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On Words and Concepts

  1. Feb 2, 2007 #1
    In response to a very critical review in another thread of the following statement by philosopher Ayn Rand.

    "Every word we use (with the exception of proper names) is a symbol that denotes a concept, i.e., that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a certain kind" (A. Rand, 1979, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology"--link: http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/books/rand/itoe.html). See also: http://originresearch.com/documents/rand16.cfm;

    ...I wish to open a new thread to discuss Rands understanding (or lack) of the relationship between the terms "words" and "concepts". Of course it is expected that one will have already read the above book of Rand where her argument is logically presented from axiomatic concepts based on her philosophy she coined 'Objectivism". For those professional philosophers now about to retrieve the airline barf bag from their suitcase, please view this as an opportunity to set Rand straight by-god, as seen here: http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/critics/index.html#epistemology

    I will require (yes, require, it is my thread) that all references to Rand (IOE) be cited by page number and edition (1979 or 1990). If you cite a different work of Rand, let us know what it is.

    We will start with these definitions provided by Rand in IOE that help form the basis of her theory of concepts, and her understanding of their relationship to words:

    (IOE 1979, p. 11.) 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"

    (IOE 1979, p. 8) "Units" are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships"

    (IOE 1979, p. 8) "Measurement" is the identification of a relationship--a quantitative relationship established by means of a standard that serves as a unit.

    (IOE 1979, p. 12). "Language" is a code of visual-auditory symbols that serves the psych-epistemological function of converting concepts into the mental equivalent of concretes"

    (IOE 1979, p. 12) "Words" transform concepts into (mental) entities; "definitions" provide them {eg. concepts} with identity. (Words without definitions are not language but inarticulate sounds). (IOE p. 52) A "word" is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept; a "word" has no meaning other than that of the concept it symbolizes, and the meaning of a concept consists of its units.

    (IOE 1979, p. 73) An "axiomatic concept" is the identification of a primary fact of reality, which cannot be analyzed...it is the fundamentally given...which requires no proof or explanation, but on which all proofs and explanation rest.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 3, 2007 #2
    Critical views are under rated - especially very critical reviews. With any idea, what's wrong with it tends to outweigh what's right.. in my experience.

    Lol. Ideas can be taken on their own merit, without pouring through tedious pop-philosophy. Any good thinker presents the point of their argument in the first few pages, and any good thinker sees and understands their point.


    Well, i;ll just use your quotes. Seeting Rand against *proffesional* philosphers is quite interesting - as if to cast proffesional philosophers as stuffy old egg-heads, unable to see the brilliance of fairly mediocre and ideologically biased ideas.

    By the by, *objective* is an ideological conceit.


    Such as it is...

    Presupposes atomic units of meaning, negated by Ludwig Wittgenstein.

    What Rand is grasping at here is the contextual nature of meaning. Howver, half-seeing that she falls in to a teleological trap and assumes that context must pre-suppose *units* - it doesn't. There are no *units* - that's a crude analogy, leading to seeing the analogy as the thing.

    As for *two* units - numerical reduction of complex meaning structures, leading to *analogy osmosis* - analogy leaks meaning in to the way we see it - causes her to think in terms of individual units. In fact, no concept is an individual unit in that sense - all concepts exist contextually, but not as Rand thinks - i.e. in sets of units. That's a childish way of viewing complex meaning structures. Just as possible that what we leave out of a specific meaning structure causes its definition -or many other interesting possibilities. Either way, the *two or more* comment is akind limited Tractatus plagiarism. Again, when Sraffa made an obscene gesture to Wittgenstein, where were the *two or more* units that *integrated*?

    If I say *cool* - where are the two or more units? No where - exceptin an artificial analogy.

    If I say *He is very cool* what are the specific characteristics,a nd what specifically is that defining?


    Rand's *units* are not *things* at all - they are artificial creations of Ayn Rand. All of these ideas she puts forwards are based on a foundation of un-explored pre-suppositions. Who says a consciousness *views* concepts? What does that mean? All meaningless.

    Seeing things exist in relationships is a way of describing the contextual nature of meanings, but doesn't really say what she, or possibly you, think it does - it doesn't demonstrate that there are a *set* of *things* i.e. *units* that exist in various relationships to one another. You realise Rand is just plagiarising the Tractatus, though - right? Or rather, what she has read in to it.

    Well, I'm pretty smart, but that reads like cods-wallop to me. I guess she thought people would be so afraid of looking dumb that they wouldn't dare to say it;s cods-wallop. Well, Im not afraid -I think it;s cods-wallop. Measurement is not the identification of a relationship... just saying a thing *is* another thing in that way is a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of meaning and conceptual information. A concept *is* exactly what it is when you use it - used once, disposed of - an individual instance of a unique meaning in a unique setting. But even that is just a play with words. Conceptual information is a far more complex thing than we can ever pin down with just word play.

    Again though, I think what Rand is trying to do is state he rinterpretation of the Tractatus. I wonder if she was ever sued for that??


    School yard tautology. The mental equivalent of concretes is psych-epistemological function - say it one way, say the other, all she is saying is that one is the other - never defining what either means by that statement.

    To say that language is a codepre-supposes objective reality - tautological investigation of pre-supposed nature of meaning.

    Concepts are not *converted* in to concretes - concepts are what they are - they already *are* conceptual information, the moment they are used. I suppose she could mean *beliefs* come from the way we use concepts - if som she should have said that, rather than the faux intellectual language. I guess she thought she could just use babble to generate a *concrete* mental unit??


    That's just a way of saying nothing at all. Might as well say *we think with words* only, sometimes we don't. Mental entities implies a material existence of *thoughts* which Ran needsin order to use the whole *units* argument. She's doctoring the explanations with ill-considered suppositions, just to make the over all picture look sound.

    In what way do the words *He is very cool* transform the meaning of it in to a mental entitiy? They don't - the mental entity doesn't come from the words. Thinking that words *emit* meaning is silly.


    Well that's not true. Try the phrase *There's somethign about her,I can't say what!* What's it;s identity, or exact meaning? And yet, a man says it with a sigh and you know exactly what he means. How?

    Concepts don't actually have definite identities - as proved by the fact that no one can pin down the meaning of things like *existence*... out of conctext, they have no clear meaning.

