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Tuesday, September 25 - 8:17amSanction this postReply
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That depends. "The validation of rights" if you go to politics now; you can go directly to esthetics. Esthetics does not presuppose politics; politics does not presuppose esthetics. So the best way to think about philosophy is like an X, with five points on the crossbars and in the center. The two branches at the top are metaphysics and epistemology; they're on the same level, and they both point into the center, which is ethics. And then from there, you can go down either leg to politics or esthetics. Normally we could do politics first, simply because people are less interested in esthetics. But if we did politics, you’re right, "The validation of individual rights" would come next. And what would come after that?

Peikoff, Leonard; Berliner, Michael S. (2012-03-06). Understanding Objectivism: A Guide to Learning Ayn Rand's Philosophy (p. 161). Penguin Group. Kindle Edition.

I bolded the key sentence because I wish OPAR had made this structure clear as I always treated Objectivism as a pyramid until I read this.



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Tuesday, September 25 - 12:42pmSanction this postReply
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I saw several volunteers named such as Fred, Phil, Steve, and Donna.

Does anyone know any of these people?



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Tuesday, September 25 - 5:48pmSanction this postReply
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LS (LP):"So the best way to think about philosophy is like an X, with five points on the crossbars and in the center.

Thanks, Luke!  I blew past that, though, oddly enough, I thought about the same thing, that maybe it was like a wheel with a hub and spokes.

Long ago - I seem to be able to say that often - I was sent a review copy of  Edward Tufte's Visual Display of Quantitative Information. (And Wikipedia here.)  I understand that this is not quantitative information, but qualitative, having the quality of relationship

The point is that when we map relationships, we need to consider the essential distinguishing characteristics and also what connects them. We can connect politics with aesthetics, but not directly "across" but rather through the center.

Ayn Rand insisted on a hierarchy.  She did not say that other mappings were wrong.  She just did not offer any others. For her, it was hierarchy, a structured pyramid, from bottom to top, from Metaphysics to Aesthetics.   The funny thing is that a "hierarchy" is literally a "holy rule" meaning that it was how the Greeks understood the priests of Egypt.  I have to ask whether that is a useful model for all knowledge.









 
 
 
 




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Wednesday, September 26 - 2:03amSanction this postReply
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"Concepts have a hierarchical structure, i.e., . . . the higher, more complex abstractions are derived from the simpler, basic ones (starting with the concepts of perceptually given concretes)." Ayn rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, page 32.

Nature has a nesting/compositional hierarchical structure. The very cells of our body are each a whole made of, and containing, their organelles, and each organelle is made of its molecules, which are made of their atoms... and so forth. (There is a great book, Janus, by Arthur Koestler - 1979 - that goes into hierarchies in a unique way).

There are biological evolutionary hierarchies made of the flow of genes and their resulting species, and on a smaller scale, we have the hierarchy of ancestry and of family trees.

Infants grasp the concept of 'inside' of 'containment' - that one thing can be put inside of another, and this is before they can speak. Containment is a form of spatial hierarchy. We learn to apply it to time and action. Look at how we organize history into larger units of time that contain smaller units of time and we associate events - locate them inside of this or that historical unit.

The concept of 'man made items' contains the concept 'furniture' which contains 'tables.' We can't form a concept with out the process of integration which requires and implies hierarchy. We can't have a definition that doesn't imply a logical hierarchy.

The fallacy of the stolen concept is a case of violating hierarchy.

Much of the power of human knowledge comes not just from recognizing hierarchies that exit in nature, but also in being able to construct hierarchies as a technique for working out conceptual relationships, or organizing our man made artifacts in more efficient ways.

Looking for the hierarchies that might apply is often the fastest way to lock down the context and that makes for much clearer thinking.




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Wednesday, September 26 - 5:23amSanction this postReply
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In terms of the equal footing of metaphysics and epistemology and the need to address them simultaneously, engineers see this all the time in their field. Solving large systems of equations simultaneously happens quite often in applied mathematics. So I can easily transfer this insight to philosophy as an engineer.



