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Units & The Principle of Two Definitions

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I have two questions which are perhaps interrelated.

1) I have thrice now encountered criticisms of Objectivist Epistemology where it is claimed Rand is unambiguously ambiguous in her usage of the word "unit" (see: Steven Yate's Ayn Rand on Units, Essences, and the Intrinsic, and Merlin Jetton's Omissions and Measurement). They claim she uses it to serve both as a concept which refers to a distinct existent as member of a conceptual classification, "as a separate member of two or more similar members", and which refers also to totally invented standards of measurement such as the yard, pound, or watt. This latter group is usually characterized as units of measurement and rings of the colloquial understanding of "unit". The purpose of pointing out (I guess) this so-called ambiguity is to identify the important difference between something's status as a unit in virtue of being similar to the other members of a conceptual classification and something's status as a unit in virtue of being an invented, arbitrary standard of measurement. Does this criticism actually mean or entail anything important and does Rand's analysis in ITOE in anyway suffer from it? Could we also employ the "principle of two definitions" here, in saying that the same word is used to "preserve the unity of knowledge" (Piekoff) because the same referents are being referred to?  Namely, instances of a given concept (yards, pounds, and watts can all be understood as instances of the identification of a relationship, i.e. as units of measurement). 

2) The "principle of two definitions" says that no equivocation takes place because the same referents are specified and in Objectivism the meaning of a concept are its referents, i.e. two different meanings are not being employed. Now say my friend says power over others is a value (using the basic definition of value) because it is something he acts to gain and/or keep and I say power over others is not a value (using the definition of value wherein the normative perspective of Objectivism is imported - "...neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud..."). He is referring to the fact that he acts to gain and/or keep power over others and I am referring to the fact that he acts to gain and/or keep something non-conducive to man's survival qua man. Power over others and something non-conducive to man's survival qua man here refer to the same thing yet it would seem like the two of us mean something very different. He is saying power is a value and I am saying power is not a value despite that the fact that both of us mean the exact same thing (colloquially, this assertion would be baffling to most people I'm sure). Therefore what word or concept should be used to explain our differences since it is not true that we mean different things (perspective?) and/or do propositions take on or add an element of meaning beyond that of its constituent concepts?

Thanks in advance. It is usually a great help to not have to think through these things totally on my own.

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For number two it would be a good start to define the concept power and any necessary sub category concepts if needed.  That concept has to identify something in reality.  That's not subjective.  With that said, it seems to me that your confusion is caused by not separating out the concept power from the moral valuation of it.  Your switching between the concept and the moral valuation/purpose of the concept.  That jumping back and forth is causing confusion.  What is power?  That's one thing.  Is it good or bad?  Is a separate thing.  Possibly, you'd have to qualify how you use it?  Maybe not?  Maybe just think through if how you use it, makes it good or bad, or if that is a moot point.  Hope I understood your post correctly and that my comments are relevant and help.  

Question number one is very interesting for me and relates to a post that I put in "concept formation".  I'll post a reply to question number one by tomorrow night, as I wanted to read the articles that you referenced first.

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15 hours ago, KALADIN said:

(see: Steven Yate's Ayn Rand on Units, Essences, and the Intrinsic, and Merlin Jetton's Omissions and Measurement)

Links can help: (see: Steven Yate's Ayn Rand on Units, Essences, and the Intrinsic, and Merlin Jetton's Omissions and Measurement)

Merriam-Webster offers the following:

Simple Definition of unit

  1. : a single thing, person, or group that is a part of something larger
  2. : a part of a hospital where a particular type of care is provided
  3. : a particular amount of length, time, money, etc., that is used as a standard for counting or measuring

A unit of a concept is its referent. In the case of "man", the referents are every man that is, was, or will be. Likewise, this can be done with "stick". This is pretty straightforward and adheres to the first definition offered.

Consider the following collection of "sticks" illustrated with em-dashes "—"

"—", "——", "———", "————", "—————", "——————".

