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Long-term Optimism

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I have been attending our local Objectivism socialization meetings recently and I have not seen some of the people there for over twenty years. This gives an interesting time-scale by which to judge intellectual progress. One such interesting encounter was with someone I used to argue insistantly with about volition. Now, Ayn Rand held that free will is introspectively self-evident, and I agree with this. However, it is quite possible for someone to be thrown off-track by intellectual endeavors prior to understanding Objectivism, and this is a case in point. As it turns out, he has no religious background whatsoever, and so questions about the soul (consciousness) were never really an active issue with him -- hence he became somewhat of a materialist (in the sense that he thought that the soul was whatever that thing was that religious people speak about, but he rejected their mysticism). When I would ague with him about free will, he would counter that we are made of matter which is deterministic and therefore we did not have free will or volition. I even went so far as to back him into a corner from time to time and ask him if he chose to accept that position or was it automatic knowledge? What may seem rather strange is that he was a teacher of small children, so I would ask him if he thought they were learning by free will or was it being implanted in them by his actions. Though he would hesitate a bit, he never came out and affirmed volition in either himself, his students, or other people that he knew -- including myself.

But, all is not lost.

After being at our last meeting for a while, he came over to me excitedly and wanted to explain something to me. He had discovered that he has free will after all!

How did this transformation come about?

Basically, what was throwing him off was a primitive version of causality that has been handed down to us since the Renaisance -- the idea that causation involves one thing impacting on another, like billiard balls. This is Aristotle's efficient causation, which is about all that remains of his rather complex conception of causality in terms of explicitly accepted philosophy handed down to us after Thomas Aquinas. Or is it?

My friend got interested in evolution one day and began to study it in earnest by reading books and watching some of the science shows available on TV.

And that is how he discovered free will in man.

Most people don't realize this, but Aristotle was very influential in biology (including Charles Darwin), though he doesn't often get the credit for it. And in Aristotle's understanding of biology, a living being has the powers that it has (the powers it needs to live) due to the fact that it is the type of living being that it is. This, too, is an aspect of Aristotle's conception of causation. This is part of how we get the idea that a thing acts according to its nature -- which applies to both animate and inanimate matter.

After realizing that a bat has sonar and wings, and can therefore fly and catch bugs in the dark; and other actions unique to a bat; my friend began to realize the more abstract conception of causality -- that a thing acts according to what it is. Nothing hits on the bat (or other living beings) getting it to do those complex actions. No, the living entity is a certain type of entity -- it has identity -- and therefore can do what it does to survive.

Well, if that is true of the bat and other animals, isn't it true for man? doesn't man have certain powers brought about by man being what he is qua living entity? what if this identity gives man the power of volition? And so my friend came to understand that volition (an aspect of human consciousness) is there qua man: because man is what he is, he can have volition as an aspect of what he is metaphysically.

So, there is room for long-term optimism, even though it may take a few years for the right ideas to become accepted.

And this also goes to show how all knowledge can be integrated with all other knowledge -- especially for those who can correct an error by going from evolution to volition in one giant leap, so to speak.

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Where does one begin to define "free will?"

This is something I've thought about before. If you could map out the universe down to the most basic unit (some kind of extremely small particle I would assume), on a macroscopic scale, the particles would be interacting in such a way to cause all actions and events to occur. For example, biologically, we are composed of atoms, correct? And when certain processes occur in our brains, what is really happening is those particles that compose those atoms that compose molecules that eventually compose what we call our brains, those particles are sending signals through our brains by however it is that their nature tells them to interact. On that level, our choices are made by whatever the particles are doing. Am I wrong? When you look at the big picture of all of the particles in the universe, when people interact with eachother they are interacting with those other particles... could you write a nearly infinitely long equation describing these interactions? In this sense you could predict where the particles would be going and what interactions would occur, couldn't you?

I'm not describing it too well but do you follow where I'm going with this? Does the concept of volition disagree with this idea?

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We are scientifically unable to explain the link between the deterministic nature of matter and the process of volition, at this juncture.

The deterministic nature of inanimate objects is a fact.

The volitional aspect of the human mind is a fact.

The specific relationship between these two facts is the realm of science. These facts, however are easily demonstrable.

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For example, biologically, we are composed of atoms, correct? And when certain processes occur in our brains, what is really happening is those particles that compose those atoms that compose molecules that eventually compose what we call our brains, those particles are sending signals through our brains by however it is that their nature tells them to interact. On that level, our choices are made by whatever the particles are doing. Am I wrong?

How the human brain works is a strictly scientific issue quite separate from the philosophical question as to whether or not man has free will. One no more needs to have scientific knowledge of how the brain works to address the issue of free will than I need to have full scientific knowledge of how a cat's brain works in order to establish the fact that my cat is conscious. The fact that we might not yet know how the brain works in certain ways does not invalidate the fact that it does work in certain ways and that, in the case of human beings, it results in a volitional consciousness.

I'm not describing it too well but do you follow where I'm going with this? Does the concept of volition disagree with this idea?

If where you are going is to try piece together a string of facts in order specifically rationalize a scenario where volition would be impossible - then the contradiction is yours. If you are asking whether or not known and yet-to-be discovered facts about the human brain contradict the concept of volition, the answer is no.

---

p.s. Actually, I like the way Proverb answered the question better than I did - but I did not see it until after I put up my reply.

Edited by Dismuke
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This is something I've thought about before. If you could map out the universe down to the most basic unit (some kind of extremely small particle I would assume), on a macroscopic scale, the particles would be interacting in such a way to cause all actions and events to occur. For example, biologically, we are composed of atoms, correct? <snip> Does the concept of volition disagree with this idea?

I'm against the idea of determinism because it does not say that an entity acts according to its nature, but rather says that a thing acts the way it does due to other thing acting upon it. The argument as presented sounds logical, and one can even come up with a syllogism for it, but there is a flaw in the observations that tend to be both over-gneralizations, the fallacy of composition, and an inversion of the knowledge hierarchy.

The syllogism would be something like this:

matter does not have volition

we are composed of matter

therefore we do not have volition

The over-generalization is that we observe some things comprised of matter that do not have volition and the observation is abstracted too far to include all things composed of matter. The fallacy of composition comes in because one observe that sub-atomic particles do not have volition, and conclude that those things composed of matter cannot have qualities or abilities not found in the constituent parts. The inversion of the hierarchy comes in because the existence of free will is introspectively self-evident, but that matter does not have free will is not directly observable (it's an advanced higher-level conclusion).

When we are small children between the ages of one years old to two years old, we begin to realize that we have volition and begin to tell our parents that we don't have to do what they tell us to do. It is after that time that we realize that our toys do not have volition, because our toys cannot choose not to play with us, unlike some of the neighborhood children who can choose not to play with us. In other words, the very idea of determinism is to set itself apart from volition and relies on the concept of volition -- i.e. our toys do not have free will or volition, and therefore are different from ourselves and from the neighborhood children. So, making a statement about determinism without referencing it to volition is dealing with that concept as if it was a stolen concept (Which I think is the whole point of the idea of determinism anyhow, at least how it is generally presented).

