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Some Thoughts on The Arbitrary

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Gibberish would be completely un-understandable like "wer[email protected]$#%@^%". 

"Tiger liked a moon" would qualify as an arbitrary claim or a sentence although one can immediately tell that it is meaningless.

"The devil made him steal the car" won't resolve to true or false (and is meaningless).

"Tiger liked a moon" and "The devil made him do that" can pass a basic spell and grammar check. Both are neither true or false. The difference is the meaninglessness is more obvious in one than the other.

Meanwhile, gibberish is also not true or false. It also is not in the realm of logic. It also is to be dismissed and ignored.

Perhaps there is continuum between "the obvious arbitrary" and "the hidden arbitrary". 

"The arbitrary" is a non-determinable statement masquerading as a determinable true/false statement.

Gibberish does not have that deceptive quality. There is no masquerading. One immediately knows it's neither true or false.

What concerns us the most about "the arbitrary" is the fraudulent quality that one must be on the lookout for.

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10 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

"Tiger liked a moon" would qualify as an arbitrary claim or a sentence although one can immediately tell that it is meaningless.

I thought you were trying to make a bizarre ungrammatical sentence. So forget that. 

You won't know it's arbitrary until you ask the person. You can reasonably expect that it isn't arbitrary. It may be a person named Tiger. There may be a tiger that looks at the moon a lot at night, so that is at least some kind of evidence that a tiger likes a moon. 

10 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

"The devil made him steal the car" won't resolve to true or false (and is meaningless).

Sure it can be. "My evidence is that he said Hail Satan last time I saw him." It's bad evidence, but it is evidence in the sense that it is offered as a reason to believe the claim. You can then easily disprove the statement. You can demonstrate that the connection does not hold in reference to the evidence. If the person said "I have no evidence, I just know it!" that would be arbitrary. 

I'm also distinguishing how these words are grammatical, are syntactically correct, but have no connection with evidence or reasons to believe. It would be impossible to say why this statement is true or false, even if it is true or false. 

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

If the person said "I have no evidence, I just know it!" that would be arbitrary. 

Yes, that would clearly be arbitrary.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Sure it can be. "My evidence is that he said Hail Satan last time I saw him." It's bad evidence, but it is evidence in the sense that it is offered as a reason to believe the claim. You can then easily disprove the statement. You can demonstrate that the connection does not hold in reference to the evidence.

But "the how" is important. I would agree that there is "no evidence or no valid evidence".

At some point you will have to demonstrate the undemonstatable. You will have to "show" that the devil does not exist.

But you can't show that which can't be shown (in perpetuity). (since it does not exist)

And that is part of the way to indicate the fallacy, in concert with Occam's razor (why add a devil when you don't need one).

Unless you have another way to disprove it.

At this point, it seems there is a strong relationship between "arbitrary claim" and proving a negative.

Therefore, I would hypothesize that defining the "arbitrary claim" as "being a claim that can't be disproven" is okay and maybe even  preferable.

  • It does not contradict the "no evidence" or "bad evidence".
  • It does not contradict the lack of connection to causality (or reality for that matter).
  • It does not contradict the need to dismiss it.

Objections are welcome.

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Therefore, I would hypothesize that defining the "arbitrary claim" as "being a claim that can't be disproven" is okay and maybe even  preferable.

But if a claim is true it can't be disproven...

[Edit] You might want to say "a claim that can't be proven or disproven..."

There might also be a case where a claim can't be proven or disproven right now but can be later.

Edited by necrovore
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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

But you can't show that which can't be shown

You can do that if the person has evidence, that's my point. When somebody makes a positive claim, with a reason to believe, you can demonstrate that the claim is true or false. You can show that the devil does not exist if a person is at least engaging in providing reasons for their belief. You can do that by pointing out contradictions or statements that don't follow. Why isn't this possible if the person has given you reasons? But as soon as they stop engaging with giving reasons, it all becomes arbitrary. 

"Proving a negative" doesn't apply here because the person is trying to prove a positive, that the devil exists. 

 

Edited by Eiuol
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1 hour ago, necrovore said:

But if a claim is true it can't be disproven...

[Edit] You might want to say "a claim that can't be proven or disproven..."

Good point.

I personally would go with that.

But there will be objections to the fact that axiomatic truths can't be proven.
I don't understand it so I can't say much about that.