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Wednesday, September 26 - 7:10pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, you sent me back to the basic texts.

At best, within Objectivism, a "floating abstraction" is a conceptual term without a referrent to a concrete instance. A good example is "society" a word which even Ayn Rand used in its common denotation, but which, on inspection, of course, has no meaning.  You cannot point to "society" or to "Eskimo society" or "modern society."  In OPAR, Leonard Peikoff says that such terms are parrot-like echos of other people's words without critical examination of their meaning.

Ayn Rand offered no definition of "floating abstraction" in ITOE, which is where you would expect to find it. In VOS, she said of "competing governments" "Nor can one call this a floating abstraction, since it is devoid of any contact with or reference to reality and cannot be concretized at all..."  That would lead to the logical claim that "floating abstractions" do have some reference to reality and can be concretized.

Knowledge can be categorized many ways.  Your local public library might use Dewey Decimal or Library of Congress cataloguing.  For a class in History of China, I asked our college Librarian to come down on one side or the other: is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy; and is Confucianism a religion or a philosophy.  Even though people "worship" Buddha and Confucius both, and even though both have philosophic structures of metaphysics and epistemology and ethics, Buddhism is a religion and Confucianism is a philosophy -- or so he said...

If you can derive Romantic Realism from Capitalism or vice versa please enlighten us.  To me, while each can be validated from the same central core of truths, they are like separate spoke of a wheel or like separate bars of an X.

Here is a heroic man:
 

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 9/26, 7:16pm)




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Wednesday, September 26 - 8:48pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

======= Society is a valid concept========
You suggested that "society" is a word which has no meaning, a floating abstraction with no concrete instances. But that isn't so. Abstractions can be integrations of other abstractions and it doesn't become 'floating' unless it is based upon abstractions that did not come from concretes (percepts). Take a look at page 129 of OPAR and you will see an example of Peikoff describing a valid formation of the concept of "Culture."

Here is the lead sentence from Wikipedia's page on "Society": A society ... is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations."

Ayn Rand pointed out errors made by collectivists in their approach to the concept of society, where she wrote, "Modern collectivists . . . see society as a super-organism, as some supernatural entity apart from and superior to the sum of its individual members." But, that isn't the same as saying that there is no such thing as a society.

Ayn Rand in ITOE: "A concept is a mental integration of two or more units which are isolated according to a specific characteristic(s) and united by a specific definition. . . . [In concept-formation], the uniting involved is not a mere sum, but an integration, i.e., a blending of the units into a single, new mental entity which is used thereafter as a single unit of thought (but which can be broken into its component units whenever required)."

A person can notice more than one specific group made up of a large number of people. In doing so they are are noticing concretes/units/instances out of which a concept of 'society' could be formed. It could be an integration of those groups where they share the same geographical territory (e.g., "American Society," "French Society," etc.) or those that share the same cultural expectations (e.g., "Nineteenth century Paris' cafe society").

In fact, 'society' is an excellent example of human conceptualization that employs hierarchy. It is a way to group individuals according to some rule, and then associate that group with a word. Otherwise, one would have to say "all of those people who meet the rule of people that lived in 19th century Paris and participated in the prevalent intellectual pursuits in the Left Bank cafes" which is ackward. We use the phrase "United States citizens" as a way of conceptually grouping people - no different epistemologically.

========Meaning of 'Concrete'========
Here, I want to point out that the word 'concrete' is often misunderstood in this context. It isn't exclusively reserved for a material object that is perceived with the senses. Other, similar words are 'unit' or 'entity' or 'instance' or 'existent.' Concrete is best used to distinguish from abstract (not non-material). Existent is best used to distinguish from non-existent - to say it exists. Unit or instance are best used to imply there are others that are similar, and implies a unifying definition of some sort ('instance of what?') But, in all cases these are not necessarily material entities - i.e., entities made of atoms.

