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Is the "stolen concept" truly a fallacy?

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I would like to make some corrections and clarifications of my last message.

In my sample deduction, I said "subtract 9XX from both sides" when I should have said "subtract 9YY from both sides". And I could have simply subtracted "3Y" from both sides of "X+3Y=3Y" to get "X=0".

Regarding essential characteristics of a concept (for use in definitions):

Metaphysically, a fundamental characteristic is that distinctive characteristic which makes the greatest number of others possible;

epistemologically, it is the one which explains the greatest number of others.

Regarding concepts:

Since a concept must be grasped by a human mind, it may depend only on known facts and not on unknowns. Therefore, arbitrary sets of existents could not be grasped, and thus are not concepts.

As a person's knowledge increases, he may add more units to one of his concepts, but (assuming no errors) he should not have to remove any units from it. That is, a unit is presumed to not belong to a concept until it has been shown that it should belong.

In terms of mathematical model theory, a (first order) concept is a relation definable from:

variables over elements of the model (representing existents);

equality;

distinctness (negation of equality);

primitive relations (representing perceived connections);

negations of those primitive relations;

conjunction;

disjunction; and

existential quantification over the variables.

The units contained in the concepts are represented by n-tuples of elements of the model (where the concept is an n-ary relation).

Two concepts are regarded as identical, if no known unit belongs to one of them but not the other.

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The predicate is defined relative to an arbitrary time t as follows: An object satisfies the predicate "x is grue" if and only if it is first observed before t and is then found to be green, or is first observed after t and is then found to be blue.

The problem is this. Let t be some moment in the future. Then "All emeralds are green" and "All emeralds are grue" are both true. So long as t has not yet arrived, every green emerald we find agrees with both sentences, but surely a green emerald is evidence only for "All emeralds are green", not evidence for "All emeralds are grue." The problem is to explain why not.

The answer to the Goodman paradox (grue and bleen) lies in the Law of Causality:

The same causes produce the same probability distribution over possible effects regardless of when the event occurs, or where, or in what orientation, or how fast it is moving (below light-speed), or in which direction it is moving.

Green is green because it is always caused by the same things and always has the same effects. This is not true of "grue".

Indeed. The emeralds are grue at all times, regardless of when, where or why.

At first, I thought you were trying to make fun of my statement.

So, I was going to ignore it.

Then it occurred to me that you might be trying to get me to say that you were committing a "stolen concept" fallacy or hierarchy violation. If that were the only ground upon which I could reject it, then you would have made your point.

Imagine building a grue-detector. It would contain a green-detector and a blue-detector and a device for selecting one or the other based on a signal from an external source giving the time.

The source of time must ultimately be external, because otherwise we could not be sure that the internal clock was synchronized with the true time and so it might switch from green to blue either too early or too late.

Since a green emerald would change from grue to bleen at time t, according to the Law of Causality, the source of time must be considered one of the "causes" of the apparent color (grue or bleen).

But if that is the case, then we are not doing a properly controlled scientific measurement of the emerald -- the emerald is not the only cause of its grueness or bleenness. So grue is not a property of emeralds per se. Indeed, grue is not a proper concept at all, if regarded as merely a color.

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• 2 weeks later...
Not all fallacies are deductive. Rand's some most important logical discoveries are issues of conceptual fallacy (the package deal, the anti-concept, frozen abstraction, floating abstraction). All of those are errors in concept formation, not deduction. There are also inductive fallacies, like hasty generalization, and the stolen concept is a propositional fallacy.

You said "The fallacy of the stolen concept is a propositional fallacy.".

At the time, I assumed that you meant a fallacy in deduction.Â  But looking back on it, I am not sure any longer.Â  Was that what you meant?

A proposition uses concepts to say something about another concept. So "The cat is on the mat" uses 'the' 'is' 'on' and 'mat' to say something about 'cat.' A propositional fallacy is a mistake in the use of concepts. The concepts may be valid and properly formed, but the application of those concepts is what is mistaken.