As organized, they are laid out from the shortest to the longest. Shorter and longer are variations on "the more or the less". The longest one, "——————", is so long that 6 of the shortest ones, "—" laid end to end are equally as long. Conversely the shortest is 1/6th as long as the longest.

The described difference above can be designated as one attribute of the stick: "length". In this example, the shortest stick serves as a unit of the group of sticks as well as a unit for counting the proportional relationships of the length of the other sticks. By renaming the length of the shortest stick "inch", it can be regarded as a unit of length, which in turn can be used to count the lengths, in inches, of the other sticks, the height of a table, the lengths of the the edges of a cube, etc.

At this point, the unit of an inch can be embodied into things such as rulers (or scale as they are called by draftsmen), yardsticks and measuring tapes. By standardizing the unit, it becomes readily available for comparing the number of inches of a seen thing to an unseen thing, essentially referring back to a single thing in the first sense of the definition.

18 hours ago, KALADIN said:

The purpose of pointing out (I guess) this so-called ambiguity is to identify the important difference between something's status as a unit in virtue of being similar to the other members of a conceptual classification and something's status as a unit in virtue of being an invented, arbitrary standard of measurement.

While the length representing an inch may have been arbitrarily chosen, once chosen, it becomes the standard for future references back to it. A history of length measurement can help to illustrate this itemizing some issues and improvements along the way. SI lengths go through great efforts to relate specific lengths to specific natural phenomenon, see: Length—Evolution from Measurement Standard to a Fundamental Constant. The fact that something is invented prior to becoming a unit to be used as a referent of a concept arises in objects such as televisions, computers and cell phones.

Steven Yates raises the issue of mental entity in his paper. Leonard Peikoff, in History of Philosophy I, addressing Plato's world of forms, Peikoff—in lecture 2—brings up Parmenides "What is, is. What is not, is not."  The particulars contrasted against the universals. Plato could look out at the world and see Socrates, but not man-ness. Obviously, to Plato, there was some universal "man", it must exist, after all, it is spoken of, and he apparently agreed with Parmenides that what was not, could neither be, nor be spoken about. So where does man-ness exist? For Plato, he rationalized it into the world of forms.

For now, this is where I have to leave it.

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20 hours ago, KALADIN said:

Therefore what word or concept should be used to explain our differences since it is not true that we mean different things (perspective?) and/or do propositions take on or add an element of meaning beyond that of its constituent concepts?

His explanation sounds descriptive, as in he was talking about value as strictly a description that some people pursue and seek power over others. It is true, and important to think about. Your explanation of power is normative, as in integrated with a specific ethical theory, developed after understanding value more broadly first.

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Kaladin said:

Quote

2) The "principle of two definitions" says that no equivocation takes place because the same referents are specified and in Objectivism the meaning of a concept are its referents, i.e. two different meanings are not being employed. Now say my friend says power over others is a value (using the basic definition of value) because it is something he acts to gain and/or keep and I say power over others is not a value (using the definition of value wherein the normative perspective of Objectivism is imported - "...neither love nor fame nor cash is a value if obtained by fraud..."). He is referring to the fact that he acts to gain and/or keep power over others and I am referring to the fact that he acts to gain and/or keep something non-conducive to man's survival qua man. Power over others and something non-conducive to man's survival qua man here refer to the same thing yet it would seem like the two of us mean something very different. He is saying power is a value and I am saying power is not a value despite that the fact that both of us mean the exact same thing (colloquially, this assertion would be baffling to most people I'm sure). Therefore what word or concept should be used to explain our differences since it is not true that we mean different things (perspective?) and/or do propositions take on or add an element of meaning beyond that of its constituent concepts?

I dont see this as an instance of the  "principle of 2 definitions". I see this as simply a context of a general instance of a concept and a particular instance of the same concept. 

A value is something one acts to gain and or keep. To satisfy this range of measurents one must have something one acts to gain and keep but may persue anything as an object to be gained and kept.

Your particular values have specific measurements that fall within the general range of value as such. 