It is better to have the conception of causality that a thing acts according to its nature -- according to what it is -- rather than saying that everything (including our minds) acts according to how things impact on it. And actually, even when applied to billiard balls the concept that they are predetermined to act according to the eight-ball impacting on it denies the fact that if something else where put in its place -- say an egg -- that one would get a different result because the item is different (i.e the egg would break instead of going into the corner pocket).

Saying that we can't have volition because the sub-atomic particles we are comprised of don't have volition is like saying that a bird or an airplane can't fly because sub-atomic particles don't have airfoils!

Please check your premises, and you will have to use your volition to do that :lol:

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Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

matter does not have volition

we are composed of matter

therefore we do not have volition

What about these three statements (a "fill in the blank" syllogism - if you will):

Apes are not volitional.

Humans evolved from apes.

Humans are volitional.

Did volition evolve with humans? Can volition evolve? If not, how and when did we acquire it? If you want to say that apes are volitional, then simply replace "Humans" with "Apes" and "Apes" with "Early Mammals" and so on and so forth if you think early mammals were volitional.

Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

After realizing that a bat has sonar and wings, and can therefore fly and catch bugs in the dark; and other actions unique to a bat; my friend began to realize the more abstract conception of causality -- that a thing acts according to what it is. Nothing hits on the bat (or other living beings) getting it to do those complex actions. No, the living entity is a certain type of entity -- it has identity -- and therefore can do what it does to survive.

My problem here is that he is comparing a physical identity with a non-physical identity. Apples and oranges. Sonar and wings are physical attributes while volition is non-physical. Sonar and wings resulted from the natural selection of genetic mutations during reproduction from generation to generation. To the best of my knowledge, there are no genes that correspond to volition and likewise, there is nothing physically associated with volition in the brain. Therefore, no natural selection of genetic mutations could have occured and in that case, I don't think it's appropriate to compare one to the other.

Proverb

The deterministic nature of inanimate objects is a fact.

The volitional aspect of the human mind is a fact.

I have a bigger problem with this (also apples and oranges). Deterministic nature of inanimate objects is a scientific fact. The volitional aspect of the human mind is a subjective fact. Not many people here are willing to arrive at this conclusion, but I don't think there's anyway around it. For instance (in so many words):

Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

the existence of free will is introspectively self-evident

sub·jec·tive ( P ) Pronunciation Key (sb-jktv)

adj.

Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.

But of course, this seems to contradict the notion that objective reality exists as a metaphysical absolute.

- Also one more thing I meant to respond to (and it's just my own opinion - if you want to discuss it lets do PM's because I don't want to open a can of worms):

Thomas M. Miovas Jr.

When we are small children between the ages of one years old to two years old, we begin to realize that we have volition and begin to tell our parents that we don't have to do what they tell us to do. It is after that time that we realize that our toys do not have volition, because our toys cannot choose not to play with us, unlike some of the neighborhood children who can choose not to play with us.

This is a good observation but I don't believe it's that we begin to realize that we have volition. I believe it's that we begin to perceive ourselves as different from others (which is the precursor to the perception of volition). Moreover, I believe that this (self-awareness) is directly related to our ability to communicate / develop language skills ("I can act differently than you"), which is directly related to our ability to store data and develop episodic memory.

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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...subjective fact.

You are subverting any attempt at rational argument by seriously submitting to the idea of a 'subjective fact' which is clearly a contradiction. That's not derived from the horrible definition of 'subjective' that you provided but from the actual meaning.

Something that is subjective is 'subject' to something. In this context any person's thought is subject to the volition of their mind, meaning any concept or thought process at any given point could have been otherwise. It's the actual process that one uses that determines if something is subjective or not. If a thought process or concept is directly related to and in accordance with reality it is objective. Otherwise it was subject to some whim, irrationality, or arbitration and is subjective and disjunct from reality.

A fact is a metaphysical truth and is not subject to anything, it just is. Granted, the recognition of such is subject to a consciousness choosing to think in accordance with reality or not.

'Subjective fact,' if said in any seriousness is a clear example of a misunderstanding of both terms.

I think this is a bit off topic with this thread but if you'd like I'll be glad to answer any questions in a PM or another thread.

By the way, are you a determinist?

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You are subverting any attempt at rational argument by seriously submitting to the idea of a 'subjective fact' which is clearly a contradiction. That's not derived from the horrible definition of 'subjective' that you provided but from the actual meaning.

Something that is subjective is 'subject' to something. In this context any person's thought is subject to the volition of their mind, meaning any concept or thought process at any given point could have been otherwise. It's the actual process that one uses that determines if something is subjective or not. If a thought process or concept is directly related to and in accordance with reality it is objective. Otherwise it was subject to some whim, irrationality, or arbitration and is subjective and disjunct from reality.

That definition was taken directly from a dictionary. In philosophy, that is the definition that is often used within the context of subjective and objective observations (that's why Ayn Rand used "objective reality" (the antonym of "subjective reality") as her metaphysical absolute). An observation about the external world is an objective observation. An observation about ones mind is a subjective observation (introspective). I cannot perceive your volition because it has no objective (physical) qualities and likewise, you cannot perceive my own.

I used the term "subjective fact" to show how your statement was inconsistent. That was my bigger problem.

A fact is a metaphysical truth and is not subject to anything, it just is. Granted, the recognition of such is subject to a consciousness choosing to think in accordance with reality or not.

If objective reality exists as a metaphysical absolute, then all facts are objective, no?

I think this is a bit off topic with this thread but if you'd like I'll be glad to answer any questions in a PM or another thread.

By the way, are you a determinist?

Look, I don't want to go in this direction on here because I don't want to piss anyone off and it's largely my fault for bringing this up outside of PM / debate forum. We'll limit my personal thoughts on determinism + free will to PM's (I admittedly do a terrible job of keeping my concerns private - I'll send you a PM when I'm done with this so we can carry on our discussion).

All I really want is a solution to the evolutionary questions that remain. How did volition evolve? When? Why? If it didn't evolve, how did we acquire it? How does a non-physical, self-evident entity evolve? Or how does it appear?

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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All I really want is a solution to the evolutionary questions that remain. How did volition evolve? When? Why? If it didn't evolve, how did we acquire it? How does a non-physical, self-evident entity evolve? Or how does it appear?

By the way, those three lines you presented are not a syllogism. To say that apes don't have volition, and that we evolved from apes, does not lead to the conclusion that therefore we have volition.

