Identity and Epistemology

  • #51
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max1975 said:
It's been a long ime since I read Descartes. Did he note the similarity between his statement and God's? Or did he not write that down because it sounds kinda blasphemous?

Not that I know of. His famous statement came from his Dialogs, #1, I think.
Thanks to Mentat who gave us a link to them some time back,(look in the archives here or do a google search.) I was able to read them again. Essentially he was arguing with a demon who was trying to convince him, Descartes, that he did not exist and was just a figment of his, the Demon's imagination. Descartes proved to himself that he existed because he thought; "Cognito; ergo, sum." I think, therefore, I am.

As I said, within the context of his dialog his reasoning was impeccable; however, if we take his statement out of context, while they do stand alone, it can be said that the reverse is more true. "I am" says it all and must be said first; ergo, "I am, therefore I think." Only a being can say that. While a rock exists it is not a being and not aware of its existence or being. It can never say, "I am."

As you said earlier you are a subject not an object. I choose to take that both ways. You, your "Me-ness", is subjective not objective. You are also a subject upon which volumes could be written, your entire history and your me-ness. All of which is summed up by saying; "I am." as we are the sum total of our experience and existence and our me-ness. (I really like that term that you coined. It does kind of say a lot if not it all.)

Let me add my welcome to PF's too. I enjoyed your posts and your humor.
 
  • #52
max1975 said:
This is an assertion; I am not convinced. I see contradictory relationships all the time. I believe there is a non-contradictory solution to most if not all problems, but this is a belief and is not proven by evidence.
It is proven by the imitable truth that all A is A! On the one hand you seem to claim that you acknowledge that A is A and on the other hand claim that only an unproven "belief" stands in the way of one being stuck with A is not A. This is absurd. One cannot even claim such a thing as "evidence" without first acknowledging implicitly or explicitly that A is A. Even finding non-contradictory solutions to all problems (which is unrealistic) would not extrinsically prove the axiom nor even prove that a non-contradictory solution is better that a contradictory one. Recognition of the axiom and what it asserts and proves is the beginning of knowledge, not its end.
max1975 said:
I thought it a fair reading of your statement.
To equate the acknowledgment of the intrinsic nature of self evidence (e.g., the self-evidence of a pain in ones head) and necessary truth (e.g., a pencil is a pencil) as non-rational is a horrendous assumption.

Proof is that which demonstrates that what one is proving is true. Absolute proof is that which proves that what one is proving must be true, that any alternative is impossible. there may be relatively little that can be proven to this degree, but the axiom is absolute intrinsic proof of the existence of self-sameness and this is most certainly a rational proof. If this cannot be acknowledged then we are indeed at an impasse.


max1975 said:
No, it doesn't. It asserts the existence of identity. "Identity" is the abstraction that is required for your system of reason to function--and your system of reason is only as good as its foundation. Which means the abstraction must match observation. Which is why when you repeatedly assert that "It doesn't matter what A is," I repeatedly fail to see any meaning in your argument. In real life, identity is not such a simple thing--most often it is an arbitrarily drawn line. In fact, to identify anything is to invent an abstraction and make an assertion.
Identity is the existent thing, asserted by the axiom; self-sameness is something that exists. It is not and abstract idea. We comprehend identity as an abstract idea, but that idea refers to something that exist and would exists if the idea and the axiom had never been formulated.

Concepts do not presume nor require omniscience. The concept of a pencil refers to a mentally unified group of things (many unknown) united by a definition. Such concepts live or die by there correspondence with evidence. Such evidence, nonetheless, can only be evaluated by acknowledging that A is A, that it is a non contradictory world. Yes! "identity is required for" any "system of reason to function" and no other "foundation" is possible.

My philosophy maintains that the existence of the pencil or any other given totality of things is all which constitute what ever things our concepts refer. The identity of the pencil, however, is that basic part that all things share, the existent thing asserted and PROVEN by the axiom! This radical concept of identity is where my philosophy diverges from all others. From this concept philosophy's earliest and deepest question can be answered. But if this concept of identity is not grasped, my philosophy will indeed sound like gibberish.

max1975 said:
I'll take one more stab at clarity.
I hold with the most supreme confidence that the philosophy I present is clear and provable!
 
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  • #53
Johann
W A Dunkley said:
I hold with the most supreme confidence that the philosophy I present is clear and provable!

