In a special live event, Expat will be providing an analysis of historical events through the prism of socionics. In particular, he will look at the socionics theory of quadra progression as a way to understand civilizations and nations in their historical context. This will be followed by a Q&A.
The Big Bang
Every day beautiful and miraculous objects suddenly appear, from snowflakes on a cold winter morning to vibrant rainbows after a late-afternoon summer shower. Yet no one but the most ardent fundamentalists would suggest that each and every such object is lovingly and painstakingly and, most important, purposefully created by a divine intelligence. In fact, many laypeople as well as scientists revel in our ability to explain how snowflakes and rainbows can spontaneously appear, based on simple, elegant laws of physics. —Lawrence Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, p.xi
Before the so-called “big bang” that brought our universe into existence (or at least that is a current scientific theory), there was “nothingness.” But what is that? And what caused nothingness to become something?
If we start from our axiomatic system (see Philosophy for Heroes: Part 1: Knowledge), then there is no room for “nothingness” in the conventional sense. While we cannot use pure philosophy to decide what exactly existed before our universe, we can make general statements about entities, properties, and their effects. By applying philosophical principles of Objectivism, we can be sure that there is no beginning of the universe; even the so-called “big bang” would be just a result of the properties of “something” which existed before the big bang and which had the properties to create a big bang. If there had been “nothingness” before the big bang, that nothingness would have no properties that could cause a big bang.
We are ultimately faced with the same issue as when we first started to discuss philosophy: we first need to clearly define what we are speaking about when we use words like “big bang,” “nothingness,” or “universe.” We have to be careful not to take on a view of the universe that is based on pure linguistics or intuitive interpretations of the words and instead take care to start from a common,clear basis of definitions.
The intuitive understanding of nothingness is that when you have a bowl of apples and empty that bowl, there is “nothing” left in the bowl. Of course, scientists early discovered that it is actually not empty, there is still air in the bowl and that if you take any space and pump out the air, you are left with “true” nothingness: a vacuum. But this view of constructed nothingness is based on the classical view of physics. At this point, I want to stress that as students of reality, we need to get away from the idea that everything starts with our intuitive understanding of the world. We need to be careful to be objective at all times, especially when it comes to non-intuitive questions from philosophy and physics. When one removes all entities from a box by pumping out the air and creating a vacuum, that does not mean that the space inside the box is left with no properties. While you might be unable to “move” space in the conventional sense of a thing, it would still fit in our definition of an entity. There is no requirement for the universe having to have a clean, property-less canvas on which it draws its entities; the canvas itself can have properties.
In quantum gravity, universes can, and indeed always will, spontaneously appear from nothing. Such universes need not be empty, but can have matter and radiation in them, as long as the total energy, including the negative energy associated with gravity, is zero. —Lawrence Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, p169
One of these properties of space is that it can spontaneously create two particles that cancel each other out energetically. This has been shown to actually happen in a number of experiments. For example, you can create a vacuum and place two metal plates in them facing each other. According to classical physics, nothing special should happen. Measurements have shown, though, that there is a force to push those plates away from each other, despite being in a vacuum and despite no other forces being at work. Likewise, we can detect the Hawking radiation emitted by black holes. If particles are generated at the event horizon of a black hole, one can fall into the black hole while the other escapes, ultimately canceling out the black hole in the long term.
While we have argued that a part of space can be an entity because it has properties, we need to examine this more closely. What exactly is the universe? Is it everything exists? Is it the canvas on which other entities are “painted”? This question looks difficult to answer and depends on the context. The concept of “universe” is used in various ways. In the classical sense, the universe is everything that came into existence resulting from the big bang. That is then simply a set of entities, not an entity itself. An alternate view is that the universe is everything that exists, but not as a set, rather as a whole entity consisting of loosely connected particles. Likewise, if we use the idea from above that the universe is a canvas, it would be infinitely large.
Either it is a set and thus not an entity, or it is “everything” and thus cannot interact with other entities and thus the attribute “concept” loses its meaning, as there is only one universe in existence. Or it is infinite and thus has no identity either. Infinity has some strange consequences, though. An infinite universe would mean that there were an infinite number of big bangs, that produced an infinite number of worlds where a copy of us sits an infinite amount of times thinking about this question.
If we ignore the larger canvas and quantum theory for a moment and focus on the universe as simply the product of the big bang, we can at least make some statements. First, this universe is finite. It is as large as particles traveled since the bing bang. If there were no big bang and if the universe were infinite, the night sky would be either brightly lit with the light of “infinite suns” or the suns would all have to be so far from each other that, from an observer’s point of view, there are only a limited number of suns visible at any point in time (which does not correlate with our observations).
