curi

Objectivist and Popperian Epistemology

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Ayn Rand has the best moral philosophy ever invented. Karl Popper has the most important breakthrough in epistemology. Most Objectivists seem to think that Popper and Rand are incompatible, and Popper is an enemy of reason. They have not understood him. These lists are intended to help explain my motivation for integrating Rand and Popper, and also to help highlight many similarities they already have.


Points Popperian epistemology and Objectivist epistemology have in common. In Popperian epistemology I include additions and improvements by David Deutsch and myself:


- opposition to subjectivism and relativism

- fallibilism

- says that objective knowledge is attainable (in practice by fallible humans)

- realism: says reality is objective

- connected to reality: we have to observe reality, keep our ideas connected to reality

- asserts there is objective truth

- attention to context ("problem situation" or sometimes "problem" is the common Popperian term meaning context. E.g. a Popperian will ask "What is the problem this is addressing?" and be asking about context.)

- pro-science

- opposition to positivism

- opposition to the language analysis school of philosophy

- say that most professional philosophers are rather crap

- opposition to both skeptical and authoritarian schools of epistemology

- keeps our concepts "open-end[ed]" (ITOE). That means: possible to improve in the future as we learn more.

- says that there are objective moral truths

- does not seek a "frozen, arrested state of knowledge" (ITOE)

- written clearly and understandably, unlike much philosophy

- says epistemology is useful and valuable to real people; it matters to life; it's practical

- you can't force an idea on someone. they can choose to accept it or not

- you can't implant an idea in someone. you can't pour it in, stick it in with surgery, make them absorb it, etc. they get to think, interpret, choose.

- free will

- people are not born with some unchangeable nature and innate ideas. we can be self-made men. we can learn, change, improve, progress

- emphasis on active use of one's mind, active learning

- no inherent conflicts due to objective truth

- understanding of unconscious and inexplicit ideas

- if two ideas contradict, at least one is false

- integration of epistemology with morality, politics, and more

- rejection of authority

- full rejection of idealism, solipsism

- strong emphasis on clarity

- rejection of limits on human minds

- reject probabilistic approaches to epistemology

- looks at man as rational and capable

- value of critical thinking including self-criticism



Strengths of Objectivist epistemology:

- stolen concept

- package deal

- check your premises

- ideas about integrating all one's knowledge and removing all contradictions

- measurement omission and concept formation ideas both worthwhile, though flawed

- good criticisms of many opponents of reason

- good understanding of essentials vs non-essentials, e.g. for definitions

- idea about automating some thinking

- good explanation of what objectivity is

- Judge, and be prepared to be judged



Strengths of Popperian epistemology:

- evolution creates knowledge

- conjectures and refutations method

- piecemeal, incremental method. value of every little improvement

- identification of, and solution to, justificationism

- addresses induction

- conjectural, fallible, objective knowledge

- idea that we progress from misconception to better misconception

- myth of the framework

- value of culture clash

- emphasis on bold highly-criticizable claims, sticking your neck out to learn more

- no shame in mistakes

- value of criticism. criticism is a gift

- understanding of rationality as being about error correction

- unimportance of starting points. you can start anywhere, improve from there

- criticism of definitions

- criticism of foundations, bases

- criticism of essentialism

- criticism of manifest truth (and self-evidence, obviousness, etc)

- static and dynamic memes

- structural epistemology

- coercion and common preferences

- understanding of conflict and symmetry

- applications to parenting, education, relationships

- understanding of tradition

- explanation of value of external criticism (if everyone has some blind spots, but some people have different blind spots then each other, then it's productive to share criticism with each other. a little like comparative advantage)

- emphasis on critical method, criticism (ideas stand unless refuted)

- let our ideas die in our stead



Some of you are now wondering about details. I know. But it's so much! Let's do it like this: if you are interested in one of the topics, ask about it and I can elaborate. If you would preference a reference to existing material on the topic, that's fine too.

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A listing of issues you claim are similar is irrelevant without identifying the differences, which are fundamental. I'd suggest searching The Forum, for Popper has been discussed here before.

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I'm aware of differences.

Can you provide one piece (here or anywhere) with an Objectivist refutation of Popper which you think is correct? So if I refute it, you will rethink things.

For example, one difference is induction. If you could provide any correct Objectivist answer to Popper's refutation of induction, that would be wonderful.

Yes I've already tried looking myself.

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Can you provide one piece (here or anywhere) with an Objectivist refutation of Popper which you think is correct? So if I refute it, you will rethink things.

