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Some Thoughts on The Arbitrary

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[Long post ahead...]

Most of what I know about the arbitrary comes from Leonard Peikoff's OPAR. However, although I think his presentation is clear, I've noticed that my understanding of the concept seems to differ somewhat from that of some of the other people on this board, so I want to state what I think he means. So this post is my interpretation of OPAR, or perhaps it would be more apt to say I'm writing an elaboration on OPAR to establish how I'm interpreting it, and I'd like to think my interpretation is pretty straightforward, but we'll see.

First I want to establish a difference between a fact and a claim.

A fact (which can also be called a piece of evidence) is something out there in reality, and it is true by definition. A fact can never be false, and a fact can never be arbitrary.

Some facts are available to direct perception, but others aren't. Some facts have to be discovered by inference, such as the existence of neutrinos. Other facts are man-made, such as two people being married.

A claim, on the other hand (which can also be called a proposition, an assertion, a statement, a sentence, or a group of sentences) is something that somebody says (or writes). It might be true, or it might be false, or it might be arbitrary.

If I say "There is a 4K monitor in front of me right now," then that is a claim. The existence of the 4K monitor itself, however, is a fact (unless I am mistaken or lying, in which case the claim would be false and the fact would be different from what I claimed. But we would never say that the fact is false.)

When Peikoff identifies the arbitrary in OPAR, everything he says amounts to the idea that the status of "arbitrary" can only be given to a claim, and not a fact:

Quote

An arbitrary claim is one for which there is no evidence, either perceptual or conceptual. It is a brazen assertion, based neither on direct observation nor on any attempted logical inference therefrom... The answer to all such statements, according to Objectivism, is: an arbitrary claim is automatically invalidated. The rational response to such a claim is to dismiss it, without discussion, consideration, or argument. [bold added]

This is why I claim that a fact can never be arbitrary.

But a claim can be.

Whenever people are arguing in a forum, all they can do is make claims. Strictly speaking, the facts are not on the forum (except for facts about what somebody previously wrote on the forum). Facts are "out there" in reality. So anything I can write on this forum, or even link to, is actually a claim. And because it's a claim, it could be true, false, or arbitrary, and it's up to you to figure out which. So how does one begin to do that?

There are facts that are immediately available to you, possibly even in front of your own eyes, and in that case it's pretty easy.

There are also facts that are not immediately available. For example, consider the claim that neutrinos exist. Do they? I have to admit that I have not personally verified that they do. I haven't done the experiments and I don't have the proper equipment to do them. Would it then be fair to claim, then, that maybe scientists made up neutrinos in order to get more grant money?

In this case I think the claim that neutrinos exist is more credible than the claim that scientists made them up, mostly because when you ask people why they claim that neutrinos exist, you get led to lab results and to mathematical relationships between them. (And when you ask why the mathematical relationships exist, you get led back to more lab results.) In particular, when you measure radioactive decay, and you do the math about what goes in versus what comes out, you end up with something "missing" in what comes out. This was the theoretical basis for the idea of the neutrino -- that the neutrino was what was missing. It was also mathematically predicted that neutrinos interact with matter, albeit rarely, and then experiments were done and the interaction was actually observed. In principle, at least, I could make the same observations myself. It would be expensive and difficult for me to run such experiments, but the fact that the claimants are appealing, ultimately, to direct perception and to reasoning from that, is what gives this claim credibility.

The idea that "neutrinos are a lie made up by scientists," on the other hand, actually clashes with all that evidence (just like the Christian claim that evolution is a big scientific fraud and that the truth is creationism and Noah's Ark and the like). Each time you claim that one of the scientists' conclusions is wrong, you also have to claim that something is wrong with the evidence or the reasoning that led them to that conclusion. So the idea that scientists made up neutrinos (or evolution) is just not tenable.

Here I've actually pointed out that the claim that "scientists made up neutrinos" is false. (I can't say I've really proved it's false, but I've described what such a proof would look like.) But that doesn't demonstrate anything about the arbitrary.

So how do you establish that something is arbitrary?

