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Post 0

Monday, February 5, 2007 - 2:35pmSanction this postReply
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Joe:

     Good questions to point out as the most relevent in this subject; and, good answers for them.

     If I may add a point or two for you to segue into...1) the difference between an entity's Identity having 'trivial'-vs-'fundamental' changes [and how these concepts apply to a ball of clay, a platinum blonde, etc,-versus-Theseus' ship(s) and Harvard's basketball-teams]...and 2) the very nature of 'identity' itself, as a concept, being an epistemological-identification of the metaphysics-identity of any/all Reality.

LLAP
J:D




Post 1

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 5:22amSanction this postReply
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Nice introduction to topic of causality and change, Joe.

I was pleased to see that you did not include the old saw that every change has a cause (meaning, every change has an efficient cause). That unqualified principle was overturned with the discovery of the principle of inertia by Galileo-Descartes which became Newton's First Law; the change that is motion unchanging in speed and direction does not require a causal explanation such as a force, hence no source for such a force. Kant was still repeating that old saw a century after Newton's Principia, even though he really knew better.

I was pleased also to see that you did not include as an implication from identity, and its application to time and action, the following doctrine intimated by Rand (1973 MvMM) and stated by Peikoff (1976 lectures approved by Rand and 1991 OPAR): a given inanimate entity in a given situation could not possibly do more than a same, single thing in identical repeat trials. That is a question for science, just as it is a question for science, not philosophy, whether and how effects are proportionate to their causes and whether periodic effects (e.g. planetary precessions) have periodic causes.

I do think that in right philosophy one can say another general proposition concerning causality beyond the proposition that every entity has an identity and acts accordingly. It is true to say as Rand says that all "forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe" have causes and other determinants of their existence (MvMM).




Post 2

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 11:34amSanction this postReply
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John,

1) the difference between an entity's Identity having 'trivial'-vs-'fundamental' changes [and how these concepts apply to a ball of clay, a platinum blonde, etc,-versus-Theseus' ship(s) and Harvard's basketball-teams]...
I take you to mean when you say 'trivial' vs. 'fundamental' that trivial changes are changes in non-essential characteristics and that fundamental changes are changes in essential characteristics. Please keep in mind that when dealing with this essential/non-essential dichotomy -- it is contextually-assumed to be epistemological (according to its proper use by Rand and others who also think straight about this subject). In this case, what's essential is what differentiates. If that 'essential' changes, then we have not a metaphysical change in 'identity' of a thing -- but an epistemological change in the conceptual categorization of a thing.

The only metaphysical essence of a thing -- discovered by myself in 2005 -- is its capacity for change (which, itself, doesn't ever change). Most (all?) discussions on identity have failed to integrate this aspect of reality. But on this more philosophically mature view, it's easy to see how 'change' doesn't affect identity in the least. A scrap of paper, burned to ashes -- or an ice cube, melted -- is still, metaphysically, the same type of thing that it was before; only under different external ('environmental') circumstances.

The kicker is that humans -- in order to keep conceptual distinctions clear -- will utilize a different concept for 'burnt' paper and 'melted' ice cubes (than those for unburnt paper or unmelted ice cubes). But, as is shown here, this is inconsequential as to a thing's identity.

I take this response of mine to be an adequate answer to both of your inquiries (both 1 & 2). If you don't think thusly, please elaborate.

;-)

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/06, 11:52am)

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/06, 11:53am)




Post 3

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 11:51amSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

... a given inanimate entity in a given situation could not possibly do more than a same, single thing in identical repeat trials. That is a question for science ...
But this is still true -- and philosophically so -- if the entity remains unchanged. Take a pair of dice and roll it -- you will, for many, many "repeat trials", get a number (something from 2-12). Now, roll THAT SAME pair of dice 100 trillion times -- and you won't get a number any more. The reason? The friction involved in 100 trillion dice rolls should be enough to wear down the edges of the dice so that they would each resemble more of a sphere than a cube (ie. they would just keep rolling!). The dice are the same dice, in the same 'situation' (the context of dice-rolling), in "identical repeat trials."