Ultimately, we are faced with a difficult problem. At this point, it is up to future philosophers, cosmologists, and physicists to expand our conceptual understanding of the world. Everything points to a fundamental understanding of reality that is missing. Maybe ultimately, we will discover that the universe is but a closed fractal that does not so much go into infinity as it goes into itself. But at this point, we can only wonder about the mysteries we will unravel in the future.
[…] when we allow for the dynamics of gravity and quantum mechanics, we find that [our] commonsense notion is no longer true. This is the beauty of science, and it should not be threatening. Science simply forces us to revise what is sensible to accommodate the universe, rather than vice versa. —Lawrence Krauss, A Universe from Nothing, p151
How to improve the overall quality of a book
Was it Bilbo who sailed to the West? Reading Philosophy for Heroes: Knowledge, the first in a four-part series on what it means to be a hero, this seems to be the case. On page 5:
Now, while the case could be made that Bilbo underwent a heroic transformation, that he fought evil, that he traveled to the West and might have used a boat at some point, the story sounds much more like Frodo’s story in Lord of the Rings. The author himself is well versed in fantasy literature, and the amount of media related to the subject is anything but sparse. How could such an error happen?
Well, first, let me admit that I am that author. I am not sure if this is the right or smart way to discuss my own book, but some self-reflection is a great way to grow. So, let us analyze where I, the author, went astray.
My usual judgement on products (in this case, a book) is that they are a mirror of the company behind them. If you have a little bit of background information, reviewing a product can be like an archaeological dig. Philosophy for Heroes: Knowledge is a multi-layered book. First, it is part of a series. When writing the first book, the other three books had to be kept in mind. In addition, especially being the first book, it had to stand on its own despite its dealing with the basics (philosophy and language). You cannot sell a book called “Philosophy for Heroes” and then tell the reader to wait for part 4 to finally read about what heroism means. Second, it contains a variety of components: study questions, ideas summarizing a section, biographies adding a human element to sometimes abstract explanations, and real life examples. Skimming through the book, especially those components seem to be “added features” that—while adding value to the book—could just as well be removed. This points to an evolution of the book. Looking back, this is actually true, it underwent a number of transformations:
- A single, very large book
- A five-part series
- Then, a four-part series
- Then, a four-part series with the first book required to stand on its own
- Finally, a four-part series, the first book standing on its own, and additional components (study questions, ideas, biographies, examples, etc.)
As this evolution played out, the later changes underwent the least amount of review, while certain parts, that were already finished when devising the initial large book, had so many reviews, the time spent on dragging them along was a waste of time. How does one write a book without having such a large variance of quality between its parts?
For this, we look at software development. A piece of software faces the same problem, it evolves, some parts are “fresh,” others have been looked at and tested for years. The solution people came up with is called “Agile” (with one variant being “Scrum”). My current project deals with this subject, feel free to check it out here.
The best approach to write something—anything—is to make sure that its pieces stand for themselves. The advantage of this approach is to have those pieces complete and ready, and you can publish each to get feedback and build an audience. Looking back, I should have published each section separately. Sure, someone could piece all the sections together and then have a copy of the book for free. But that takes a lot of effort. Even if it is just half an hour of work, you could have easily bought the book for yourself. Also, the final edit of a book surely connects the independent parts to a greater whole.
In any case, if I did follow that “Agile” approach, it would have been Frodo, not Bilbo, throwing the ring into the fire and traveling to the West.
For “Philosophy for Heroes: Knowledge,” I relied on a number of authors for inspiration, ideas, and source material. Here is a selection of recommended additional reading, if you want to go beyond the introduction I gave in the book itself, here is my list for the first book. Enjoy!
Karen Armstrong. Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life. Anchor, 2011. ISBN 978-0307742889. URL http://amzn.to/2iYjfrd.
Peter S. Beagle. The Last Unicorn. Roc Trade, 1991. ISBN 978-0451450524. URL http://amzn.to/2iYrlQN.
Theodore Dalrymple. Life at the Bottom: The worldview that makes the underclass. Ivan R. Dee, 1332 North Halsted Street Chicago 60622 U.S.A., 2001. ISBN 15-6663-505-5. URL http://amzn.to/2iYlYkk.
Epicurus. The Art of Happiness. Penguin Classics, 2012. ISBN 978-01-4310-721-7. URL http://amzn.to/2jBUDGL
Daniel L. Everett. Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle. Vintage, 2009. ISBN 978-0307386120. URLhttp://amzn.to/2jrMKXG.