On a side note: Many will argue that axiom are simply assumptions. I think Ben Shapiro made the case that "you have to start somewhere". It came across like axiom are arbitrary assumptions.

Bottom line, we come full circle, back to Peikoff.

There is True, False, neither-True-or-False

Almost like 3 states of logic, 2 of them determinable and a third indeterminable.

Arbitrary may in fact be "the neither true or false" in the simplest terms.

Although, it does not exist in any logic diagram that I've ever seen. And it is not part of logic or reason.

But it's there. And serves as foundation for other information.

Meanwhile there are two species of the neither-True-or-False.

I divide them as the subjective vs the objective.

The subjective arbitrary being the "to be determined". It is based on the listener's perspective.

While the objective arbitrary is eternally arbitrary and does not matter who said it or who heard it. Independent of the claimant or listener. It just is arbitrary, period.
 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

"Proving a negative" doesn't apply here because the person is trying to prove a positive, that the devil exists. 

But you would be saying "the devil does not exist" and trying to prove that.

If you identify "the devil exists" as an arbitrary, and/or "the devil does not exist" as proving a negative, you would dismiss the argument in both cases.

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14 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

But you would be saying "the devil does not exist" and trying to prove that.

Proving something false does not necessarily mean you you have proved the opposite true. A successful proof of nonexistence could only be done by the successful proof of something that exists, and that it is impossible for the 2 alleged things to exist simultaneously. I can prove that a claim that the devil exists is false if evidence or reasons to believe are provided, prove that all that truly exists primarily are concrete entities, and based on those, and lastly that the devil cannot simultaneously exist as both a non-concrete and concrete entity because that would be a contradiction (assuming that by devil they mean some spirit-entity). "Proving a negative" would be directly trying to prove that the devil does not exist. That would not be possible. 

"Let me demonstrate that this thing before us does not exist by showing you the evidence that this thing gives off no evidence." You are literally trying to prove that nothing has no evidence, that's why it sounds like a mess and borders on incoherent. It would also be arbitrary because your claim has no evidence of any kind. 

51 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

There is True, False, neither-True-or-False

That violates the law of excluded middle. There is nothing in between true and false. It's only there for people who have fallen into an arbitrary psycho epistemology. Something like this:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna

 

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12 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

There is True, False, neither-True-or-False

That violates the law of excluded middle.

Agreed, it can't be part of logical determination. (Although it is part of logical input. We use arbitraries as input data)

It does not to refer to anything outside of mind.

It is obviously purely epistemological.

It's likely something like infinity, zero, imaginary numbers, the concept "nothing" or even contradiction.

Useful in some way in thinking but non existent.

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It turns out that arbitrary assertion has another element that has to be accounted for.

Arbitrary is the neither-True-or-False-That-could-be-True-or-False

That takes out "gibberish" out of the running. Gibberish can't be True or False. By that definition, Gibberish would not be an arbitrary assertion.

 

 

 

 

 

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6 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

That takes out "gibberish" out of the running. Gibberish can't be True or False. By that definition, Gibberish would not be an arbitrary assertion.

To put it another way, it has to be an assertion to be an arbitrary assertion. Gibberish isn't an assertion of anything.

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11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

We use arbitraries as input data)

Pretty sure you are equivocating again. One moment you're talking about arbitrary claims, then the next moment you are talking about arbitrary selections or declarations, and treating both as the same concept. Claims are only true or false, that's it. Arbitrary declarations are neither true nor false, there is nothing true or false about them because they are not meant to say anything about reality. Arbitrary claims that are neither true nor false don't even exist in a mental way. 

Anyway, what do you mean that we use arbitraries as input data? 

11 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

It's likely something like infinity, zero, imaginary numbers, the concept "nothing" or even contradiction.

Claims made with any of these are either true or false. I don't know what you mean. 

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50 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Anyway, what do you mean that we use arbitraries as input data? 

There is arbitrary in a positive sense and there is arbitrary in a negative sense.

Arbitrary in a positive sense is when we say "let's assume ABC for the sake of argument and go from there". It is also an arbitrary assertion to say "let x be 4" and then prove your point.

We are using the data, x is 4 as an arbitrary input data and building the rest of the proof etc based on that assertion.