I misunderstood Atlas51184 and, consequently, misrepresented his position in my messages. I should have paid more attention to what he was saying, but in the flood of messages from others and my eagerness to explain and justify my own position, I did not. I am sorry.

Atlas51184 (Post #12) said "... the stolen concept is one specific type of contradiction - a hierarchical contradiction.".

Atlas51184 (Post #17) said "The fallacy of the stolen concept is a propositional fallacy.".

These quotes tend to support my belief that (at least in some cases) "stolen concept" means "contradicts an earlier step upon which it depends" rather than "using an undefined term".

For example, here I used his statement that "stolen concept" is a propositional fallacy to support my view that it is a certain deductive fallacy. That was an error, one of several like it.

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

Now, I would like to turn to addressing his actual position as described here:

[An example is] "Property is theft." Let's define.

For property I'll just take a definition that was on another thread for the sake of ease - Any material element or resource to which mental and physical effort have been applied.

Is - do I need to define this?

Theft I have to do myself so... - the taking of another's property against his will. If you don't like that then we can find a definition that is better.

Theft is being used illegitimately in that it is being used to negate itself. If property is out, so is theft. The proposition "property is theft" does not have steps like a syllogism. Are you equivocating on the term 'steps?' I think you might be, because there is a difference between the hierarchy of a concept and the steps of an argument.

This isn't a fallacy in the concept itself, but in the use of the concept. That's the difference between conceptual fallacies and propositional fallacies. This is a fallacy in the use of the concept. Since propositions are units of thought that use concepts to describe concepts, the stolen concept is a propositional fallacy because it is a misuse of valid concepts.

The key question is what does "fallacy" mean in this case?

If you are saying that "Property is theft." is false, then you are correct. But a false statement may appear in a valid deductive argument as a consequence of a false supposition.

If you are saying that "Property is theft." is meaningless, then I must disagree. Consider "Some things held as property are not stolen goods.", I presume that you would accept it as both true and meaningful. But the negation of a meaningful sentence is also meaningful, so "All things held as property are stolen goods." is meaningful although false. And that is what is meant by "Property is theft.".

Although you are attacking "Property is theft." qua proposition, treating it as meaningless also has the effect of invalidating arguments which contain it. So this would have the damaging effects of treating "stolen concept" as a deductive fallacy which I have already explained ad nauseam.

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Why I cannot take the burden of proof:

What I originally thought was the meaning of the "fallacy of the 'stolen concept'" leads to the horrible consequences I envisioned.

But it is now apparent to me that it has many possible interpretations. And some of them, like JMeganSnow's version, are harmless (although not a NEW fallacy).

Also there is no way that I, by myself, could construct an example that would satisfy some unarticulated criteria in another person's mind.

The only way to proceed is for someone who believes in this alleged fallacy to provide an example and for me to shoot it down. If this is done often enough, then their belief in it may be weakened.

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Sorry, I forgot I posted in this thread

Then it occurred to me that you might be trying to get me to say that you were committing a "stolen concept" fallacy or hierarchy violation.
No, I was suggesting that you'd misunderstood the grue problem. The point is that there is no more empirical evidence to suggest that emeralds are green than to suggest they are grue. It's an argument against naive empiricism/inductivism - there are just as many observations of grue emeralds as there are of green emeralds, hence there is no purely emprical reason to prefer one classification to the other. Our decision to classify as green can only ultimately by justified by heuristics (eg the principle of simplicity), which are themselves incapable of further empirical justification. In other words, we need to go outside the sphere of pure empiricism in order to justify our inductive judgements.

Since a green emerald would change from grue to bleen at time t, according to the Law of Causality, the source of time must be considered one of the "causes" of the apparent color (grue or bleen).
Why? We dont consider a clock to be one of the causes of a caterpillar changing to a butterfly, nor do we consider this to be a refutation of causality. It is in the nature of caterpillars to become butterflys, just as it is in the nature of grue objects to change their observed status from green to blue.
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...Â  there are just as many observations of grue emeralds as there are of green emeralds, hence there is no purely empirical reason to prefer one classification to the other.

