without _some_, however rudimentary, awareness, some, however primitive, inference, that his parents have _consciousness_, i.e., an awareness similar to his.

Permit me to point out that this is now a somewhat different argument from where you started. You previously stated,

"Actually, the inference that other humans are "conscious" is a _sub_-conscious, pre-conceptual, _implicit_ knowledge which infants grasp from observing the behavior of parents (or their equivalent). The axioms are _implicit_ knowledge from infancy."

And I pointed out that while one's own consciousness is axiomatic, the issue is whether or not a chain of reasoning and experience is required to attribute a similarity in consciousness to another. If so this would mean it is not an axiom that was implicit knowledge in this case, but an inference -- a somewhat sophisticated one -- based upon experience and a chain of reasoning.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Permit me to point out that this is now a somewhat different argument from where you started. You previously stated,

"Actually, the inference that other humans are "conscious" is a _sub_-conscious, pre-conceptual, _implicit_ knowledge which infants grasp from observing the behavior of parents (or their equivalent). The axioms are _implicit_ knowledge from infancy."

And I pointed out that while one's own consciousness is axiomatic, the issue is whether or not a chain of reasoning and experience is required to attribute a similarity in consciousness to another. If so this would mean it is not an axiom that was implicit knowledge in this case, but an inference -- a somewhat sophisticated one  -- based upon experience and a chain of reasoning

No, my starting point, as you quote, is that an infant has some implicit knowledge (AR recognized this) which is _prior to_ any subsequent cognitive, i.e., epistemological, development. This _requires_ some cognitive processing, which given the infant's rudimentary level, means an implicit knowledge. The axioms of Objectivism _must_ be present at the primary, initial level of cognition because they identify reality and make possible any continued growth of cognitive abilities. You can't grow epistemologically from infancy if you haven't grasped and retained (as implicit principle or knowledge) the axioms -- one of which involves consciousness, both in oneself and in others by _subconscious inference_ (as opposed to explicit, conscious inference).

My point, which you remain unconvinced of (and I'm willing to accept that, and still regard you as rational, objective and a friend) is that an infant _by explict evidence in it's behavior_ is aware of the fact that another's -- his parent's -- consciousness exists -- and has certain actionable, i.e., manipulable, aspects.

Obviously, he cannot yet conceptualize the facts involved; but that doesn't preclude his ability to implicitly grasp the fact that "she, and/or he, is aware of me, of what I am doing, of what I want..etc," based on his own prior recognition of "I am conscious; that (the rest of inaminate reality around me) is not."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My point, which you remain unconvinced of (and I'm willing to accept that, and still regard you as rational, objective and a friend) is that an infant _by explict evidence in it's behavior_ is aware of the fact that another's -- his parent's -- consciousness exists -- and has certain actionable, i.e., manipulable, aspects.

I would say that it is quite some time before an infant even starts to become aware of its own consciousness, much less that of another. That very act (of his own self-awareness) in itself implies a relatively high degree of sophistication, extending in a sufficiently more complicated manner to apply to the consciousness of another. But, perhaps it is best that we not belabor the point, and agree to disagree.

Anyway, nice to see a new thoughtful person join the forum. Welcome.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

axiom a: Existence exists.

(corollary c: Non-existence does not exist)

p: The universe was created at a definite point in time

(c & (p => ¬c)) => ¬p

Isn't that just the same as saying:

axiom a: rational men exist

(corollary c: non-rational (irrational) men do not exist)

p: Lenin was not rational

(c & (p=> ~c))=> ~p

Conclusion: Lenin was rational?

Isn't there something wrong with this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Isn't that just the same as saying:

axiom a: rational men exist

(corollary c: non-rational (irrational) men do not exist)

p: Lenin was not rational

(c & (p=> ~c))=> ~p

Conclusion: Lenin was rational?

Isn't there something wrong with this?