    Well what does *He's cool* mean? What does *grrrrr!* mean? Does it mean anything, or does it signify something?

    Rand really just convinces herself that she understands this stuff deeply - I imagine her ather typewritter, pouring this stuff out, thinking herself all Bohemian and brilliant. Someone should of told her.

    Well, words don't symbolise concepts - concepts are informatrion in a mental system, and involve not only linguistic elements, but visual, auditory, smells, abstractions - many things without words to represent them - they represent themselves, as other types of conceptual information.

    Thing is *is* doesn't represent a concept, it helps form them, when used in a context. I think Rand is confused between simple nominative nouns and other, more complex language use. *Fork* can point ot an object, but *cool* can't... and yet, we can say *that's really cool!*

    Words don't symbolize concepts in that simplistic sense. Contextual arrangements of words, connected with other, non-linguistic, inculcated information, pre-suppositions, cultural view points, and many other complex factors all work together to generate the ability of complex meaning use. And in return, the concepts help to create the way we see the world, and the definitions we give to things - ironically, because that is just what Rand does - imposes her pre-suppositions on to the world, giving things meanings and then saying *this means this...* as if it does.


    Well, that's obviously wrong because meaning is quite clearly something humans apply to things, not somethign which is emitted from things.

    I see what she's after - an understanding of contextual language use, but, it's poor fayre.



    [/QUOTE]

    Wel,that's total crud. No concept emits meaning, *axiomatic* or otherwise. The sense that it is aximoatic is a cultural, and ideological conceit. Rand is simply afraid of exploring the idea that there is no fundamental basis for reality - and in that she's trapped in a linearperception of the construction of meaning, and sonever sees the beauty of the actual, contextual nexus of conceptual meaning that frames our awareness. Shame.
     
  4. Feb 3, 2007 #3
    OK, off we go, one comment at a time.
    You have obviously hit on an important point, for if there are not "units" in a "word", then there is no Rand Theory of Concepts.

    My Claim #1: The "two or more units" of the word "cool" (when it is used in a sentence) are within the various contextual "definitions" of the word--that is, first you must identify (from the context of the sentence) which of the definitions of cool apply. Thus, if the application is to definition of temperature, and I say "this water is cool", the two or more units present in the word comprise the sum total of all such waters experienced (the units are the previous experiences of coolness). If the application is to the slang definition of "very pleasing", then the two or more units comprise...well, you see... and so on for all 100% of the definitions of "cool".

    My Claim #2: Your question...if I say "cool"..., well, in such a question, I see no concept or word present, thus I claim you cannot use this question ...if I say "cool"...as an example to argue against the Rand concept of "units". Recall from Rand (IOE 1979, p. 12) that to say we have a simple utterance of the sound "cool", is not to say we have a word nor a concept. For example, suppose two people, person [A] can only say one thing, and that thing sounds like "I hungry", and the second person can only say one thing and it sounds like " I cool". Do both people utter secondary "words" after I -- no--only [A] makes use of a "word" after I--that is, only [A] makes use of a "symbol of mental experience" that another person can immediately (and without context) mentally integrate into a concept from two or more units of past experience of the wave of voice energy that sounds like "hungry" and hopefully provide some food. But, no such mental process by an observer is possible for person , here we have a person saying over and over ...."I cool", "I cool", "I cool" .... with others walking by uninformed if they should provide a blanket or mirror. So, I claim you have no argument against Rand at all here, in fact she would completely agree with you that ...if you say "cool"..., you say nothing at all.

    Also, you appear to claim that Rand only finds conceptual "context" in relation to "units within concepts" (what you said was: "...all concepts exist contextually, but not as Rand thinks - i.e. in sets of units. That's a childish way of viewing complex meaning structures..."), but this is false, as we read here from Rand: (IOE, p.55) "concepts are not and cannot be formed in a vacuum; they are formed in a context; the process of conceptualization consists of observing the differences and similarities of the existents within the field of one's awareness (and organizing them into concepts accordingly)". Thus, Rand derives context from observation of "existents" and not in "sets of units"

    My Claim #3: Really ? Not a single one anywhere, not in ideal form, nor in my dictionary ? But I see the word "unit" there in the dictionary so I am happy to see they are "somewhere", and it does appear that they have a meaning of being a "simple" thing. Now I see that Rand defines (IOE 1979, p. 8) ..."Units" are things...so, Rand says nothing more or less than what is in the standard dictionary-- that "units are things", and that "things exist". So, I claim you have no argument that "there are no units", I have just found them for you.

    But of course, so says Ghostfaith, but

    (IOE, p.100) Objectivity begins with the realization that man...is an entity of a specific nature...and that there is no escape from the law of identity...(so says Ayn Rand).

    Let me stop here for now.
     
  5. Feb 4, 2007 #4
    Well, Rand obviously is a kind of ideological leader figure, and you obviously buy in to her world view. You''re never going to make second rate
    ideas sound first rate though - so says Ghostfaith.

    Rand theory of concepts, eh? How grand. Have you considered the work of the Vienna circle, or Wittgenstein, or Russell??? Or any of the many philosophers who have done significant serious work in this area?

    Well, that's very confused language, Rade - you need to make your points much more clearly - in my view - for academic presentation. Cool doesn't *have* units - that's something you are trying to force on to it.


    Well, number one the slang definition isn't *very pleasing* as you well know, unless your conceptual nexus has somehow avoided contact with popular culture. *Cool* is specifically indefineable, variable - even the thing that *is* cool can be not-cool a month later.

    To say that there are *units* in the word cool which equate to every variable of experiences of coolness in water is really just not true, I'm afraid to say - although written very confusingly. There are no such units - it;s entirely a way of speaking which you insist on applying to concepts - in the reality of what it means ot be a concept, there are no units at all - it's a fantasy view, imposed on something else. And it is imposed for ideological reasons - in this case the ideology of the *objective*, which wants and requires language to have a concrete base of some kind.

    The thinking is simplistic, and ignores things such as extrapolation - i.e. if you are given a glass of water with a temperature you have never experienced before, then according to your theory there is no way to see it as *cool* because you haven't that *unit* of meaning. Which begs the further question *where* these units of meaning *are* while they are waiting to be used... If, as you imply, they are units of experience - what the rest of us call memories - then how can they be *in* the word at all, as *units* or otherwise? And if they are memories, then how come we can know it is cool, if we haven't had that temperature water? No memory should equal no unit.