I think it's unclear and can be demonstrated not to be universal:

[tex] \frac{x}{0} = \frac{x}{0} [/tex]

There goes your identity principle down the drain...
 
  • #54
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W A Dunkley said:
My philosophy maintains that the existence of the pencil or any other given totality of things is all which constitute what ever things our concepts refer. The identity of the pencil, however, is that basic part that all things share, the existent thing asserted and PROVEN by the axiom! This radical concept of identity is where my philosophy diverges from all others. From this concept philosophy's earliest and deepest question can be answered.

Maybe if you were to start answering those, I would begin to see the utility of your radical concept.

W A Dunkley said:
But if this concept of identity is not grasped, my philosophy will indeed sound like gibberish.

Let's not be harsh. To the extent that it sounds like gibberish, it does so because it is a philosophy that addresses the foundations of reason, and thus exists at the limits of reason, and you're trying to explain it to someone who does not accept reason as the final authority. Reason hits a point where it runs in circles. That's just the way it is. Your formulation "A is A" is circular, and you're saying "Just accept it!" But circles aren't good enough for me.

Don't be too discouraged. If I were to explain to you my theory of everything, it would be gibberish too. Complete gibberish. Less circular, but very very curvy, with the occasional straight line, much recursion, and more than a few hyperbolics, and in all ways gibberish. Perhaps the very epitome of gibberish.

I hold with the most supreme confidence that the philosophy I present is clear and provable!

Best of luck.
 
  • #55
Les Sleeth
Gold Member
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max1975 said:
To the extent that it sounds like gibberish, it does so because it is a philosophy that addresses the foundations of reason, and thus exists at the limits of reason, and you're trying to explain it to someone who does not accept reason as the final authority. Reason hits a point where it runs in circles. That's just the way it is. Your formulation "A is A" is circular, and you're saying "Just accept it!" But circles aren't good enough for me.

Well said. As you imply, if we are going to limit knowing to rationality, it is difficult dispute A is A since that is a tautology. Dunkley's philosophy seems little more than an attempt to convert every question into a tautology because of how resistant it is to being disputed. If winning, or at least not losing, debates is what one wants, then I suppose the argument is effective. But I don't see how it contributes much to "philosophy's earliest and deepest questions."


max1975 said:
Don't be too discouraged. If I were to explain to you my theory of everything, it would be gibberish too. Complete gibberish. Less circular, but very very curvy, with the occasional straight line, much recursion, and more than a few hyperbolics, and in all ways gibberish. Perhaps the very epitome of gibberish.

It will probably slip out as time goes by. You can run but you can't hide. :cool:
 
  • #56
Rade
Royce said:
If this is the case then it is a false not all inclusive statements. We can perceive an airplane yet know nothing about airplanes, what they are or what they do or how they do it. Perception is not the gaining of knowledge or understanding.
It is of course crazy for me to speak for Ayn Rand (one only need read her numerous books, papers, books about her philosophy, etc. to understand what exactly she is saying). Here for example, what "I" said that "she said" is taken out of context. Rand does not hold that perception is a pure route to knowledge, only that it is the starting point of the process--it is the automatic function of consciousness. Rand holds that there is a second step in the process, called concept formation, but this is NOT automatic. Thus, knowledge for Rand is a two step process- first perception (automatic), then concept formation (volitional). Thus, as you state correctly, we can perceive an airplane yet know nothing about an airplane, however, clearly the act of perception has then led to our formation of the "concept airplane" that we "know" we have preceived.
 
  • #57
Rade
Johann said:
I think it's unclear and can be demonstrated not to be universal:

[tex] \frac{x}{0} = \frac{x}{0} [/tex]

There goes your identity principle down the drain...

With all respect, I disagree with this argument. When Rand states that A = A, she is not saying that "A" must be a real object, it may well be an imaginary object (such as your example), or not an object at all, but an action. When Rand states that A = A she is saying that "A" has a specific nature, that it is "something", not just "anything", and that it is not a "no-thing". Your argument fails because you equate a "non-sense" number with a "no-thing" number, (that is, the human mind can invent all types of non-sense numbers), but clearly [x/0] is a "thing" with two parts, it does have an "identity" and thus the Law of Identity (A=A) can be applied to it.