Evolutionarily, volition is really our ability to be a ware of what is going on with our minds about our minds. Apes and other consciously aware animals seems to have a grasp of self-awareness insofar as they can respond to themselves in a mirror, but they don't seem to be aware of what is going on in their minds. That ability to be aware of what one's mind is doing and being able to therefore control its functioning is the next evolutionary step that our ancestors took. I'm not sure when, but maybe as long ago as one million years (when the physical structure of man is almost identical to our own physical structure). In other words, having volition is was an evolutionary advance that gave us an advantage (i.e. reason) that other animals don't have.

I think the attempt to reduce volition down to a physical thing inside of us may be a throwback to Aristotle's idea that the essence of something is metaphysical rather than epistemological. Our minds are not a physical thing, but rather is our awareness of existence (via our senses) coupled with the awareness our minds and its functioning (via some internal process). In other words, grasping existence (and further grasping our grasping of existence) is something we do -- it is an action or a change that we are capable of doing (like changing our minds). The physical details of how this functionality works or how it came about evolutionarily is beside the point that our having volition is a metaphysical fact -- it is an aspect of what we are (and we have no choice about that, short of getting seriously wounded).

So a philosopher can righteously say: I don't know the details, and I don't have to, because volition is self-evident (and non-subjective); however, since it has become clear that we did evolve, somehow this ability came about, just as somehow life arose and evolved into beings such as ourselves. In other words, one doesn't need omniscience to know something -- and to know something (on the human, conceptual level) requires volitionally adhering to the facts of existence; one of those facts being that we have volition, even though a great many things that exist do not have volition.

Our mind is not something that is super-added onto our physical being, and does not come about due to some yet undiscovered particle, since we are made up of the same fundamental stuff that everything else is made from. We have the ability or the power of volition due to the fact that we are what we are.

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By the way, those three lines you presented are not a syllogism. To say that apes don't have volition, and that we evolved from apes, does not lead to the conclusion that therefore we have volition.

That's right. That's why I didn't say it was a syllogism. I said it was a "fill-in-the-blank syllogism." As in:

Apes are not volitional.

Humans evolved from apes.

Humans are volitional.

Therefore...

Evolutionarily, volition is really our ability to be a ware of what is going on with our minds about our minds. Apes and other consciously aware animals seems to have a grasp of self-awareness insofar as they can respond to themselves in a mirror, but they don't seem to be aware of what is going on in their minds. That ability to be aware of what one's mind is doing and being able to therefore control its functioning is the next evolutionary step that our ancestors took. I'm not sure when, but maybe as long ago as one million years (when the physical structure of man is almost identical to our own physical structure). In other words, having volition is was an evolutionary advance that gave us an advantage (i.e. reason) that other animals don't have.

You can't say evolutionary advance because an evolutionary advance (in respect to Darwin's theory of evolution) refers to physical changes with physical causes (wings over time from genetic mutations). You can call it intellectual evolution, or social evolution, perhaps. But then you have to define it.

I think the attempt to reduce volition down to a physical thing inside of us may be a throwback to Aristotle's idea that the essence of something is metaphysical rather than epistemological. Our minds are not a physical thing, but rather is our awareness of existence (via our senses) coupled with the awareness our minds and its functioning (via some internal process). In other words, grasping existence (and further grasping our grasping of existence) is something we do -- it is an action or a change that we are capable of doing (like changing our minds). The physical details of how this functionality works or how it came about evolutionarily is beside the point that our having volition is a metaphysical fact -- it is an aspect of what we are (and we have no choice about that, short of getting seriously wounded).

I would prefer if you didn't say "we" and "our" because you are refering to subjective actions. Introspection and self-awareness (in an intellectual sense) are subjective (as I defined earlier). You believe that you are volitional. In fact, you "know" that you are volitional. However, you cannot know that I am volitional (or anyone else for that matter) unless you can point to a physical indication of such an ability (an objective observation) in my brain. In other words, you cannot by aware of my consciousness. You can, however, make an assumption.

So a philosopher can righteously say: I don't know the details, and I don't have to, because volition is self-evident (and non-subjective); however, since it has become clear that we did evolve, somehow this ability came about, just as somehow life arose and evolved into beings such as ourselves. In other words, one doesn't need omniscience to know something -- and to know something (on the human, conceptual level) requires volitionally adhering to the facts of existence; one of those facts being that we have volition, even though a great many things that exist do not have volition.

No. A philosopher can righteously say: I don't know the details, and I'd like to, because volition seems to be self-evident. However, because it is a subjective observation (how can you assert that it is non-subjective without backing it up with facts supporting it's objective qualities?)*, I cannot universalize this quality and I cannot state it as a metaphysical fact. As of now, volition is a THEORY that a confidently subscribe to.

Theory - n 1: a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world; an organized system of accepted knowledge that applies in a variety of circumstances to explain a specific set of phenomena.

Our mind is not something that is super-added onto our physical being, and does not come about due to some yet undiscovered particle, since we are made up of the same fundamental stuff that everything else is made from. We have the ability or the power of volition due to the fact that we are what we are.

We are what we are because we evolved from things that were what they were. If we are what we are and what is simply is, than everything whould be constant. However, this is not the case. Evolution is the best example of such change.

*If you want to show that subjective and objective are not mutually exclusive, please explain because I do not see how that is remotely possible.

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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I haven't replied to this thread in a while because I've been deciding how to reply.

You can't say evolutionary advance because an evolutionary advance (in respect to Darwin's theory of evolution) refers to physical changes with physical causes (wings over time from genetic mutations).

Well, we do observe that different animals have different abilities that they can utilize for their own survival, and the closest evolutionary branch to us is the various species of apes and monkeys, which are definitely very intelligent. One can see the evolutionary links from one species to another leading to greater and greater intelligence, and to a certain level of self-awareness. However, for our particular branch of evolution, the immediate links (the so-called missing links) simply aren't alive today for us to observe. But evolution isn't the key issue here anyhow, because our ability of volition is self-evident. Did you have to know that our fingers came from the fact that the fish have several bones in their fins and that we evolved from these fish before you became aware that you have fingers? I doubt it, because the fact that you have fingers is a self-evident observation. Volition is the same way -- it is something you observe directly about yourself.

You believe that you are volitional. In fact, you "know" that you are volitional. However, you cannot know that I am volitional (or anyone else for that matter) unless you can point to a physical indication of such an ability (an objective observation) in my brain. In other words, you cannot by aware of my consciousness.

I can't be directly aware of your consciousness, but I can observe how you reply to my post; and I observe that you are claiming that you are not replying by your own choice.

So, what do you want me to do -- write a response in some programming language that will give you volition? Heck, if that works, maybe I should try to program some marvelous woman to fall in love with me -- do you think that will work? Actually, even if it did work, I'd rather be dealing with intelligent volitional beings who would write clearly and non-self-contradictorily; and I want love to be loving me for who I am rather than a programmed response anyhow. In other words, by taking your stance, you are automatically discounting any sort of earned admiration, which has to be earned by choice -- both because you chose to be a certain type of individual and so did the person who has the capacity to admire you. And this goes double for romantic love. By denying volition, you are leaving all the goods things out of your life. Mistakes might be made, but one can choose to correct those mistakes. However, this last requires a lot of understanding -- or a choice to try to have an understanding, which can only be work out via chosen communication. But to do that you would have to admit that you have volition.