    The answer, of course, is that the mind extrapolates from experience, and is by no means limited to experiences actually *had* in order to have an experience.

    Concepts don't have units it all - in fact, they don't have any structure - it's their *surrounding* that forms them - their context. Far from those memories being *units* *IN* the concept, they are elements of the contextual nexus of meanings that generates conceptual understanding of the concept.

    Words are not really like building blocks, with specific meanings which we link together. The units idea sees it is like blocks with a different meaning *letter say, on a child's block* on every face, and when building a sense of meaning we choose a block, then choose the face. That is as childish as the building blocks themselves.

    And yet, people DO just utter it. *Cool!* and it has no specific meaning - it's meaning is quite synesthetic - and it shows us something about our language use which you are not seeing - mainly because it conflicts with an ideological structure that you feel loyalty to.

    Of course, you do see a concept AND a word present when I say *cool*. It's just that you can't reduce it to any *units* at all. ESPECIALLY not units of experience - because what's cool tomorrow will still be cool, even though you never experienced it before.

    What this is getting at is Rand's inability to see that conceptualisation goes far beyond crude linguistic models.




    Well, I didn't say that. If you say *cool* you not only say *something* you actually say somethign which can not be defined beyond itself. See? Rand is trying to make concepts have *depth* - i.e. a set of atomic, concrete premises which give it its meaning. But *cool* doesn't - it has no depth at all, and yet it has plenty meaning. It has so much meaning it can be expressed without words - people can just *be* cool.

    Cool says SO much - cool says plenty. But you think it says nothign because it has no *units* to speak of, therefore, instead of adapting Rand's ideology in the light of new information, you;re trying to doctor the informationt o protect Rand's ideology... which, all people who follow an ideology will do. To a point.

    Cool has no units. It has no depth. It's a *flat* concept - you can't ever find correct premises for it - no explanation will suffuce - there is no linguistic archaeology that you can trace back - it is the ultimate non-united word - it is untterly contextual. That in itself should start to re-inform your way of looking at words - it should help you to see that it's the context that matters - that context has a much deeper *form* and role to play than Rand coukld ever imagine.

    As for person A and B - this is very obfuscating language use that you use - you need to clear that up for academic purpose. Person a and person b both use *am* in different ways - it's not true to say that one uses it and one doesn't - what IS true to say is that they both use it in subtley different ways. I suggest you have a look at Wittgenstein's toothache argument, and that back to basics with Heidegger, examining ontology.

    And as for no one understanding the person who says *I cool* - well, actually, anyone in a modern country who uses that word would know full well what was meant - although, they might not agree. Ask yourself how they would know - how can we know something that has absoloutely no units of meaning at all? How????? So, what do you change - belief in Rand, or the information? I ain't here to brainwash you against her - make your own choice.

    Same difference - it's just words, covering up lack of understandign, and employing deliberate lack of clarity in language to hide lack of clarity of thought.

    Conceptualisation dosn't occur via comparisons - how could it? Two year olds already have highly complex language use. They can say *I've got french fries* and *I've got measles* in the same sentence, and know exactly what they mean. That kind of language use and conceotualisation is so far beyond Rand's crude atomic models that it doesn't bear thinking about, lol.

    *I've got peas* isn't using any comparisons - it;s a kind of conceptualisation that exists beyond Rand's scope - which is why it is annoying to hear this amatuer level stuff posted as serious philosophy.


    Well now, that is an example of the kinds of game playing that ideologically loyal people will play. Linguistic Units, as you mean them, are a simplistic and pointless playing with words which means nothing and is easily challenged. However, information is connected to ideology- and as long as you see the need to defend Rand, you're obviously not going to be open to criticism of her work.

    Just so you know, things don't *exist* as ideal forms unless you twist the meaning of existence beyond its function-use. Either way, Rand's units don't *exist* even as a useful analogy, because they don't explain complex concpetualisation - like saying things are cool, or *I have peas...*

    Well now.... thank you for educating me. I am specifically interested in the social-psychology of information flow, and how information and egos and emotional structures are connected. What you are doing here is try to detour in to a pointless *one up* on me, as if that makes what you said any more meaningful. It doesn't. *unit* is a functional concept. I'm afraid that no matter what you say, words don't *emit* meanings due to *units*. There's no unit of cool.

    Well, me and hundreds of years woth of other thinkers as well. Anytign you can put in to words is ideological. To say a fork falls when dropped is ideological. Objective is a supremely ideological conceit. But, because you have artificially melded your indentity with Rand's *work*, you instinctively defend objectivism as if defending yourself.

    Self is an illusion - so says the Buddha.


    Check your brakes.
     
  6. Feb 6, 2007 #5
    Your second post makes clear this is your philosophic position--but I do not agree with it completely. You apparently do not understand what I am saying, let me try again. You are correct when you say the utterance "cool" does not have "units"--how can it ?--it is alone outside any context--so here we agree. In this use, "cool" is not a word nor a concept. But, when I say, "the water is cool", what would force me to use such a "word" "cool" unless I already had a mental image of a continuum of heat (hot--cold). In this use of the word, cool does have units, and the units are the previous mental experiences (memory) of "things viewed by the consciousness" (see Rand definition of units).

    For example, suppose a child does as you suggest and touches water where their only memory (mental experience) is of two types of temperature (warm & cold). And then they touch an unknown water and it feels--well--not warm, but then--well, not cold--and they will form a mental integration of the two concepts (warm & cold--which thus serve as units) which then become a new mental image in their mind (at first without name) but which they will learn has already been assigned a name by others (cool). Thus the "word" cool is nothing more than the operation by the brain of transforming two concepts as units (eg., the mental integration of the two concepts warm & cold) into a new mental entity that become the spoken word "cool". But, this is only one way the "cool" has units. So, when the child now in the future touches yet another unknown water, and they say to them self, well this is cool, now a second aspect of the unitness of cool derives, that of the mental integration of the first experience of cool (call it unit 1 ness) and now the second (unit 2 ness). So, I suggest that the unitness of cool is a type of dialectic (1) first a mental integration of two conceptual units (warm & cold), and (2) a mental integration of various memories of coolness each as a specific unit. So, on one hand, as an utterance, the sound "cool" is unitless, but on the other hand, contextually, it is full of units of different aspects.