Justice is clearly an abstraction. But it can also be spoken of as a concrete or unit as in the sentence, "Justice, the law and ethics are subjects covered in the lecture."

======== Hierarchies==========

You said, "Knowledge can be categorized many ways."

True. Some hierarchies we learn of by studying what is in front of us, others we create for the purpose of organizing. Those two approachs can overlap.

The spokes of a wheel, an X, a pyramid, an upside down pyramid, a chain, a ragged tree structure - all examples of ways to symbolize relationships between units of knowledge. In itself a part of the hierarchy of knowlege.

==========Lenin as Heroic?============
Kind of a troll like behavior on your part, I'd say.




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Friday, September 28 - 3:43amSanction this postReply
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"Since there is no such entity as "society," since society is only a number of individual men, this [social duty] has meant, in practice, that the rulers of society were exempt from moral law..."  ("Man's Rights" in VOS, page 123 para 2).

Rand uses the word ambiguously, in both its common meaning and then with the special understanding that there is not such thing as "society." 

You mention justice, in particular.  What does it mean when we (not you and I, but "they") say "when a crime occurs, society demands justice." Calls to "society" place some people outside of society:  "damaging to society... a crime against society... " I fail to see how this can hold up.  You are always in society, unless you leave it, like exiting a walled city, or something.  But, then, do explorers and colonists not take their "society" with them when they leave "society."  If you packed up an walked into the wilderness, you would still bear the artifacts of society, including the thoughts in your head.  So, how can "society" ever demand anything from you if you never leave it? 

I agree that we loosely make synonyms of "culture" and "society."  I am not sure how that holds up in every context.  I believe that I understand what is meant by "Parisian cafe society."  But it is a floating abstraction. Perhaps the truth is that floating abstractions can be valid epistemological units, even though they lack metaphysical reality.  

A perfect example of that is "God."  I say there is no such thing as God and you tell me that we can speak of God's will, God the Father, a just God, a loving God, the Creator of the universe and so on.  Indeed, I think I know what you would mean by those phrases in context.   But, ultimately, neither God nor society actually exists.

In terms of this book, Peikoff is mute on these and many other points.  The book is not really about understanding Objectivism, but about denouncing the errors of rationalism, empiricism, subjectivism, and intrinsicism.  In that, it reduces to Objectivism to an anti-concept: that which every other philosophy is not.

If the paintings of Lenin were called "John Galt Expounds Virtue to the Producers" the lines, spaces, light, etc., would still produce a dramatic effect of heroism. I just meant that you cannot derive aesthetics from politics nor vice versa.  They are not hierarchical. And according to Peikoff, neither are metaphysics and epistemology.  If you think that Peikoff is wrong, just say so.

    
NASSI-SHNEIDERMAN                                                                 ENTITY-ACTION
 

Also, deeply to the point, the many ways to organize information - trees, fishbones, clouds, entity-action, flowchart, Warnier-Orr, Nassi-Shneiderman, hyperlinks, etc., - are not all hierarchies; and neither can they all be arranged into a hierarchy.  Ayn Rand liked hierachies.  She thought that way.  It is useful, helpful, productive in many contexts. But other methods also produce valid results.  Again, this is one of many topics not in this book.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 9/28, 4:00am)




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Friday, September 28 - 5:07amSanction this postReply
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Speaking of connections in flow, Lindsay Perigo just released Total Passion for the Total Height on Amazon in Kindle format. I found myself "privileged" to earn a mention:

"If I have opened the floodgates to subjectivism, intrinsicism, altruism, collectivism, hedonism, whim-worship, rationalism and empiricism, not to mention Saddamy, pomo-wankerism, vegetarianism and Luke Setzer's flow-charts, then I'm more than willing to stand corrected."

LOL!



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Friday, September 28 - 4:11pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

I think this is a good area for discussion since there is more ambiguity found in the use of complex abstractions than there should be. Too often we use or accept the usage of these concepts without being sufficiently critical.
-------------------------------

Although I agree with the point Rand is trying to make when she said, "Since there is no such entity as 'society,' since society is only a number of individual men, this [social duty] has meant, in practice, that the rulers of society were exempt from moral law..." I disagree with her wording.