Richard P. Feynman. Character of Physical Law. Penguin, 2012. ISBN 978-01-4017-505-9. URL http://amzn.to/2iOEIb3.
Richard P. Feynman and Ralph Leighton. What Do You Care What Other People Think? Further Adventures of a Curious Character. W W Norton, 2008. ISBN 978-03-9332-092-3. URL http://amzn.to/2jKU67k.
Richard P. Feynman and Jeffrey Robbins. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out. Basic Books, 2005. ISBN 978-04-6502-395-0. URL http://amzn.to/2jC4MDm.
Sanford Holst. Phoenician Secrets—Exploring the Ancient Mediterranean. Santorini Books, 2011. ISBN 978-09-8332-790-5. URL http://amzn.to/2iYjQt2.
Steven Mithen. The Singing Neanderthals—the Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body. Harvard University Press, 2007. ISBN 06-7402-559-8. URL http://amzn.to/2jMGusK.
R. Munroe. Xkcd. Number v. 0. Breadpig, 2010. ISBN 9780615314464. URL http://amzn.to/2j8X5FW.
Leonard Peikoff. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. Dutton, New York U.S.A., 1991. ISBN 05-2593-380-8. URL http://amzn.to/2jL9xg5.
Leonard Peikoff. Understanding Objectivism. NAL Trade, 2012. ISBN 978-04-5123-629-6. URL http://amzn.to/2jMBLYf.
Ayn Rand. For the New Intellectual. Signet, 1963. ISBN 978-04-5116-308-0. URL http://amzn.to/2jMSJWb.
Ayn Rand. Philosophy: Who Needs It. Signet, 1984. ISBN 978-04-5113-893-4. URL http://amzn.to/2jLlYrZ.
Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged. Dutton, 35th anniversary ed. edition, 1992. ISBN 05-2594-892-9. URL http://amzn.to/2k1nqUT.
Ayn Rand. The Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution. Plume, expanded edition edition, 1999. ISBN 978-04-5201-184-7. URL http://amzn.to/2k1gMOB.
Ayn Rand, Harry Binswanger, and Leonard Peikoff. Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. New American Library, New York, N.Y., expanded 2nd ed. edition, 1990. ISBN 04-5201-030-6. URL http://amzn.to/2iYlHhf.
Carl Sagan. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Ballantine Books, 1997. ISBN 978-03-4540-946-1. URL http://amzn.to/2k1eMFU.
Fernando Savater. The Questions of Life. Polity Press, 2002. ISBN 07-4562-628-9. URL http://amzn.to/2jMLpKp.
Brenda Ueland. If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Important Books, 2012. ISBN 978-80-8783-058-1. URLhttp://amzn.to/2jLbE3w.
Thomas I. White. In Defense of Dolphins: The New Moral Frontier. Blackwell Publishing, 2007. ISBN 978-14-0515-779-7. URL http://amzn.to/2j98BBd.
Elie Wiesel. The concept of heroes, 2014. URL http://myhero.com/hero.asp?hero=Wiesel_Concept_bk06. [online; last accessed March 16, 2015].
Dieter E. Zimmer. So kommt der Mensch zur Sprache. Heyne TB, 2008. ISBN 34-5360-065-7. URL http://amzn.to/2iYpSK7. (German)
In this engaging 1959 interview, her first on television, Ayn Rand capsulizes her philosophy for CBS’s Mike Wallace. The discussion ranges from the nature of morality to the economic and historical distortions disseminated about the “robber barons.” She also comments on her relationship with Frank O’Connor, provides some autobiographical information and gives her perspective on the future of America.
By Clemens Lode on Thursday, February 12, 2015 at 10:06pm
Do you want your discussions to be productive and draw people’s attention? Here are guidelines to help you become productive in any discussion you may encounter. Before posting, please keep these following guidelines in mind:
First of all, if you are linking to an article or video, summarize it. A discussion needs to be possible even if the person is not reading or watching the whole thing. Moderators need to be able to determine if something posted is spam or if it’s a worthwhile topic to discuss. Quote the most relevant part of the link and give context as to why the link is relevant.
It is wrong to say, “Oh, boy.”
Rather one should say, “ARI starts a new headquarters in Europe in 2016. “” I think this is relevant because this marks a major change in policy and we should all look into it as to how we can help.”
Next, summarize your position. Add it to the original post or in a reply to your thread. If your position is controversial, provide a more thorough explanation in the original post or a link to an essay you have written.