Yes, it's necessary to establish that something is arbitrary, as opposed to simply claiming that it is arbitrary. A claim about a claim is a claim. So if you claim that "Claim X is arbitrary," that claim can itself be true or false -- or arbitrary! In particular, if you don't have a means of establishing that a claim is arbitrary, then the claim that "Claim X is arbitrary" has no relationship to reality and is therefore itself arbitrary. So there has to be a way to establish arbitrariness.

To prove that a claim is arbitrary, you need to prove that it has no relationship to reality. The arbitrary is neither true nor false. That's its definition!

Peikoff mentions a context, as well:

Quote

Now let us note that some arbitrary claims (though by no means all) can be transferred to a cognitive context and converted thereby into true or false statements, which demonstrably correpond to or contradict established fact. It is not mere words that determine epistemological status, but their relation to evidence... Even when it is possible, however, this kind of integration is never obligatory. To bring unwarranted claims into relation to human knowledge is not a requirement of cognition.

To prove that a claim is arbitrary, a context is necessary, because all knowledge is contextual. A context is also necessary to prove that a claim is true or false. In a particular context, however, a claim will be one of these three things.

If we could go back in time and talk to Aristotle, the statement that "neutrinos exist" would be arbitrary to him. He'd technically be entitled to dismiss it. He wouldn't have the context of scientific research to show why neutrinos might or might not exist. He also wouldn't have an immediate need to know whether they exist or not (and if he did need to know, that need, and the reasoning that led to that need, would establish a context). However, if a time traveler could walk up to him and tell him that such things as neutrinos exist (I don't know why the subject would even come up, but bear with me here), he might ask, "Why do you say that?" -- and it would be possible for the time traveler to answer (although the answer might require a book or two). In that case, the time traveler would be establishing the context that allows the claim to be shown to be true.

(This establishment of context is also necessary when you're a kid going to school and your teachers teach you that neutrinos exist -- the teachers have to establish the context, in order to keep the statement from being arbitrary. Often they fail or refuse to do this... and then claim, sometimes implicitly, that students should simply believe what they're told...)

So I propose that if somebody makes a statement that appears to be arbitrary, it's entirely rational to invite them to establish a context for it. This doesn't contradict the onus of proof principle, either -- it's an instance of it, it's telling the person making a statement that he must also establish the context for it. If such a context can be established, it becomes possible to debate whether the statement is true or false: it is no longer arbitrary.

If someone refuses to establish such a context (and it has not already been established) then they're advocating the arbitrary as such, and that's invalid reasoning according to OPAR.

It's also possible that someone simply fails to establish a context; in that case, they are not "advocating the arbitrary" per se, but you would still be entitled to consider that particular statement as arbitrary, and dismiss it from consideration, until a context is established.

In a few cases, it's possible, and sometimes easy, to prove that a claim would be arbitrary in any context -- an example would be the skeptical claim that reason or evidence is itself invalid. How can you have evidence for a claim that evidence is invalid? Such a context cannot exist. Another example is circular reasoning, where a claim is only valid according to itself. Whole religions work that way.

Another example occurs when someone works to maintain a falsehood, for example, the idea that scientists made up neutrinos. This would have to be a person who does not reject the arbitrary in principle, and who expects his audience not to reject it either. If an idea is proved false, the arguer may try to "promote" the idea to arbitrary status in order to "protect" it from evidence, and argue that it may nevertheless still be "true." However, the very protection from evidence, the fact that no evidence could ever prove the "promoted" statement false, is what marks the statement as arbitrary, and therefore dismissable. (Peikoff presents several examples of claims that are "promoted" to arbitrary, such as the skeptical "problem of error" where the skeptic flips the onus of proof and demands that someone with a true claim prove that non-detectable errors don't exist.)

Once a context has been established, and a claim is shown not to be arbitrary, then the claim cannot be dismissed on the basis of "arbitrariness" anymore; it has to be dismissed on some factual basis (e.g., irrelevancy) or else dealt with. Making it "arbitrary" again would require deliberately setting aside the facts that establish the context -- and that's evasion! (I suppose there might be a case where someone could prove that the wrong context was being used...)