Also, I think we make too much of the Law of Identity on this thread, it is a Law, like the Law of Gravity, and clearly we have no skepticism that Law of Gravity is true, why then Law of Identity ? Neither do we make too much of Law of Gravity--it does not explain why my dog barks--but when we do need it we use it. For me it is the same with Law of Identity--when we need it to understand the question "what is real", we use it. What Rand is saying I suppose, is if you do not use it to answer that question, then you hold a false philosophy--thus its great significance. Either we need it, or we do not. Are there self-evident philosophies that people follow that reject Law of Identity ?

To build an omelet you need eggs, to build a philosophy of metaphysics, you need Law of Identity--this is all Rand is saying, and it seems self-evident to me, thus an axiom of all non-contradictory philosophic thinking.
 
  • #58
Rade
Royce said:
Objectivism is not an object but a thought, an idea, a philosophy that has no objective reality and cannot ever be perceived by our senses, thus, according to her, can never be known since it cannot be perceived. This is the common flaw in all materialistic, physicalistic and objectivistic philosophies.
I would think that for Rand, Objectivism is a "concept", and thus falls into her very complex "theory of concepts", which to my understanding is unlike any other such theory of concepts--it is unique to Objectivism, thus your comment about "flaw" does not hold to Rand's philosophy, as I will attempt to explain.

Now Rand defines "concept" as "classifications of observed existents according to their relationships to other observed existents". It is a "single mental unit". Thus, it is clear that for Rand, Objectivism is a concept (a way of thinking classified from other ways of thinking) that has a clear reality that she created by the process of concept formation. It is a "single mental unit"--given by her the "definition" = Objectivism. And, it has an objective reality because it was created from the perception of real objects from her senses, which she then differentiated and integrated (similar to mathematical concept of calculus) to form her concept called Objectivism. All of this was done within a very specific unit in her brain that has a specific identity, what is called "consciousness".

Now, of course, as you state, Objectivism philosophy as a concept cannot be "perceived by the senses", since by definition, the senses can only perceive that which is external to consciousness. Objectivism, because it is a concept created by consciousness, can only be "known" by the self via a process of introspection where Objectivism as a "single mental unit" is grasped as a way of thinking against the context provided by the evidence of the senses.

[EDIT] Of course, I can perceive Rand's concept called "Objectivisim" by reading the words she wrote about it--when I say above it cannot be perceived by senses, I refer to Ms. Rand's senses, not mine [END EDIT]

So, your statement that Rand's philosophy cannot be known because it cannot be perceived is on the one hand correct, but on the other hand it is false because knowledge is not limited to perception, but also involves concept formation, which can be known via a volitional introspective action of consciousness. In short, if what you hold is in fact true, then you hold that Rand in fact did not "know" that the philosophy she created existed :bugeye:--which I find difficult if not impossible to accept is the position that she would hold.
 
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  • #59
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Rade said:
What if I hold first as "the most certain kind of axiom" that either (1) existence exists or (2) existence does not exist, and that I hold this as self-evident knowledge. I do not see why this cannot be the most certain kind of axiom that is self-evident to me.
I'm not sure what this means. 'Existence' is an abstract concept, so I don't know how it can be said to exist. Do you mean the concept of existence exists? Or do you mean that something exists?

Next, suppose I reject # (2) for the simple reason that if existence does not exist then I would not be writing these words. Now, if I hold as self-evident that existence-exists (note I say nothing about any one existent), I must then reject Descarte, because his argument would then be backward, and the correct form should be : I am (e.g. exist), thus, I think. This is clearly self-evident to me because it is illogical for me to "think", before there is first some "thing" that can "think", which must then be the "I am" of "me".
From this I take it you meant 'something exists' by the phrase 'existence exists'. It's certainly true that this appears to be self-evident. But truths cannot be self-evident just because they are not illogical. Deciding whether a proposition is 'logical' is a job for reasoning, and no amount of reasoning can make a truth self-evident. What made Descartes' axiom self-evident was the fact that its truth did not depend on the clarity or rigour of his reasoning, it depended just on the fact that he was aware of himself reasoning. 'Cogito' is a meta-logical truth, and all self-evident truths are meta-logical in this way. To put it another way, self-evident truths cannot be falsified by reason. If a proposition can be falsified by reason then it cannot be self-evidently true. (Of course, outside philsophy we use the term 'self-evident' more loosely).