Don’t say, “I think Ayn Rand got it wrong. Consciousness creates existence.”
Rather say, “… and here is why I think so: *link to your essay* Is my argumentation sound? What was Ayn Rand’s argument in that regard?”
Then, clearly define the limits of the discussion. People should be able to judge if their post is on-topic by reading the original post.
Saying, “Abortion. Democracy. Capitalism. God. Go!” is wrong.
What’s right is saying, “In this thread, I would like to discuss land property rights. Here is the definition: . Given an outside military threat, is it an initiation of force for the army to use that land? For example ”
Try to give complete answers. Do not simply link to an answer. Many questions will repeatedly show up here, and most questions are already answered in the literature. But there is a reason as to why people make the effort to create a thread in order to ask a question. You can link your answer, but please summarize its core message. If you cannot summarize your answer from the book, you probably have not read or understood the book in question. If someone asks you for an address, a good answer is to point him/her to the direction of the building. A bad answer is when one being pointed to the local tourism information booth.
Refrain from saying something like, “You haven’t read the book, have you?”, “A true Objectivist wouldn’t ask such a question.”, “This is a dumb question.”
Instead say, “Ayn Rand wrote an essay on this very subject in… Her idea was to start from the homesteading principle and explain the parallels to modern broadcast technology. … .”
Make sure your statements are verifiable when you give them. Be specific, give concrete sources and concrete examples.
It’s wrong to say, “Some scientists claim…”
But it’s right when you say, “We know from experiments that … . See reference , , and . Their main conclusion was…”
Also never let the other person be part of your argument. While logical fallacies are commonplace in discussions (knowingly and unknowingly), ad hominem arguments are usually the most destructive arguments. Remember that there are potentially thousands of people who would follow the thread you are about to derail. Even if you have reasons to believe that the other person is an idiot, it is not up to you to “repair” the situation. Report the post and let an admin deal with it.
Finally, be very careful when posting a sarcastic or humorous post. Not everyone shares your humor. If possible, make clear that the statement or post was not meant seriously. If you are a sarcastic person, add a “;)”. Yes, this is an Objectivist group, but besides a superfluous check of the profile of each member we add, people here are not necessarily Objectivists. And even among Objectivists, they have completely different sense of humor from each other. Do not mistake similar philosophic views with similar personality.
There you have it guidelines to help you become productive in any discussion. As you have read, most of these guidelines are ‘obvious.’ But it’s easy to miss them in the heat of an argument or when casually posting an article. These are based on experience as to what type of threads derail and what type of threads actually help the readers share their ideas and learn from other’s as well. If another topic develops within the discussion, an admin will then create a new thread for that new topic. These guidelines will still help no matter what type of discussion or topic you are in.
Can We Acquire Knowledge?
Clemens Lode, Apr 2015*
In his Critique of Pure Reason1, Kant wished to argue against the empiricism of David Hume. He claimed that induction in relation to causality could not be a means of learning anything about nature since the justification of the validity of induction would in turn require induction. According to Hume, to posit that the identity of an entity at a future point in time (without external influence and with attention paid to internal processes) is the same as in the present is not valid.
Kant attempted to solve this problem by creating the term synthetic a priori statement2 By that, he intended to show that there are statements about the world which would not require induction:
Analytic statement: A statement whose assertion is given by the concept of the subject. As a result, measurements are not necessary to determine whether it is true or not (e.g., “Triangles have three vertices”).
Synthetic statement: A statement whose assertion is given not alone by the concept of the subject alone; i.e., measurements are required to determine whether it is true or not (e.g., “This form has three corners”).
A priori statement: A statement which can be substantiated independently of experience (e.g., mathematical statements).3
A posteriori statement: A statement which must be substantiated through experience (e.g., “Bodies are heavy”; we must first lift a body to determine its weight).5
In his work, he sought synthetic statements which were at the same time a priori statements and, as a result, could be substantiated without empirical knowledge of reality. His very lengthy explanation in Critique of Pure Reason did not help to clarify what he—knowingly or unknowingly—actually meant by his notion of analytic and synthetic statements, as well as by the distinction of a priori and a posteriori statements.4
The point is that his synthetic statements concern nothing other than measurements A synthetic statement is thus nothing other than a statement about the effect of a representation of a concept—an entity. For instance, the statement “All chairs are made of material” refers to a property of the concept “chair,” while the statement “All chairs are made of the material wood” relates to the tangible effect of the property “material.” A synthetic a priori statement thus would be nothing other than a “statement whose assertion is not given by the concept of the subject (i.e., a measurement!), but can be substantiated independently of experience (i.e., not a measurement!).” A measurement that is not a measurement is obviously a contradiction; for this reason, by the Axiom of Identity, synthetic a priori statements cannot exist.