For example, one difference is induction. If you could provide any correct Objectivist answer to Popper's refutation of induction, that would be wonderful.

Could you summarize the arguments made by Popper that (allegedly) refute induction?

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I don't think anyone has ever understood the topic well from a summary. Popper made numerous lengthy arguments and it's hard enough to understand if one reads them in full.

Further, there are many different variations of induction and you haven't specified which one you want a refutation for.

But, OK, starting at something like the beginning:

Induction says to generalize some less general ideas (possibly raw data, or grouped percepts, or lower level concepts) into a more general idea.

However, any input set of ideas (without internal contradictions) is logically compatible with infinitely many different more general ideas. So which one is to be picked? Induction doesn't understand and answer this problem (some failed attempts notwithstanding). So inductivists pick what to induce using intuition, common sense, or unconscious theories. That's not a good approach.

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I don't think anyone has ever understood the topic well from a summary. Popper made numerous lengthy arguments and it's hard enough to understand if one reads them in full.

That should be a tip-off that something is wrong with someone's argument. A true argument should be clear and unequivocal.

However, any input set of ideas (without internal contradictions) is logically compatible with infinitely many different more general ideas. So which one is to be picked? Induction doesn't understand and answer this problem (some failed attempts notwithstanding). So inductivists pick what to induce using intuition, common sense, or unconscious theories. That's not a good approach.

This is hard to follow since it only relates very abstract concepts to other abstract concepts and not to reality. As a result, that is not what most people mean by induction or the Problem of Induction which is something more specific and concrete.

Men generalize from particular observations. They see that all the people they have observed age and eventually die. They induce, or generalize, that "All men are mortal" -- but is this true? That is the Problem of Induction: How can you be certain that something that seems to be true of every observed member of a class actually is true of all members of the class?

If generalizing from particulars is not what Popper means by "induction," then he has refuted something other than induction, and his arguments are not relevant. If he does mean generalizing from particulars, why does he think it is an invalid process?

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Any set of particulars is logically consistent with infinitely many generalizations. How do you pick one? Why that one?

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I don't know anything about Popper except what you have described in your threads, so perhaps I am missing some context, but like Betsy, I am unsure how your statement indicates induction is invalid...

Any set of particulars is may be logically consistent with infinitely potentially many generalizations.

I edited the comment to remove any implication that omniscience was the standard of human consciousness. Which makes the following question moot...

How do you pick one? Why that one?

It doesn't matter.

In Betsy's inductive statement above, "Men are mortal," mortality is what has been observed, along with myriad other abstractions. That this specific abstraction has been isolated, reduced to sensory or axiomatic data and integrated into the full context of what we have already sensed about man is irrelevant to the process of doing so, and choosing to focus on it doesn't invalidate the process. Our certainty about the knowledge gained through this inductive process is always contextual: more context, more inductions, more integrations, more reductions to axioms equals more certainty, not less validity.

If this isn't the inductive process being refuted by Popper, please clarify.

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You're telling me induction means "pick one however you want, it doesn't matter"? That is not what induction means. And that would suffer from being arbitrary, wouldn't it?

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Any set of particulars is logically consistent with infinitely many generalizations. How do you pick one? Why that one?

You don't "pick one", and "infinitely many generalizations" are not "logically consistent" with "any set of particulars", except for those who think in terms of the arbitrary in floating abstractions.

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Any set of particulars is logically consistent with infinitely many generalizations. How do you pick one? Why that one?

Any set of particulars is logically consistent with infinitely many generalizations. How do you pick one? Why that one?

So the observation that all men who have ever lived have died is consistent with both of these generalizations? "All men are mortal." and "All men are immortal." "All desks are brown." "All generalizations make no sense."

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As a matter of logic, yes it's consistent with those four generalizations. You haven't said why you disagree, so I'll have to guess.

What does consistent mean? Non-contradictory.

All desks are brown is a kind of dumb idea but not contradicted by observations of men dying. Same with the last one, dumb idea but men dying observations don't contradict it.

All men are immortal is a dumb idea for various reasons, but is not contradicted by the evidence. You have not seen all men die. Even if we were very generous about what observations we gave you credit for, some men go off alone and aren't seen again. Maybe one found the fountain of youth and became immortal and has been living in a nearby cave ever since. Is this a good idea? No. Is this idea contradicted by the observations available to you? No. Nothing about observing most men dying logically rules it out.

You may have in mind what we might call indirect contradiction. Basically you take the evidence and run with it and think and come up with a bunch of ideas and then one of those ideas does the contradicting. That's different than the evidence doing the contradicting.