So, what does this mean for philosophical identification in the Randian sense (where things do not ever act in contradiction to their own natures)? Absolutely nothing. Science is what is used in order to discover the effect of friction on dice edges, and it informs us of about how many rolls dice would be "good for." But philosophy is what is used in order to discover the undeniable and inescapable fact of reality that -- rolling a pair of "conventional" dice -- you will NOT EVER get a 13. It's because of the kind of entity dice are. And this is one manner in which philosophy guides scientific inquiry (by stating -- at the outset -- what is contextually-impossible; and, therefore, need not be investigated).

;-)

Ed

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/06, 11:56am)

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/06, 11:59am)




Post 4

Tuesday, February 6, 2007 - 9:37pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen, I spotted an apparent contradiction in your post ...

=====================
( ... every change has an efficient cause). That unqualified principle was overturned with the discovery of the principle of inertia by Galileo-Descartes which became Newton's First Law; the change that is motion unchanging in speed and direction does not require a causal explanation such as a force, hence no source for such a force.
=====================

vs.

=====================
It is true to say as Rand says that all "forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe" have causes ...
=====================

In the first case, (uniform) motion doesn't require a cause, in the second case, it (ie. all motion) does. The problem stems from the platonic abstraction of an object in unchanging motion. There's no existential instantiation of that. Every object, everywhere, is being acted on -- if from nothing other than the microgravity elicited from distant stars. So, like Obi Wan might say: May the (i.e. "a") Force always be with you.

;-)

Once this truism is held in focus -- that there is nothing that is not acted on -- Newton's First Law becomes what it is supposed to be: an approximate absolute (or absolute approximation, if you will). All objects in any kind of motion have changing motions, rather than them just changing in location (uniform motion is Platonic). We can use Newton's universal laws of motion to approximate where a shot cannon ball will land -- and we can do so absolutely (though we can't be totally precise -- there aren't ever 'conditions' where the law doesn't hold, for example).

And that's all that science affords -- the approximations (even though they are often either absolute approximations -- ie. approximations holding everywhere -- or approximations of something that is absolutely true). And it is philosophy that provides the absolutes that science approximates, whether science is aimed at absolute approximations; or merely approximating absolutes.

And the burning question about an Aristotelian "unmoved mover" can be rationally dismissed; as it, like the question of The Creator of The Universe, cannot be put in precise-enough terms -- without dropping context -- to have any meaning. It's an instance of what Gilbert Ryle called a "category mistake" ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category_mistake

Ed


(Edited by Ed Thompson
on 2/06, 9:43pm)




Post 5

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 8:51amSanction this postReply
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No, Ed, there is no contradiction.

I wrote that "all 'forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe' have causes and other determinants of their existence." Although inertial motions require no efficient causes to exist, they require material causes.

Thanks for the careful reading and notice.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The following background may be informative for some readers here. This is from my 1991 Objectivity essay "Induction on Identity" (V1N3).

"When one comes to formulate ideas about inanimate motion more generally, things become much less obvious, and customary experience can put one in the wrong frame of mind. It was very difficult for man to get straight which motions needed to be explained, which motions have causes in the primary sense. Today, students of physics learn the answer when they are taught the law of inertia, the law that a body will continue at constant speed and in a straight line (or will remain at rest) unless acted on by a force. At a more advanced level, students learn that and how the inertia principle has been recast in more general forms . . . .

"It is only the elementary form of the law of inertia that concerns us here. Aristotle and his followers held to principles contrary the inertia principle: Terrestrial bodies, when moving, naturally tend to move towards certain places of repose. The heavenly spheres, upon which ride the heavenly bodies, naturally and always move in circular ways. . . . Aristotle's camp took free fall of earthly bodies as natural and as standing in no need of special explanation; no external force is being applied to keep such bodies falling to the earth. Any other motion of an earthly body, any motion that is not free fall, needs special external explanation. Moreover, any motion at all requires some explanation. 'Everything that is in motion must be moved by something. For if it has not the source of its motion in itself, it is evident that it is moved by something else which moves it' (Ph. 7.1.241b34-36).

