Sunday, March 13, 2011

OTI post #1

This is the inaugural post of my work on redoing my understanding of Objectivism, through induction, following on from my conclusions and resulution in January. The quantity of writing is probably overkill, at least early on, so be warned if you continue on. When I am satisfied with philosophy, at least in epistemology and ethics, sufficient to ground value theory, I will then tackle economics and economic method again.

The 'prerequisites' of this are: Understanding Objectivism, Objectivism Through Induction, The Logical Leap, OPAR, ITOE, and The Art of Thinking. Knowledge of logic wouldn't go astray either, but I will be investigating that directly for myself in time, too.

To start with, this is what I wrote as my own introduction.

Reasons for doing this
I am here thinking about philosophy, from the beginnings on up.

But why bother, given that this is obviously going to be an enormous effort? The answer is that there are questions to which I want good and detailed answers, especially value theory and ethics for investigation of economics, finance and business. This also requires an understanding of politics, and it also provides a basis for making headway in economic analysis and prediction. In addition, a good investigation of economics requires a good investigation of thinking and reasoning, especially induction. All these either are or depend on epistemology, metaphysics, and a solid understanding of the metaphysical nature of man.

Foremost amongst this is the need to have the right epistemology. Ethics, Rand said, is effectively a corollary of epistemology. It is this latter field that determines the quality of any knowledge gained. Without the proper epistemology, one is largely doomed to make at least some serious errors. This I cannot afford, and so these are my goals. In addition, however, I also have general curiosity, and as noted above philosophy affects all aspects of life so I want to examine all of it to at least some degree of detail.

Context A: to use words
Every single word used in here has been created by someone else. I’ve either been actually taught them or have read them and then looked up what they meant. Though the history of some is better known than the history of others, the ultimate origins of most words is unknown - but, of course, they have not existed forever, so someone somewhere had to create the roots from nothing at some point in history. No doubt, too, a great many people contributed over a very long period of time. Still, in any event, reality comes first in our experience, and the words to describe it are created by us or are taught to us on the basis of that experience of reality, however correct or mistaken the method might have been. Whoever came up with some words did so to label and describe a piece of reality they saw before there were words for that piece.

Words should also not be taken for granted. There are many cases when the meaning that some word had turned out to be wrong, there are cases when someone knew a word but didn't have a clue about its actual meaning (inconceivable!), and there are cases when words have multiple meanings. That suggests that meanings etc are somehow just the creation of fallible beings. It isn’t saying that all meaning is unavoidably subjective, but it does say that we must be on our guard.

Certainly, many meanings are valid, but it is foolish to consider all meanings as valid without question. The guide is reality itself, wherein the obvious is the basis for validating the not-so-obvious, and so the use of words is to help identify the connection. The point about using words is to express thoughts, and the point of thoughts is to guide actions. Proper use of words thus makes for successful action. Though it is not set in concrete, this suggests back-the-way that successful action that was guided in fine detail as a result of worded thoughts means that the use of words was right. This would be most patently right in the simple things, such as noting colours and temperatures and so on. This I think any normal adult understands directly, and it is so obvious at these beginning levels that it requires a conscious effort to turn away from it - that is, anyone who challenges the validity of using words while using words to make that challenge is dishonest: a truly honest believer in that would shun language altogether and reduce himself to pointing and grunting.

This means that, at the outset, only non-philosophical and non-controversial words should be employed, and that the more advanced words should be validated before moving on with them. Thus the opening context must be ordinary language and knowledge held by a reasonably intelligent eighteen-year-old, now capable of independent existence and independent judgement, arising from having been taught the words necessary for that practical effect. Yet while even these should not be left permanently unquestioned, working from this shouldn’t be controversial among the honest - and I don’t care for the opinion of those who think it is questionable and that the words in the properly-held vocabulary of such an 18yo are incapable of referring to reality.

(* Of course, the ability of the modern young adult to be in such a state is predicated on elders past and present having painstakingly obtained and implemented knowledge over time to form the culture of the civilisation this young adult finds himself in. Rand noted that she could not have come up with her philosophy has the Industrial Revolution not taken place. This makes sense, because it follows the inductive nature of the progress of knowledge, made the power of reason clear as opposed to it being a toy for the idly inquisitive or a tool for religious sophistry, and in practical terms made our livings secure enough to permit substantial effort into highly abstract thought. But that’s another topic.)

