virus: Re: The saga continues!

Nathaniel Hall (
Fri, 12 Sep 1997 00:43:08 -0600

> I agree that what you call "valid words" come from sense perceptions.
> In
> your last sentence you seemed to get the issue that higher level
> concepts
> are connected with sense perception mixed up with the issue about the
> meanings of words--whether they're context dependent or definition
> dependent. My point was that the context in which a word is used,
> determines its meaning. For instance, if I say, "The sky is blue and
> I'm
> feeling blue," the same word means something different according to
> context.
> It is quite common for a word to have multiple meanings. This is why
> defination is important. You use the word as you meant it to be used
> that way.
> >
> Good scientific information is proved by experiment.
> In science nothing is *proved*. You reach not truth, but
> "verisimilitude"
> (truthlike) if an experiment shows a hypothesis to be tentatively
> correct.

The results of an experiment which can be repeated is proof. The
hypothesis which was successful in explaining those results is
considered truthlike.

> Nate--you seem to be getting the scientific method and Objectivist
> epistemology intertwined, let's see if I can explain this.
> In the scientific method a scientist uses his senses to test and
> measure
> hypotheses. Such hypotheses are falsifiable statements, like "the dna
> molecules will rearrange in a certain way when heated". Looking at
> this
> scientific experiment from an Objectivist perspective, the experiment
> gets
> perceived on a more general level, by saying, "the scientist is
> 'perceiving
> reality' by using his senses to witness the experiment". The
> scientific
> method would not require thinking in terms of that general level of
> "perceiving reality", but would only need to get down the specific
> level of
> the hypothesis, like how the dna acts when heated. The scientist
> wouldn't
> deny he's "perceiving reality" but he'd bypass the general notion of
> "perceiving reality" because it's not useful--the general notion of
> "perceiving reality" is superfluous to his experiment, as he only
> deals
> with specific hypotheses. Yes, he's perceiving reality, but he doesn't
> need
> that broad concept to perform the experiment, as demonstrated by
> scientists
> who do experiments without knowing objectivism.

He doesn't need to know it explicitly. It is implicit in his actions.
If the universe were not objective the experiment would be pointless as
there is no reality to discover. Far from being superfluous objectivism
is an integral if unacknowledged part if the experiment.

> But to an Objectivist, the
> fact that he's perceiving reality is of importance. I have a question
> for
> you, Nate: Does the obvious fact that the scientist is perceiving
> reality,
> have usefulness as far as doing the experiment is concerned?

Only in so far as it makes the experiment of any use at all! A
non-objective universe would make the experiment pointless.

> Does the
> importance of that broad phrase, "perceiving reality" depend on an
> idea
> that something has been tampered with on that broad "perceiving
> reality"
> level, in which people's minds have been infected with the assumption
> that
> they don't perceive reality and that this assumption wreaks havoc in
> society?

You got me confused here. We all perceive reality (Unless of course you
are genuinely crazy). The question is are we ignoring it in order to
follow beliefs we'd rather believe in. You don't need to think getting
it wrong is bad, if you get it wrong you lose, regardless of your
beliefs. Natural law is self enforcing.

> >.The best theories predict
> >something otherwise unexpected! If we could not trust are own senses
> >then all experimental evidence would be pointless.
> .I never said we shouldn't trust our senses, I said that the senses
> should
> not get authoritative status--for instance, the fact that
> eye-witnesses
> often give conflicting reports of the same scene means the senses
> might not
> always be reliable.

The senses were reliable. The memory and the processing are what got
screwed up. Kinda like Windows 95.

> >The scientific method
> >is the objective method!
> Yes, the scientific method is objective, but is not the same as
> Objectivism. Scientific method and Objectivism are 2 totally
> different
> epistemologies. In the scientific method you make speculations, which
> you
> try to shoot down through criticism and testing. In Objectivism, such
> wild
> speculations would be considered "invalid" since they are not already
> verified by sensory evidence. Scientific method uses
> *falsification* of
> hypotheses, while Objectivism you verify what you know by building on
> assumptions like "my senses are valid".

The "speculations" must be consistent with previous experiments. If they
are valid with previous experiments that hardly makes them "wild" .
Objectivism far from throwing that technique embraces it. Being
consistent with previous experiments is the very essence of sensory
evidence. The scientific method is not so much concerned with
"falsification" as it is with the best way to explain the results of the
sum total of all previous repeatable experiments. (I have to use the
word "repeatable" because as someone who has actually performed some
complex experiments its easy to screw it up!)

> >For a "weak assumption" we've come pretty far.
> >Man did not land on the moon by "wild guesses"!
> Man did reach the moon by making wild guesses--the flight took a lot
> of
> practice and preparation--a lot of wild guesses and embarrassing
> mistakes
> that you don't see when you only see the finished product.

Sounds like them there guesses got themselves tamed. You either get it
right or its "Houston, we have a problem here!"

> >> Which approach brings about more progress? Do you know anyone
> who
> >> has
> >> made major discoveries or breakthroughs using the Objectivist
> >> approach?
> >
> > Again the scientific method, that is the experimental method, is an
> >objective method, so they bring about equal progress.

> They are 2 different thinking processes.
> Objectivism starts out with broad non-falsifiable assumptions while
> science
> starts with specific falsifiable hypotheses.

That's because objectivism deals with the whole ball of wax whereas
science only deals with some of the parts. But before you work on the
parts you have to know "parts is parts".