In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Rand acknowledges the different uses of the word "entity" and states that she uses the word the way Aristotle did, as a metaphysical category where each entity is the subject of perception and possesses attributes, characteristics and actions. (However, in other parts of the book she mentions "mental entities.")

Through out that Man's Rights article she uses the word society and clearly does so as if it is a meaningful word. So, I'm left believing that she sees "society" as not perceptual and therefore not an entity, but that it is valid as a concept of something that exists.

In the article on Man's Rights, Rand is addressing the notion of "collective rights" which allow some men to claim a right to dispose of others or their property. She says that nothing can justify such a concept, not the mysticism of "Divine rights of Kings," or the "social mystique of modern collectivists who see society as a super-organism, as some supernatural entity apart from and superior to the sum of its individual members."

It would have been better if she had NOT said that there is no such entity as "society." She could have made her point by saying, "There is no such thing as a society apart from the individuals that make it up."
-------------------

Your example sentence, "When a crime occurs, society demands justice," is a good one to examine. If either of us were to hear or read that we would be very cognizant of who the author is and/or the context in which it is said, because we would know that there can be different ideas as to what 'demands' imply, to what it is proper for society (or anyone else) to demand, and that 'justice' means different things to different people. And even 'crime' is not the same from one political orientation to another. But if we make some changes to that sentence to give a tighter context, as in "When an individual initiates violence against another, American society demands the criminal be brought to justice," then we are more likely to be able to agree or disagree in a way that makes sense. The idea here is to keep increasing the precision of the context until we are able to avoid ambiguity.
---------------------------

Regarding "God" as a floating abstraction. I think that there can be an assertion of a metaphysical realtiy and that could keep this from being a floating abstraction. Even if anchored in the believer's mind with concrete specifics, it would be an error of fact, and the error in fact is the product of a using faith on scripture or revelation rather than the use of reason and logical evidence. From Objectivism Online we see these views of what a floating abstraction is: One poster says it means a concept that a man acquires from others but without knowing what specific units the concept denotes. Another person writes, "For instance, most people will say they are for "freedom" or "justice," but if you ask them what they mean by those words, they kinda, sorta know what they mean and they feel that they are somehow good things. THAT's what is meant by a "floating abstraction." And, there is a quote from OPAR p. 96 “A floating abstraction is not an integration of factual data; it is a memorized linguistic custom representing in the person's mind a hash made of random concretes, habits, and feelings that blend imperceptibly into other hashes which are the content of other, similarly floating abstractions”.

The bottom line seems to be that to be a floating concept isn't as much an attribute of a particular concept, as it is about how a concept is held (with the understanding that some concepts will lend themselves to this better than others, and some concepts are more frequently found as being held this way).
------------------

You said, "You are always in society, unless you leave it, like exiting a walled city, or something." Not really. You are part of a Numismatic society - that is a group of individuals that are united by their on-going participation in numismatic activities. You leave that society when you cease to have an interest in, or to participate in those activities. Some societies are more formally defined than others. Sometimes we are making statistically valid statements. For example, if I say, "American's believe that criminals should be locked up," that is a statement about 'our society' that would be considered true even if you found a single individual who was a pacificist or didn't believe in incarceration. Society can't be some 'super-organism' as Rand mentioned, but they can be a category we create that addresses significant majorities relative to the context.
----------------------

Michael, all knowledge is hierarchical in the sense that every concept must fit within some hierarchy. You mentioned some different symbolic/organizational structures (trees, fishbones, clouds, entity-action, flowchart, etc.) Those all are contained within the category of visual organizational structures. And each has unique components contained within them. That is the nature of a hierarchy. There is no requirement that a entity-action diagram be a container to a flowchart, or that it be inside of the flowchart container - they can be siblings inside of a common container.