"What could be more sensible? In our life experiences here on the surface of the earth, we have countless confirmations of Aristotle's thesis every day. To get an object moving requires effort, to keep it moving requires effort, and the object will sooner or later return to rest. The strings of the harp will return to silence. For Galileo and his followers to propose that motion, provided it be uniform, required no explanation, no efficient cause, but that nonuniform motion, including coming to rest, did, they had to put on new thinking caps. . . . These men could not leave the answer to habitual experience (nor to tradition). Formulating physical principles simply according to the most usual observations would not have led men to the law of inertia. Until this law and its conceptual vantage were discovered, the scientific revolution could not happen.

"In common sense and in most scientific reasoning, we make the tried and true presumption that occurrences have causes. Hume discussed this principle in the venerated form "whatever begins to exist, must have a cause of existence." He contended that this principle is not a necessary truth. He may have even doubted the truth of the principle (T 78-82). We should distinguish two interpretations of the principle. In one we take cause as material cause, and in the other, we take cause as efficient cause. As to material cause, the principle seems to have held up perfectly in the two and a half centuries of science since Hume. It holds for all elementary particles; every particle gets made from some others. As to efficient cause, the principle holds always for cause in the broad mode; each type of elementary particle has its distinctive ways of coming about. . . . Again as to efficient cause, the principle evidently does not hold in the narrow mode for elementary particles. There is no narrow cause of the decay products. Remember, too, the proverb of particle physicists: 'Seek not reasons for decay, but seek barriers to decay'." (28-30)

Turning back a few pages, my distinction between the narrow and the broad modes:

"Hume's commonsense principle that same causes yield same effects was also endorsed by Aristotle: 'It is a law of nature that the same cause, provided it remain in the same condition, always produces the same effect' (GC 2.10.336a27-28). Ockham endorsed the principle in a form close to Hume's: 'Causes of the same kinds are effective of effects of the same kinds'. Ockham took this principle to be necessary and self-evident. As the principle is formulated by Ockham or Hume, it is subject to two interpretations. One, a broad one, I shall endorse in a moment. The other---and this is what both Ockham and Hume (E 64) most likely meant---is just the principle as stated without ambiguity by Aristotle. I think we should be wary of Aristotle's principle. Hereafter, I shall refer to it as the narrow mode of causality. Although it obtains throughout much of existence, it evidently does not obtain for physical processes in quantum regimes . . . . I suggest we reformulate the principle more broadly, thus: 'Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances'. Application of the law of identity to action or to becoming would seem to require only this much (contrary to Peikoff 1991, 14-15)." (25, emphasis added)




Post 6

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 11:30amSanction this postReply
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Stephen, I mean to be a hair-splitter on this issue.

Although inertial motions require no efficient causes to exist, they require material causes.
First, for the readers, I will break down Aristotle's 4 causes into terms lay-folk can understand ...

1) 'Material cause' explanations answer the question: What (substance)? -- As in: Of what substance was that "cannon projectile" made? [e.g. iron]

2) 'Formal cause' explanations answer the question: What (form, type, kind)? -- As in: What kind of a thing was it that was loaded into the cannon? [e.g. a cannon ball]

3) 'Efficient cause' explanations answer the question: How? -- As in: How did the cannon ball get accelerated so much? [e.g. ignited, exploding gun powder]

4) 'Final cause' explanation answer the question: Why? -- As in: Why did the cannon fire? [e.g. soldier lit the fuse]

In this respect, inertial motions can be explained via efficient causation. We can explain them via reference to the law of inertia. Academic hair-splitters don't like this explanation -- because they then want inertia "explained" to them (like 2 year olds, always asking "why?"). It may, at first, seem like their "why" questions are valid. However, you can do this type of infinite regress -- ongoingly demanding explanations in ever-simpler and more fundamental terms -- with existence to; asking what the ultimate, efficient cause of existence is (i.e. "How is existence here?"). It's not right to do that (to keep on asking).

When explaining the 4 potential causes of an object with inertial motion then ...

1) it will be made of matter
2) it will be in a particular form
3) it will move (change) according to the Newton's 3 Laws of Motion
4) it won't have a final cause (while we can answer how objects attain/retain motion -- i.e. by 'obeying' Newton's 3 Laws of Motion -- we can't answer "why" objects 'obey' the laws)

Perhaps more, later.