The notion of a representative sample comes in here. Analyzing the operational definition of "grue" suggests that whether the time is before t or after t is important. But your sample only has observations from before t, so it is not representative. There is no such defect in the induction with respect to green.

We don't consider a clock to be one of the causes of a caterpillar changing to a butterfly, nor do we consider this to be a refutation of causality. It is in the nature of caterpillars to become butterflies, ...

Caterpillars do not look at human clocks to decide whether to pupate or not. I do not know what drives their decision: an internal clock measuring time from when they hatch; their weight; the seasons (sun or temperature); the nature of the food they are eating; or whatever.

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The notion of a representative sample comes in here.Â  Analyzing the operational definition of "grue" suggests that whether the time is before t or after t is important.Â  But your sample only has observations from before t, so it is not representative.Â  There is no such defect in the induction with respect to green.
The same defect applies with respect to green - the 'green' side are claiming that the emeralds will remain green after time t. However since we only have observations before time t, there is no empirical basis for this assumption.

Caterpillars do not look at human clocks to decide whether to pupate or not.Â  I do not know what drives their decision:Â  an internal clock measuring time from when they hatch; their weight; the seasons (sun or temperature); the nature of the food they are eating; or whatever.

I'm not sure what you mean here, the emeralds dont 'look at a clock'.

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The Law of Causality:

The same causes produce the same probability distribution over possible effects regardless of when the event occurs, or where, or in what orientation, or how fast it is moving (below light-speed), or in which direction it is moving.

This is an axiom. It should not merely be read in the forward direction, but also in reverse. That is, it tells us how to tell whether some event is a cause of another event. And it tells us how to tell whether two causes are effectively "the same" or not.

If a unit is an instance of a concept, then any other unit which is "the same" as that one must also be an instance of the concept. "Grue" fails this test, so it is not a concept.

In other words, we need to go outside the sphere of pure empiricism in order to justify our inductive judgments.

I am not trying to defend "pure empiricism", whatever that is.

...Â  just as it is in the nature of grue objects to change their observed status from green to blue.
The point I am making is that there is no such thing as a "grue" object.

The same defect applies with respect to green - the 'green' side are claiming that the emeralds will remain green after time t. However since we only have observations before time t, there is no empirical basis for this assumption.

The difference is that green does not depend on time, but "grue" does depend on time. Is that clear enough for you?

There is no defect for green because observations of green (or not green) emeralds are relevant regardless of when they were done.

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That's a great law of causality. It's the one many determinists use to beg-the-question prove determinism. It's also the one many indeterminists use to beg-the-question prove indeterminism. But it's not the one Aristotle used to prove existence and reason, nor is it the one Ayn Rand used to prove Objectivism.

Yours is not an axiom. Show me where I contradict myself in the very phrase "I deny it". Show me how that law is implicit in every single thought I have and sentence I speak. Show me how all knowledge genetically depends, in the proper hierarchy of concepts, on your law.

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The Law of Causality:

The same causes produce the same probability distribution over possible effects regardless of when the event occurs, or where, or in what orientation, or how fast it is moving (below light-speed), or in which direction it is moving.

That's a great law of causality. It's the one many determinists use to beg-the-question prove determinism. It's also the one many indeterminists use to beg-the-question prove indeterminism. But it's not the one Aristotle used to prove existence and reason, nor is it the one Ayn Rand used to prove Objectivism.

To be clear, I personally composed this version of the Law of Causality. I did not copy any other person's version. But I did scan the Objectivist literature to try to find a satisfactory version first; and I did not find one. The best I found is:

"Such an entity must act in accordance with its nature." - p.14

"Every action has a cause (the cause is the nature of the entity which acts); and the same cause leads to the same effect (the same entity, under the same circumstances, will perform the same action)." - p.15

"The law of causality states that entities are the cause of actions -- not that every entity, of whatever sort, has a cause, but that every action does; and not that the cause of action is action, but that the cause of action is entities." - p.16

The differences are:

(1) I did not specify that the causes were entities and their circumstances; nor did I specify that the effects were actions. I left these questions open.