By the Axiom of Identity, Kant’s synthetic a priori statements cannot exist. That means that there are no statements that can be shown to be true without induction.
SOLUTION TO THE PROBLEM OF INDUCTION
Hume concerns himself with the future, and hence with the question of whether knowledge we acquire about the world can be applied to future events. “Time,” however, is ultimately merely a construct of the mind.7 In more general terms, it deals with the question of whether knowledge acquired from a past situation is also valid in a situation at different point in time. Still more generally, we can bring under criticism the use of concepts universally:
If we have established, e.g., that when dropping an apple, it falls downward, who is to say that the same must also hold for a different apple (or at a different but comparable location or point in time)?
Possible answers to this problem could be that we may have erred in constructing the concepts in question, and there are still many more significant properties we might have not yet discovered. Or, there could be a coincidental external influence, e.g., a strong gust of wind could blow the apple upward.
But that is not what Hume aims at; he is concerned about the validity of concepts, i.e., whether we can acquire general knowledge about the world when we exclude such special cases. We have defined the term “concept” in this way for the very reason that it includes entities that, for example, possess the property of falling downward. It makes no difference, whether we now consider other apples in our fruit basket or apples existing far in the future. In both cases, we speak of the same concept, “apple.” If future apples possess other properties than our present apples, we must diversify our concept “apple.” When defining the concept, we have to either restrict the selection of entities or include a dynamic component which adds, e.g., the factor of time into the description of the properties. Exactly such a discussion is currently going on in the sciences concerning the gravitational “constant.” If, for instance, in the future, the gravitational constant should change, it would say nothing about the validity of concepts per se but instead would speak to our potentially incomplete concept of gravitation where we should have included a change of the gravitational constant depending on the time and location.
Hume’s problem of induction is ultimately aimed at the fact that we are not omniscient when we establish concepts.
Ultimately, we see that Hume’s argument is a matter of nonexistent omniscience in the establishment of concepts. We can, therefore, compare him with Kant’s “thing-in-itself”: potentially, there is always a level further on, a (still?) unknown “true reality,” which was as yet unknown to us when we defined our concepts.
We could also formulate the question in more general terms: does carrying out a deduction depend on empirical facts, i.e., can we perform experiments which can determine whether we can determine things? This approach leads to an endless cycle of questioning (a so-called recursion, see below)—to answer the question we must be able to answer the question. It has come to this recursion, since we cannot ask any questions which bring into question the presupposition for the question—this would be the fallacy of the stolen concept. We could not then bring into question the validity of concepts if we pose a question that uses concepts. At most, what we owe to Hume is that we should not assume that we are omniscient; we should require proof for scientific theories and re-examine existing knowledge when gaining new insights.
Self-reference (recursion): If a statement or a process references itself, it is called recursive.
Working step-by-step through, e.g., a recipe usually is not recursive. But if there is a task like “Add some flour to the dough. Knead the dough. If the dough is sticky, we are complete. Otherwise, we add some more flour and knead it again…”, then we have a (possibly infinite) telescoping of the same process. Or imagine a photo of a person who holds up that very photo to the camera. A third example of a recursion would be cell division processes within a life-form. This is especially visible when looking at, e.g., tree branches or our system of blood vessels.
In that regard, you cannot say, e.g., “I cannot make objective statements” because that is an objective statement. And trying to rectify it by saying “I cannot make objective statements except for the statement ‘I cannot make objective statements’ ” is recursive because you would need infinite time to make an objective statement about objective statements. It is like saying that “something is true because because because because because …” without really providing a final argument. This is one of the many issues of the application of language which we will discuss in the upcoming first book of the series “Philosophy for Heroes.”
2. [vgl. S. 55 – 67 Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 978-3-86647-408-6]↩
3. [Closely connected with this topic is the question about a priori knowledge, which we will discuss more closely from a scientific position in the second book of the series “Philosophy for Heroes”. Philosophically viewed, the issue is clear: we have ultimately defined knowledge such that new knowledge can be formed only from existing knowledge or from perceptions of reality. Without ever having made a perception we can thus never acquire knowledge.]↩
4. [On the other hand, analytic a posteriori statements do not exist.↩
5. [Analytische a posteriori Aussagen gibt es dagegen nicht.]↩
6. [vgl. S. 62ff Kritik der reinen Vernunft, 978-3-86647-408-6]↩