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Curi, using your own criticism of induction, how would you know that all sets of particulars are logically consistent with an infinite number of generalizations? Have you grasped an infinite number of them?(particulars and generalizations) If not how did you come to that conclusion? Certainly not by observing a number of instances and coming to that conclusion as that method is what you have been critical of.

I don't know how you can reconcile "all men are mortal" and "all men are immortal" as non-contradictory. How does lack of omniscience make A and non-A equivalent? Positing a fountain of youth hardly clears anything up and in fact injects unnecessary and arbitrary evidence.

I have not seen a superior approach to generating knowledge demonstrated yet, I would appreciate real world concrete examples.

Apologies in advance for any typos or mistakes, I wrote this hastily on a smartphone.

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The entire approach in his threads and posts flooding the Forum is wrong. Logic is non-contradictory identification, not playing with relationships between arbitrary ideas as floating abstractions that one may or may not conjure up in one's imagination. If someone thinks like a Popper, i.e., an infinity of 'non-contradictory' floating abstractions is fair game for what one "picks", then of course he has a big problem with induction. You can't even discuss the problem with someone whose psycho-epistemology works that way, let alone one who is on the hunt for converts while pronouncing that Ayn Rand has been "refuted" by it.

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Jason,

There are reasonably simple methods of creating an infinite sequence of compatible more general theories.

For example, say you have 5 apples and they are all rotten. This is logically consistent with "At least 20% of all bears have black fur." which is a somewhat general theory about bear fur colors, applying to all bears. There are many other examples we could use. How do you get from here to infinitely many theories? Change 20% to 20.01%, 20.011%, 20.0111%, and so on.

I don't know how you can reconcile "all men are mortal" and "all men are immortal" as non-contradictory

They contradict each other. But for any given data set you can make versions of both of these theories which don't contradict the data set. (E.g. by saying all the men who seemed to have died, actually their souls are still alive and they are reborn, and will be forever, and this is a type of immortality. That claim is logically compatible with the various observations of people dying.)

These points, like it or not, are a matter of logic. No matter how convoluted and unintuitive they seem, they remain true. A correct epistemology must not get refuted by them. Not getting refuted by logic like this is an important starting point to get anywhere in the field.

(Rand, btw, avoided being refuted by stuff like this by never claiming to have figured out a way to make induction work. Most philosophers aren't nearly that wise.)

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Nothing "gets refuted" by "stuff like this", certainly not Ayn Rand. Arbitrary concoctions of "infinite sequences" are not "theories". Arbitrary assertions like "at least 20% of all bears have black fur" is a not a "somewhat general theory" about "bear fur colors" or anything else, and are not "theories" at all. It is no wonder that those who think in such terms have such difficulty understanding induction and wind up denying it exists.

Ayn Rand did not "avoid being refuted" by "stuff like this", it is irrelevant. Ayn Rand knew very well that there is induction, but did not have and said she did not have a specific epistemological explanation of it in general as a matter of philosophy, just as she realized that there are concepts as a necessary part of human thinking before she could explain them philosophically. She started with facts, not floating abstractions and arbitrary "generation of infinite sequences" of babble. She said that it would take someone with a knowledge of both science and how its particular theoretical discoveries and formulations were made, in addition to her epistemology, to explain induction philosophically, not that there is no such thing as induction.

This is not the place to promote Popper or any other brand of modern philosophy antithetical to Objectivism. And neither is reasonable discussion of it in accordance with the purpose of the Forum possible by a promoter lacking understanding of Ayn Rand's philosophy.

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All men are immortal is a dumb idea for various reasons, but is not contradicted by the evidence. You have not seen all men die. Even if we were very generous about what observations we gave you credit for, some men go off alone and aren't seen again. Maybe one found the fountain of youth and became immortal and has been living in a nearby cave ever since. Is this a good idea? No. Is this idea contradicted by the observations available to you? No. Nothing about observing most men dying logically rules it out.

You may have in mind what we might call indirect contradiction. Basically you take the evidence and run with it and think and come up with a bunch of ideas and then one of those ideas does the contradicting. That's different than the evidence doing the contradicting.

Logic arises from the non contradictory concept; a thing cannot be and not be in the same instance. Logic derives from reality, but doesn't determine reality. One needs to be on guard about using the logic in an unrealistic way. For example, one can logically embrace the concept of infinity, but if you then try to look for infinity in reality, you are out of context. Neither can one look at equations on 'time' and run them backwards for time travel into the past in reality.