And then there is arbitrary assertion in the negative sense. The one that we associate with causing damage. Like "devil", "God" etc. That is also input data and treated as true by the religious types. Their system is built on those imaginary facts.

So ultimately an arbitrary assertion used as a foundation of one's knowledge says quite a bit about reality. In a problematic faith based way.

I won't go into right now but "the arbitrary assertion" does have some survival value. Sometimes we have to assume the best, be optimistic. "Everything is going to be alright" in many cases is in fact an arbitrary assertion.

55 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Pretty sure you are equivocating again.

Sometimes I am and currently, until we parse it out completely, it is inevitable. The way Peikoff defines it allows for equivocation. We will clarify and eliminate the ambiguity as we move forward.

I suspect that you may be equivocating knowledge with valid knowledge or truth. Knowledge can be garbage too.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:
13 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

It's likely something like infinity, zero, imaginary numbers, the concept "nothing" or even contradiction.

Claims made with any of these are either true or false. I don't know what you mean. 

The only thing I was trying to point out is that "the arbitrary" does not exist out there. Zero also does not exist out there.

Not that these claims are arbitrary. 

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1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Sometimes I am and currently, until we parse it out completely, it is inevitable

You aren't accidentally equivocating, because we've already determined that these are different concepts, yet you keep on insisting on using them as the same concept. Or you haven't shown that they are the same concept. You can make distinctions among arbitrary claims, you can make distinctions among arbitrary declarations, but you can't make any good distinctions among a combination of arbitrary claims and arbitrary declarations. I'm not sure if I am wording that very well, but I mean something like you can't have a species out of sparrows and grasshoppers. 
 

1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Not that these claims are arbitrary. 

Okay, then you take back that there is a such thing as something that is neither true nor false even in your mind.

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6 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
1 hour ago, Easy Truth said:

Not that these claims are arbitrary. 

Okay, then you take back that there is a such thing as something that is neither true nor false even in your mind.

But there are. There are tentative assumptions that we make. Although an assumption is held as true. That is part of human functioning. We are not omniscient. We do it.

It is at the core of "mistake" or "error". As in I assumed the wrong thing when I made that mistake.

The arbitrary thought was at the heart of the mistake.

 

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I meant to say claims, not just anything at all. Anyway, the kind of mistake you are talking about is when evidence is misunderstood or misinterpreted, not from arbitrary thinking. What counts is if your underlying assumption (which is also a kind of claim)  is based on a reason to believe.

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4 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

Zero also does not exist out there.

No number exists out there, not even the number one.  Numbers are mental constructs we use to deal with what's out there.

The number of live cats that are in this house with me as I type this post is zero.  That would not be true if I were at my own place.

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37 minutes ago, Doug Morris said:

The number of live cats that are in this house with me as I type this post is zero.  That would not be true if I were at my own place.

Doug I could show you 1 cat and two cats.

I cannot show you zero or -1 cats.

But zero and -1 are useful.

Arbitrary is also useful in that sense.

That's all.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I meant to say claims, not just anything at all. Anyway, the kind of mistake you are talking about is when evidence is misunderstood or misinterpreted, not from arbitrary thinking. What counts is if your underlying assumption (which is also a kind of claim)  is based on a reason to believe.

But do you get my point that you in fact do make (arbitrary) assumptions?

Because you are not omniscient. You have to.

You hit a fork in the road, you have no idea about where left will go or right will go.

You choose right.

You inevitably assumed that going right is better (because you had no evidence at all and you made a choice)

You may not state if verbally and aloud, but it was an arbitrary thought (and therefore an arbitrary choice and therefore an arbitrary act)

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Anyway, the kind of mistake you are talking about is when evidence is misunderstood or misinterpreted, not from arbitrary thinking.

I use assuming as creating an arbitrary mental entity. (a noun not verb)

Here I think you are using arbitrary as meaning purposeless, as in purposeless thinking. I suppose that would be like "observing" maybe, I'm not sure.

Because arbitrary can mean causeless too, and "to think" is to cause the process. So you can't think and not be the cause of the thinking.

The other issue of claim vs declaration vs assertion vs "what was said" have so many nuances that I can't keep track of them. That is one of the reason's I prefer "an arbitrary thought" because it is the source in a sense encompassing all of them.

As far as mistake goes, you never choose to make a mistake. There has to be an accident. You don't think that making the wrong assumption causes a mistake?