On the broader Internet, there are various claims from news media and bloggers and such. Assessing whether those claims are true, false, or arbitrary, is a little harder, because with broadcast media you usually can't ask them anything. You can, however, look at whatever context they've already established.

I do have rules of thumb. For one thing, somebody who points to evidence for their claim is more credible than somebody who just asserts a conclusion without evidence. This is true even though "pointing to evidence" means making more claims. People who say "see for yourself" run the risk that others will see for themselves, and the fact that they are willing to take that risk says something good. People can also point to evidence in the form of videos or documents.

For another, claims that are consistent over time are more likely to be correct, whereas, over time, a lie becomes more and more likely to be discovered as such.

A third important thing is that people can be credible in some matters but not others. Unfortunately the "conservative" news media is full of credible, documented claims of tyranny followed by the claim that "this is all in fulfillment of Biblical prophecy, so Jesus is coming back!" Since the claims of tyranny are documented, they can be believed, but it is still possible and reasonable to dismiss the Biblical prophecy stuff. If someone says "Water boils at 100 C, therefore, God exists!" then we as atheists are not obligated to deny that water boils at 100 C.

Edited by necrovore
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1 hour ago, necrovore said:

To prove that a claim is arbitrary, you need to prove that it has no relationship to reality. The arbitrary is neither true nor false. That's its definition!

Sometimes someone will say "what you are saying is arbitrary" and what they are saying boils down to "you have not given me enough information for me to connect it to the rest of reality". They are not establishing that what you have said is arbitrary.

1 hour ago, necrovore said:

Another example is circular reasoning, where a claim is only valid according to itself. Whole religions work that way.

The above example is clearly and absolutely arbitrary.

1 hour ago, necrovore said:

In a few cases, it's possible, and sometimes easy, to prove that a claim would be arbitrary in any context -- an example would be the skeptical claim that reason or evidence is itself invalid. How can you have evidence for a claim that evidence is invalid? Such a context cannot exist.

For this example, I either don't understand it or it is an example of a false statement. I'm going to use reason to prove to you that reason is invalid?

But other than that, I have been very interested in the subject of how to objectively establish an arbitrary statement in real time (as the conversation is occurring rather than realizing it later). Many times, "you are saying something arbitrary" is a mistake and it simply means "I don't understand you".

 

Edited by Easy Truth
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Necrovore, these points are mainly mere points of related interest, not disputation of your take on Peikoff's remarks.

The negative assessment of arbitrary claims was commonplace among philosophers in the heydays of Pragmatism and Logical Positivism preceding Objectivism (and even earlier, if I recall correctly).

Not every sort of arbitrary claim in the negative sense of 'arbitrary claim' is neither true nor false. "Some tigers are trees" is an arbitrary claim, it has a plain meaning, and under that meaning, it is false.

We have another use of arbitrary that is routinely and rightly assessed as a good tool in cognition. That is when we use it in a proof in order to arrive at a universal truth about a thing. We begin the proof by the instruction, for example, "pick an arbitrary triangle" or "pick any triangle". We then prove something of the arbitrary triangle, and we can rightly conclude that the truth holds for any triangle.

Some earlier thinking on the Peikoff OPAR remarks: Campbell 1 / Campbell 2

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10 hours ago, necrovore said:

A fact (which can also be called a piece of evidence) is something out there in reality, and it is true by definition. A fact can never be false, and a fact can never be arbitrary.

 

10 hours ago, necrovore said:

Strictly speaking, the facts are not on the forum (except for facts about what somebody previously wrote on the forum). Facts are "out there" in reality.

But facts are not things, so how can they be out there, anymore than a claim? Facts refer to what is out there, while claims may or may not refer to what is out there. Facts are statements about what is out there, they are not themselves what is out there. So facts are on the forum. Your mistake is that you didn't note both facts and claims are statements or propositions. So facts are types of claims. Claims are types of statements or propositions.