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Friday, September 28 - 6:19pmSanction this postReply
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Steve, the first sanction was mine. I agree with 90% of what you wrote.  I appreciate your hard work.  I will post my quibbles later. 

Also, I have to apologize for not being clear in my intention regarding an individual against whom "society" has a complaint. When the accused left society is not clear to me.  Why is society always someone else, but not you?  The problem underscores the courtroom speeches of Howard Roark and Hank Rearden.  I mean if in real events "society" demanded that Martha Stewart be punished, why did "society" not demand that she be rewarded for lying to the FBI... as we all know that it is perfectly moral to lie to the police when they attempt usurp your rights?  I think that if you took a Harris Poll or a Gallup Poll you would find that most Americans think that citizens have a right to resist unlawful authority.  (Germans and Japanese would find the concept of "unlawful authority" difficult to understand.) So, who speaks for "society"?

More later....
Best wishes,
Mike M.




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Friday, September 28 - 8:57pmSanction this postReply
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Michael,

Thanks for the sanction.

You wrote, "... 'society' demanded that Martha Stewart be punished..."

Well, I'm not sure that 'society' demanded that she be punished. That seemed to be the justice department and I think that most people were unaware of the issues, or thought that she had committed a financial crime of some sort.

When we discuss 'society' in this fashion where we are talking about American society, and we are using a context of what is moral and what is legal and contrasting an individual to what are assumed to be the positions of 'society' and perhaps we should break it down something like this:
- Martha Stewart lied to an agent of the FBI
- Saying 'should' or 'demands' implies a moral position.
- Most people in the country do not agree that a person should be put in prison for telling a lie to an FBI agent
- Most people in our country believe that you should obey the law.
- I'm guessing that most people in our country do not believe Martha Stewart should have gone to prison if they understood that is all she did.

You wrote, "I think that if you took a Harris Poll or a Gallup Poll you would find that most Americans think that citizens have a right to resist unlawful authority. So, who speaks for 'society'?"

I agree, to a point. It depends upon what the unlawful authority is trying to do and what the resistance amounts to. People want to know that the resistance is approriate - proportional. Statistically, people are more pragmatic than we Objectivists who would place a higher premium on principle. Also, note that we are really juggling moral versus legal and in the Martha Stewart case she was in violation of the law, but the law isn't moral which is the opposite of your poll question.

We each speak ABOUT society, and no one speaks FOR society. And what you or I say about society might be factually correct or it might be off - it's our estimate. It is the collectivists who want to make society a thing with special rights such that we have to change our behaviors to satisfy its needs - but a society is a epistemological handle that lets us talk about a group of people and it can't have any rights that supercede those of an individual and it's needs - whatever those might be - are also not going to trump individual rights. Example: Society has a long term need that we engage in civil political discourse. There is some truth in that - being civil makes for a better society. But if someone goes on to say that we must outlaw disruptive or hateful speech to satisfy that need, they are wrong. There is no way that the so-called need will rise to the level of supplanting individual rights.



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Sunday, September 30 - 9:25amSanction this postReply
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Steve, I am not arguing for or against civil disobedience, but only to show the contradictory use of the word "society" both in the common vernacular and in the technical language of philosophy.  The word "society" is a floating abstraction ... and it may well be a valid epistemological unit.  It is one of many points that Peikoff does not discuss.

Generally, it is unfair to criticize the book not written.  I just point out that for its title, Understanding Objectivism, the book is really about understanding the errors in intrinsicism, subjectivism, rationalism, and empiricism.  Peikoff does a good job showing their problems, but is thinner on the superiority of either objectivism or Objectivism. 

I am in the second read now.  Peikoff's positives come in Lecture 11 "Intellectual Honesty."  There, he really gives good advice on what Objectivism should be in practice in the narrow events of discussing ideas with other people.  (Again, the book not written would show Objectivism's value in at least a few other social situations, such as inventing a new product and marketing it.)  As we all know, Objectivists suffer a lot of social angst.  The book opens up with a promise to address that.  Chapter 11 delivers on that promise, but it is not payment in full.  The valuable advice involves judging the intellectual honesty of other people.  Regarding the personal in philosophy he says, only: "Assuming that your self is not identified with irrational principles, there is no reason whatever to have a conflict between philosophy and your self." (p. 371).  With other people, though, as we know, it is different.