No. A philosopher can righteously say: I don't know the details, and I'd like to, because volition seems to be self-evident. However, because it is a subjective observation (how can you assert that it is non-subjective without backing it up with facts supporting it's objective qualities).
Self-awareness and the awareness of volition are not subjective, so long as one has one's ideas based on existence. Your position, if you are going to be consistent, would have to be that all of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is subjective, since the only way to verify that book is through self-introspection and comparing how your own mind works to the insights of Ayn Rand. But, you see, that is an objective process because you are comparing an internal process to the facts of existence (what is written in that book).

We are what we are because we evolved from things that were what they were. If we are what we are and what is simply is, than everything would be constant. However, this is not the case. Evolution is the best example of such change.

I never said that everything is constant. As a matter of fact, we live in a very dynamic universe. And one of the dynamics is that we can change our minds, depending on the facts and our understanding of them (i.e. context). And actually there is a funny commercial that makes this point. It has two doctors standing over a patient and a fly is buzzing around bothering them. So one of the doctors zaps the fly with the heart shocking paddles. Just as he looks down at the patient with the dead fly on his chest and says, "That killed him!" the wife and daughter of the patient walk into the room thinking that their family member is dead. I think it's done by a mortgage company and their motto is: Don't judge too quickly, we won't.

Intellectual and other mistakes can well be made, but only because we have volition. If we didn't have volition, we would simply be acting the way we do because we were some sort of biological machines instead of being human. In fact, you couldn't even say it was a mistake unless you understand that we have volition. At this point, I am willing to say that you made a mistake; that some idea is preventing you from understanding the facts -- the fact of volition being one of them because you are caught in an intellectual loop.

Change your mind volitionally to be aware of that which is a first-level observation -- that you replied to me by choice. In other words, I do think that you are being rationalistic. However, this is a mistake that can be corrected.

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I haven't replied to this thread in a while because I've been deciding how to reply...

Because I don't want to get in trouble, I'd like to take this to PM's and then perhaps we'll either find some common ground or we'll disagree, but I can't disagree with you on this topic anymore because I've already worn out my welcome.

[Edited to remove long quote. -GC]

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Because I don't want to get in trouble, I'd like to take this to PM's and then perhaps we'll either find some common ground or we'll disagree, but I can't disagree with you on this topic anymore because I've already worn out my welcome.

I may reply to you further in private message mode, though I'm hesitant to do so because I, too, have already said what I think needs to be said. Either you are directly aware that you have free will or you are not, and either you are aware that you are replying by your own free will or you need to have someone change your programming. I don't mean to be too flippant here, but if you are a biological machine, then why are you engaging in this debate anyhow -- I mean what are you going to be getting out of it?

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I may reply to you further in private message mode, though I'm hesitant to do so because I, too, have already said what I think needs to be said. Either you are directly aware that you have free will or you are not, and either you are aware that you are replying by your own free will or you need to have someone change your programming. I don't mean to be too flippant here, but if you are a biological machine, then why are you engaging in this debate anyhow -- I mean what are you going to be getting out of it?

There are errors in your argument regarding objective / subjective observations (which I pointed out in my PM) and since you have yet to provide an example of how the two aren't mutually exclusive, I would say that you have not said what needs to be said at this point in time.

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There are errors in your argument regarding objective / subjective observations (which I pointed out in my PM) and since you have yet to provide an example of how the two aren't mutually exclusive, I would say that you have not said what needs to be said at this point in time.

Very well, why don't you post something regarding what you think is objective versus subjective in this thread, because I do think that is one of your mistakes. You do seem to be making some attempt at going by the facts (re: evolution), but you are not starting at the first-level observations you can make.

This, in part, is an issue of context. And I'd like to have more of your context regarding objective versus subjective, so please give some good examples.

In my example of the doctors and the fly, the family members -- the wife and daughter of the patient -- are rational to come to the conclusion that their family member is dead given what they observed. Just as we can each, individually, be rational regarding what we observe, though have to change our minds once we get more of the context (re-assess the facts as we get to know more). Another good example of this is Atlas Shrugged whereby Dagny wanted to shoot John Galt on sight. In her context, she was being rational; though later, once she got more of the facts regarding John Galt -- especially once she met him in person -- she had to re-evaluate her conclusions (but even that took a while before she joined him fully).

So, please give us more context as to what you think is objective versus subjective.

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Very well, why don't you post something regarding what you think is objective versus subjective in this thread, because I do think that is one of your mistakes. You do seem to be making some attempt at going by the facts (re: evolution), but you are not starting at the first-level observations you can make.

This, in part, is an issue of context. And I'd like to have more of your context regarding objective versus subjective, so please give some good examples.

In my example of the doctors and the fly, the family members -- the wife and daughter of the patient -- are rational to come to the conclusion that their family member is dead given what they observed. Just as we can each, individually, be rational regarding what we observe, though have to change our minds once we get more of the context (re-assess the facts as we get to know more). Another good example of this is Atlas Shrugged whereby Dagny wanted to shoot John Galt on sight. In her context, she was being rational; though later, once she got more of the facts regarding John Galt -- especially once she met him in person -- she had to re-evaluate her conclusions (but even that took a while before she joined him fully).

So, please give us more context as to what you think is objective versus subjective.

Preface: I have sent Mr. Miovas a personal message but he has not responded to that personal message. Instead, he has responded within the framework of this topic and also asked for my response within this framework. If the powers that be would like to move this to a debate forum, that may be more appropriate, but it may also be redundant (which is why I had asked to move to personal messages). Anyways, I will respond:

Objective:

1 : of, relating to, or being an object, phenomenon, or condition in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers <objective reality>

An objective perception is a perception of the objective world. Anything you touch, taste, feel, smell, or see.

Subjective

1. Proceeding from or taking place in a person's mind rather than the external world: a subjective decision.

A subjective perception is a perception of the internal world, namely, the mind.

Take this example that you brought up:

Your position, if you are going to be consistent, would have to be that all of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology is subjective, since the only way to verify that book is through self-introspection and comparing how your own mind works to the insights of Ayn Rand. But, you see, that is an objective process because you are comparing an internal process to the facts of existence (what is written in that book).

In my opinion, this is a very muddy paragraph and I don't want to misinterpret what you are trying to say, so I won't rephrase it. I'll restate the example as I would personally restate it so that it is in line with what I think is accurate.

Ayn Rand has non-physical ideas. These ideas may be about physical things (subjective representations of objective realities), or they may not be (subjective representations of subjective realities*), but they are subjective either way. For instance, my idea of "dog" is a representation of an objective reality (dogs exist). Your idea of "dog" is also a representation of objective reality. However, chances are, our ideas of "dog" are very different and even if we have subjective represenations of the exact same "dog," there is absolutely no way to prove it. We can talk to each other and come to the conclusion that "we're probably thinking of something similar - a black dog, bushy hair, medium sized" but that is ALL that we can do. This is the nature of ideas. You can never prove that one person has the same idea as another. You can only estimate.