(2) I included "probability distribution over possible" to allow for non-determinism. And as a practical matter, there may be circumstances of which we have no knowledge which affect the result. I wanted the law to be usable in spite of that limitation on our knowledge.

(3) I included "regardless of when the event occurs, or where, or in what orientation, or how fast it is moving (below light-speed), or in which direction it is moving". Something like this is necessary because otherwise it is not clear what part of the context of the event where the causes produce the effects may be omitted. If one merely said "The same causes produce the same effects." without qualification, then someone could interpret this as a mere tautology lacking any physical meaning because only one event of causation would be encompassed by it. This part makes it clear that we are talking about a ten-parameter family of events (1 for time, 3 for space, 3 for orientation, 1 for speed, and 2 for direction of motion).

Why do you think that this is like the version used by determinists or indeterminists to "beg the question"?

Yours is not an axiom. Show me where I contradict myself in the very phrase "I deny it". Show me how that law is implicit in every single thought I have and sentence I speak. Show me how all knowledge genetically depends, in the proper hierarchy of concepts, on your law.

How do you know that "I", "deny", and "it" have the meaning you think they have? Only because their effects on the listener or reader are predictable. And what make them predictable? The law of causality -- the same causes (words in this case) produce the same effects (on the listener or reader).

Without the law of causality the universe would be an incomprehensible chaos, if it existed at all.

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• 6 months later...

So what is your stance at present on "the fallacy of the stolen concept" as understood by Ayn Rand?

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So what is your stance at present on "the fallacy of the stolen concept" as understood by Ayn Rand?

I have not thought about it since my last message on "stolen concept" in this thread which was Post #128 in May 2005. So my position has not changed since then, except that I have forgotten some of the details.

If you want to reactivate this thread, you might want to move it to the debate forum because I will be arguing against the Objectivist position in it.

... it is now apparent to me that [the notion that there is a fallacy of the stolen concept] has many possible interpretations. And some of them, like JMeganSnow's version, are harmless ...

Also there is no way that I, by myself, could construct an example that would satisfy some unarticulated criteria in another person's mind.

The only way to proceed is for someone who believes in this alleged fallacy to provide an example and for me to shoot it down.

So if you want to argue about this again, please give a detailed example of an argument which contains an instance of this alleged fallacy.

It is a definitional fallacy, ... It means that you are trying to define a term in two contradictory ways at the same time; relying on the existence of a previous definition while asserting that the term has, AT THE SAME TIME, a new, CONTRADICTORY definition. I.E. the problem isn't that you have no definition but that you have TWO definitions and they contradict each other.

Jennifer is correct that this is a fallacy. But it is not the same as what Ayn Rand said.

... "the stolen concept" is ... "assuming that which you are attempting to disprove."

This is not a fallacy. She is rejecting the legitimate method called "reductio ad absurdum" (RAA).

Edited by jrs
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Um, since logic is the "Art of non-contradictory identification", and fallacies are examples of improper use of logic (i.e. NOT non-contradictory identification, or CONTRADICTORY identification) then ALL fallacies must ultimately fail the test of non-contradiction, of A is A. So, I agree that this discussion is rather pointless.

I would like to say for those that have been around along time this thread would seam pointless.

But for me beening new to Opar/Rand it is very helpfull to learn from the posts. I see in action /real time,

thank you all keep up this thread i can see where A/R made her points valid.

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The Law of Causality:

The same causes produce the same probability distribution over possible effects regardless of when the event occurs, or where, or in what orientation, or how fast it is moving (below light-speed), or in which direction it is moving.

This is an axiom.

That is not an axiom, nor is it the Objectivist Law of Causality. I'll take this moment to remind you, since it appears to have escaped moderation, that asserting this as the Law of Causality amounts to supporting some philosophy other than Objectivism outside of the Debate forum, which is in violation of the Forum Rules.