Depending on your social context, other people may not be "formalizers" who actively build and maintain an explicit understanding of the world.  So, when someone makes a statement you disagree with, realize that for them, this may have no wider philosophical implications, and not much emotional investment, either.  You can let it go without comment.

According to Peikoff, (pp 350 et seq) you do not need to engage anyone who is intellectually dishonest.  Ignore anyone who explicitly repudiates reason or facts.  Ignore anyone who explicitly attacks values as such. Ignore anyone who advocates political totalitarianism.  Again, context is important.  You will not change their mind.  They will never accept your facts or your logic.  You may have an audience - as at a party - but, again, you can say "I disagree with you, but this is not the place to discuss it" and drop it.

Teenagers can be forgiven a lot, says Peikoff. (page 355) because they do not have a lifetime of experience for their knowledge base. 

I think that the best advice is to remember that you are not the standard for the expected intellectual development of others. "And this is one of the tests of a good teacher or communicator -- to be able not to take your own knowledge as the sole standard , to realize tht honest confusion can exist, even though to the speaker himself perhaps the issue was always clear." (page 357) 

In Lectures Six through Nine, as throughout the book, Peikoff warns against rationalism, a tendency common among Objectivists, who want deductions from first principles.  Peikoff himself has been given to this, he admits, and I agree that I find it easy, and I find it easily here and on other Objectivist boards.  But "... the essential process of knowledge is not from principles but to principles." (page 276) And so, much of his good advice in Lecture 11 is contextual. He does not provide Easy Rules to Remember.  If you are discussing politics or whatever with someone who resorts to ad hominem arguments, name dropping and name calling, you can ignore them.  If someone is reasonable and responsive while discussing ideas, you can engage them.  However, many college professors have long experience talking reasonably only as intellectual entertainment for themselves.  They sound honest, but are not. Similarly, when confronted with a surprising opinion on global warming or child labor, an ordinary person can become emotional because they feel threatened.  If they recover the next day and reconcile with you socially, that can show intellectual honesty.

Overall, when I started the book, I was less than sanguine about its prospects.  On the second read, despite the long detours of denunciation against Kant and Leibnitz, the book is a good read for anyone who already knows Objectivism, but wants to understand more.

(Edited by Michael E. Marotta on 9/30, 9:29am)




Post 13

Sunday, September 30 - 11:39amSanction this postReply
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Michael,

I wasn't addressing the issue of civil disobedience - just the concept of society.
------------------

You wrote, "The word 'society' is a floating abstraction ... and it may well be a valid epistemological unit. "

It don't believe any abstraction can be both a valid epistemological unit AND a floating abstraction since 'floating abstraction' by definition is a fallacy.

'Society' is not a floating abstraction... as long as the person uses it in ways that respect the units of which it was made.

And, my new understanding of "floating abstraction" is that it is the way an abstraction is held by a given individual, and not the concept itself. That is, an individual is using the word but does not understand the units of which the concept was made. So, two individuals could use the same word, and for one of them it could be a floating abstraction, and for the other, it might not be.

Some words find themselves being held as floating abstractions more often then others. When the collectivists use the term 'society' and do so in a way that implies that society has rights, then they have imbued society with a trait that does not arise from the units that were integrated to form the concept. They have made society into something it is not. When it is clear that a person has gone to lengths to hold 'society' in his head as if it were, as Rand put it, a 'super-organism' of some sort, then it would be a floating abstraction in that person's head. It has floated clear of any concrete and is no longer attached to reality. If we find some abstraction that the entire culture uses in this fashion and that really couldn't be used any other way because it never has had concretes in its epistemological ancestry, then we could say that is a floating abstraction no matter who holds it.