    Yes, and many others are to be considered. But, the start of your answer incorrectly suggests that Rand's theory of concepts is not taken as a "serious work" by philosophers--so, what are we to do with professor Wallace Matson, past chairperson and emeritus professor of philosophy, UC, Berkeley--perhaps Ghostfaith you will email him to inform that his paper titled "Rand on Concepts" (in Eds. D.J. Den Uyl, D. B. Rasmussen, The philosophic thought of Ayn Rand", 1986, U Illinois Press) is not a "serious work".

    Now a very interesting suggestion of Wallace is that Rand not do away with "units" in her argument on concepts, but that she do away with the concept "concept" and, as he writes: ..."my suggestion is that we try to make due with just words...words, unlike concepts are plainly not mental entities".

    Wallace then suggests, using this modification of Rand that:

    "a word is a symbol that is used to refer to two or more units which are isolated according to a specific characteristic(s) and united by a specific definition". (Wallace Matson)

    Now, let us compare Wallace definition of "word" to that of Rand (IOE p.52):

    "a word is merely a visual-auditory symbol used to represent a concept" (Ayn Rand)

    And it seems to me that Wallace only does away with the word "concept" but accepts the meaning (definition) of "concept" as presented by Rand.

    My point here is that, in contradiction to the main argument of your second post that only the pop-philosopher Rand finds "units" in words and concept and not any clear thinking true philosopher, Wallace falsifies your thinking on this issue. While I find reasoned analysis in the critical review of Rand by Wallace, I find mostly vehemence emanating from your pen in your hand-waving analysis of Rand.

    So, Ghostfaith, I still wait for your rational argument, now against both Rand and Wallace, that "units" are not found in "words". Breaks applied, time for a sleep.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2007
  7. Feb 6, 2007 #6
    Well, what you are confusing there is your own *map* with the landscape itself. In other words, this descripton lanugage is just that - a description, nothing more. The *units* are an idea, not actual elements of language.

    Yes, your explanation is much clearer, and I can see why you see value in it. My only advice, really, is to try to be more critical and less defensive of it. Honestly, it's not *bad* to look for the problems with ideas as well as the useful points.

    I think you have to considered more deeply the relationship between an experience - say, of putting one's hand in hot water, and the concept of *hot* - they aren't the same thing. You're approaching the relationship between coneptual information and sense data - which is fine - but you need to consider whether that is the same as the relationship between conceptual information and other conceptual information.

    What I'm reading here is a kind of binary idea from you - whereby two opposites are experienced, ths giving the information to generate a third possible experience or concept - as you say, a kind of dialectic. OK - that's interesting as an idea - flow with it, I look forawrds to seeing where it takes you.

    WHat I would question is whether *hot* can be said to be generated from two units in the same way that you think cool can. Is it generated from seearing hot and luke warm? I think, personally, you need to consider extrapolation more, and its relationship to how we map the world, rather than just implicitly assuming that all knowledge comes from objective experience - just something to consider.

    And then you need to consider that hot, cool, etc are very functional, descriptive words, and consider whether what you are saying applies to more complex conceptual use - for example, when people say *that's one cool dude!* or the French *Allors!* or the slang English phrase *and that...* as in, *I'm going out and that...* These things don't relate to any actual experience, and yet have meaning without the *units* that you are loooking for. You need to justify, in that case, where your theory stands - does it need to be adapted, changed, does it apply to only one aspect of language?



    I thinkt he problem here is that language use bursts out of your model somewhat- it is far more complex, in practice, than this model. And *units* itself is problematic because, as I have just said, you need to show where the units come from. I'm reminded of St. Augustine saying that a child learns language by someone pointing and saying *Apple* etc... it's too simplisitc a modelto explain complex language use.

    But, youmay be on to something there, relating to simple language use - I wouldlook at things like experiments teaching apes to recognise simple words - you might find some useful back-up material for your argument there.



    Well,t hat's a resounding one person then, eh?? Lol. I'm probablynot asimpressed by people being professors as you, but, that by the by, I also like to take ideas from a wide variety of sources - I like to listen to fringe thinkers, out of the academic box. They often are on to interesting things, but those things need adapting, in line with other information.


    Well, there you go then. I hope that helped her. Butk it is wrong, lol - a word refering to somethign is not a simple *given* in language use. A word has an amprphous, fuzzy meaning until it is applied in a context. See, Rand and Wallace have it backwards - a word's meaning isn;t derived from somethig inthe past, i.e. its units, it is derived from somethign in its present - its context.

    Now, what is interesting, and perhaps somethig for you to look at, is how a word *exists* on its own - which it does, only with a *fuzzy* meaning - it doesn't de-fuzz until placed in context. Unfortunalte,y it can't have a specific unitary origin simply because it IS fuzzy. *Cat* for example, seems to have a spcfic meaning - where are its units? Is it's meaning genrated, according to your theory, from Pine Marten and Tiger, and it is in between? Is that why Randis forced to exclude the nouns that refer to things? Unfortunatley, very few words can have the unitary dialetical idea applied to them. *Cat* remains a reasonably definite, and yet, loose enough concept, to be applied to a number of situations. How, and why? That's what you need to look at.


    Lol. When I approach someone's work - when they put it forth for criticism or consideration, I don't separate the work fromt he person. I see you as an integral aspect of the ideological beliefs that you possess - quite naturally. I don't mean ideology in its current negative sense, I mean a system of ideas that you work with. If people are very *in to* a particular way of thinking, it can be that for a while that way of thinking really opens a lot of doors for them - very often though, after a while the doors stop opening, and the person is just left with a fixed way of viewing the world. But every idea has its flaws, and all ideas can be looked at from different perspectives. You've probably met 21 year old Marxists with ultra narrow views about life and the world - you may have even been one, lol. Many of us were!

    For me, I see the person and the ideas, interconnected. I don't want to impose my beliefs on you - if you can, I want you to show where I am wrong, and so give me more mental freedom. I have my ideology same as anyone.