Ed




Post 7

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 11:44amSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

'Identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances'. Application of the law of identity to action or to becoming would seem to require only this much ...
Excellent insight. It is definitely true of reality. It is sufficient for differentiating existents and, as I've argued before, if you can effectively differentiate an existent from all others, then you can effectively identify it.

Bravo.

Ed




Post 8

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 4:00pmSanction this postReply
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Stephen,

It just dawned on me that we had had a very similar discussion to this one 1 year ago. Apparently, we're still in disagreement then -- as our discussions have failed to convince you that the law of inertia is something that is really and truly fundamental, and they have equally failed to convince me that the law of inertia is something that is merely incidental (i.e. non-fundamental).

That's stubborn of us.

;-)

Ed





Post 9

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 7:31pmSanction this postReply
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Here's an argument for inertia as an irreducible and primary aspect of reality (i.e. inertia as an "immediate" corollary of axioms, if not axiomatic itself).

Ed
[not giving up just yet!]

;-)

(Edited by Ed Thompson on 2/07, 7:34pm)




Post 10

Wednesday, February 7, 2007 - 7:50pmSanction this postReply
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And another article that defends inertia as a fundamental ...

Ed
[although I admit in my research I came across a couple articles that defended the opposite!]




Post 11

Thursday, February 8, 2007 - 3:57amSanction this postReply
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Things that do not move tend to stay not moved......;-)



Post 12

Thursday, February 8, 2007 - 7:13amSanction this postReply
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Did you mean things, or people? ...





Post 13

Thursday, February 8, 2007 - 8:59amSanction this postReply
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As a concrete, a person IS a 'thing'.....



Post 14

Friday, February 9, 2007 - 6:36amSanction this postReply
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There was an error in my 1991 statement of what is the minimal implication of the law of identity applied to action or to becoming, which I forgot to mention and correct. I had written that "identical existents, in given circumstances, will always produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances." A more minimal formula would be: "For some given circumstance or other, identical existents will produce results not wholly identical to results produced by different existents in those same circumstances."

Consider a five-pound bag of sugar and a four-pound bag of sugar. These are two different kinds of things in respect of their mass. One bag belongs the class of things that have a mass of five pounds, whereas the other bag belongs to the class of things that have a mass of four pounds.

Imagine we scoot both bags, at the same time, off the terrace of my second-floor apartment. They will both do the same thing. They will both fall to the ground, having the same instantaneous velocity as each other all along their paths, and they will both hit the ground at the same time.

When the five-pound bag and the four-pound bag are placed on the scales of a beam balance, they do different things. That is enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Joe, you stated: "Causality is the Law of Identity applied over time." I imagine some readers wonder, as I wonder, why you did not use Rand's formula exactly: "The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action."

Your formula falls between Rand's and the 1908 formula of Emile Meyerson. He wrote, in Identity and Reality, that "the principle of causality is none other than the principle of identity applied to the existence of objects in time" (p.43 in the 1930 English translation). Did you go with time rather than action in your formula in order to include the mere continuance of a self-same thing through time under the concept of causality?

Ockham held that for X to properly be called the cause of Y, X must be a thing different than Y. Do you agree? That is, do you think it overstretches the concept of causality to say that X at an earlier time, continuing along through time without being changed, is the cause of itself at a later time?




Post 15

Sunday, February 11, 2007 - 10:32pmSanction this postReply
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====================
Ockham held that for X to properly be called the cause of Y, X must be a thing different than Y.
====================

Ockham was wrong on this. The 'efficient cause' of the oak tree -- the "how it comes to be" -- is the acorn; that same thing, through time (plus nourishing conditions).

Ed



Post 16

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 4:44amSanction this postReply
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Ed,

I fail to see how your example proves Ockham wrong. X = acorn. Y = oak tree.




Post 17

Monday, February 12, 2007 - 11:53amSanction this postReply
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Merlin,

X = acorn. Y = oak tree.
What I meant to say was: X = [potential oak tree]. Y = actual oak tree. Where "acorn" is "understood" to potentially be "that thing" that becomes an oak tree (given certain nourishing environmental conditions).

Looking into the acorn, and reading its genetic code, an astute observer will come to "know" just how it is that an oak tree comes to be. And knowing how something comes to be, is the same as understanding the efficient cause of that thing.

Ed





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