When Ayn Rand writes her ideas down, she is creating an objective representation of her subjective ideas (I'

m going to stop typing "subjective ideas" because it's redundant and just type "ideas"). When somebody reads those objective represenations, it is only objective because one is seeing the black ink in contrast to the white background. That is an objective perception. However, because those ink marks represent ideas, it is easy to confuse objective and subjective. But the perception of the ink is objective in nature. The perception of what they represent is subjective in nature. It is a perception of her ideas. Ayn Rand might create the most rediculously detailed description of an idea she has, but I will most likely not have the same idea in my head and anyway, there's no way to prove it even if I do.

This is an example of the differences between objective perception and subjective perception.

But (specifically) regarding volition, it is a purely subjective experience. There are no physical qualities

of volition. So now, you're talking about a subjective representation of a subjective reality. As far as I can see, you either have to show that subjective reality and objective reality are not mutually exclusive (some form of dualism) or that volition is an objective reality, and I am satisfied with neither of your explanations, which is why I asked you to clarify. If you choose to respond, please do not mix up objective and subjective realities or pose a situation where an objective truth arises from a subjective reality, unless you can also prove that an objective truth CAN arise from a subjective reality.

All of this has much to do about philosophy of language. Has anyone read Wittgenstein or Locke or St. Augustine? It's very interesting.

* I realize that subjective reality is contradictory if objective reality is a metaphysical absolute. How can something subjective be real? Perhaps we are objectively-based, subjective beings living in an objective world. Does that make sense to anyone? It would explain how subjective "reality" and objective reality might coexist. I'm not sure. That's why I'm asking. And again, I'd like to restate the crux of my dilemma: one cannot deny the existence of subjective reality and simultaneously assert a metaphysical [self-evident] fact that is ultimately based on subjective knowledge.

Edited by NewYorkRoark
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You should look up the 'Mind-body Dichotomy' and how it is falsified.

You are representing an aspect of this false dichotomy by saying that thought ('subjective reality' to use your words) is apart and distinctly different from objective reality. This is false. Consciousness is such because it is conscious of something, that being objective reality. To say that this relationship or this functioning of the mind is separate from objective reality is to deny the real connection between them. Which, without, we would be lost in a sea of existential nothingness.

To attain any useful function a consciousness must accept the nature of reality and integrate its perception of such in accordance with it. However, because of the nature of the mind, one has the choice to act and think in contradiction to reality. This is the nature of 'subjective' thought. When someone considers something as totally independent of the nature of reality such as saying that 'morality is what you make it' or 'there is no good or evil' or 'you see a different reality than I do, therefor you're wrong'; besides being an act of evasion, these are subjective premises. They are, though derived from concepts in it, totally disjunct from reality and subject to the thought of consciousness purporting them.

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I haven't replied to the private message because I see a cornucopia of philosophic ideas presented in the discussion so far, and I'd rather take those ideas on wholesale, so to speak, because I've come across this before in my twenty plus years of having philosophic debates across the Internet. In other words, I don't know you personally, but I do want take on your ideas, and by doing so on this forum I might be able to convince not only yourself, but others who have the same problem.

You are claiming that whatever takes place in one's mind is subjective, and that whatever one observes via the senses is objective. You seem to grasp on some level that ideas are objectified when one uses a language properly to convey one's ideas -- i.e. that the writing (whether via ink on paper or via a computer screen) does make one's ideas available via perception. However, I think you may be relying too much on definitions; and besides, past philosophers (some of whom you mentioned) were very confused themselves and spread the confusion of their ideas via the objectified process of writing down their ideas for others to perceive. Unfortunately, these philosophers had an impact on our language, whereas Objectivism (except in some rare cases where Miss Rand coined some terms) has not yet had an impact on our language.

It is the purpose of a language to clarify one's own ideas, as a primary, and only secondarily to convey one's ideas to others. Because you are right, in a sense, that there is no physical representation of an idea -- until one makes a physical representation of an idea by utilizing audio / visual symbols to represent ideas. If one just leaves an idea in one's head without such physical representations (i.e. a language) one is restricted to the immediate momentary glimpse of an idea that is basically floating around in one's mind that one cannot grasp fully until it is tied to the senses. And I have to wonder about the psycho-epistemology of those who cannot write clearly.

The beginning point of all knowledge is sense perception, and it is proper that we can utilize a language to bring our ideas "down" to the perceptually self-evident. By this I mean that what we perceive is real, and the primary function of a language is to make our ideas fully real to us via perception. This is the way in which ideas (which occur "in our heads") are brought out for our objective inspection. However, this process can take place (to some degree) even if the ideas are not written down, but only to the capacity that one can hold a language in one's mind via memory.

It is useful for an individual to write things down even to himself and only to himself, so he can check the accuracy of his ideas to the perceptually given -- to test out the idea; to see if it matches reality. Can you imagine what it would be like to have someone else "in your head" (i.e. telepathy), or looking over your shoulder as you write something down and making comments, and then saying "Aha! You just said X shame on you!" When you were actually involved in an extended version of a typo? Or if you were trying to work something out for yourself and someone ran away with the idea, like the doctors and the fly example I gave earlier? So, it is fortunate that ideas take place in our heads where no one else has access, or that we can write things down in the privacy of our own note pads, and then check them for accuracy before we send them out to someone.

So, writing something down extends the abilities of our minds -- the ability to review one's ideas at the perceptual level and to see if our ideas match objective reality or not. This is how ideas are made objective -- in the sense of making them perceptually self-evident (ideas that can be seen with the senses). Once we do that, then we can embark on making our ideas objective in the sense of making them match reality, but the order this is done is to put one's ideas together in one's own mind (using a language), and then write them down (in a language), and then review them to check their accuracy (checking to see if the objectified ideas actually do match reality or not).

What I am suggesting is that the earlier philosophers that you mention objectified their philosophy by writing it down, but they didn't check to see if those ideas matched reality; so they were not being fully objective. Besides, if they are going to take the position that ideas can never be made objective (in the sense of matching the reality of what is going on inside their own heads), then why didn't they take themselves at their own word and not try to convince others that ideas could never be made objective (both in the sense of conveying what is in one's own head and by showing that those ideas do, indeed, match reality)?

In other words, if a philosopher is going to claim that he doesn't' know what he is talking about -- i.e. that he cannot convey what is on his mind via a language -- then why is he continuing to prattle on and on? What is he trying to do, objectify his confusions? If so, then he should do it himself, by himself, and not publish those tracks, unless he clearly states that he is confused as something for someone else to resolve. However, this aspect of their writing should not be considered a philosophy.