Specifically, the first quote doesn't even mention whether the arbitrary claim is true or false. It says a claim not based on logical inference or direct observation. As types of claims, arbitrary claims could be true or false. But there is no way to evaluate them as true or false - because there is no type of evidence available. In other words, arbitrary claims are claims where evidence is not presented, or the things claim to be evidence are not actually evidence. I can claim that there is an avocado on your desk, but this is arbitrary because I cannot evaluate this claim is true or falls. I have no evidence, and I know it. It still could be true though. If it were true, it would be cognitively meaningless (because without evidence to see that it is true, it makes utterly no difference to my knowledge.)

10 hours ago, necrovore said:

Now let us note that some arbitrary claims (though by no means all) can be transferred to a cognitive context and converted thereby into true or false statements, which demonstrably correpond to or contradict established fact

This doesn't make sense. If you transfer an arbitrary claim to a cognitive context, you have made it into a nonarbitrary claim. You couldn't even make an arbitrary claim into one that can be evaluated, because you would have to add evidence of some kind to be able to evaluate the claim. If you did that, then you changed the claim into something else! More than that, you can't prove that a claim is arbitrary, besides establishing that no evidence has been provided. You would not need to say that the claim is not logical, or that it establishes a contradiction, because then the claim could be evaluated and therefore it wasn't arbitrary in the first place.

10 hours ago, necrovore said:

If we could go back in time and talk to Aristotle, the statement that "neutrinos exist" would be arbitrary to him.

I think this points out another issue. Claims are always made in relation to a person making them. We don't have just statements, often evidence is implied, so you can't say that the statement would be arbitrary. Statements are true or false, and that's it. Instead, you have to ask the person making the claim if they have evidence. That statement would not be arbitrary to Aristotle, and given his method, he would immediately ask why the person thinks that.

Really, all you need to think is: what is your evidence? The arbitrary is nothing more than a claim without evidence, even if it could be a fact. Skepticism comes in when even without evidence, someone worries about whether the claim could turn out be a fact. But you can't evaluate it, you can't worry about it.

Edited by Eiuol
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x = y

Solving for x is is not possible because y can be anything.

To say y is 7 is arbitrary and (to say it) is claiming it.

But y = 7 is arbitrary.

And it does not matter who said it.

There is "the arbitrary claim" and there is "the arbitrary".

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6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

x = y

Solving for x is is not possible because y can be anything.

To say y is 7 is arbitrary and (to say it) is claiming it.

But y = 7 is arbitrary.

And it does not matter who said it.

There is "the arbitrary claim" and there is "the arbitrary".

It does not matter who said it, or even if it were said at all, but the “it” is still only a statement or claim.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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8 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

There is "the arbitrary claim" and there is "the arbitrary".

That's what Stephen was talking about. Were you trying to make a distinction that was different?

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

It does not matter who said it, or even if it were said at all, but the “it” is still only a statement or claim.

Granted.

But I'm countering the idea that "you always have to ask for evidence" or that it's in relation to the person saying it. Sometimes, it's just ... arbitrary.

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

But I'm countering the idea that "you always have to ask for evidence" or that it's in relation to the person saying it.

Well, you aren't, because I was talking about arbitrary claims. What you have said is "x can be any arbitrary number". This is not an arbitrary claim. Solving for x is possible in that case precisely because it can be any number. 

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Then I will repeat.

x=7

Is Arbitrary.

The issue is the concretizing that makes it arbitrary. I'm not talking about the fact that it can be arbitrary.

It is arbitrary.

Objectively arbitrary. Doesn't matter who said it. No extra evidence is necessary.

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then I will repeat.

x=7

Is Arbitrary.

The issue is the concretizing that makes it arbitrary. I'm not talking about the fact that it can be arbitrary.

It is arbitrary.

Objectively arbitrary. Doesn't matter who said it. No extra evidence is necessary.

If I point at a blank page and state "The dog is grey", is that an objectively arbitrary statement?

 

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4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Then I will repeat.

Why are you repeating yourself? I heard you the first time. You're just repeating what Stephen said, and you didn't bring any new distinctions to the discussion. All you have done is equivocated two senses of the word and made things more confusing. I know what you said, but you didn't address arbitrary claims.

4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Objectively arbitrary. Doesn't matter who said it. No extra evidence is necessary.

