As I was re-reading Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology a little while back, I came across an intriguing argument that hadn't struck me before, put forth in a single paragraph: If everything exists in relation to something else, then everything must be (in principle) measurable; there can be no immeasurable entities. (Read more...)
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Good points. One thing that stands out to me in Rand's comment is that many relationships between things that exist are complex. Many are yet unknown. But they are ultimately knowable to the faculty of reason.
The argument disproves the possibility of a God of the Christian type—an omniscient, omnipotent, infinite being—but of course this does not prove the impossibility of any type of divinity. A finite deity, who fell within standards of possible measurability, is not ruled out here.
Agreed. But there already is one thing that is "omniscient, omnipotent and infinite." It is called reality or existence. It is the only thing that simple is, was and always will be. All else derives from it, including consciousness, identity, causality and any other axiom or corollary that may be identified.
I have come across some arguments by Objectivists that consciousness is not physical (and even that Rand posited this). Apparently, that would mean that it is not measurable - which thus would mean that it does not exist.
I have yet to see a convincing argument for a non-physical existence that satisfies (1) identity, and (2) measurability. I believe that the complexity of consciousness'srelationships to other existents is simply little known or unknown at this point, not that it is not physical.
Good essay, Luke. Theme: Relations form the foundation of epistemology. Bravo!
Adam, I have notice a subtle technicality in your distillation. I would've attempted distillation with the following: ----------------- 1. Existence is Identity
2. Entities are the primary existents of reality (everything that exists, exists in relation to some nonzero amount of entities).
3. Therefore, to be an entity (to have primary existence in reality), means to have a measurable -- measurable in principle -- relation to something else in reality. -----------------
Adam, I also take issue with the last 2 points of yours (admittedly a technicality issue): ----------------- 2. The identity of an existent consists of the measurements of its attributes. ----------------- The technicality here is that only entities "have" attributes, not all existents (which includes relations, attributes, actions). If attributes have attributes, then infinite regress occurs.
The illuminating point is that entities ARE attributes. All entities ARE existents, though not all existents are entities. And I'm sure you'd agree with this, I'm just stating it for clarity -- not for argument.
----------------- 3. Therefore to be an existent, means to have measurable attributes. ----------------- Incorporating the point from #2 above, a simple change of "existent" to "entity" solidifies the argument.
Adam & Luke, I often find I get more clear on things the more folks challenge my beliefs. Is there anything said above, which you find unclear or wanting?
These to you are existents but not entities. The first two, according to Rand as I read it, are not existents in themselves. They are comparative groupings made by a conscious being from perceived differences and similarities. These groupings are called concepts. What exists (physically exists) is entities. Attributes are part of what entities are, not separate from them. Only the concepts of attributes can be separated from the entities themselves. That gives rise to the impression that an attribute can exist independently of an entity.
Also, all actions can be broken down into energetic entities.
Most interesting article on my favorite Rand book, which makes me realize it is time to read it again. I have been putting off the thinking I want to do to better understand Rand's epistemology and Sciabarra's thoughts on the libertarian dialectic. Sigh. I guess I'll never find a quiet week, so I just better get started.
I can see your point, but it seems like a stretch and a bit superfluous. Besides, you're limiting yourself to philosophic ideas. What about other abstracts, such as numbers. I'd like to see you measure '2'.
All conceptual knowledge comes from testing ideas against reality, by comparing predicted with actual measurements. Rand's central innovation in philosophy was to apply this criterion, which she called "primacy of existence," in philosophy.
There is more to the ontology of relations than you - or Rand - appear to admit. I don't have time to get into details at this point, but one cannot have a metaphysics that is coherent with reality, that excludes the ontological reality of emergent attributes. And emergence is a relation.
I think we are using different definitions of "measure". I was thinking of the broader meaning not just a measurement of physical properties. My thought was if you can "define" something you have found the measure of it. i.e.:
"2 - the cardinal number that is the sum of one and one or a numeral representing this number"
I suppose you can also measure an idea's usefulness. i.e.:
World changing; great; interesting; not interesting; banal; downright dumb.
Yes, we do seem to be using different definitions of measure. I prefer the strictly quantitative definition. It's clearer to me. Although, Mike, relating definition and measure is reeeeally stretching both definitions.
As I argued at last year's TOC Advanced Seminar, Rand was using S. S. Stevens' typology of measurement, which inculudes Stevens' "nominal measurement" category. The latter is "quantitative" in the sense that the act of measurement is a comparison of similarity metrics, but non-scalar.
Robert Efron, who worked closely with Rand when she was preparing ITOE, routinely used Stevens' typology of measurement, and it is likely that he taught it to Rand.
To 'quote from authority' - "...measurement requires an appropriate standard... measurement is the identification of a relationship in numerical terms - and the complexity of the science of measurement indicates the complexity of the relationships which exist in the universe, and which man has barely begun to investigate. They exist, even if the appropriate standards and methods of measurement are not always as easily apparent nor the degree of achievable precision as great as in the case of measuring the basic, perceptually given attributes of matter.. certain catagories of concepts of consciousness require special consideration. These are concepts pertaining to the products of psychological processes, such as 'knowledge', 'science', 'ideas', etc...the concepts are formed by retaining their distinguishing characteristics and omitting their content.. ITOE... Rand goes on and illustrates, for instance, how to measure 'love'.. this all is in chapter 4...