Context B: to practice focussed awareness
The context includes the rudiments of method: we now know enough to state that human consciousness is a faculty of discriminated awareness. It is capable of mentally isolating and focussing on entities (including expanses of materials etc) and aspects thereof. We’ve long been capable of forming concepts well before the formal identification of the method, at least for simpler concepts, and have been able to advance, albeit haphazardly, because of that ability. This is akin to Moliere’s discovery that he had been formulating prose all his life without realising it. We don’t need to know what prose is in under to speak and write in it. Thus is it also for the basic processes of consciousness - it is an active process consisting of two essentials: differentiation and integration.

Those processes work automatically at the perceptual level, but not at the conceptual. There is something crucial, though, in their application to the conceptual level. Grasping that application for the very first time, and developing it from there, was a long trial and error effort. But once grasped by one man who teaches his discoveries to another, the validity of the principles at the basic levels at least is much easier to see on the part of that second man. Likewise, after yet more trial and effort, even a child soon figures out the merits of what we now know by the names of the method of difference and method of agreement, along with their derivatives such as method of residues and the method of concomitant variations. Our ancestors practiced these, without fully recognising that fact, though could not proceed very far until these specific methods were finally explicitly identified and refined.

One of the tasks of philosophy, in epistemology, is to make that identification and refinement of what had already been used, to turn the haphazard trial and error into systematic examination and prescription of methodology, and in time integrates those fragments into a consistent whole. That is one of the things I will look at - though, that being said, their validity and use at the basic levels, such as admit of ordinary language and methodologies of an ordinary 18yo, are taken for granted at the outset. Again, he who would reject this throws himself back to a pre-historic mentality, and by such a confession is automatically unfit to utter a peep against me or anyone else who agrees with me.

Context C: general methodology
I gleaned this from OTI, The Logical Leap, The Art of Thinking, and Rod Fitts’ blog, along with thoughts of my own. This is subject to change, as I continue to progress. At the moment it is how I am proceeding.

State the concept

Identify the other concepts most closely related to it, to help guide reduction and then for the sake of contrast as necessary for later differentiation and integration

Give a flooding range of concretes of the concept being examined such that the concept is differentiable from allied concepts; at least six to eight examples

Reduce the key concepts to either perceptual data or concepts already prior reduced to perceptual data. There are two elements to this reduction process. One is by using definitions as a guide. On this score, start by stating the most appropriate definition of the main concepts, and list other allied ones. Then state the most relevant definitions of the concepts traced back each level in the reduction. All these statements of definitions is only for use as a guide in further reduction, and also later reconstruction and then cross-integration, and NOT as a means linguistic triangulation. For the definitions, use a reputable dictionary, eg OED. The other is recognising that there are other facets of things than just the definitive characteristics. Look at the concretes themselves, both of the original concept and the allied concepts, and try to find other important characteristics and facets of the concepts being examined. This includes looking at fields other than those in which the concept came up, so that you may later integrate your concept to knowledge in those other fields.

Begin reconstructing the concepts out of the results of the reductions, using the concretes as guides, and justifying their definitions or formulating your own as you proceed

Integrate the concept with other known knowledge across a variety of fields, showing the interconnections, parallels, ancestry in concepts and principles, and so on


State the principle

Identify the other principles most closely related to this principle, to help guide reduction and then for the sake of contrast as necessary for later differentiation and integration

State the context in which the principle or issue comes up, (eg locate the philosophic point in the hierarchy of knowledge)

Give a flooding range of concretes of the principle being examined such that the principle is differentiable from principles that together are part of a wider principle; at least six to eight examples

Identify definitions of the key concepts and reduce them as above, for use as a guide in reduction, reconstruction, and later cross-integration of principles

Reduce the principle to either perceptual observation or causal principles already prior reduced to perceptual observations

Reconstruct the series of inductions from observations leading to lesser principles

Reconstruct the meanings of those key concepts, following the process for concepts as above

Reconstruct the induction of the principle being examined

In all reconstructions above, use more concretes of a range sufficient to engage in differentiation and integration, including methods of difference and agreement as required. Note also that the two processes - re-formation of the critical concepts and the re-induction of the subsidiary principles - are apt to be integrated with each other and must proceed in lock-step fashion.

Integrate the principle with other known knowledge across a variety of fields, showing the interconnections, parallels, ancestry in concepts and principles, and so on


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