"Existence exists" implies that "non-existence doesnt exist" since existence and non-existence are two mutually exclusive states. "Non-existence exists" is simply a way of saying that 'nothing exists', whereas "Existence exists" means that 'something exists'. However, "rational men exist" doesnt imply that "non-rational men don't exist" since the two propositions are not mutually exclusive (similar to how "big dogs exist" doesnt imply "small dogs don't exist" - both big dogs and small dogs can exist at once).

Also there seems to be an equivocation on the word rational here: saying that "man is rational" doesn't mean that every man is rational, only that man is unique amongst animals in having the capacity to function rationally.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Existence exists" implies that "non-existence doesnt exist" since existence and non-existence are two mutually exclusive states. "Non-existence exists" is simply a way of saying that 'nothing exists', whereas "Existence exists" means that 'something exists'.

By p, I'll mean the statement: The universe was created at a specific time.

Definition of existence from Shorter Oxford Dictionary

1) Reality as opposed to appearance

Using this definition, in the sentence "Existence exists", we can effectively substitute reality.

Therefore, from this definition, Existence exists means Reality exists. In other words

"Something that is real exists."

Corollary A:

Something that is not real doesn't exist.

You said that p=> ~A or p implies not A and contradicts our axiom which means

If the universe was created at a specific time, then that implies that something that is not real exists.

However when the universe wasn't in existence, there was no "not real" or unreal or non existent object that existed. Simply nothing existed. There was no existence before the beginning of the universe. Existence as such didn't exist. When the universe came into existence, that was the beginning of time and the beginning of existence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bowzer,

To be honest, I don't think that this topic is unrelated to Objectivism. A proper understanding of Objectivism involves a proper understanding of consciousness, so tangents exploring aspects of consciousness are not as far off topic as your comment seems to suggest.

I am curious as to the evolution of consciousness: where, in history, does it first show itself? Did Rand speculate about this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bowzer,

To be honest, I don't think that this topic is unrelated to Objectivism.

It's not every post here that makes me bang my head on the wall and I'm acutely aware that many here are interested in studying Objectivism. Indeed, much worthy of study is said on this BBS. But sometimes I just read things here that give me splitting headaches, that's all.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

However when the universe wasn't in existence, there was no "not real" or unreal or non existent object that existed. Simply nothing existed. There was no existence before the beginning of the universe. Existence as such didn't exist. When the universe came into existence, that was the beginning of time and the beginning of existence.

You are correct, I didn't think through my formulation properly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You are correct, I didn't think through my formulation properly.

Let me get this straight. You concede the validity of what you quoted?

Every one of the five sentences quoted suffers from a basic, fundamental error. Taking them, briefly, one by one:

1) "However when the universe wasn't in existence ..." But there is no alternative to existence. It is absurd to talk about when the "universe wasn't in existence." The universe is eternal.

2) "Simply nothing existed." "Nothing'" is the absence of something; the concept of "nothing" is genetically dependent on the concept of "existence." It is absurd to talk about "nothing existed," as if "nothing" could "exist" without existence.

3) "There was no existence before the beginning of the universe.." That is nonsense. Existence is all that there is. It is eternal. The universe cannot have a beginning, just as it cannot have an end.

4) "Existence as such didn't exist.." Sorry, more nonsense. There is no alternative to existence. Existence is eternal.

5) "When the universe came into existence, that was the beginning of time and the beginning of existence." Phooey! The universe cannot come into or go out of existence. And time is in the universe; the universe is not in time. There is no "beginning of time" or any nonsense such as the "beginning of existence."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Let me get this straight. You concede the validity of what you quoted?

Whether the universe is eternal or not is irrelevant here. The issue was whether my above argument was valid. It wasnt - in order to deduce "the universe is eternal" from "existence exists", you need a further premises, namely "nothing can come out of nothing". I didn't state this. and hence my argument was invalid. A true conclusion can be supported by flawed arguments. ("no peas are nuts" & "a peanut is a pea" => "a peanut is not a nut").

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A true conclusion can be supported by flawed arguments. ("no peas are nuts" & "a peanut is a pea" => "a peanut is not a nut").

This is a fallacy of modern philosophy. It is not a tenet of Objectivism (which is the philosophy that this board is devoted to).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...