It matters when you are talking about claims, because claims are made by people who want to prove something true. What you describe as objectively arbitrary are just statements without any reference to a speaker - you described how any sequence of words are arbitrarily arranged and have no meaning unless we consider speakers as well. And that isn't what we are interested in. 

Besides, with "the dog is grey", presumably you said it was arbitrary because there was no evidence that there was a grey dog on the blank page, and because a person was claiming that there was such a dog. You contradicted how you said that it doesn't matter who said it. Then again, you are simultaneously talking about 2 different senses of the word as if they were the same, so it's confusing what you're talking about.

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There is definitely a problem with the fact that "arbitrary" has different meanings in different senses and that is one thing that has to come out.

As far as the example Boydstun gave, he is talking about arbitrary assumptions at the start of an argument/proof. I am talking about a declaration as opposed to an assumption. His version is like:

let x=6 and y=2 therefore x+y is 8

the let statements are tantamount to let us assume arbitrarily.

I am talking about x+y is 8 without any preceding "let" or "if" or "then" or "therefore". Just out of the blue.

I would argue that Peikoff's treatment of the "arbitrary" is limited and  in regards to a particular sense of the word. I'm looking for a more complete treatment.

One of the ways I have seen you use the word (not with me) in this forum is, in fact, the subjective form i.e. "it is arbitrary" meaning "it is arbitrary to me". That does not mean you were incorrect, but a particular meaning of the term.

Now as to the OP, the general gist is to be able to identify what is said in a post that is in fact arbitrary.

Some posts are simply incomplete, and any incomplete post/statement can be considered arbitrary. Ultimately there is "missing evidence" presented in an incomplete post. But there are some that are in fact arbitrary.

The other thing I have noticed, is that, false statements, observed in a certain way, look arbitrary too. This muddies the water and I'm trying to get a better understanding of that.

I, personally, am leaning toward "the arbitrary" referring to "an arbitrary thought" rather than statement. Sort of like a mental entity that can be considered arbitrary.

And as to the way you are approaching this, why not look at it as an exploration rather than a debate. My interest is to be able to identify "the arbitrary" right away and in the proper sense of the word. But to do that, all the sense of the word have to be identified. Boydstun provided some and there are others. Also, that article Boydstun linked is helpful.

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If "x = y", x = "42", and y = "the answer to life, the universe, and everything", then by a slight of substitution, Douglas Adams could be attributed with "x is y". 

This example, while flawed, is only arbitrary in having been contrived to exploit another subtlety used to span from "A is A" to "A = A".

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

I'm looking for a more complete treatment.

I'm trying to say leave those aside right now. We can't deal with every single way to use the word arbitrary, and it isn't even the objective. They are relevant to point out, but not relevant to analyze and delve into.

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

And as to the way you are approaching this, why not look at it as an exploration rather than a debate. My interest is to be able to identify "the arbitrary" right away and in the proper sense of the word. But to do that, all the sense of the word have to be identified.

Sorry that I sounded combative. We've identified 2 different distinctions, but one distinction is different in kind, they are different concepts. Arbitrary assignments, assumptions, declarations, and so on, are one thing, because they are not claims. They refer to "a tool of cognition for deductive reasoning". Arbitrary claims, opinions, beliefs, knowledge, and so on are a different concept referring to "statements which fail to use evidence as justification". We can cross out the first kind, and we should push it aside to focus on different aspects of arbitrary claims, and keeping an eye out for when anyone equivocates. 

 

Edited by Eiuol
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On 7/27/2021 at 11:29 AM, Eiuol said:

But facts are not things, so how can they be out there, anymore than a claim? Facts refer to what is out there, while claims may or may not refer to what is out there. Facts are statements about what is out there, they are not themselves what is out there. So facts are on the forum. Your mistake is that you didn't note both facts and claims are statements or propositions. So facts are types of claims. Claims are types of statements or propositions.

This is a question of terminology. I'm trying to distinguish words and ideas from reality itself. If you hold that a "fact is a type of claim" then you lose (or at least muddy) that distinction. What is a fact a claim of? What do you call the thing out there in reality?

(A statement is a complete sentence, not just a noun. So if a statement is "factual," i.e., true, the underlying fact, out there in reality, must be more than just a "thing" like a rock or whatever, it has to be a thing doing (or being) something, even if only existing.)