    Point being, that if I rattle the box that people are in, say, wind you up a bit about Rand, really question it, call it out to be under the spotlight, then it's getting all those fixed ideas shaken up a bit, to see what will happen. If Rand's ideas are sound, then they will stand that test no problem. What really matters is you, and how you map ideas. You put your ideas forth,and this is how I approach them - I'm not Anti-Rand - I'ts just the way that I approach people's think-systems - I'm far more interested inthe process of information flow than the informatiom itself.




    Units IS a word. Aya!
     
  8. Feb 6, 2007 #7
    Well, what you are confusing there is your own *map* with the landscape itself. In other words, this descripton lanugage is just that - a description, nothing more. The *units* are an idea, not actual elements of language.

    Yes, your explanation is much clearer, and I can see why you see value in it. My only advice, really, is to try to be more critical and less defensive of it. Honestly, it's not *bad* to look for the problems with ideas as well as the useful points.

    I think you have to considered more deeply the relationship between an experience - say, of putting one's hand in hot water, and the concept of *hot* - they aren't the same thing. You're approaching the relationship between coneptual information and sense data - which is fine - but you need to consider whether that is the same as the relationship between conceptual information and other conceptual information.

    What I'm reading here is a kind of binary idea from you - whereby two opposites are experienced, ths giving the information to generate a third possible experience or concept - as you say, a kind of dialectic. OK - that's interesting as an idea - flow with it, I look forawrds to seeing where it takes you.

    WHat I would question is whether *hot* can be said to be generated from two units in the same way that you think cool can. Is it generated from seearing hot and luke warm? I think, personally, you need to consider extrapolation more, and its relationship to how we map the world, rather than just implicitly assuming that all knowledge comes from objective experience - just something to consider.

    And then you need to consider that hot, cool, etc are very functional, descriptive words, and consider whether what you are saying applies to more complex conceptual use - for example, when people say *that's one cool dude!* or the French *Allors!* or the slang English phrase *and that...* as in, *I'm going out and that...* These things don't relate to any actual experience, and yet have meaning without the *units* that you are loooking for. You need to justify, in that case, where your theory stands - does it need to be adapted, changed, does it apply to only one aspect of language?



    I thinkt he problem here is that language use bursts out of your model somewhat- it is far more complex, in practice, than this model. And *units* itself is problematic because, as I have just said, you need to show where the units come from. I'm reminded of St. Augustine saying that a child learns language by someone pointing and saying *Apple* etc... it's too simplisitc a modelto explain complex language use.

    But, youmay be on to something there, relating to simple language use - I wouldlook at things like experiments teaching apes to recognise simple words - you might find some useful back-up material for your argument there.



    Well,t hat's a resounding one person then, eh?? Lol. I'm probablynot asimpressed by people being professors as you, but, that by the by, I also like to take ideas from a wide variety of sources - I like to listen to fringe thinkers, out of the academic box. They often are on to interesting things, but those things need adapting, in line with other information.


    Well, there you go then. I hope that helped her. Butk it is wrong, lol - a word refering to somethign is not a simple *given* in language use. A word has an amprphous, fuzzy meaning until it is applied in a context. See, Rand and Wallace have it backwards - a word's meaning isn;t derived from somethig inthe past, i.e. its units, it is derived from somethign in its present - its context.

    Now, what is interesting, and perhaps somethig for you to look at, is how a word *exists* on its own - which it does, only with a *fuzzy* meaning - it doesn't de-fuzz until placed in context. Unfortunalte,y it can't have a specific unitary origin simply because it IS fuzzy. *Cat* for example, seems to have a spcfic meaning - where are its units? Is it's meaning genrated, according to your theory, from Pine Marten and Tiger, and it is in between? Is that why Randis forced to exclude the nouns that refer to things? Unfortunatley, very few words can have the unitary dialetical idea applied to them. *Cat* remains a reasonably definite, and yet, loose enough concept, to be applied to a number of situations. How, and why? That's what you need to look at.


    Lol. When I approach someone's work - when they put it forth for criticism or consideration, I don't separate the work fromt he person. I see you as an integral aspect of the ideological beliefs that you possess - quite naturally. I don't mean ideology in its current negative sense, I mean a system of ideas that you work with. If people are very *in to* a particular way of thinking, it can be that for a while that way of thinking really opens a lot of doors for them - very often though, after a while the doors stop opening, and the person is just left with a fixed way of viewing the world. But every idea has its flaws, and all ideas can be looked at from different perspectives. You've probably met 21 year old Marxists with ultra narrow views about life and the world - you may have even been one, lol. Many of us were!

    For me, I see the person and the ideas, interconnected. I don't want to impose my beliefs on you - if you can, I want you to show where I am wrong, and so give me more mental freedom. I have my ideology same as anyone.

    Point being, that if I rattle the box that people are in, say, wind you up a bit about Rand, really question it, call it out to be under the spotlight, then it's getting all those fixed ideas shaken up a bit, to see what will happen. If Rand's ideas are sound, then they will stand that test no problem. What really matters is you, and how you map ideas. You put your ideas forth,and this is how I approach them - I'm not Anti-Rand - I'ts just the way that I approach people's think-systems - I'm far more interested inthe process of information flow than the informatiom itself.




    Units IS a word. Aya!
     
  9. Feb 6, 2007 #8

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    Rade, if I may be so bold, why are you interested in analysing what Rand had to say about epistemology? Do you have some a priori reason to suppose that what she had to say is valuable or are you just curious?

    Analysing what someone had to say has always seems to me to miss the point, surely a more pressing concern is what is true than what someone said in the past. If you are analysing what Rand had to say for the purpose of judging the degree to which what she said is true, you must already know what is true, and if you already know what is true then why take the time to analyse what she had to say? Spend that time writing a book about what is true.

    If you are analysing what she had to say for the purpose of coming to know the truth, then I can see the point but do you think that Rand is the best source?
     