Also, even the Objectivist Law of Causality is not an axiom. Rather, it is a corollary of an axiom. I find it highly suspect that you provided so many quotes from OPAR from the section on causality, but somehow overlooked this one:

Causality is best classified as a corollary of identity. A "corollary" is a self-evident implication of already extablished knowledge. A corollary of an axiom is not itself an axiom; it is not self-evident apart from the principle(s) at its root (an axiom, by contrast, does not depend on an antecedent context). Nor is a corollary a theorem; it does not permit or require a process of proof; like an axiom, it is self-evident (once its context has bbeen grasped). It is, in effect, a new angle on an established principle, which follows immediately once one grasps its meaning and the principle on which it depends.
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This is not a fallacy. She is rejecting the legitimate method called "reductio ad absurdum" (RAA).

This is untrue as well. What the fallacy of the stolen concept rejects is the acceptance of what one is trying to disprove in a final argument, not as part of a process of elimination one uses to arrive at a final argument. Please do not drop context.

Edited by dondigitalia
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"[...] ... "the stolen concept" is the other side, the reverse, of "petitio principii." If this last is "begging the question" or "assuming that which you are attempting to prove," then "the stolen concept" is "begging the answer" or "assuming that which you are attempting to disprove."" - Ayn Rand (Journals of Ayn Rand, pg 704)

If that is not taken out of context improperly (I have no reason to think that it is), then it does identify stolen concept with reductio ad absurdum, since reductio ad absurdum is assuming that which one is in pursuit of proving the denial.

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It's important to recognize what the Journals of Ayn Rand are: her personal journals, to clarify her own understanding, not a way of explaining what she meant to others. As such, understanding them depends on using things she wrote/said elsewhere as context for understanding. ITOE mentions stolen concepts in several places (check the index), and she also points out instances of the stolen concept throughout her writiings elsewhere.

It's important to remember that Objectivist epistemology is not deductive, but inductive (this doesn't mean that Objectivism rejects deductive logic, just that it's not really a part of Objectivism). I can't really think of a deductive argument guilty of the fallacy of the stolent concept; reductio ad absurdum is a deductive process involving the explicit acceptance of what one is trying to disprove as a means of showing that accepting it is absurd. Even in reductio ad absurdum, the meaning isn't "I really accept this falsity." Rather, it's "It is absurd to accept this falsity."

The fallacy of the stolen concept is the implicit acceptance of a concept one is trying to deny, not as a means of demonstrating the denial's absurdity, but as part of demonstrating its validity.

Here is something I recently wrote giving an example of an instance of the stolen concept:

Perhaps it will help if I use an example. Existentialists try to make the claim, ultimately derived from Kant's idea of phenomena vs. noumena, that the world of human experience does not exist apart from concsiousness. They are, in effect, trying to deny the axiomatic concept "existence" and invoking extreme primacy of consciousness, i.e. subjectivism. Asserting that consciousness is all that our reality consists of, they ignore the fact that "existence" is implicit in every concept they use.
Edited by dondigitalia
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Fair enough regarding the distinction between her journals and her other writings. So, unless the Wikipedia page has changed since I last viewed it, it does not do justice to the Objectivist view of stolen concept since that page also describes stolen concept in terms almost exactly as in the journal entry.

As to implicitness, even though I wouldn't couch my own view with the term 'implicitness', I do recognize that there is a distinction between holding a propostion for the sake of refuting it (reductio ad absurdum) and holding a proposition while denying it. But I do not think this vindicates the Objectivist view of stolen concept. One would be inconsistent to hold a proposition while denying it, but that does not entail that an argument is invalid for assuming the propostion to the prove its denial. For example, if I assume P to prove ~P, then I must give up P for proving anything other than ~P. And if I don't give up P after having proven ~P from P, then I am inconsistent. But my being inconsistent in clinging to P, does not dismiss that the original argument showing ~P from P is still valid.

