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ITOE, Ch. 1: Axioms as Related to Consciousness

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All quotes are from page 6.

(It may be supposed that the concept "existent" is implicit even on the level of sensations—if and to the extent that a consciousness is able to discriminate on that level. A sensation is a sensation of something, as distinguished from the nothing of the preceding and succeeding moments. A sensation does not tell man what exists, but only that it exists.)

I will submit that the concept "existence," rather than "existent," is implicit on the level of sensations. This may have been covered somewhere in Objectivist literature, but I cannot recall reading it anywhere.

The (implicit) concept "existent" undergoes three stages of development in man's mind. The first stage is a child's awareness of objects, of things—which represents the (implicit) concept "entity." The second and lcosely allied stage is the awareness of specific, particular things which he can recognize and distinguish from the rest of his perceptual field—which represents the (implicit) concept "identity."

So far, it is clear that:

1) The axiomatic concept "existence," is implicit in the sensational level of consciousness.

2) The axiomatic concept "identity," is implicit in the perceptual level of consciousness.

The obvious next question to be answered is: Does consciousness become implicit on the conceptual level? The answer I hoped to see was: Yes. But, it would appear that the axiom of consciousness becomes implicit at the same time as "existence," because the presence of a sensation presupposes a consciousness which senses.

She goes on to explain that there is, in fact an implicit concept relating to the conceptual level of consciousness. This concept is "unit."

It would make sense that with regard to a human consciousness, the fundamental axioms are implicit in the automatic processes of consciousness. In fact, what makes them fundamental is the fact that any grasp of an existent (the basic bulding blocks), presupposes these three axioms. Conceptualization presupposes the (implicit) grasp of "unit."

Could "unit" be considered an axiom of conceptualization, or of concept-formation? (I understand that it is not on of the fundamental axioms.)

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"Existence" i.e. the sum of all extants, is not implicit in sensations. The existence of particular extants, i.e. an "existent" is implicit, but the idea of a sum which comprises the realm of reality is a high-level concept that requires quite a bit of integration.

However, I agree with that the existence axiom is implicit in the sensational stage of awareness since the concept of an extant is implicit in a sensation and the existence axiom simply states that SOMETHING exists, not what it is or that there is a sum.

I'm not sure that "unit" is an axiom . . . aren't axioms supposed to be truths that cannot be subjected to a process of reduction? What would be the actual statement there? Unit is just a concept, not an axiom.

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However, I agree with that the existence axiom is implicit in the sensational stage of awareness since the concept of an extant is implicit in a sensation and the existence axiom simply states that SOMETHING exists, not what it is or that there is a sum.

Yeah, that's really what I was getting at.

I'm not sure that "unit" is an axiom . . . aren't axioms supposed to be truths that cannot be subjected to a process of reduction?  What would be the actual statement there?  Unit is just a concept, not an axiom.

I was thinking more about this last night, and came up with pretty much the same thing. I see now that "unit" can't be axiomatic.

What I'm trying to find here is really: a) whether or not some axiomatic concept (although, not fundamental, since the fundamental axioms have been ruled out) becomes implicit when we reach the conceptual level. Or, B) even if it's not axiomatic, whether there is any concept at all that relates to the "conceptual" in the same way the fundamental axioms relate to the "sensational" and "perceptual."

I may be just reaching where's there's nothing to grab, but something keeps tugging at my brain.

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What I'm trying to find here is really: a) whether or not some axiomatic concept (although, not fundamental, since the fundamental axioms have been ruled out) becomes implicit when we reach the conceptual level. Or, :) even if it's not axiomatic, whether there is any concept at all that relates to the "conceptual" in the same way the fundamental axioms relate to the "sensational" and "perceptual."

I may be just reaching where's there's nothing to grab, but something keeps tugging at my brain.

What about "volition"? Since conceptual thinking is the volitional part of the thought process (all else is automatic) it wouldn't become apparent that we are volitional beings until we begin to conceptualize, i.e. use our faculty of volition intentionally.