The term "philosophy" comes from the Greek for "love of wisdom" and that is what it should remain, rather than a laundry list of confusions written in some half-language that no one can make any sense of.

I apologize if this comes across to some as my own prattling, but I absolutely hate that there are ideas out there that confuse people to such an extent that it may take them years -- even decades -- to resolve the confusion brought about by others who claim to be philosophers who don't even know what wisdom is and have no appreciation of it.

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  • 2 weeks later...
Now I'm depressed.

When I first read this, my reaction was: What the heck is that supposed to mean?

Since no context was presented in the reply, I had to make some guesses as to what he was responding to. Was he depressed because there is a connection between the "subjective" and the "objective" (using the terminology of the given definitions)? Was he depressed because I replied at all? Was he depressed because I think even someone who reads Augustine and Wittgenstein can be reasoned with (at least to some degree)? Was he depressed because he's not sure if he has volition or not? Or was he merely objectifying an inner emotional state that had nothing to do with the thread?

He didn't say, so I don't really know. All I know is that he is depressed.

But Ayn Rand had something interesting to say about depression. She held that due to the fact that we have a volitional consciousness, periodic depressions were necessary to prod us into a state of checking our premises. Because it is possible for one to lose their motivation, from time to time one has to re-affirm one's motivations in order to volitionally adhere to existence and one's understanding of existence. So, even for a rational consciousness, adhering to existence is not automatic, and probably not even fully automatized. That is, one cannot set a long-term goal, and then strive to reach it, without ever checking that premise of whether or not striving for that goal is worth our effort. Motivation is not something that we can set and then forget. The obstacles one encounters along the way are reality as well, and maybe we didn't take them all into account -- because we are not omniscient, after all. No matter how carefully we thought out the achievement of the goal, other obstacles that we never expected can get in the way, which can lead to a state of wondering if it was all worth it -- i.e. depression. So one needs to re-assess the goal in the context of the new obstacles and re-evaluate the striving for the achievement. Can it be done or not? Is one throwing effort after effort without getting any nearer to the goal? Is it worth it?

In some cases one might have to re-assess the achievement after the fact, such as Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden wondering if it was worth it after the John Galt line was built and then the "powers that be" tried to destroy it. In actual news, was it worth building the World Trade Center even though some Muslim Fundamentalist terrorists flew airplanes into them and knocked them down? Only a volitional consciousness can answer that question. Because we are not like ants or termites that automatically rebuild a structure once it has been destroyed. No, we have to will to do it. We have to work our way through the depression of the loss -- correction, we can chose to will to re-achieve our will itself or will to work our way through the depression, as painful as that may be in and of itself.

And the same thing can be said about mental structures -- i.e. a philosophy. If someone has gone through the effort of trying to become integrated according to some abstract ideal, and then finds out that ideal is incorrect (doesn't match existence), then one can re-assess those ideals and change them into something more rational. Of course, since Objectivism exists, one doesn't have to start from scratch, which is why it only takes years and maybe decades as opposed to never being able to change those wrong ideals in the first place. To present this in another form, it is only due to the fact that we have volition that we can change our motivations and ideals in the first place. Unlike ants or termites who automatically rebuild perhaps in a place unsuitable for such a structure, because it is encoded in their make-up, we humans can chose to re-assess what we are doing volitionally across the board -- i.e philosophically. In other words, just as those who choose to stay in New Orleans even though hurricane Katrina knocked them down, we can re-assess how to rebuild, because it is not simply encoded in our make-up. We can chose to build a structure differently than before, to make it more suitable, and then to protect it from man or flood.

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I apologize for not responding in a timely fashion, it's just that I've been working quite late the last few weeks.

Anyway, regarding your response to my response to your response etc., I wanted to clarify my position.

I was not saying that ideas and objects are not related. Certainly ideas are OF objects. I was simply saying that an idea is not an object and it cannot objectively represent the object in an exact fashion. Every time an object is sensed it's vividness (it's truth) is watered down. If it's communicated to another it is watered down more - similar to the way audio quality is reduced every time it moves through a new medium (wire, amp, wire, speaker, etc). In this sense, it is not exact. We can never communicate an sensed objective truth because 1. it is watered down immediately and 2. it is watered down even more (and to a greater degree) every time that idea is communicated. Now, I am NOT saying that it's not OF an object, it's just not an exact representation of an object. It's like painting rather than a photograph.

I'd also like to respond to the free-will vs. determinism discussion we were involved in, but I'll have to do that a little later as I still have a ton of stuff on my plate right now.

Thanks,

Casey

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I was not saying that ideas and objects are not related. Certainly ideas are OF objects. I was simply saying that an idea is not an object and it cannot objectively represent the object in an exact fashion. Every time an object is sensed it's vividness (it's truth) is watered down. If it's communicated to another it is watered down more - similar to the way audio quality is reduced every time it moves through a new medium (wire, amp, wire, speaker, etc). In this sense, it is not exact.

I don't understand what is being said here. "Every time an object is sensed it's vividness is watered down"? Are you trying to say that we only perceive part of what something is rather than the thing itself, so we lose some of the information because we perceive it with our senses (which are limited)? That is, since we don't perceive, say, infra-red or ultraviolet, yet many things radiate with those frequencies, we don't perceive everything there is to be perceived regarding the object and therefore merely by sensing it we are already losing something in the translation, so to speak? Actually, since you are also saying that it gets watered down even more when we try to communicate what it is, you are, in effect, saying that there is no translation. We have no contact with reality, either via the senses or via conceptualization?

Objectivism holds a different view. It is precisely because our sense are something specific -- i.e. they have an identity and must act or respond to stimuli accordingly -- we do, in fact, perceive the object for what it is. While it is true that we don't perceive infra-red or ultraviolet, we can grasp those e/m frequencies with our minds, and then detect them by utilizing tools and created devices. In other words, conceptualization opens up the entire universe to us!

But whether or not we can perceive infra-red or ultraviolet is not the real point of what you are saying, anyhow. The deeper issue seems to be that because we grasp something via our human capabilities, we therefore do not grasp it for what it is, and therefore cannot convey it to others because none of us really know what it it is that we are trying to grasp in the first place.

I'm not really sure how to untangle this. We would have to start at the beginning and work our way through it. But the beginning point of all knowledge is perception -- that is, we conceptualize what we perceive -- and if one is going to take the stance that we are cut off from reality merely by perceiving something right in front of us, then I would have to agree with Aristotle, that such a person needs perception, not conception.

However, on the conceptual level, you seem to be saying that a concept leaves out a lot of details, and therefore even if we did perceive something the way it is, we couldn't understand it fully or convey it to others fully.

On the contrary, a concept, while omitting measurements, retains everything about the item being conceptualized. This is because a concept, once developed, includes everything we could ever discover about the item -- past, present, and future as a kind of ever expanding file-folder. The concept "dog" (for example, since you mentioned it previously), contains information about every type of dog that ever lived, is currently living, and that will ever live. If one wrote a treatise on dogs -- or let's say volumes on the subject -- one would only begin to scratch the surface of the richness of the concept "dog."