The fallacy of the stolen concept is the implicit acceptance of a concept one is trying to deny, not as a means of demonstrating the denial's absurdity, but as part of demonstrating its validity
Aside from the question of the word 'validity', you've reversed things here. I would think stolen concept is implicitly (to accept your terms) accepting a concept (or a propostion, even though concepts and propostions are not the same thing, to say that one accepts the validity (or whatever term) of a concept is to assert the proposition that the concept is valid (or whatever term)) while explicitly purporting to demonstrate its denial (not, as you have put it, purporting to demonstrate its validity).

You wrote:

"Existentialists try to make the claim, ultimately derived from Kant's idea of phenomena vs. noumena, that the world of human experience does not exist apart from concsiousness. They are, in effect, trying to deny the axiomatic concept "existence" and invoking extreme primacy of consciousness, i.e. subjectivism. Asserting that consciousness is all that our reality consists of, they ignore the fact that "existence" is implicit in every concept they use."

But if stolen concept is about concepts, then you have nevertheless taken on propositions there. You write "make the claim [...]" and "asserting that". So you are disputing propositions that they make. If the Objectivist view of stolen concept is to be upheld as not being the same as denying reductio ad absurdum, then one needs to be very clear when one is talking about concepts and when about propostions, and in what relations.

As to induction vs. deduction, I'm afraid that subject is complicated by what seems to me to be the fact that Objectivism has its own special definitions of 'induction' and 'deduction'.

Edited by LauricAcid
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Aside from the question of the word 'validity', you've reversed things here. I would think stolen concept is implicitly (to accept your terms) accepting a concept [...] while explicitly purporting to demonstrate its denial (not, as you have put it, purporting to demonstrate its validity).

Yes, that is what the stolen concept fallacy is. That is why Rand called it "assuming that which you are attempting to disprove." Also, I can't speak for Dave, but I believe that he means (my words inserted):

The fallacy of the stolen concept is the implicit acceptance of a concept one is trying to deny, not as a means of demonstrating the denial's absurdity, but as part of demonstrating its [the denial's] validity.

In other words, in reductio ad absurdum, you start with the claim and show how it logically contradicts an independently known truth. In the stolen concept fallacy, you rely on concepts derived from the stolen concept as a means of denying it. There is no "assume that..." step, and no "but this contradicts what we already know" conclusion.

To take the classic example of "property is theft," one reductio ad absurdum argument against property might be the following:

1. Assume property (that is, exclusive use of some material good for an individual) is good.

2. Eventually one person will own everything and let everyone else starve, which must be good.

3. The human race will become extinct when he dies at some point due to old age, which must be good.

4. But human extinction is bad, so the initial assumption (that property is good) is wrong.

As threadbare and false as this argument is, note still that it moves from an assumption of property to a contradiction of a truth that is not about property.

Consider instead the opening argument of Proudhon's treatise, What Is Property? An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government (http://dhm.best.vwh.net/archives/proudhon-ch1.html):

If I were asked to answer the following question: WHAT IS SLAVERY? and I should answer in one word, IT IS MURDER, my meaning would be understood at once. No extended argument would be required to show that the power to take from a man his thought, his will, his personality, is a power of life and death; and that to enslave a man is to kill him. Why, then, to this other question: WHAT IS PROPERTY! may I not likewise answer, IT IS ROBBERY, without the certainty of being misunderstood; the second proposition being no other than a transformation of the first?
(By "property," he is actually referring to "unused land that you rent out," but his failure to essentialize his concepts properly does not change the fundamental error.)

For this to be reductio ad absurdum, you'd have to start with "property is good" and then show that leads to a conclusion independently known to be false. Thus if this were, his absurdity would have to be "and the robbery that this transformation yields is good," but this is not independently known to be false. Furthermore, it cannot be independently known to be false, because in fact the concept "robbery" is dependent on "property"--and ignoring this strict dependence is exactly the fallacy.

Note too that he does not commit the fallacy in his claim about slavery, which can be seen just by the fact that murder is not a concept based on slavery. (To match his second claim, his first would have to be, "Life is murder.")

Is that at all useful in illustrating the difference?

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Yes, that is what the stolen concept fallacy is. That is why Rand called it "assuming that which you are attempting to disprove." Also, I can't speak for Dave, but I believe that he means (my words inserted):

Yes. That is exactly what I meant. I can see how easily misunderstood my initial statement was. Thanks.