To confuse matters some more it's worth bearing in mind that in general meditators, people who delve a little deeper than Descartes, conclude that "I" does not ultimately exist, nor the thoughts from which the "I" is constructed. To a skilled Buddhist for instance (which I am not!) it is, rather confusingly, self-evident that the self is an epiphenomenon, a conceptual construct, and that what Max1975 says about the distinctness of forms is true, that all such distinctions between forms are ultimately conceptual. When we look for boundaries between things we cannot find them, and QM makes it clear that there are none. As Einstein said, we have first to construct forms within ourselves before we can find them in things. When we look for the essence of distinct forms we find there is no such thing. Universals and particulars are not different things in some views.

I also note that when God was asked who he/she was, the answer was "I am", just call me "I am"--in other words, God does not need to think that he/she is to know that he/she is--it is self evident that God first exists (I am), and all else follows from there.
I think he said (allegedly) "I am that I am," which is a more subtle response. But I take your point.

Now, I also find that I don't agree with this second axiom you hold:... if I hold as self-evident that "existence-exists" is the most certain of all axioms in philosophy, then it is also self-evident that solipsism is false. Why ? because solipsism is defined as the thought that nothing exists or is real but the "self" (Webster). But, as shown above, before a "self" can hold any claim to exist, first must come the axiom "existence exists", then each "self" can claim to only know that they exist. If quantum mechanics falsifies anything it is solipsism--QM tells us that the "self" (observer) is not needed for two objects to co-mingle. Only the probability of becoming a self is real.
Here I feel that you're misunderstanding a couple of things. The axiom 'something exists' is perfectly consistent with the truth of solipsism. If it were not then solpsism would be falsifiable. QM does not falsify solpsism, and it could be argued that it lends the idea credibility. But I'm not sure I quite understand what your getting at here.

Now, I find I also do not agree with your third axiom:...What if I hold as self evident knowledge that "nothing is self-evident except for the material of sensory perception".
It may depend on what you mean by "the material of sensory perception" but this seems to be a misuse of the term 'self-evident'. The existence of what we know by sensory perception is precisely what is not self-evident.

Your axiom holds that "sensations" are the self-evident given (reason is much latter derived and has no place here), my axiom holds that "percepts" are the self-evident given.
I'm not sure I proposed any axioms, but no matter. I hope I didn't say that sensations are self-evidently given. It is self-evident that we experience sensations, but not self-evident that the experiencing self truly exists, in a strictly ontological sense. Hence some of the widespread criticism of 'cogito' as an axiom.

This is an important difference because, while sensations may deceive, by definition, perceptions can never deceive because it is self evident to all humans that perceptions must always have "error" or "uncertainty" connected to them. Thus if I have a priori knowledge that perception always comes with error, then I can never be deceived by that which I know has error. Surprised perhaps to experience an error, but never deceived.
If you acknowledge that you may be deceived by your perceptions then clearly what is known self-evidently to you cannot include knowledge of the truth or falsity of your perceptions. This seems to contradict what you said earlier. If you even think that you exist as a discrete 'self,' discrete from other objects that exist, perceiving and conceiving other things that exist, then many people would say that you have been deceived.

According to Rand, "consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists".
According to me that is nonsense. Perceiving is perceiving. Science has not yet shown that what we perceive exists. Rand's definition of consciousness is unique to Rand.

"Awareness is not a passive state, but an active process".
Is there any evidence available to support this conjecture?

But it is not clear to me that Rand holds that consciousness is "caused" by brains". Clearly, she holds that consciousness is located within the brain, but so to is "subconscious", plus many other brain functions (sight, smell, taste, ect.). What is clear is that Rand holds that "consciousness has a specific nature with specific cognitive needs", thus an identity. What is the cause of this identity--I am not sure ?
How can one confirm that consciousness is located anywhere in particular, especially in a 'non-local' universe? Does Rand have access to data not available to the rest of us? How can one decide that "consciousness has a specific nature with specific cognitive needs"? It sounds like a prime case of overactive imagination and lack of intellectual honesty to me.

I feel the best way forward is to ignore Rand. Most other philosophers do, commonly on the grounds that Objectivism, like Christianity, has no coherent metaphysic underlying it. I'd rather deal directly with the issues. Your questions are more rational than Rand's answers.
 
  • #60
Johann
Rade said:
With all respect, I disagree with this argument.

Your comments are appreciated.