I can not think of another logical fallacy that is like this - that is, a fallacy not located in the nature or the concepts or their grammatical relationship, but rather in how the concept is held in an individual's mind. For example, "All property is theft" will always be an example of the stolen concept fallacy because of the nature of the concepts and their arrangement in that proposition. Same with the excluded middle, ad hominem, etc. But with a floating abstraction the fallacy only exists at the time of its use and only because the abstraction is held in the persons mind in a way that does not connect to units, which is a requirement for all abstractions.



Post 14

Thursday, October 4 - 9:05amSanction this postReply
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Excellent point from Steve in #3:
    Nature has a nesting/compositional hierarchical structure. The very cells of our body are each a whole made of, and containing, their organelles, and each organelle is made of its molecules, which are made of their atoms... and so forth. (There is a great book, Janus, by Arthur Koestler - 1979 - that goes into hierarchies in a unique way).

    There are biological evolutionary hierarchies made of the flow of genes and their resulting species, and on a smaller scale, we have the hierarchy of ancestry and of family trees.

    Infants grasp the concept of 'inside' of 'containment' - that one thing can be put inside of another, and this is before they can speak. Containment is a form of spatial hierarchy. We learn to apply it to time and action. Look at how we organize history into larger units of time that contain smaller units of time and we associate events - locate them inside of this or that historical unit.

    The concept of 'man made items' contains the concept 'furniture' which contains 'tables.' We can't form a concept with out the process of integration which requires and implies hierarchy. We can't have a definition that doesn't imply a logical hierarchy.

    The fallacy of the stolen concept is a case of violating hierarchy.

    Much of the power of human knowledge comes not just from recognizing hierarchies that exit in nature, but also in being able to construct hierarchies as a technique for working out conceptual relationships, or organizing our man made artifacts in more efficient ways.

    Looking for the hierarchies that might apply is often the fastest way to lock down the context and that makes for much clearer thinking.

There are hierarchies in the physical world independently of our cognizance of them. A good book I can add to the one noted by Steve is Evolving Hierarchical Systems by Stanley Salthe (Columbia 1985).*

Moreover, the following two reflect metaphysical hierarchies in Rand’s metaphysics:
1. All things except existence as a whole are proper parts of that whole.
2. Entities are the primary form of existents, on which attributes, actions, and relationships depend (depend by metaphysical necessity).

Would Rand say that the following is a metaphysical hierarchy? All items are simples or composites either composed of or constituted by simples.

She remarked on one occasion: “If by simple you mean metaphysically primary, then only entities are metaphysically primary” (ITOE Appendix 244). She is silent in this stretch of the conversation as to whether simple and composite are ever the nature of reality independently of our cognizance.

In Atlas she wrote: “An atom is itself, and so is the universe; neither can contradict its own identity; nor can a part contradict the whole” (1016). Let’s spell out that clause after the semicolon. It means “nor can the identity of a part contradict the identity of the whole,” and that seems to entail a compositionality of identities in the world independently of our cognizance.

Going downward from parts to subparts, it would seem that Rand’s metaphysics entails there are actual ultimate parts having no further subparts. For she thought infinities—infinite subparts in this case—could not be actual. Then there are most-simple identities of finest parts, which form part of the identities of the wholes those parts belong too. However, that does not entail what number of irreducible attributes such finest parts must have, and this is a virtue of Rand’s minimal metaphysics.

On page 146 of Understanding Objectivism, Peikoff claims: “Hierarchy is an epistemological issue, not a metaphysical one.” He then gives an example for which that is the case. But he does not broach the examples of metaphysical hierarchies I have given above for Rand’s metaphysics.

In his article “Knowledge as Hierarchical” in The Objectivist Forum (Dec 1986), Peikoff writes: “The concept of ‘hierarchy’ in this sense is epistemological, not metaphysical” (3). Notice the qualification “in this sense” (likewise in OPAR 131).




Post 15

Thursday, October 4 - 12:30pmSanction this postReply
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Thank you, Stephen. (That book you recommended looks good. I ordered it from Amazon just a minute ago.)