Understanding this will help to avoid the fallacy of the frozen abstraction.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/frozen_abstraction,_fallacy_of.html

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Kaladin, both of your questions are indeed interrelated for they are examples of the same principle of two definitions, or in other words the objective-normative context switch.

In regards the first question (addressing Yates only here, the first given reference) of Rands alleged ambiguity over her use of the term unit and essence, there is a wider objective definition given first and then a more normative definition given later.   Units are "things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships" and then later she gives the rule of fundamentality for finding the proper (she uses that exact word, "proper") defining characteristic of a concept that 

Quote

Now observe . . . the process of determining an essential characteristic: the rule of fundamentality. When a given group of existents has more than one characteristic distinguishing it from other existents, man must observe the relationships among these various characteristics and discover the one on which all the others (or the greatest number of others) depend, i.e., the fundamental characteristic without which the others would not be possible. This fundamental characteristic is the essential distinguishing characteristic of the existents involved, and the proper defining characteristic of the concept.

Metaphysically, a fundamental characteristic is that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible; epistemologically, it is the one that explains the greatest number of others.

where "essential distinguishing characteristic" is long form of the "essence".

In regards the second question, it is not the proposition but the concept of "power" itself and of the men subject to it that you hold in a different context of knowledge than your friend uses.  If one takes seriously the definition of man as "the rational animal" that leads to certain conclusions about power, but a different or inconsistently held view of the fundamentality of rationality will lead to other conclusions about power.

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Both articles are sloppy, poorly analyzed, junk and way off base (sorry if I was vague in my description)

Quote

They claim she uses it to serve both as a concept which refers to a distinct existent as member of a conceptual classification, "as a separate member of two or more similar members", and which refers also to totally invented standards of measurement such as the yard, pound, or watt.

What do the two above things have in common and how are they different?

In common:

The "units" are identified via man's consciousness by a distinguishing characteristic from a wider commensurable aspect of reality.  The distinguishing characteristic sets the parameters, is the measuring device of the broader group of similar aspects of reality.

Notice the purpose of concepts (automobile or inch): to measure - understand a relationship between one thing and another, between the genus and the specific measurements that isolate some other aspect of reality.  It's a form of measurement.

Different:

In the case of concepts of entities, methods, etc. the meaning of the concept, that is the referents in reality have a massive amount of details, within the parameters set.  Looking at it from a third person perspective, the measurements omitted (the difference between the definition of the concept and the meaning i.e. all the aspects of all the items) is massive.

Contrarily, in the case of a measurement unit such as inch, the parameter of it's distinguishing characteristic (inch) in relation to it's genus (length i.e. one attribute) It only measures one thing, one attribute - length, but only one specific portion of length,  (the difference between the definition of the concept and the meaning i.e. all the aspects of all the items) the measurement omitted from the distinguishing characteristic i.e. an inch, is nothing

 A concept's units therefore require that measurements be omitted in order for it to be broad enough of a measurement to include a great number of entities.  That's the cognitive role of concepts - unit economy.

On the opposite end of the scale, a unit of measurement has an entirely different purpose.  While it uses the same method to form the concept "inch", however since the distinguishing characteristic omits no measurements, it's purpose certainly isn't to hold a great number of entities.  but in a ironic reversal, it is used to measure an unlimited number of entites however only in one dimension.   Whereas a concept such as automobile has measurements of color, length, weight, shape, etc. etc. etc.  

 

In Summary, regarding their similarities and differences.  One uses the same process in identifying the units.  However, one form of unit omits measurements and one does not omit measurements.  Hence, they have a different purpose. 

Edited by mike o
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Must be that I'm limited to two edits and the edit button disappears after the first two edits.  I'm guessing the premium membership comes with unlimited edits B)

Below is the edit of my last paragraph from my last post:

In Summary, regarding their similarities and differences.  Both use the same process in identifying the units, that is they both use the distinguishing characteristic to measure something from a wider aspect of reality. However, when you create a concept, you do that for unit economy purposes and set the parameters wide enough, that is the distinguishing characteristic(s) broad enough, to include a large number of things you have observed in reality. When forming a standard of measurement for a specific attribute such a length, your measurement device; the distinguishing characteristic, omits no measurements.  The purpose of a standard of measurement is not unit economy, in the same sense as a traditional concept.  But it does the same thing as traditional concepts; it expands the range of man's consciousness.