When Rand states that A = A, she is not saying that "A" must be a real object, it may well be an imaginary object (such as your example), or not an object at all, but an action. When Rand states that A = A she is saying that "A" has a specific nature, that it is "something", not just "anything", and that it is not a "no-thing".

I thought so, but I take a different meaning out of that. What I meant to show with an assertion that takes the form of the an identity statement and yet cannot be proven true was something people often overlook or fail to understand: no purely abstract principle is universally valid.

More specifically, you can't hold that an assertion like A=A must be absolutely true if you don't know what "A" means. For one thing, if A has the meaning of a finite number divided by zero, then the assertion is neither true nor false but indeterminate.

Your argument fails because you equate a "non-sense" number with a "no-thing" number

That is not what my argument is. What I'm trying to show is that you cannot known if "nonsense" equals "nonsense". In order to apply the law of identity to any concept, first you have to make sure you are not talking nonsense. That is a rather difficult thing to do, and you certainly can't apply the law of identity to such a problem.

clearly [x/0] is a "thing" with two parts, it does have an "identity" and thus the Law of Identity (A=A) can be applied to it.

Only if you take the symbols "x", "/" and "0" to be meaningless. But if you can do that, you can also take "=" as being a meaningless symbol, and the whole thing goes down the drain. It is impossible to say anything that is both meaningful and absolutely true. Fifty years after Godel, people are still searching for something that has been proved not to exist.

Also, I think we make too much of the Law of Identity on this thread, it is a Law, like the Law of Gravity, and clearly we have no skepticism that Law of Gravity is true, why then Law of Identity ?

The law of gravity is not claimed to serve as the foundation for metaphysics. The concept of "law" doesn't have the same meaning in physics as it does in philosophy.

What Rand is saying I suppose, is if you do not use it to answer that question, then you hold a false philosophy--thus its great significance.

And I disagree with that. I think it places unnecessary demands on language and therefore restricts our ability to understand and talk about the world around us. For instance, in chaos theory a statement such as x = x + 1 is perfectly valid. Is chaos theory a false philosophy?

Are there self-evident philosophies that people follow that reject Law of Identity ?

Well, one man's self-evident truth is another man's false philosophy. All forms of mysticism that I know of insist, in one way or another, on the point that any linguistic description of reality is bound to be paradoxical. Surely you can argue that all forms of mysticism are false philosophies, but I doubt you would get mystics to agree with you.

To build an omelet you need eggs, to build a philosophy of metaphysics, you need Law of Identity

Nope. The basic ingredient ot metaphysics is not a set of laws. What plays the role of eggs in the metaphysical omelet are not principles or laws, but language itself. Philosophy is basically molded by the rules of grammar, syntax and semantics. Laws and principles come much later in the game, but people seldom realize that because they take language for granted and seldom think about it.
 
  • #61
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Rade said:
Here for example, what "I" said that "she said" is taken out of context.

I have read 3 of Rand's books, some of her essays and a bit on objectivity over the years. She is IMO more of a dualist than materialist or physicalist.
Her philosophy is again IMHO inconsistant in this way. In the new anniversary edition of "Atlas Shrugged" She opened her section with the logic axioms starting of course with the Identity axiom, A=A. In the context of that book I they she was saying more like "call a spade a spade." Something is what it is no matter what you call it.

It may be quite a leap but I think that the only way for us to gain knowledge and understanding is through thinking about what we perceive, real, objective, imaginary or mystical. Obsevation and experimentation, the scientific method is all about gathering and varifying information. Only after mentally digesting this information does it become theory or knowledge.

In this way I am more of a Platoist and think Aristotle was right but not completely nor exclusively right as was thought for so long. I think reductive thinking is a tool that has specific uses but it is not a universal do everything
tool for all applications.
 
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  • #62
Rade
Johann said:
Fifty years after Godel, people are still searching for something that has been proved not to exist.
First, I do greatly appreciate the time you took in your last post on the issue of A=A and its place in philosophy. As an aside, quantum mechanics may have solved Godel's problem. The current theory states that quarks, although "things" with a unique wavefunction, have been proved not to exist as free entities--that is, they are always observed in pairs. Further, QM theory indicates that it is impossible for humans to ever see them as free entities, e.g., they do not exist yet we know via experimentation that they are "something". Perhaps too far out of the box thinking here ?
 