Because hierarchies are omnipresent metaphysically, a child has to learn to grasp them epistemologically to have much success in building their base of knowledge. I suspect that the child needs to grasp this at a fundamental level, at an early period period in their life, and one risk would be accidentally compartmentalizing it such that it doesn't apply universally.

Once the child has grasped hierarchies, they have the 'routines' that allow for creation of a hierarchy - it is a process that can be 'generalized' such that the individual can create epistemological hierarchies as an organizing tool, and as another way to integrate knowledge.

But when we create a hierarchy that involves integrating specific attributes across different classes of entities, while ignoring other attributes, it is a bit trickier context - that is, it becomes much easier to drop context or stray from the context.

Because we are talking about hierarchy as such, we see where it can be an aspect totally in the world of existents - i.e, it is there whether we grasp it or not; we can see where it can be epistemological - an integration that runs across existents that are not connected except in our conceptualization of that hierarchy; and we can see that it is a subject for psychology (both in reasoning and cognitive development).
Would Rand say that the following is a metaphysical hierarchy? All items are simples or composites either composed of or constituted by simples.
I assume she would say that is a metaphysical hierarchy since "All items" becomes a whole to which each possible entity must belong as a part, and composites are included in that, and are made of simples (or other composites that are ultimately reducible to simples). That is a metaphysical hierarchy - no, that is THE metaphysical hierarchy.

But there is a sense in which this can't be separated from epistemology. For example, an entity in metaphysics is not mentally identical to an existent as dealt with in physics. We can't avoid epistemology if for no other reason than we must make use of hierarchies of knowledge to discuss that which exists, and our context, at some particular time, could be either physics or it could be metaphysics. I'm not doing a good job of describing what I want to, which is that hierarchies are of different fundamental kinds and would have different rules applied to them and the two kinds that are the most fundamental as categories are metaphysical and epistemological.



Post 16

Sunday, October 14 - 3:27pmSanction this postReply
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Six words: Flying unicorns are paradigmatic floating abstractions.

Ed
[Trying (unsuccessfully, this time) to out-do Luke here, with reference to the ability to speak much truth with relatively few words. This could turn into a contest of sorts.]

:-)




Post 17

Sunday, October 14 - 3:58pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,
Would Rand say that the following is a metaphysical hierarchy? All items are simples or composites either composed of or constituted by simples. ... She is silent in this stretch of the conversation as to whether simple and composite are ever the nature of reality independently of our cognizance.
Yes, in that stretch of conversation. However, in the workshops associated with ITOE (back in the Appendix) a similar issue was "chewed on" -- the primary-secondary quality dichotomy.

The crux of the dichotomy is that there are some things that are said to exist independently of our cognizance, and then there is another class of things that are said to arise into some level of existence by means of our very peculiar powers of awareness. For instance, Rand, on page 280, said that "color is a form of perception" but that that does not make color a "secondary quality" (something whose existence arises or emerges out of the very working processes of our cognizing powers) -- she quips: "as if one could say color isn't in the object but extension is." Her take on the matter is that all qualities are primary (in the sense meant by the dichotomizers), but that some of them become known to man in a "secondary" kind of a manner (a manner involving the peculiarities of our means of awareness).

So, in your example of simples vs. composites, there is the issue of whether or not the hierarchical relation metaphysically exists between them, and the issue of how it is that we epistemologically come to know about the relation that exists between them. Rand might say that the hierarchy always metaphysically existed -- i.e., that all items are simples or composites either composed of or constituted by simples -- but that man comes to know about this fact of reality in the round-a-bout way of forming concepts of simple and composite first, and then applying those concepts to the things that exist: arriving at the understanding that it is metaphysically true of the world.

Another way to say this is that even though our peculiar forms of awareness were utilized in order to get to the truth -- a metaphysical thing that existed before we began to think about it -- we still got to the truth in the Aristotelian sense (our cognizance corresponds to the way that reality is).

Ed




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