Volition is axiomatic.

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All quotes are from page 6.

I will submit that the concept "existence," rather than "existent," is implicit on the level of sensations. This may have been covered somewhere in Objectivist literature, but I cannot recall reading it anywhere.

I agree with JMeganSnow that existent, but not existence, is axiomatic on the level of sensations. Existence is an integration of all existents. But since sensations are not commited to memory and last only as long as the stimulis is present, there isn't any retained mental content to integrate.

So far, it is clear that:

1) The axiomatic concept "existence," is implicit in the sensational level of consciousness.

2) The axiomatic concept "identity," is implicit in the perceptual level of consciousness.

This formulation is new to me, but I like it. I had never thought to integrate axiomatic concepts with the three levels of consciousness. Thank you!

I need to think about this more before I atempt to answer the rest of your questions.

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What about "volition"?  Since conceptual thinking is the volitional part of the thought process (all else is automatic) it wouldn't become apparent that we are volitional beings until we begin to conceptualize, i.e. use our faculty of volition intentionally.

Volition is axiomatic.

From ITOE:

An axiomatic concept is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed, i.e., reduced to other facts or broken into component parts. It is implicit in all facts and in all knowledge. It is the fundamentally given and directly perceived or experienced, which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanations rest.

Under this definition, I don't see how volition is axiomatic. Volition can be analyzed and broken down into component parts. In order to grasp the concept of volition, you first have to understand several other concepts.

Volition is implicit, in that you don't have to understand volition in order to exercise free will, but implicit concepts are different from axiomatic ones.

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I agree with JMeganSnow that existent, but not existence, is axiomatic on the level of sensations.  Existence is an integration of all existents.  But since sensations are not commited to memory and last only as long as the stimulis is present, there isn't any retained mental content to integrate.

I meant "existence" in the sense of the axiom "Existence exists," rather than the concept which means: the sum of all existents. The concept "existent" could be supposed to be implicit in sensations, but is not axiomatic. This is the same problem we ran into with "unit" being implicit in the conceptual level.

This formulation is new to me, but I like it.  I had never thought to integrate axiomatic concepts with the three levels of consciousness.  Thank you!

I started looking at it this way a while back when I was reading OPAR, but the problem of the conceptual level has always stumped me. I'm extremely grateful to Jennifer for identification of volition (in the axiomatic sense) as becoming implicit on the conceptual level. It'd definitely a step in the right direction. All that remains now is to "iron out the wrinkles," so to speak.

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From ITOE:

Under this definition, I don't see how volition is axiomatic.  Volition can be analyzed and broken down into component parts.  In order to grasp the concept of volition, you first have to understand several other concepts.

In OPAR, Chapter 2, beginning on page 69, Dr. Peikoff examines in what sense Volition is axiomatic. He explains that "Volition, accordingly, is not an independent philosophic principle, but a corollary of the axiom of consciousness." A couple of paragraphs later, he writes, "Just as on must accept existence of consciousness in order to deny it, so one must accept volition in order to deny it. A philosophic axiom cannot be proved, because it is one of the bases of proof."

Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, but I think that directly addresses the area of your confusion.

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In OPAR, Chapter 2, beginning on page 69, Dr. Peikoff examines in what sense Volition is axiomatic. He explains that "Volition, accordingly, is not an independent philosophic principle, but a corollary of the axiom of consciousness." A couple of paragraphs later, he writes, "Just as on must accept existence of consciousness in order to deny it, so one must accept volition in order to deny it. A philosophic axiom cannot be proved, because it is one of the bases of proof."

Of course, there is a lot more to it than that, but I think that directly addresses the area of your confusion.

Based strictly on the quote you provided volition is not axomicatic. Voilition is based on the axiom of consciousness, which means in cannot be an axiom itself.

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Based strictly on the quote you provided volition is not axomicatic.  Voilition is based on the axiom of consciousness, which means in cannot be an axiom itself.