  • #63
Rade
Canute said:
I feel the best way forward is to ignore Rand. Most other philosophers do, commonly on the grounds that Objectivism, like Christianity, has no coherent metaphysic underlying it...Your questions are more rational than Rand's answers.
First, let me say that Rand does not need anyone to defend her thinking, least not me--thus from that angle--I will not bring up Ayn Rand again. Folks will just have to read about Objectivism and reach conclusions. I do greatly appreciate the time and great detail you took in your answers to my questions.

But, censorship of another person's thinking ?--when there is no moral aspect to fault, only definitions of axioms ? (e.g., let's all ignore Rand and surely she will melt away). I just cannot agree with this position. Ayn Rand is one of the 20th Century most read novelists, that she is also a trained philosopher (in Russia, by her teacher, N. O. Lossky, author of History of Russian Philosophy>) makes her writings somewhat unique, but not really, many Russian philosophers were also literary artists (Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Gogol to name a few).

And to suggest that Rands philosophy has no underlying metaphysics and is thus not studied by professional "philosophers", is, well, just plain false. Have you read the essay by philosophers Den Uyl and Rasmussen (1986) titled "Ayn Rand's Realism"--here you will find the underlying metaphysics that you claim does not exist.

Below is a list of professional philosophers that will be happy to disagree with your statement that there is no valid philosophy within the thinking of Ayn Rand. These names are from books I have, I apologize if any are no longer living--I have done enough damage to Rands thinking, it is time for me to move on:

David Kelly, Philosopher, Vassar College as of 1986
Douglas J. Den Uyl, Philosopher, Bellarmine College as of 1986
Douglas B. Rasmussen, Philosopher, St. John's University as of 1986
Chris M. Sciabarra, Philosopher, Penn State University, as of 1995
Harry Binswanger, Philosopher, Hunter College
Leonard Peikoff, Philosopher, State University of New York as of 1991
 
  • #64
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Yes, sorry, I overstated my case there. In the USA Rand has some following. But the observation that Rand's philosophy has no metaphysical underpinning is made by many and should be easy to confirm just by examining how metaphysical questions are dealt with in Objectivism.

Johann - I'm a bit late but wanted to compliment your earlier post. Your comment that "It is impossible to say anything that is both meaningful and absolutely true" deserves a discussion of its own. Perhaps it should even be a 'sticky'. Any sensible philosophy/philosopher should take this fact on board. It relates to Lao-Tsu's comment that true words are paradoxical. There is a proviso however. It assumes that tautologies are meaningless, and I feel that there's a perspective from which this is not the case.

You also say - "All forms of mysticism that I know of insist, in one way or another, on the point that any linguistic description of reality is bound to be paradoxical. Surely you can argue that all forms of mysticism are false philosophies, but I doubt you would get mystics to agree with you."

I'd just add that the mystical view is not only not a false philosophy, it is not a philosophy at all. As for the paradoxes and contradictions that occur in formal systematic descriptions of reality as they near completion, it is not just mystics that say these are inevitable. Philosophers, mathematician and physicists say the same.
 
  • #65
Rade
Johann said:
What plays the role of eggs in the metaphysical omelet are not principles or laws, but language itself. Philosophy is basically molded by the rules of grammar, syntax and semantics. Laws and principles come much later in the game, but people seldom realize that because they take language for granted and seldom think about it.
I need some help understanding this. Of course, language is needed as a starting point for communication between two humans, but "philosophy" is by definition not an action between two humans--it is an introspective action caused by the faculty called consciousness within each individual human. For example, Webster has as one definition of the word philosophy: "a particular system of principles for the conduct of life". Do humans really need "language" to form this set of principles in their consciousness ? I don't think so.

For example, it is known (rare but known) that some humans were raised by primates, never having interacted with humans. Thus their language was that of the primate species that raised them, and if your hypothesis holds as true, then they cannot have a "philosophy", they cannot think about reality as humans do, because they clearly would never have been exposed to human "rules of grammar, syntax, semantics". But this makes no sense to me. Such a human raised by primates clearly would have a "philosophy" developed outside human "language". They would have a "philosophy" because they would, by human nature as determined by genetics of development of consciousness, first (1) perceive that which exists external to them (i.e., lion), (2) integrate that perception to form a concept (i.e., stay away from lion--it kills things). Such a human would then form what we call a naive realistic philosophy, without any "language", but based on a basic philosophic "Law of Identity", that is lion = lion, it exists, it can harm me, etc.
 