As evidence that my distinction here is not mine alone, I offer this: if I say something, and someone replies, "Is that a fact?" they're asking about the state of things "out there" in reality; they aren't asking for a mere categorization of my utterance (which could be determined entirely from the utterance itself, and from a knowledge of how to categorize utterances, as opposed to looking at whatever I'm talking about). If a fact were a type of statement then asking, "Is that [statement] a fact?" would be the same sort of thing as asking, "Is that statement using an intransitive verb?"

Another thing to consider is context. All statements are made in a context. The context can be used to resolve ambiguities and to specify meanings. If I say, "That book is on the shelf over there," it would have to be the context that would make it clear which book and which shelf.

Some contexts are broader than others. The broadest context available is the context of "all human knowledge," but smaller contexts are frequently useful and necessary, so you can have your own personal context, e.g., concerning whatever is in your immediate vicinity, and distinguish that from other contexts.

A statement has to be put into a context in order to be judged as true, false, or arbitrary (or "possible," "probable," etc.). Further, the same statement can be true in one context, false in another, and arbitrary in yet another, although this might hinge on certain words that have different meanings in different contexts. (I should also point out that in the case of a "word salad" which isn't even grammatical, there's no use trying to put it in a context, because context doesn't make any difference...)

I did make a distinction between a statement which is "arbitrary in a particular context" and one which "would be arbitrary in any context." The latter, I think, is what most people here mean when they state that something is "arbitrary."

The examples of arbitrary statements given by Peikoff seem to be of that latter type; they seem to be those where the claimant is deliberately trying to insulate a claim from evidence. I think such a statement, "detached from the realm of evidence" as Peikoff describes it, is very different from a claim that merely lacks evidence. A claim that lacks evidence is merely useless; a claim that's impervious to evidence is another sort of beast -- and the statements Peikoff makes about the arbitrary being "an affront to reason and to the science of epistemology" would make more sense applying to the latter.

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On 7/27/2021 at 11:29 AM, Eiuol said:

. . .

But facts are not things, so how can they be out there, anymore than a claim? Facts refer to what is out there, while claims may or may not refer to what is out there. Facts are statements about what is out there, they are not themselves what is out there. So facts are on the forum. Your mistake is that you didn't note both facts and claims are statements or propositions. So facts are types of claims. Claims are types of statements or propositions.

. . .

In the sense that a claim is not out there, it is truths, not facts, that are not out there. Statements true are successes in stating facts, successes in stating what is out there. I deliberately use truths in the way Rand did: truths are recognitions of facts. (That is in GS, but it is interesting to see also, further, the discussion between Rand, Gotthelf(B), and Peikoff(E) on pages 241-42 of ITOE App.---I disagree with one of Rand's responses there.)

It is a fact that the New Jersey mountain peak High Point is higher above sea level than the surface of Lake Hopatcong is above sea level. In the sense of fact used by Rand and many others, a fact is not a claim. In Rand's ontology, this particular fact about elevations is a relationship, and a sort of relationship that is out there whether consciousness and claim-makers have been around to discern the fact. 

Both in some ordinary and religious parlance, as well as in parlance of some philosophers, truth is used where Rand et al. use fact. So we need to know which usage the speaker is engaging.

In my set of fundamental categories of identity, I've a superordinate of relationship instead of relationship. Specifically, in place of Rand's category relationship, I have the category situation. For situation, of course, some are out there whether consciousness and claim-makers have been around to discern facts of situation.

Edited by Boydstun
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12 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

There is definitely a problem with the fact that "arbitrary" has different meanings in different senses and that is one thing that has to come out.

As far as the example Boydstun gave, he is talking about arbitrary assumptions at the start of an argument/proof. I am talking about a declaration as opposed to an assumption. His version is like:

let x=6 and y=2 therefore x+y is 8

the let statements are tantamount to let us assume arbitrarily.

I am talking about x+y is 8 without any preceding "let" or "if" or "then" or "therefore". Just out of the blue.