Volition IS axiomatic (or that man possesses volition, is); it can be identified only ostensively, through introspection, it cannot be subjected to process of reduction. Volition is not a corollary of consciousness; if it were, everything that possessed consciousness would NECESSARILY possess volition and vice versa, as a corollary is a statement that necessarily follows from an axiom. It is not one of the three PRIMARY axioms of metaphysics; it is an epistemological axiom, but it is an axiom nontheless.

The chapter on volition in OPAR explicitly states this. (Unless I'm remembering completely incorrectly, I don't have my book but I will check when I get home.)

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The chapter on volition in OPAR explicitly states this.  (Unless I'm remembering completely incorrectly, I don't have my book but I will check when I get home.)

It does. Immediately after the sentence I quoted, Peikoff goes on to say, "Not every consciousness has the faculty of volition. Every fallible, conceptual consciousness, however, does have it."

This further supports the idea of realting volition (as an axiom) to the conceptual level of consciousness in the same manner that I related the others above.

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Volition IS axiomatic (or that man possesses volition, is); it can be identified only ostensively, through introspection, it cannot be subjected to process of reduction.  Volition is not a corollary of consciousness; if it were, everything that possessed consciousness would NECESSARILY possess volition and vice versa, as a corollary is a statement that necessarily follows from an axiom.  It is not one of the three PRIMARY axioms of metaphysics; it is an epistemological axiom, but it is an axiom nontheless.

The chapter on volition in OPAR explicitly states this.  (Unless I'm remembering completely incorrectly, I don't have my book but I will check when I get home.)

The crux of the disagreement here is the difference between an axiomatic concpet and an implicit concept. Based on the definition that AR provides for aximomatic (which I quoted in above) and the quote that Dave provided from OPAR (which states directly that "Volition, accordingly, is not an independent philosophic principle, but a corollary of the axiom of consciousness."), volition is NOT axiomatic. But is implicit, in that you can are volitional without understanding volition on a conceptual level.

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May I make a suggestion?

The term "existence" is different in meaning from the existence axiom, just like the term "consciousness" is different from the consciousness axiom.

That's where I goofed above, btw; volition presupposes the consciousness axiom (in order to have volition you must be aware, and to be aware you must be aware of SOMETHING). I still have to check my book because I SWEAR Dr. Peikoff says that volition is axiomatic; I don't like being confused.

Anyway, can we please resolve that, when we're referring to an axiom to specifically denote it as the axiom? I know axiom is an irritating word to be typing all the time but it may save us from having to make an extra clarifying post frequently.

It might be useful to post all study conventions (like this one if it gets accepted) in the "Studying ITOE" thread Andrew started so everyone can see them easily.

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Here is a better quote. Again, he wrote quite a bit about volition as an axiom, so it isn't really a full explanation. For that, you will have to read the book.

The principle of volition is a philosophic axiom, with all the features this involves. It is a primary—a starting point of conceptual cognition and of the subject of epistemology; to direct one's consciuosness, on must be free and one must know, at least implicitly, that one is. It is a fundamental: every item of conceptual knowledge requires some form of validation, the need of which rests on the fact of volition. It is self-evident. And it is inescapable. Even its enemies have to accept and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.
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Anyway, can we please resolve that, when we're referring to an axiom to specifically denote it as the axiom?

I've been trying to designate everywhere when I mean something in the axiomatic sense. I think some loose guidelines may be of use when it isn't obvious from the context what we mean. We can't get too strict with them however. I think it may be counter-productive if we are constantly referring back to some sort of "rules list," to make sure we are in compliance.

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We can't get too strict with them however.

Yes, but we don't want to degenerate into linguistic laziness just because we're tired of typing.

I think of it as self-preservation: if I didn't call myself on it sooner or later someone would and ruin my reputation.

Wait, I don't have one. Carry on.

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The concept of "volition" is one of the roots of the concept of "validation" . . . a validation of ideas is necessary and possible only because man's consciousness is volitional.  This applies to any idea; including the advocacy of free will: to ask for its proof is to presuppose the reality of free will.