 

Likewise the quote below, from my previous post should have said:

Whereas the meaning of a concept such as automobile has measurements of color, lenght, weight, shape, etc. etc. etc.

Quote

Whereas a concept such as automobile has measurements of color, length, weight, shape, etc. etc. etc.

 

Edited by mike o
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The edit button is available up to an hour after the initial posting, regardless of the number of times edited.

Pat Corvini makes an interesting observation in number, and consequently it can be extended into measurement. Where as the units of man, stick, automobile vary in many different respects from man to man, from stick to stick, etc., each instance of 3 is exactly the same. It omits all measurements except for quantity. 3 apples, 3 sticks, 3 men, all omit the "what" is being counted. "Inch" is similar. It omits weight, color, type of material, etc. Every instance of an "inch" would be exactly the same with regard to length, and length alone not the "what" that is an inch in length.

Edited by dream_weaver
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Quote

Now say my friend says power over others is a value (using the basic definition of value) because it is something he acts to gain and/or keep

Maintain the identities of what you are referring to and your confusion will go away.  For example, what you list above is not the "basic definition" of value, it's an incomplete definition and an invalid definition.  There are a lot of things that people act to gain and/or keep that is not a value (even if they think it is a value due to poor judgment.

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2 minutes ago, mike o said:

 

Maintain the identities of what you are referring to and your confusion will go away.  For example, what you list above is not the "basic definition" of value, it's an incomplete definition and an invalid definition.  There are a lot of things that people act to gain and/or keep that is not a value (even if they think it is a value due to poor judgment.

But there is no confusion, and the other definition is not invalid. That's the point. If the other definition were not valid, that would pose a problem for developing a normative theory of value. I know it sounds counterintuitive or even contradictory, but the key point is to keep in mind the context in which the definitions apply. I am curious, have you read up on what Peikoff said about two definitions?

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16 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

But there is no confusion, and the other definition is not invalid. That's the point. If the other definition were not valid, that would pose a problem for developing a normative theory of value. I know it sounds counterintuitive or even contradictory, but the key point is to keep in mind the context in which the definitions apply. I am curious, have you read up on what Peikoff said about two definitions?

Quote

Therefore what word or concept should be used to explain our differences since it is not true that we mean different things (perspective?) and/or do propositions take on or add an element of meaning beyond that of its constituent concepts?

I quoted the last question in the original post above, that started this thread.  That's not a statement, that's a question based on what I referred to as confusion.  When you say there is no confusion - not sure the context you were using.  Clearly this person doesn't have a clear answer and wants to discuss it and make it clearer.  

Now, I'm not saying my feedback was accurate, won't be wrong, was clear, etc. etc. - that's open for discussion.  Easily could have been off base as I didn't understand the entire potential context of it.  Also, I have not read up on what Peikoff said about two definitions and was going to be asking for a clear example for someone to post and/or link me to the source?

Thanks,

Mike

 

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1 hour ago, dream_weaver said:

The edit button is available up to an hour after the initial posting, regardless of the number of times edited.

Pat Corvini makes an interesting observation in number, and consequently it can be extended into measurement. Where as the units of man, stick, automobile vary in many different respects from man to man, from stick to stick, etc., each instance of 3 is exactly the same. It omits all measurements except for quantity. 3 apples, 3 sticks, 3 men, all omit the "what" is being counted. "Inch" is similar. It omits weight, color, type of material, etc. Every instance of an "inch" would be exactly the same with regard to length, and length alone not the "what" that is an inch in length.

Yes, 

Relevant to my other posts showing that a concept is a form of measurement (not only uses measurement but is a form of measurement itself), so the same principle is in play.  Concepts measure entities say to begin with, there are lots of different attributes of entities, so you start to create a concept for length, then you create a concept for a certain length - inch.  At that point when you get to inch, it is not formed for unit economy of items.  