I would argue that Peikoff's treatment of the "arbitrary" is limited and  in regards to a particular sense of the word. I'm looking for a more complete treatment.

One of the ways I have seen you use the word (not with me) in this forum is, in fact, the subjective form i.e. "it is arbitrary" meaning "it is arbitrary to me". That does not mean you were incorrect, but a particular meaning of the term.

Now as to the OP, the general gist is to be able to identify what is said in a post that is in fact arbitrary.

Some posts are simply incomplete, and any incomplete post/statement can be considered arbitrary. Ultimately there is "missing evidence" presented in an incomplete post. But there are some that are in fact arbitrary.

The other thing I have noticed, is that, false statements, observed in a certain way, look arbitrary too. This muddies the water and I'm trying to get a better understanding of that.

I, personally, am leaning toward "the arbitrary" referring to "an arbitrary thought" rather than statement. Sort of like a mental entity that can be considered arbitrary.

And as to the way you are approaching this, why not look at it as an exploration rather than a debate. My interest is to be able to identify "the arbitrary" right away and in the proper sense of the word. But to do that, all the sense of the word have to be identified. Boydstun provided some and there are others. Also, that article Boydstun linked is helpful.

Keeping in mind nothing in concrete reality is arbitrary, and that only abstractions, thoughts, claims, or strings of symbols meant to signify these sorts of things, can be arbitrary, how about something like this:

"Any idea or claim in any form, when any substantive portion thereof is wholly causally disconnected from reality, is, insofar as that portion is so disconnected, arbitrary."

 

Accordingly, although a room full of monkeys typing randomly, will by accident create strings of symbols which if interpreted by a human, sometimes correspond to something in the real world, the accidental strings were never causally connected to anything in the real world... and should be seen as arbitrary, and objectively so because causality not an abstraction but a process of reality.  I am proposing that in evaluating those typed letters (or any claim) one does not simply look at the meaning as interpreted by a human, as such, absent context, but must take into account how they are causally linked or disconnected from reality, and specifically the claimed referents "alleged" to have been their cause.

I believe any sort of arbitrary claim or statement, involves this lack of causal connection.  

 

EDIT: How this intersects with falsity is not so simple when dealing with a volitional mind, but in some ways they are independent, as some claims are arbitrary but true, others are false but not arbitrary (humans are fallible), and in other cases one can make a purposefully false and arbitrary statement.

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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11 hours ago, necrovore said:

I'm trying to distinguish words and ideas from reality itself.

I know you're trying to distinguish, but your words were and precise and could mean many different things. Only concrete entities are in the most basic sense real, but of course there are non-concrete things about those concrete things that are real to the extent they are about real things and their nature. But nobody really calls these things facts per se. They are properties. If I say it is a fact "that fire truck is red', what exists out there is the truck and its properties, but the fact is a claim that the statement "that fire truck is red" is true and refers to real things. 

I'm not saying that facts are merely what you think in your head and only then related to reality. I'm saying that a fact must always have a relation with a thinker, and could never exist out there apart from a thinker, and equally could not exist apart from reality out there. A fact would be a type of statement that answers (or at least attempts to answer) "what is true in reality?" Which would be a claim or proposition. 

As I'm typing this, I realize that my reasoning is going wrong somewhere. I concede the point, you are right. I'm leaving what I wrote though in case someone wants to see my thought process. (And Stephen added some additional clarity.)

11 hours ago, necrovore said:

I think such a statement, "detached from the realm of evidence" as Peikoff describes it, is very different from a claim that merely lacks evidence. A claim that lacks evidence is merely useless; a claim that's impervious to evidence is another sort of beast

One is a psycho epistemological method of the person, the other is a type of statement. Detached from the realm of evidence is describing a continual and deliberate attempt to disconnect oneself from evidence. A claim that lacks evidence is detached from the realm of evidence, but it is just one instance - on its own it says nothing about the psycho epistemological method of the individual. The claim becomes completely impervious to evidence when reinforced by the person who attempts to take their entire mind away from evidence. I'd rather distinguish between "arbitrary claims" and "arbitrary psycho epistemology", I think these are different concepts, although related. Peikoff  kind of wavers between both concepts without always being clear which one he is talking about. 
 