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I just noticed that I was mistaken in my reading of dondigitalia's formulation, as I incorrectly took 'its' to refer to the concept rather than the denial of the concept.

If time allows, later I'll comment on dougclayton's post. However, one thing I want to warn about is that this discussion is again mixing concepts and propositions. I'd rather not invest in discussing a disagreement that later turns out to be dissolved by someone saying that all this time only concepts but not propositions are under discussion.

Edited by LauricAcid
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But if stolen concept is about concepts, then you have nevertheless taken on propositions there. You write "make the claim [...]" and "asserting that". So you are disputing propositions that they make. If the Objectivist view of stolen concept is to be upheld as not being the same as denying reductio ad absurdum, then one needs to be very clear when one is talking about concepts and when about propostions, and in what relations.

Yeah, of course you take on propositions when dealing with concepts. Propositions are how we organize concepts into complete thoughts, and are our only means of doing so. Because of this, although the fallacy of the stolen concept deals with specific concepts, it does carry through to invalidating their propositions.

I agree that one needs to be very clear whether one is talking about concepts or propositions, although to me the fact that Ayn Rand called it the "fallacy of the stolen concept" provided that clarity. I may be adding other context to reach that clarity though, so I'll point you to ITOE, particularly the appendix, where Ayn Rand makes it abundantly clear that it primarily deals with concepts, rather than propositions.

As far as my explanation vindicating Ayn Rand's position, you're right: it doesn't. That wasn't really my goal. I was really just trying to explain what her position was, since it was clear to me that there was considerable misunderstanding there. As far as a debate as to whether or not her position is valid, it doesn't belong anywhere outside of the Debate Forum, so I'm not going to make any arguments on that here.

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That is not an axiom, nor is it the Objectivist Law of Causality. I'll take this moment to remind you, since it appears to have escaped moderation, that asserting this as the Law of Causality amounts to supporting some philosophy other than Objectivism outside of the Debate forum, which is in violation of the Forum Rules.

Without further offending by defending the substance of what I said, I can only say this: The messages in question were posted before the debate forum was created. I was never warned about them. But the thread was locked for some weeks without explanation.

What the fallacy of the stolen concept rejects is the acceptance of what one is trying to disprove in a final argument, not as part of a process of elimination one uses to arrive at a final argument. Please do not drop context.

The intentions of a person making an argument have no bearing on the validity or invalidity of his argument. To say otherwise is to commit the fallacy of attacking the person, i.e. ad hominem.

So the validity of an intermediate step does not depend on what the author is hoping to do at the end of his argument. (However, the validity does depend on the hypotheses on which that part of the argument has been made contingent.)

... Objectivist epistemology is not deductive, but inductive ...

.....

... reductio ad absurdum is a deductive process ...

Notice that in Ayn Rand's Journal entry she is comparing "stolen concept" with "petitio principii" ("begging the question") which is definitely a deductive fallacy. This suggests that she regards "stolen concept" as a deductive fallacy. However, this does not exclude the possibility that she might also regard it as affecting definitions and/or induction.

Asserting that consciousness is all that our reality consists of, [the existentialists]ignore the fact that "existence" is implicit in every concept they use.

Thus they are contradicting themselves; which implies that they are committing some fallacy. This does not necessarily mean that they are committing the "stolen concept fallacy".

So, unless the Wikipedia page has changed since I last viewed it, it does not do justice to the Objectivist view of stolen concept since that page also describes stolen concept in terms almost exactly as in the journal entry.

For the reader's convenience, here is the paragraph in Wikipedia to which I believe you are referring:

Objectivism refers to any attempt to apply a concept outside its proper scope as "context-dropping." One form of context-dropping is considered a major and dangerous fallacy: the "fallacy of the stolen concept." The stolen concept fallacy consists of invoking a concept while denying the more fundamental concepts on which it depends. Much like the classical logical fallacy of "assuming what you are supposed to prove", the stolen concept fallacy is a fallacy of "assuming what you overtly deny."