So, if you begin to talk about a dog to me, I know what you are referring to -- all dogs everywhere, at all times, everything they can ever do, and everything that one can do with them! Far from leaving out richness, a concept is a vast database! I think what you were trying to say before was that I wouldn't know you were talking about a Cocker Spaniel or a German Shepherd or another specific breed or how fluffy its fur was or other specific details -- but those are already included as soon as you speak the word "dog." If you want to get more specific, there are words for that as well. And if you really want to get specific, you point to this dog; but then again, you can't do that if you don't know what you are pointing to in the first place.

Your position would deny any resolution of any confusion, either within yourself or between you and others, because you leave no place to start and have no guide in resolving a conflict. The place to start is perception, and the guiding principle is logic -- or non-contradictory identification of what you perceive and what you know.

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I don't mean to sound angry, but I sent you that as a personal message. You responded by saying,

Casey,

I realized this was your position a few weeks ago when you first mentioned it, so could you post to the forum what you wrote to me, because Objectivism does have an answer to your dilemma.

Thanks.

But after I make my personal message public, you act as though you "don't understand what is being said here" and that you're "not really sure how to untangle this." So you don't understand the dilemma, so how could Objectivism have an answer? Aside from that, you took statements that I made, created straw men out of those statements (the "straw man fallacy"), and then argued against those straw men. I realize that you were trying to more fully understand what I was saying by creating those straw men, and I realize that some of my statements needed clarification, but in the future, I think it will be more productive if we hammer out exactly what claims are being made and what claims aren't, so that we're not arguing in triangular fashion.

Ok, let me try to unravel what has been ravelled.

I don't understand what is being said here. "Every time an object is sensed it's vividness is watered down"? Are you trying to say that we only perceive part of what something is rather than the thing itself, so we lose some of the information because we perceive it with our senses (which are limited)? That is, since we don't perceive, say, infra-red or ultraviolet, yet many things radiate with those frequencies, we don't perceive everything there is to be perceived regarding the object and therefore merely by sensing it we are already losing something in the translation, so to speak? Actually, since you are also saying that it gets watered down even more when we try to communicate what it is, you are, in effect, saying that there is no translation. We have no contact with reality, either via the senses or via conceptualization?

Let me rephrase that ("vividness" is sort of ambiguous). Every time an object is sensed it is a subjective perception of the actual object. If you and I are standing side by side, our perception of a tree 5 feet away is different in that I can see certain parts of the tree that you can't and visa versa. The tree is the tree. A is A. But my perception of the tree is not the tree - just a representation of the tree in my mind - and my perception of the tree and your perception of the tree or not the same. If I walk around the tree and climb it and try and absorb as much sensory information as I possibly can, I have a much better representation of the tree than I did before, but my perception isn't total. We could both do this, but we still wouldn't have the exact same representation in our mind. They would be similar, and we could communicate the representations to each other to get them even more similar, but they would never be the same.

You started the straw man fallacy when you said:

Actually, since you are also saying that it gets watered down even more when we try to communicate what it is, you are, in effect, saying that there is no translation. We have no contact with reality, either via the senses or via conceptualization?
I am not saying and never said that "there is no translation." This was exactly what my personal message was regarding. Read it again for clarification. I said they ARE related, but they are not the same. And the more sequences of communication that occur, the more detached we are from the initial perception, and the less accurate are perceptions are. Surely you've played "Telephone" before or tried to remember the face of an old friend but couldn't bring it into focus?

Objectivism holds a different view. It is precisely because our sense are something specific -- i.e. they have an identity and must act or respond to stimuli accordingly -- we do, in fact, perceive the object for what it is. While it is true that we don't perceive infra-red or ultraviolet, we can grasp those e/m frequencies with our minds, and then detect them by utilizing tools and created devices. In other words, conceptualization opens up the entire universe to us!

Objects are what they are. Our perceptions of them are subjective representations. They may be accurate representations, but they aren't absolute. If they were, you'd be able to remember the face of that old friend you've forgotten, or the melody of the song you're trying to remember, or the name of that actor, etc. In fact, if they were, we'd know everything we could sense.

The deeper issue seems to be that because we grasp something via our human capabilities, we therefore do not grasp it for what it is, and therefore cannot convey it to others because none of us really know what it it is that we are trying to grasp in the first place.
This is the deeper issue but your conclusion, again, is a straw man. I am NOT saying that we cannot convey our perceptions to others and I am not saying that none of us really know what it is that we are trying to grasp. I am saying that we can only convey a limited amount of ideas to others and I am saying that our ideas are limited perceptions of objective reality. And LIMITED doesn't mean LITTLE - just LIMITED. I might have a LIMITED view of a building but still can see 99%.

And if one is going to take the stance that we are cut off from reality merely by perceiving something right in front of us, then I would have to agree with Aristotle, that such a person needs perception, not conception.

THAT IS NOT MY STAND. I said, again, the two are RELATED. If a son/daughter receives 40% of his/her inheritance, do you call them "cut off?" No! They are still getting some of the money just like we perceive some of the information and just like some of the information can be communicated on. There is OBJECTIVE REALITY and there is SUBJECTIVE REALITY and the objective reality is that an old friend exists that has a face and the subjective reality is that you can only remember certain bits of information of that face. Objective reality is the tree that exists right in front of us and the subjective reality is that you have access to a limited amount of information. The two are SEPARATE and RELATED.

However, on the conceptual level, you seem to be saying that a concept leaves out a lot of details, and therefore even if we did perceive something the way it is, we couldn't understand it fully or convey it to others fully.
Pretty much.

On the contrary, a concept, while omitting measurements, retains everything about the item being conceptualized. This is because a concept, once developed, includes everything we could ever discover about the item -- past, present, and future as a kind of ever expanding file-folder. The concept "dog" (for example, since you mentioned it previously), contains information about every type of dog that ever lived, is currently living, and that will ever live. If one wrote a treatise on dogs -- or let's say volumes on the subject -- one would only begin to scratch the surface of the richness of the concept "dog."

"A concept retains everything about the item being conceptualized." That would be nice... if a concept was some kind of objective constant - but it isn't. Only objective realities are objective constants. A concept is a subjective entity and it has the potential for being a more fleshed-out concept, but it doesn't contain everything. It has the potential to, but never will. And as for the ever expanding file-folder, that would be a good analogy if we didn't lose information that we had when we started keeping track. Think about that old faceless friend...