11 hours ago, necrovore said:

I did make a distinction between a statement which is "arbitrary in a particular context" and one which "would be arbitrary in any context." The latter, I think, is what most people here mean when they state that something is "arbitrary."

I would say it's is the opposite. I think there are very few claims which would be arbitrary in any context, pretty much only claims that deny the self-evident, as you mentioned. Most people don't make claims like that at that level of abstraction, so when most people point out something arbitrary, they would be referring to something about a much more narrow subject and more contextualized. 
 

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5 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

"Any idea or claim in any form, when any substantive portion thereof is wholly causally disconnected from reality, is, insofar as that portion is so disconnected, arbitrary."

Looks good, I can't find a problem with that. But you have to account for one more thing that seems to be associated with "the arbitrary". The idea that you can't disprove it.

The idea that it is not true or false.

I suspect (not sure) that In most cases, that which is causally disconnected would be demonstrably false/nonexistent.

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18 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

I suspect (not sure) that In most cases, that which is causally disconnected would be demonstrably false/nonexistent.

This is where the onus of proof is delegated to the one making the positive assertion - i.e., that it is the demonstrably true/existent. There is no onus to 'disprove'.

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11 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

This is where the onus of proof is delegated to the one making the positive assertion - i.e., that it is the demonstrably true/existent. There is no onus to 'disprove'.

Yes indeed.  One cannot prove the negative with positive evidence, one can only demonstrate that there is a lack of any evidence.

Nothing in existence serves as evidence which proves the non-existence of the Devil, it's not as if the fabric of space time could purposefully post little signs saying "No Devil here".  One can only point to the fact that no evidence has been shown supporting a claim to the positive... and in absence of any, there is nothing further to discuss.

 

EDIT: But here I agree with you and ET both... one does not prove non-existence of say the Devil but in the face of claims to purported evidence one can demonstrate the lack of any evidence by skewering/debunking that purported evidence.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
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On 7/26/2021 at 10:28 PM, necrovore said:

The answer to all such statements, according to Objectivism, is: an arbitrary claim is automatically invalidated. The rational response to such a claim is to dismiss it, without discussion, consideration, or argument.

Regarding the meaning of "to invalidate". It seems that Peikoff is using the statement in the context of a debate or conversation. As in, proper rules of debate demand that you ignore what the other guy said if it is judged to be an arbitrary claim.

Because in the context of "thinking", to invalidate could mean to consider as false.

It's difficult to integrate because arbitrary refers to nothing in particular (similar to a contradiction). But it's not false. The arbitrary does not belong in the realm of reason and/or logic.

Perhaps invalid means false and/or arbitrary. Campbell interprets invalidate as meaning false and he may be mistaken.

Quote

“Automatically invalidated” appears to mean that whenever one identifies a statement as arbitrary, one is entitled, without further ado, to conclude that it is false, consequently ruling it out of any further consideration.

Now regarding another issue

23 hours ago, necrovore said:

A statement has to be put into a context in order to be judged as true, false, or arbitrary (or "possible," "probable," etc.). Further, the same statement can be true in one context, false in another, and arbitrary in yet another, although this might hinge on certain words that have different meanings in different contexts.

If I hear "tiger liked a moon". I have no context, which tiger which moon etc., I also don't know much about tigers or moons.

Clearly I can't judge it as true or false, it's meaningless.

By establishing context do you mean after studying the subject? (a masters degree in moons and tigers)

Nevertheless, the statement is still going to be meaningless even after that. There's just not enough information there.

If you cannot establish context, do you automatically judge it as arbitrary? As in could lack of knowledge (on the listener's part) also be a lack of context?

I would argue that absence of context, also can indicate arbitrary. (you don't have to establish context to consider something arbitrary). Although it may be the "subjective" sense of arbitrary.

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14 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

If you cannot establish context, do you automatically judge it as arbitrary? As in could lack of knowledge (on the listener's part) also be a lack of context?

 

Your example would not even be a statement in that case. It would be gibberish. As far as lacking knowledge about the subject, you should still be able to recognize if there is evidence and context, despite not having enough assumed background information.

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