There is no "assume that..." step, and no "but this contradicts what we already know" conclusion.

If he is assuming a truth (even if he denies it elsewhere), then he is not thereby introducing any falsehood into his argument. So absent another fallacy, he should not be able to reach a false conclusion.

Your quote from Proudhon suggest the following possible explanation to me: He is rejecting the idea of LAND as property; and so regards rent as theft of chattel which he does regard as legitimate property. If this is the case, then he would not be assuming the opposite of what he is trying to prove (albeit he is still wrong).

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Without further offending by defending the substance of what I said, I can only say this: The messages in question were posted before the debate forum was created. I was never warned about them. But the thread was locked for some weeks without explanation.

In that case, I apologize for my statement.

The intentions of a person making an argument have no bearing on the validity or invalidity of his argument. To say otherwise is to commit the fallacy of attacking the person, i.e. ad hominem.

So the validity of an intermediate step does not depend on what the author is hoping to do at the end of his argument. (However, the validity does depend on the hypotheses on which that part of the argument has been made contingent.)

No one suggested that the author's intent is what constitutes fallacy. Rather, what we have acknowledge as essential is manner of actual usage of the invalid idea being accepted.

Notice that in Ayn Rand's Journal entry she is comparing "stolen concept" with "petitio principii" ("begging the question") which is definitely a deductive fallacy. This suggests that she regards "stolen concept" as a deductive fallacy. However, this does not exclude the possibility that she might also regard it as affecting definitions and/or induction.

This is true, and I don't know that Ayn Rand ever identified this fallacy as deductive or inductive. The identification of it as inductive is my own. I came to that conclusion by observing that the fallacy rests on ignoring the hierarchy involved in concept-formation, which Ayn Rand identified as an inductive process.

Thus they are contradicting themselves; which implies that they are committing some fallacy. This does not necessarily mean that they are committing the "stolen concept fallacy".

What fallacy is it then? We've clearly explained what the fallacy of the stolen concept is. I've given you references of where you could look to validate that this is, in fact, what Ayn Rand meant when she referred to such a fallacy. And then both Doug Clayton and I provided examples, along with explanations of why they were examples of this specific fallacy. Of course just saying, "They are contradicting themselves," isn't enough to classify it as a stolen concept. Rather, it is the particular manner in which they are contradicting themselves. My example was a pretty obvious one, Doug's less so. Peikoff gives a completely different example that requires even more digging to uncover it as a stolen concept, but the underlying principle is the same. They all involve accepting a concept (not a premise, which is what reductio ad absurdum does) while attempting to deny it.

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Rather, what we have acknowledged as essential is manner of actual usage of the invalid idea being accepted.

You say the idea is "invalid", but in the cases about which you are talking the idea (concept which was stolen) is actually valid, e.g. "existence", "property". And if the concept is valid for use by those of us who accept it, then it must be valid for use by anyone, including those who do not accept it.

What fallacy is it then?

To determine what fallacy it is and which step of their argument is invalidated by it, I would have to see their entire argument spelled out. You did not give that; you only gave an overview.

We've clearly explained what the fallacy of the stolen concept is. I've given you references of where you could look to validate that this is, in fact, what Ayn Rand meant when she referred to such a fallacy.

.....

They all involve accepting a concept (not a premise, which is what reductio ad absurdum does) while attempting to deny it.

You have explained what you think it is. But you have not shown that it is actually a fallacy.

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You say the idea is "invalid", but in the cases about which you are talking the idea (concept which was stolen) is actually valid, e.g. "existence", "property". And if the concept is valid for use by those of us who accept it, then it must be valid for use by anyone, including those who do not accept it.

What is invalid is using a concept in an attempt to deny another concept upon which the first depends.

You have explained what you think it is. But you have not shown that it is actually a fallacy.

Would you please define what you mean by fallacy? I use the term to mean one of two things, depending on context:

1. An invalid or contradictory argument.

2. A species of invalid or contradictory arguments.

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