  • #66
Johann
Rade said:
I need some help understanding this. Of course, language is needed as a starting point for communication between two humans, but "philosophy" is by definition not an action between two humans--it is an introspective action caused by the faculty called consciousness within each individual human.

You need concepts to philosophize. If your language were not sophisticated enough to have concepts such as "law" and "identity", it would never occur to you to think about it. I very much doubt you can explain the law of identity to a savage in the Amazon.

For example, Webster has as one definition of the word philosophy: "a particular system of principles for the conduct of life". Do humans really need "language" to form this set of principles in their consciousness ? I don't think so.

Well, for one thing we need a sophisticated language to have Webster dictionaries :smile:

Now seriously. The problem of language is that we are so immersed in it, it's really difficult to understand it's importance. We tend to take it for granted.

For example, it is known (rare but known) that some humans were raised by primates, never having interacted with humans. Thus their language was that of the primate species that raised them, and if your hypothesis holds as true, then they cannot have a "philosophy", they cannot think about reality as humans do, because they clearly would never have been exposed to human "rules of grammar, syntax, semantics". But this makes no sense to me.

This is a bit difficult to discuss, as the concepts of "language" and "philosophy" are too vague, and depending on how you define them you may end up with contradictory conclusions. I was specifically addressing the validity of the law of identity as a foundation for thought.

Such a human would then form what we call a naive realistic philosophy, without any "language", but based on a basic philosophic "Law of Identity", that is lion = lion, it exists, it can harm me, etc.

I seriously doubt anyone would be startled at discovering that a lion is a lion. Can you imagine them saying "gosh, how come I didn't understand it before... a lion is a lion! Now the world suddenly makes so much more sense".

But even this law of identity itself is a statement about language, not about reality. It tells you you are supposed to express your thoughts in a way that they can be demonstrated to be a tautology.
 
  • #67
Rade
Johann said:
I seriously doubt anyone would be startled at discovering that a lion is a lion.
Exactly my point, the reason why nobody would be startled is that it is self-evident to all humans that the Law of Identity (lion = lion, A=A, etc) is an axiom of reasoning, (e.g., the process of forming concepts). Because it is an axiom that is self evident, it is outside the use of reason to try to understand it--it just is accepted--and we move on. I just cannot understand how anyone could argue that the Law of Identity is in fact not an axiom of philosophic thinking :confused:

I also would not agree that the axiom (A=A) is a tautology, but I would like to develop your idea attempting to link "axoim" with "tautology", and here is where it led me.

My Webster defines tautology as being "needless repetition of an idea in a different word". And I see that in chemistry, a tautomerism is "a substance being in condition of equilibrium between two isomeric forms and reacting to form either". Thus the statement A=A cannot be a tautology, for the simple reason that we do not have two different words (two isomeric forms). So, here then I would suggest we have a very important reasoning tool that we can use to determine if in fact a proposed axiom is valid--that is, we look to see if the axiom is in fact a tautology. If yes, we reject such philosophic thinking, if no, we continue to develop the philosophy.

Which leads me to Hegel, and his dialectic approach which claims that matter does not exist, that all is "Idea", and that this "Idea" operates such that contradictions are the Law of Identity, that A = non-A, which I see does in fact meet the definition of a tautology. So, here then I suggest a formal logical rejection of the philosophy of Hegel based on your linkage of "axiom" with "tautology" and I conclude that Hegel's philosophy being based on a axiom that is a tautology, must be rejected as a false system for humans to follow.
 
  • #68
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Rade said:
First, I do greatly appreciate the time you took in your last post on the issue of A=A and its place in philosophy. As an aside, quantum mechanics may have solved Godel's problem. The current theory states that quarks, although "things" with a unique wavefunction, have been proved not to exist as free entities--that is, they are always observed in pairs.

That has nothing to do with Goedel.
 
  • #69
Johann
Rade said:
I just cannot understand how anyone could argue that the Law of Identity is in fact not an axiom of philosophic thinking

Because, as such, it is useless and does not allow you to say much about anything at all. If we are to stick to it, we can never say things like A=B, which are the really interesting things to do with philosophy.

To take the case of lions, there's nothing relevant in the statement that a lion is a lion; the only relevant facts about lions come in the form of statements like "a lion is an animal", "a lion is a mammal", "a lion is a carnivoire", and so on.