In concept formation i.e. any knowledge you are measuring, that is, determining things that are different from others in the same way, then the 2nd step is within that subcategory you are seeing which items are different than others in the same subcategory, in the same way, to form the 2nd subcategory i.e. concept.  

Measurement of attributes works in the opposite direction and comes later.  That is you have to get to the point of grasping an attribute such as length to measure, before you identify a specific length to use as a unit.  However, once you get there then you take that specific length and go out and measure various objects to determine relationships of that attribute from one item to another.  

So you get to the unit of measurement as you get to any concept.  And the concept and a traditional unit of measurement also have the same thing in common - they help understand the relationships among entities.

It's formed to relate items to other items in order to determine their relative relationship for that attribute from one item to another.  They are all standards of measurement - one say measures a certain portion of what motor vehicles (that is for automobile) and one for length (inch).  

 

Edited by mike o
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Louie said:

Quote

But there is no confusion, and the other definition is not invalid. That's the point. If the other definition were not valid, that would pose a problem for developing a normative theory of value. 

Which is the "other definition" you are referring to?

This whole thread is confusing because Kaladin is pointing at two different sets of values from two different teleological measurers. The "two definitions" are from completely different ethical contexts and therefore it does not seem relevant to Dr. Peikoff's "principle" (from what I can derive from Grames notes and comments from his older thread on the same topic) :

When Ms. Rand discusses definition change in ITOE it is from within a single persons framework and their context of knowledge.

 

So far I don't see this "principle" as even necessary epistemologically.  I'll download the lecture to make certain.

Edited by Plasmatic
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2 hours ago, Plasmatic said:

Louie said:

Which is the "other definition" you are referring to?

1) that which one seeks to gain or keep

2) that which one seeks to gain or keep to further their life

It's not that there is a radical difference, but they certainly specify the context and if Kaladin's friend is talking about a specific ethical theory about value, or just pointing out that some people value power over others. This would be necessary epistemologically because it allows you to keep in mind how you induce or develop your ethical theory. You can't understand value as something that furthers your life without first understanding that people seek, desire, or keep things for all kinds of reasons, even irrational reasons. I'll listen to the relevant lecture again soon probably. 

Edited by Eiuol
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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

1) that which one seeks to gain or keep

2) that which one seeks to gain or keep to further their life

It's not that there is a radical difference, but they certainly specify the context and if [...]This would be necessary epistemologically because it allows you to keep in mind how you induce or develop your ethical theory. You can't understand value as something that furthers your life without first understanding that people seek, desire, or keep things for all kinds of reasons, even irrational reasons. I'll listen to the relevant lecture again soon probably. 

Everything you say here pertains only to a single persons context. Kaladin is referring to both a general concept of value and a disagreement between Kaladin and another's particular values. 

The referents of the teleological differences between Kaladin and this other persons particular value judgements are not the same at all. Therefore, this "principle" does not apply.  

Louie said:

Quote

Kaladin's friend is talking about a specific ethical theory about value, or just pointing out that some people value power over others. 

And that specific difference negates the equation of Kaladins specific ethical premises with this other persons as an instance of this "principle", as I understand it.

Also, any definition of value that does not root itself in the rational self interest of live preserving action is false. This is true along with the fact that there is a general concept of value as against the particular context of ones personal value choices.

Edited by Plasmatic
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19 hours ago, Plasmatic said:

Everything you say here pertains only to a single persons context. Kaladin is referring to both a general concept of value and a disagreement between Kaladin and another's particular values.

They are both talking about things people act to gain or keep, with Kaladin adding in a specific ethical evaluation. Peikoff's principle seems to be made for contexts where people learn normative standards later, where a later definition would exclude the very type of actions used to say which values are proper. It's not like we throw away the ladder, so we keep both definitions. Do you disagree with Peikoff's principle? It seems like you just disagree with Peikoff, not that you think I misunderstand his principle.

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