  10. Feb 6, 2007 #9
    Both. I know what she has to say has been important to me--how can I know but that, for example if what she has to say is important to you. And I disagree with Rand on many issues (eg, she claims a good in smoking knowing it puts toxic chemical in her lungs--her understanding of physical and biological sciences in near lacking--she claims she does not know she exists--etc.). But I am taken by the logic of her theory of concepts (but of course Ghostfaith takes a different position--fine and good--I think this is the good of this forum--flow of information). And when in another thread Ghostfaith raised objections to Rand, I was curious of thinking of Ghostfaith, not Rand, for I already have some grasp of what I think Rand has to say about "words" and "concepts", and now Ghostfaith causes me to think, which I can only find to be a good (for me), for I find that I am taken by thinking. Consider the fact that the word "concept" is not found in anything written by Plato or Aristotle, I think it first in history of philosophy introduced as a "word" by Kant--but I am not sure (perhaps someone can help with this question). So, when I say Rand has a theory of concepts, such thinking is "relatively" new to science of philosophy and I for one would like to know that, if I do take Rand seriously, do I find something of value to others and not just me. So I post the thread to see what others on this forum have to say on the topic, and here we are.
     
  11. Feb 6, 2007 #10
    You have given me lots to think about now in three very long posts, and is this not one of the problems with this internet format--it will take me days just to outline all of your points, let alone respond to them. And I do thank you for your time, for you seem to be the only person having any interest in this thread.

    For now, let me try to understand this one comment you have, for it gets to the root of the thread question--you say:

    The *units* are an idea, not actual elements of language

    And now I compare this to what Rand says about *units*

    (IOE 1979, p.8) Units are things viewed by a consciousness in certain existing relationships.

    So, I have a question. When you say...*units* are an idea..., how does this differ from what Rand says ?

    I would think an *idea* to be an "abstracted thing" that can be viewed by a consciousness as an "abstracted unit", which allows a consciousness to bring elements of "real things" within the understanding of the consciousness.

    btw, if you have time, it would also be good if you could provide your definition of all the terms given in post # 1--concept, unit, measurement, language, words, axiomatic concept. Then I could put them side by side to those presented by Rand and perhaps better understand your philosophy on words and concepts.
     
  12. Feb 7, 2007 #11
    You are welcome. Any one who is thinking is worth having a chat to in this day and age!


    What Rand is saying is that ideas have units. What I am saying is that the idea that ideas have units is just an idea.

    It's important to break the idea that ideas must relate to things external to conceptual systems - they don't have to at all. Habitual noun use, based on ancient linguistic functionality, allows us to say *fork* to point to a real fork. It also allows to say *truth* and be *left with the impression* that the word truth is *pointing* to an object - i.e. truth. It isn't.

    Ideas, such as of there being a thing called truth, rather than it being a statement of function, don't actually correlate to *things* in the world beyond conceptual systems.

    Let's say the character of Bilbo Baggins - many people have a *feeling* abotu what he is like, almost as if he was real. But he isn't - someone (Tolkien) used linguistic tricks to generate a concept of him within the conceptual systems of his readers. There's no link to a real Bilbo. (But don't tell my kids - they think he's real!)

    Our conceptual system can generate new concepts, entirely from within its own system, without them actually relating to anything beyond that system. Rand means that concepts have units - which, in a way, I can see why she feels that, and it is similar to early Wittgenstein. What I mean is that units are a concept - so what she is doing, effectively is trying to weigh the scales with themselves.

    To say that Rand's units are just an idea is not the same as Rand saying that ideas have units - it's not distributive, like a timesing of numbers, the same either way.

    Tell you what is really wrong with it - units implies that themenaing oif words comes somehow from within themselves - when, in my view, it's quite the reverse - meanings come from the arrangement of the surrounding concepts, the concepts, of which there aren;t one or two *units* there are a nexus of elements, vast in scope, which simply can not be sublimated ot any mathermatical model at all, because a mathematical model would strip away its essential, meshed complexity by forcing it to have *units*.


    But, does the consiousness really *view* things? Why do you think that, and what do you mean by it? Have you considered the possibility that the consciousness IS the views in the first place?

    An idea is not an abstracted thing - that is just playing with, expanding the fuzzy scope of, the meaning of *thing*, not defining what *idea* is. See, we have to beware of ideological ontologies - why should an idea be forced to *be* anythign other than what it is when we have an idea? That is what it *is* - what you experience as it crosses your mind. See, there's a difference between an idea that you experience, and the general noun reffering to someone's ideas - say Marx's. The conceptual event, and the idea at large are two different things which we often confuse.

    The conceptual event - that *IS* what an idea *IS* - it's IS-NESS is in the moment of the event. Then trying to say *what IS it?* is like stealing its is-ness away and replacing it with an idea-at-large, as if they were the same thing. An idea at large has a more concrete sense to its noun function - i.e. we can point to the Communist Manifesto, and Marxism, in a way that we can't point to the is-ness of a conceptual event.

    So, I would say *allow* an idea to be what it is - an idea - it's not an abstraction of any kind.


    Well, if I have time, lol! All of those are really *fuzzy* terms int he way that I use them, because I am more interested int he process of how concrete ideologies form than actual atomic meanings which I naturally reject.

    I hear what you are saying about Rand's work really helping you - that's really good, but,there's plenty more thinkers out there as well - no one has all the pieces of the pie, and for me, personally, it;s the process of criticially engaging ideas that matters - because that's the only way that the brain is working. Just *knowing* how things are would be a kind of brain death! In my view!
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2007
  13. Feb 7, 2007 #12
    If I could call your attention to the two comments you made in your last post (in red above), as you see, they are opposite claims, a contradiction, thus (correct me if I error), it would appear your argument has an internal contradiction in your understanding of what Rand says about "units". From my reading of Rand, she no where claims "ideas have units" (if you have a source quote, please cite), she said the second in red, which you (sort of ?) agree with because it agrees with early thinking of Wittgenstein. Rand views concepts as being "real", not as "ideas" (see IOE, p 3).

    And here (IOE, p.11) Rand provides direct examples of what she considers "units":
    "The units involved (in concept formation-my added) may be any aspect of reality--entities, attributes, actions, qualities, relationships, etc.; they may be perceptual concretes or other, earlier-formed concepts".

    Note that Rand holds a very broad view of units, which includes the possibility that "units" may be concepts already held. Which we see is exactly what you appear to hold, given that you just stated above:

    !