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Just now, Easy Truth said:

Here I think you are using arbitrary as meaning purposeless, as in purposeless thinking. I suppose that would be like "observing" maybe, I'm not sure.

Assumptions are claims, so they can't be neither true nor false, they are always true or false. So that is not a good way to distinguish different kinds of arbitrary claims, despite your suggestion.

We don't care about arbitrary selections, or arbitrarily created mental entities. That's a different subject and a different concept. I agree that selections can be made arbitrarily and this is fine, at least in cases like a fork in the road. 

At best you might be able to say that arbitrary things in general are what cannot be evaluated as true or false. But this is broad and imprecise, and comes with many exceptions.
 

20 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

You don't think that making the wrong assumption causes a mistake?

Wrong assumptions are false, so of course they lead to mistakes. Arbitrary assumptions cannot be evaluated as true or false, so it is completely indeterminate if they will cause a mistake or not.
 

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16 minutes ago, Eiuol said:
42 minutes ago, Easy Truth said:

You don't think that making the wrong assumption causes a mistake?

Wrong assumptions are false, so of course they lead to mistakes. Arbitrary assumptions cannot be evaluated as true or false, so it is completely indeterminate if they will cause a mistake or not.

Hold on, keep in mind "arbitrary assumptions" seems redundant. I'm thinking you're not meaning what I'm saying.

"Let us assume x", could be said as "let us arbitrarily view x as being true".

Is the truth in x arbitrary or not?

So doesn't that make an assumption arbitrary by nature?

The other issue is "wrong assumption" will not be chosen when planning your life. It is only known to be wrong or false in hindsight.

 

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2 hours ago, Easy Truth said:

"Let us assume x", could be said as "let us arbitrarily view x as being true".

 

There is the act of assumption on the one hand, which is analogous to the act of claiming. Actions are not true or false, but that is a different subject. Then there is the assumption, which is a claim, which is true or false. As claims, they can be arbitrary or not, but they will always be true or false. That part is just to say that your neither true nor false idea could not work here. 'X', the assumption, is true or false. 

Is 'X' in this case an arbitrary assumption, based on nothing whatsoever, lacking any reason? It might look like there is absolutely no reason, no evidence of any kind, for the truth of 'X' in any direction. I don't think it really does lack a reason. At the very least, there is logical coherence, evidence in the way that 'X' is logically valid. Someone might make a logically incoherent assumption, so I would call that an arbitrary assumption. But that happens so rarely, probably only in cases like "assume that X is a contradiction". That probably gets a classification of its own.  

Edited by Eiuol
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Posted (edited)

"Arbitrary" itself is one of those words that can have different meanings in different contexts. It helps to keep the contexts distinct.

As Boydstun pointed out early in this thread, the word "arbitrary" can be validly used in statements of the form "Take an arbitrary triangle." A lot of our knowledge takes the form "For all X, Y follows." And in the latter case, if Y is true for all X (in a given context), then it doesn't matter which X you choose, Y will be true for it. So the choice of which X is "arbitrary" in the sense that the choice of X does not affect whether or not "For all X, Y follows" is true.

A statement of the form, "If X then Y," may be true regardless of whether X is true. For example, if someone or something lights a stick of dynamite, it will (under normal conditions) explode. This "if-then" statement is true regardless of whether or not anyone or anything is currently lighting a stick of dynamite. (But proving the statement would require either lighting a stick of dynamite, or having a record of a previous lighting of a stick of dynamite, or having enough experience lighting dynamite, directly or indirectly, that you can infer principles that can then be applied to a hypothetical lighted stick of dynamite.)

In all these kinds of cases, there's an X which we say "can be arbitrary" (e.g., pick any particular lighting of a stick of dynamite) but X is only part of the statement under consideration.

That's different from saying that the entire statement is arbitrary.

---

Consider two Objectivists, A and B.

A says, "Hey B, what if we made a momentous philosophic discovery, and Dr. Peikoff or Dr. Binswanger thought it so valuable that we were invited to his house, and he would gesture to his bookshelf, and say, 'Pick an arbitrary book, and I'll autograph it for you!' Wouldn't that be great?"

B says, "No, that would never happen, because an Objectivist like Dr. Peikoff or Dr. Binswanger wouldn't have any arbitrary books!"

Edited by necrovore
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