Once again, we have reached a principle at the foundation of human knowledge, a principle that antecedes all argument and proof.  How, then, do we know that man has volition?  It is a self-evident fact, available to any act of introspection.

...

The principle of volition is a philosophic axiom, with all the features this involves. It is a primary--a starting point of conceptual cognition and of the subject of epistemology; to direct one's consciouisness, one must be free and one must know, at least implicitly, that one is.  It is a fundamental: every item of conceptual knowledge requires some form of validation, the need of which rests on the fact of volition.  It is self-evident.  And it is inescapable.  Even its enemies have to accept and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it.

Bold mine, all other emphases belong to Dr. Peikoff.

I hope that clears things up.

Edit: but, he also refers to volition as a corrolary a page and a half later. I looked up his definitions for axiom and corrolary in OPAR and he explicitly states that one cannot be the other. What gives? Did we just catch Dr. Peikoff in a mistake?

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My understanding is that a concept can be both axiomatic and a corrolary, and that the two are not in conflict.

Doesn't Peikoff describe the axiomatic concept of "identity" as a corrolary of "existence". It is the same fact looked at from a different perrspective. "Existence" emphasizes the difference between something and nothing, whereas "Identity" emphasizes the difference between something and something else. (edit: "Existence is Identity")

That aside...

Volition is both axiomatic and a corrolary to conceptual consciousness.

The exercise of volition is inherent in the act of regarding something as a 'unit'. When you regard something as a 'unit', you are grouping it together with other entities according to a common attribute that you are selectively focusing on. That selective focus is where volition plays its role.

When you start to use langauge, any language, you are using words, auditory and visual perceptual symbols, which stand for concepts. These concepts are formed by the following steps:

1) Differentiation: Isolating a group of two or more 'units' according to a commonly held attribute.

2) Integration: combining these common 'units' into a single mental entity by ommiting the specific measurements of the attributewas that was basis for the initial differentiation.

3) Providing a new concrete perceptual entity to symbolize this newly created mental entity so that one may retain and reuse it. The result of this entire process is a concept.

Volition is indispensible in step 1. Step 1 is indispensible in concept formation. Concept formation is indispensible in the use of language. And therefore volition is indispensible in the use of language. Volition is axiomatic.

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Thanks for fleshing all of that out, Andrew. I think we can safely consider this particular topic settled, now.

It's amazing how much discussion we've gotten out of just two pages of text. The rest of the chapter deals with measurement. I'm going to read through it before bed tonight and see what questions arise.

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My understanding is that a concept can be both axiomatic and a corrolary, and that the two are not in conflict. 

Doesn't Peikoff describe the axiomatic concept of "identity" as a corrolary of "existence".  It is the same fact looked at from a different perrspective.  "Existence" emphasizes the difference between something and nothing, whereas "Identity" emphasizes the difference between something and something else.  (edit: "Existence is Identity")

That aside...

Volition is both axiomatic and a corrolary to conceptual consciousness.

...

I am still a little puzzled over this issue. Is there a difference between an "axiomatic concept" and a "philosophical axiom"?

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I am still a little puzzled over this issue.  Is there a difference between an "axiomatic concept" and a "philosophical axiom"?

My understanding (now :thumbsup:) is that an axiomatic concept is one that depends on no others. Thus existence (as a concept) is axiomatic, while consciousness and identity depend on it. "In order to be conscious you must be conscious of SOMETHING, a consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms." Likewise, "If a SOMETHING exists, then it must EXIST."

Volition, as a concept, depends on consciousness; for volition to exist there must be consciousness. However, the fact that man HAS volition (i.e. the philosophical statement) is axiomatic; it is grasped directly through sense-perception (introspection); it is a "perceptual self-evidency".

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Volition, as a concept, depends on consciousness; for volition to exist there must be consciousness.  However, the fact that man HAS volition (i.e. the philosophical statement) is axiomatic; it is grasped directly through sense-perception (introspection); it is a "perceptual self-evidency".

This makes sense, thanks for clearing that up :thumbsup:.

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