    Is it possible Ghostfaith that you and Rand and early Wittgenstein are in some way all saying the same thing, and all are talking past each other on the way to identical understanding ? It is just unclear to me how you can claim to have a 180 degree different view than Rand, then conclude as you do in blue above, exactly what Rand was saying all along. :cry:

    Could it be that Rand takes early Wittgenstein thinking seriously (eg., that concepts have units), agrees with the thinking, and develops her theory of concepts from it ? You made this point before, that Rand "copied" from Wittgenstein, but why should this be a bad, she copied almost word for word Aristotle ontology, as do most humans for past 2300 + years. To use that which is logical and rational to develop a philosophy seems like good thinking to me.

    Why should we care that late Wittgenstein changes his thinking about concepts and units--let me claim here that he may have been wrong in changing. Rand shows a way in her theory of concepts that his early thinking "may be" correct.

    So, if possible, could you inform why Wittgenstein did change his thinking away from claim that "concepts have units". I wish to understand his reasons, and perhaps find that he logically was in error, which if true opens a door for taking Rand seriously when she claims that "concepts are a mental integration of two or more units..."

    ps/ I am disappointed that you have no wish to define the concepts from OP #1 as requested. It is as if you think there no rational nexis between concepts and definitions (sort of a who cares about definitions response), what would be yet another 180 degree disagreement with Rand: (IOE, p. 65) "The truth or falsehood of all of man's conclusions, inferences, thought and knowledge rests on the truth or falsehood of his definitions"
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 7, 2007
  14. Feb 8, 2007 #13
    Hey - sure! Tha's what I want! Tear ideas apart, rip out the contradictions, the falsehoods, the suppositions - process the ore until the only the valuable stuff is left.

    Well, that could be true regarding Rand - I'm not a deep reader of Rand, but, I do rather subscribe to Nietzche's idea that one need not read an author's entire back catalogue - a summary of main points should be enough to see the whole picture if someone is good enough at extrapolation.

    There's no contradiction in saying that Rand says concepts have units and me saying units are an idea. Rand is trying to extablish *building blocks* of language - what used to be called *atomic meanings* - individual units of meaning which are built up in to more complex structures, like bricks making a wall - a sort of fractal linguistics.

    What I am saying, however, is that the *idea* of that comes *after* we have already learned our language, so the *idea* the *concept* the *model* is a product of language itself, so we have to be aware that language *sub-messages* massive amounts of ideological information that we don't consciously have *ready to mind* when we use these models.

    We then impose a model on to the information - but the model always comes second - it is always a productof the thing that it is seeking to explain.

    What Rand is doing is a little like the psychological phenomenon of *scenario fullfilment* which is, say, like the recent controversy about American pilots accidentally shooting British armoured vehicles in the Gulf War. The pilot expected to see signs of the enemy, so when he saw the orange panels that should have identified allied forces, he instead saw orange missiles on trucks. Secenario fulfillment. We impose our expectations, our models, on to the information, and then convicne ourselves that the information is informing us.

    Rand's model is just one out of hundreds - so is mine. All we can do is negatively map the terms and ideas we use, to uncover the suppositions and mistakes that underpin any idea.

    To say that ideas have units seems reasonable - it;s a good starting point, to get people looking at concepts - like, concepts 101. But, the whole idea has to be pushed further up a complexity pyramid, negating the elements that are wrong, and rising to a more sophisticated understanding.


    The thing about Wittgenstein is a little complex. It's famously held thathe changed his mind in later life, hence, people talk of early and later Wittgenstein. In reality, that's not quite the case - he maintained a central, very Zen like understanding of the nature of conceptual structures, but himself, being the ultimate father of *mapping via negation* negated a lot of his own early work - separating away a lot of the chaff, to force the ideas further upa complexity pyramid and demonstrate a much more sophisticated understanding of language use.

    A good, basic guide to the Tractatus Logico Philosophicus, I think, would really be of interest to you - it's a complex work, but I think would chime with your ideas. However, the implicit assumption about the unit-type *things* that Rand sees was negated by Wittgenstein later on. I also don't agree with the early Wittgenstein, although, it's not true to say that all of that work was negated - it just evolved in to a more sophisticated version.


    Well then I suppose we come to donw to definitions again, which is ironic because that in itself should be pointing for us at the complexity of language use, and how farit really extends beyond Rand's model. Rand should be able to identify the *units* of any concept, and so there would be no debate - she could explicitly explain all the terms she uses, reaching back, ultimately to objective, atomic meanings.

    Rand my see concepts as *real* but youhave tosee the conceptual *shell game* that that plays. See, by saying that she doesn't actually define *concepts* one little bit - she in no way narrows down the meaning of *concept* - she just widens the possiblemenaing of *existence*, so now existence has ITS definition tinkered with, so that now it means somethign that includes *concepts*. That's a very common shell game, and we almost never notice it. Once noticed, however, it is a very, very useful piece of conceptual technology for seeing through muddled word games.

    The *Noun-trap* makes us see things like *truth* as objects, simply by naming them. Not in the sense that we think it is physical, but in the sense that we unconsciously think it is sensible to refer to it in the terms normally applied to a physical object.

    Extend that to *concepts*. What do we mean by *exist*? Concepts are *in the world* aren't they? Or are they? Isn't *concept* itself a concept? Its *isness* is what it is - we can't steal its *isness* and force it in to something else - say, by saying *what is it?* By asking that question we are *method-moulding* the answer - we're swindling ourselves unconsciously, because by asking the question we are defining what type of answer we must come to... i.e. a concept *is* what it is when you sit and think of, say *America*... that's what it *is*. If you then ask *what is a concept?* you try to re-locate that *isness* in to a new area - you are generating a sense that it must *be* somethign other than what it is when you experience it - once that artificial red-herring has been put in your mind, you then go and look for it - never to find it. The question itself artificially generated the possibility of the answer.

    That's a little opaque, I know - the idea is actually simple, like most ideas - it's the explanation that is complex! Effectively, a concept is what it is, and asking what it is, is actually meaningless, but we don't see it, because by asking the question we generated a sense that there must be an answer.

    Little side note, may be helpful in future - just use square brackets for editiorial additions - square brackets means you added it.

    Well, it sounds very similar to how I think, but the difference is in *depth* versus *context*. Rand sees concepts as having a depth - a whole list of meanings that add up to it, whereas I see a *nexus* of meanings that don't add up to the concpet, rather, they define everything else *out*. To me, concepts are like holes - they don't actually exist at all, even conceptually - it's the relationship of all the other information in a conceptual system that defines them.