So, if you begin to talk about a dog to me, I know what you are referring to -- all dogs everywhere, at all times, everything they can ever do, and everything that one can do with them! Far from leaving out richness, a concept is a vast database! I think what you were trying to say before was that I wouldn't know you were talking about a Cocker Spaniel or a German Shepherd or another specific breed or how fluffy its fur was or other specific details -- but those are already included as soon as you speak the word "dog." If you want to get more specific, there are words for that as well. And if you really want to get specific, you point to this dog; but then again, you can't do that if you don't know what you are pointing to in the first place.
When I spoke of "dog," I meant it as I meant "tree" earlier in this response. If we're looking at the same dog, we don't have identical representations of that dog. When we meet up two days later, our representations will probably be less similar than they were initially. Again with the straw man fallacy.... "you can't do that if you don't know what you are pointing to in the first place." I never said you can't know... I said you can't know absolutely.

Your position would deny any resolution of any confusion, either within yourself or between you and others, because you leave no place to start and have no guide in resolving a conflict. The place to start is perception, and the guiding principle is logic -- or non-contradictory identification of what you perceive and what you know.

No. My position would deny TOTAL resolution of any confusion. Do you believe in world peace? Do all Objectivists agree on every application of Objectivism? Did every Objectivist vote for Bush?

But I think we've gotten off track anyway.

The bottom line of my argument regarding what is currently in question is this:

- Objective reality exists.

- Based on sensory information, mental representations of objective realities are built.

- These mental representations are individualized by the personal experience of the object (sensory quality, situational environment, etc). Such representations are "subjective realities."

- The tree is tree. A is A. The tree is not my mental representation of the tree. A is not a. My mental representation of the tree is not your mental representations of the tree. "a" is not "aye." That doesn't mean they aren't related, but they aren't objective realities. They are only OF objective realities.

If you want to know what I think about volition, I think it exists and I think it's limited. I think that the human mind is like the human body. Some people have more potential for building muscle than others. Some people will be skinny and meatless all their life, no matter how hard they try. Some people will be overweight no matter how hard they try. And I think some people think they're going to be meatless all their life, or fat all their life, and never try to find out whether or not they had the potential in the first place. Similarly, I think some individuals have more potential for "mind over matter." Others may try but don't have the same potential. And others use nature over nurture as a crutch and never find out whether or not they had potential in the first place. I realize this is extremely ambiguous, but it's just the manner in which I see humans go about their day. Some people wait for the world to come to them and I don't think some of them can help it much. Others go out and meet the world. And I think a lot of it has to do with our childhood. Pre-episodic memory when our neurological system is extremely plastic and maleable. Luckily, I believe myself to be an individual who is blessed (not in the religious sense but in the "glad I had a smooth" childhood sense) with a fair amount of volitional potential. But I can't logically justify "mind of matter" and I don't want to pigeon hole myself into any kind of axiomatic statement. This is the crux of my complaint. I just think, if you are able to, live your life as if volition is axiomatic. But I refuse to claim that it is any more than a very attractive theory that I subscribe to. And it IS a theory because it cannot be proved scientifically. I apologize for being so unscientific and disregarding any kind of logical breakdown during this last paraphraph but I don't have any logical breakdown for it. I only have a logical breakdown to show why I can't absolutely prove the existence of volition.

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[in] the future, I think it will be more productive if we hammer out exactly what claims are being made and what claims aren't, so that we're not arguing in triangular fashion.

I agree. Communication is one of the best ways of resolving a conflict between two or more people. If I misrepresented your position, that wasn't my intent. However, I do think that your conceptualizations of the nature of perception, conception, and memory are cutting your mind off from reality. I appreciate your reply, and I will explain what I mean in more detail.

I have parsed down your reply to what I think are the essentials of what your position is.

The tree is the tree. A is A. But my perception of the tree is not the tree - just a representation of the tree in my mind - and my perception of the tree and your perception of the tree or not the same...Objects are what they are. Our perceptions of them are subjective representations....A concept is a subjective entity and it has the potential for being a more fleshed-out concept, but it doesn't contain everything. It has the potential to, but never will....

- The tree is tree. A is A. The tree is not my mental representation of the tree. A is not a. My mental representation of the tree is not your mental representations of the tree. "a" is not "aye." That doesn't mean they aren't related, but they aren't objective realities. They are only OF objective realities.

Your position seems to be stating that when we perceive something, our mind creates a representation of that item which is actually what we are aware of. This sounds very similar to Kant's sensory manifold.

However, our perception of something is not a mental representation of that something within our minds. We perceive the item, not some fabrication constructed by our sensory and mental equipment. We perceive an item the way we do because we are what we are and have a specific sensory equipment and a specific mental equipment. But this does not mean that we perceive something for what it is not. Nor does it mean that our grasp of an object is somehow super-added to what the thing is. Nor does it mean that our grasp of an object is somehow less than what the object is. We perceive the object, which is why our perception is objective.

So, when we look at a tree and see the branches, the leaves, the bark, etc. that is what the tree is. Those branches, leaves, and bark are not a mental representation of the tree. It is not something that is constructed out of "imperfect" information regarding the tree. It is the tree that we perceive!

Perception is the starting point of all knowledge precisely because it is infallible; and therefore objective. We don't have volitional control over how we perceive something -- i.e. we cannot chose to see the leaves as pink when they are in fact green, like some sort of computer color coded display -- we perceive it for what it is, as it is, and have no control over how we perceive it via some internal control system. If your position was correct, then you are implying that we would have some sort of internal control over how we perceive something, as if we could program in a color code for a specific frequency. That is the bottom line for what it would mean to say that our perception of an item is a representation of the item. But our mind is not a little person inside us who is looking at a computer display screen! You may say that is a straw man argument, but that is the implication of saying our perception is a representation.

Our memory, likewise, is not a representation of the item. Memory is the ability to recall sensory-level information that is stored within our minds. And I will grant you that the access of memory is not an easy thing to master, and sometimes we cannot recall the details. However, this does not mean that memory is subjective in the sense of not being a memory of the item. It is a memory of the item -- the factual and therefore objective information provided by the senses that is stored and is accessible to various degrees of certainty. To the extent that we can recall factual information, our memory is objective.

But a concept of an item and the memory of an item are not the same thing. Memory is the storage of factual information in raw form, one might say; but conceptualization is processing that factual information into a mental entity that retains the information via measurement omission. The key here is that memory is of a specific entity, but conceptualization is a sort of compression of the data from more than one entity. In effect, we can have the memory of one tree, but our concept "tree" contains data from all the trees we have ever perceived and have ever known about. In other words, we don't have a concept of a tree we have a concept of all trees.

Because conceptualization requires a volitional processing of information, it may or may not be objective. This processing of the raw data is objective provided we conceptualize according to contextual similarities, but not otherwise.

I think you are trying to lump together, perception, memory, and conceptualization as representations of an item in your pseudo-concept "subjective", but I hope I have clarified how these are different enough that one cannot lump them together. In effect, one can't have a conception of "perception-memory-conceptualization" as one mental unit, because perception of an object is infallibly correct, memory can be distorted by imagination, and conceptualization is voluntary data compression which can be done incorrectly (i.e. not according to the facts).

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