My Webster defines tautology as being "needless repetition of an idea in a different word".

This is funny. If Webster is correct, then its own definition of "tautology" is needless.

Regardless, if A=B and B=C and A=C, then why do we need B and C? B and C can only be meaningful if they are equal to A but also different. Just like "tautology" and "needless repetition of a different word"; the fact that they are the same but also different is what makes your Webster dictionary useful.

the statement A=A cannot be a tautology

I didn't say (or at least didn't mean) that A=A is a tautology, what I said was that the only ideas you can develop by following such a principle would be tautologies.

I suggest a formal logical rejection of the philosophy of Hegel based on your linkage of "axiom" with "tautology" and I conclude that Hegel's philosophy being based on a axiom that is a tautology, must be rejected as a false system for humans to follow.

Not sure what you mean here. I'm basically saying language is ambiguous, and in that case no philosophical system can be shown to be false or true. The only reason I'm criticizing your approach is because you seem to be denying the ambiguity of language, or advocating the end of it. The former is not possible, the latter not desirable.
 
  • #70
Rade
Johann said:
Because, as such, it is useless and does not allow you to say much about anything at all. If we are to stick to it, we can never say things like A=B, which are the really interesting things to do with philosophy.
To take the case of lions, there's nothing relevant in the statement that a lion is a lion; the only relevant facts about lions come in the form of statements like "a lion is an animal", "a lion is a mammal", "a lion is a carnivoire", and so on.
OK, I am just very slow, finally I understand. Of course when I say A=A is an axiom of philosophic thinking I do not in any way negate the possibility and great importance that A=B, or x = (2y+3z), or E = Mc^2 ! What I an saying is that never can A = non-A, never can philosophy that is worthy of humans to follow begin as an axiom with a contradiction. Thus my reference to Hegel. So, I guess I need to ask, do you hold that A = non-A is an axiom of your philosophic thinking ? If the answer is no, then you do place ultimate value of the Law of Identity, and that is all I have been trying to say, obviously not very clearly.
 
  • #71
Johann
Rade said:
I guess I need to ask, do you hold that A = non-A is an axiom of your philosophic thinking ?

Actually, I do think a thing can often be the same as its opposite. I believe the universe is fundamentally ambiguous, so the best way to think about it is to allow for some ambiguity. I would perhaps agree that the less ambiguity, the better, but I wouldn't refrain from exploring an idea simply because I can't express it in formal logic.

I suppose that attitude is called "mysticism", but I'm not sure.
 
  • #72
Rade
Johann said:
Actually, I do think a thing can often be the same as its opposite.
I need some help here. For example, consider the electron (e-) and its antimatter opposite the positron (e+). While I can see how you would hold that many quantum aspects of (e-) and (e+) can be "the same" (such as mass, gravitational effect, etc.), they cannot be the same in "all" quantum ways, that is, they must differ by the quantum number called "charge". So, can you provide an example where a thing can be the same as its opposite in "all" ways ?
 
  • #73
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I think maybe Johann is suggesting that the opposites that are built into our language and into our minds are not necessarily opposites in fact. Thus, for instance, we normally consider waves and particles to be opposites, but in QM they are two aspects of one thing. In mysticism, to which Johann refers, this is a fundamental principle. The law of identity holds, but as everything is ultimately identical to everything else there is a sense in which A=A=B=C=D.... This gives rise to ambiguities in discussions of ontology, since there are two ways of talking about reality, one in which reality consists of an infinity of different things, and one in which all things share the same identity. When it comes to the law of identity this can cause a little confusion. Perhaps one could say that in mysticism (Buddhism, Taoism etc) identity distinctions are epistemilogical rather than ontological. Thus, to take an extreme case, 'something' is identical with 'nothing'. So if something is A and nothing is B then yes, A=A, but also A=B. This gives rise to some confusion when it comes to discussing formal logic, since the law of the excluded middle cannot be applied in the usual way. A=A and A=~A can hold simultaneously in some cases, as two ways of looking at or expressing a situation, with the actual truth being more subtle. Again, we see this in QM, perhaps by coincidence, for we have found that we need to suspend the 'tertium non datur' rule when it comes to fundamental entities. Similarly, there is talk of suspending it in cosmology, where we are faced with similar problems over background dependence. (You'll find that all metaphysical questions can be solved by suspending the law of the excluded middle). All this has implications for the law of identity.
 

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