    Now, there are many reasons why i think this, but, reffering to Wittgenstein again, one of the most important reasons is that the idea that any two concepts are the same is inherently flawed - one because it imposes a mathematicla model on to the nature of concepts, and two because we are failingm, in that case, to see our own *category use*. Each persons experience of the concept *America* is not only unique, but is unique each time it is used. Now, that also has to bee seen on a more sophisticated level, to avoid artifical mathematical modeling - i.e. concepts clearly DO form in a nexus of meanings, so there is SOME form of conceptual continuum relating to them. Rand is an objectivist, and objectivists like objects, so they see language in object-like terms. But that is *scenario fulfillment*. The actual language use is far more complex.

    I'm not bothered about anyone being in to Rand - I like fringe thinkers. Take it on board and map in other ideas, is my advice. Don't remain fixed in one narrow view - all the great thinkers take other people's work and generate new, interesting versions.

    I don't think Rand is completely out of the world wrong - I just think it's a good starting point, but should lead on to more sophisticated views.

    !
    Well, maybe Rand and Early Wittgenstein - I do rather think she's a bit of a cribber, lol. But, it is worth checking out later Wittgenstein, to see how ideas like that can bepushed in to new, interesting areas of thought on the subject.

    In some ways I can see how Rand's thought might be considered a basic version of my thought.

    Lol. I think you are having a scenario fulfillment! It seems pretty clear that our conceptual structure has many elements to it - say, tree, child, truth, suasage... so on and so on... and these can easily be seen as units. After all, *words* themselves appear to be units of language, and then letters are units of words. But a letter doesn't have a meaning - and there is a contradiction there in that way of seeing it. I think it is a bit of *method moulding* - Rand uses words, sees them as units, and that in-forms her way of seeing - which especially plays in to her ideological belief in objectivism.

    I am in some ways 180 away, because far from thinking concepts have depth, I don't even think they exist.

    Apart from that, presenting a 180 view of your view is a Deconstruction tactic - opening your thinking on to the *Other* - the binary opposite of your thinking, to try to make you crack your surity a little bit, and let in a little undecidability. Things are never concretely true - there's always the shadow side of every thing we totally believe in - the thing that we had to deny in order to resolve our ideology as true. I just opent he door on to that.



    Well, I wouldn't say that that was Wittgenstein's stand exactly - Wittgenstein is concerned with how language relates to states of affairs. I'd say Rand was influenced - and that's not bad - but, it is if she just kind of came out with a cribbed gloss without pushing it further.

    Hey - sure, I agree - take what is useful. Question is, did she offer anything new?

    I really like fringe thinkers. I'm personally deeply influenced by Carlos Castaneda - but how many serious academics would take him seriously now? But sometimes we see deeper levels of sophistication in people's thoughts that others aren't seeing - so it's our job to demonstrate that if we want to take those ideas further. You know, Mozart wasn't considered the greatest ever composer in his time - it took a long time for people's awareness to adapt to what they were experiencing. It could be that there is a huge depth in Rand which I and others are not seeing. Go for it!

    Heidegger was obsessed with Husserl's work, Derrida was obsessed with Heidegger... but they all saw a depth that others didn't, and then pushed it further. So, I think yeah- go for it!

    I don't think we can really say that, for one, because Wittgenstein's early work is far more sophisticated than Rand's. and for two, his negation of it is elgantly correct, in my view. You have to go and read for yourself, follow the arguments and see. Notice your ideological loyalty to Rand, but *bracket it out* as Husserl would say - and just dive in to the world of philosophy beyond Rand. WHo knows - you may be the one who shows Wittgenstein was wrong to change his mind.

    Thing is, he didn't really change his mind - he just pushed the ideas in to areas of deeper complexity and sophistication.


    You have to go and do that work, lol! Down to the library, and get some headache tablets, lol - it's heavy stuff. I thinkt hat your ambition is a very good thing - go for it, see what happens. I also approached Wittgenstein like that, a long time ago, and then realised he was so far beyond my level of awareness that it was me that had to change trajectory, not him! But, he himself would say yes, attack it, negate if you can - he wants you to do that, because that is how we become strnger thinkers.

    Well, I'm not avoiding - look how much I am giving, lol. You may find Derrida also interesting - see, I don't go for the atomic definition trajectory - my concepts don't have specific meanings - they are always *fuzzy* because I don't believe in truth, only in whether ideas are *active* or not. Truth/falsehood are not *givens* - they are ideological conceits based on binary views of the world. Challenge them!

    Hope that helps.
     
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2007
  15. Feb 9, 2007 #14
    Thank you very much Ghostfaith--for me, this thread is closed for the time being. I now go to library, to do as you say--study Wittgenstein to see where he and Rand may agree (or not) as to relationship of units, concepts, ideas, words. I will let you know what I think I find--but it will take some time. I have most everything published by Rand and about Rand. For early Wittgenstein I will study this:
    http://www.amazon.com/Tractatus-Log...4086/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b/104-1137422-2735156

    For late Wittgenstein I will study this:
    http://www.amazon.com/Philosophical...1277/ref=pd_bxgy_b_text_b/104-1137422-2735156

    Any other suggestions ?
     
  16. Feb 9, 2007 #15

    Hey, you'welcome Rade! It's good to meet people mapping ideas. The best suggestions are always to trust yourself, and trust that you are just as smart as everyone else - the very greatest minds all based their work on other people's work, considered, looked at it from new angles.

    Most important is to remember that profound ideas are often very simple. Most authors explain their ideas in a couple of sentences in the introduction - or, altenratively, in user-friendyl guides - and the rest of it is a more complex explanation for those who aren't *getting* it. If you get it, you get it. Don't get too caught in the explanations - trust your native intelligence to map the over all concept, see the over all picture. What most people never get is that the understanding isn't in words.

    Good luck! What I suggest, if you;re interested, is checking one of those *introduction to...* series - check out a few people, Wittgenstein, Derrida, Focault, Heidegger - whoever takes your fancy and looks interesting. And when the time is right, produce your own stuff.

    Peace,
    G
     
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