> > The only real
> >difference is science concerns itself with the nuts and bolts of
> >metaphysics whereas Objectivism is concerned with all the other
> branches
> >of philosophy as well.
> The metaphysics of science is different than objectivism. Objectivist
> metaphysics claims that if something exists, it exists as something,
> therefore, an ultimate particle must exist as a primary constituent of
> matter.

If Rand said that she blew it. One does not necessarily follow from the

> (Rand made a rationalization that the universe is finite since "it
> is what it is and it is no more")

I Remember reading that myself and found it kind of odd. If it is what
it is and that happens to be infinite than so what if there is no more?

> Science makes no assumptions that language
> limits the possibilities of reality.

Neither does objectivism.

> Also, science, too, is concerned with
> the other "branches" of philosophy like ethics and politics, since
> voluntary complex interaction can get studied scientifically.

I thought about that after I wrote that. There is quite a bit of overlap

> BTW, Do you know any Randian Objectivists who have made great
> scientific
> discoveries?

In the sense that they had to use it implicitly to make their
discoveries, every single one. In the sense that they followed it
explicitly they generally don't publish that information with their

> > Reality gets tested all the time! That is way the scientific method
> >is so successful. It refines our mental picture with what's actually
> >"out there" all the time! Can you deny the march of progress?
> When you test something in science, you test something specific and
> you
> make a falsifiable statement (hypothesis). When you speak of
> "reality",
> meaning "everything that exists", like one does in Objectivism, you
> cannot
> make a falsifiable statement about that--it's too vast--you can only
> make a
> falsifiable statement about part of reality.

True. That is the nature of the beast, how can one make a falsifiable
statement about an objective truth. Is something false because it cannot
be proven false?

> >> The importance of the concept, "reality is that
> >> which exists" gets over-estimated because of stories that you hear
> >> that the
> >> cause of society's problems is that people think reality does not
> >> exist or
> >> is a subjective phenomenon.
> > It's more than just stories. As long as religion is the motivating
> >force in the middle east do think that you'll ever see peace there in
> >the future?
> I agree religions can be destructive but suppose Rand was putting down
> not
> just destructive religions, but thinkers who were more advanced than
> she
> was, in order to promote her agenda?

One assumes the existence of more advanced thinkers and then says: see,
she's stopping these grand fellows who I've just made up! Well who are
they and what did they say? I don't just hand over my judgment to Rand.
I make the final decision as to what I think is right. I just happen to
agree with her most of the time.

> >> Our *notions* of "everything that has existence", could be so far
> off
> >> from
> >> "everything that has existence",
> >If they were ,you'd find out about it. Natural law is self enforcing.
> Not necessarily. The nature of far off galaxies, the small
> constituents of
> matter or even how my own mind works could be totally different than I
> imagine. In other words, my notion of existence could be so different
> than
> existence itself..

Far away or extremely small. Notice how you worry about things that
don't affect you. If you should ever find yourself in a far away galaxy
or dependent on the nature of some strange quark I advise you to get
their nature down pat. As for how the mind works, it works is all I can
say. If I really knew the answer to that I'd have my computer type out
these responses for me!

> >> that for all practical purposes the idea
> >> of 'everything that has existence' is as imaginary as Santa or the
> >> Tooth
> >> Fairy, which exist only in the mind.
> >How do we figure out as kids that Santa is just a myth? I know at one
> >time in my heart of hearts I really believed in him. The answer is
> >experience with the real world.
> The fact that you could get deceived at first by Santa implies that
> you
> could be deceived, period. I'm not saying we are being deceived and
> that
> we shouldn't trust our minds, I'm only saying that it is possible that
> our
> basic assumptions could be totally wrong. And yes, as kids we find
> out
> things by experimentation, like pulling on Santa's fake beard--a
> process of
> falsification.
> Since when is Santa a basic assumption? A lot of folks hold God as a
> basic assumption but I'm no longer fooled. A=A.
> But as a libertarian I'm sure you've seen Adam Smiths invisible
> >hand at work. Objectivism helps explain the force behind that hand.
> Capitalism is better explained using a scientific paradigm which shows
> why
> it is evolutionarily advantageous for cooperation to emerge without a
> centralized authority. The Objectivist justification for capitalism,
> on the
> other hand, is based on non-sequiturs. Would you like me to elaborate?

It's two paths to the same answer. A common thing in science. Why should
one be better than the other when they reach the same conclusion?

> >If I claim "x" as a self justification virus than
> >no matter what the holder of "x" says I can dismiss what they say as
> a
> >symptom. It makes "x" automatically powerless to respond.
> When I said Objectivism is a self-justification virus, I was going by
> personal experience, as well as contact I've had with other
> Objectivists. I
> wasn't attacking you or automatically classifying what you say as
> "virus
> symptom". :).
> >However my
> >confidence in objectivism is based on experiance, not faith. As I
> said
> >in the beginning A=A. It all follows from there.
> Have you ever imagined that another paradigm may come along to render
> Objectivism obsolete?

In the words of a famous commercial "where's the beef?". If you got
something better I'd like to see it.

> Such paradigm shift happen in science.

The ideas seem to change radically but they ultimately are just
refinements. The latest and greatest must still agree with past
experiments. It usually just ends up adding a few more decimals to the
certainty of the results. The old way is just as close as it ever was.
Which is why Newtonian gravitation is still taught to beginning physics
students even though special relativity is more accurate.

> Is it
> possible that the foundations of objectivism have a certain flaw that
> you
> might be overlooking--the kind of flaw that once you discover it, you
> think, "how could I be so stupid"?

The foundation is that contradictions cannot exist. How can that be a

> Do you know what TAUTOLOGIES are? (hint, hint)

sure. Do you know objective truth?The Nateman