Context is everything. To induce that all men are mortal is within the context of man's knowledge. Fountains of youth are not knowledge but arbitrary speculation. One induces what one observes by the nature of what one observes. Induction has nothing to do with the unknown and arbitrary imaginings.

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So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic?

If these ideas are so dumb, then your epistemology ought to be able to easily deal with them. If it can't, that's a fault with your epistemology, not a fault with me for bringing up examples.

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So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic?

Hell no! I regard logic as a critical tool for understanding and dealing with reality. If logic isn't realistic, it isn't logic. It is merely a useless, arbitrary word game.

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So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic?

No one said that. Your premises are false. You play arbitrary word games with floating abstractions, then redefine it as "logic", then accuse anyone who rejects your rationalism as not "logical".

If these ideas are so dumb, then your epistemology ought to be able to easily deal with them. If it can't, that's a fault with your epistemology, not a fault with me for bringing up examples.

The fault is with your rationalism. It is easily dealt with, by rejecting it and that entire arbitrary manner of 'thinking' out of hand. Any attempt to "deal" with it by taking it seriously "for the sake of argument", pretend "epistemology", in the name of an "open mind", etc. is a futile waste of time. Cut it off at the root. We have seen all this before.

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So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic?

If these ideas are so dumb, then your epistemology ought to be able to easily deal with them. If it can't, that's a fault with your epistemology, not a fault with me for bringing up examples.

No, logic is a process of reasoning, but like any tool, it must be used appropriately. That means one must never lose sight of the reality it is grounded in. Unfortunately that happens, and we end up with rationalization rather than reason. Logic can be applied in unrealistic ways, by breaking the link to reality somewhere in the chain of reasoning. It's like mathematics, where an equation can end up with two logical results, but only one of them is realistic. The concept of negative numbers belongs to a system of reasoning, as does infinity, but the system is not the reality. A 'minus' entity is as irrational as an infinite entity. Truth lies in the identification of reality, not manipulating numbers that are out of context.

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So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic?

If these ideas are so dumb, then your epistemology ought to be able to easily deal with them. If it can't, that's a fault with your epistemology, not a fault with me for bringing up examples.

No, logic is a process of reasoning, but like any tool, it must be used appropriately...

Of course you didn't say that. It is not true that those who reject his rationalism are opposed to logic.

But you are talking to a stone wall. You aren't just arguing against false positions, but trying to communicate with someone who fundamentally thinks in terms of them. He has been evading questions and statements about his posts while he continues to ramble with pronouncements, false premises, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations like the one you just caught him on and rejected.

He has now started three threads here on the same topic, trying to flood the Forum with his promotions of ideas antithetical to Ayn Rand while he misrepresents her philosophy, which he does not understand. His mode of thinking couldn't be more different than Ayn Rand's, despite his buzz-work appeals to reason and logic.

It was clear from his first post consisting of a laundry list of out of context non-essentials containing vague rambling and misrepresentations of Ayn Rand that something was very wrong. But the subsequent pattern is so clear that it is worth knowing that looking him up reveals that he has been doing this all over the internet for years, with no improvement. This most recently includes the exact same posts he has just put here posted simultaneously on multiple forums elsewhere and on his own web sites. This is a campaign, not the kind of discussion he has pretended to seek here.

He is not here for discussion of Ayn Rand in accordance with the purpose of the Forum, he is an eclectic with a cause of his own who has partly plagiarized Ayn Rand and mostly misrepresented and trashed her and other Objectivists for not following his obsession to munge Ayn Rand with Karl Popper, which he calls the 'most important goal in philosophy today'. He is also a programmer, not a philosopher, but that is less important.

All this while misrepresenting himself across the internet as an "expert on Ayn Rand". Despite his claims, he has no credibility and is of no importance. Serious attempts elsewhere to correct his misstatements about Ayn Rand's ideas have resulted only in his personally trashing people by name later as "ignorant", "stupid", "irrational", etc. under the guise that he had personal discussions and knowledge of them. There is more, but that is enough for now. He does not warrant the benefit of the doubt. You take him and his pronouncements seriously at your own peril.

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So you actually reject logic in general, and only accept logic you consider "realistic"? Your common sense intuition is prior to logic?

If these ideas are so dumb, then your epistemology ought to be able to easily deal with them. If it can't, that's a fault with your epistemology, not a fault with me for bringing up examples.

No, logic is a process of reasoning, but like any tool, it must be used appropriately...

Of course you didn't say that. It is not true that those who reject his rationalism are opposed to logic.

But you are talking to a stone wall. You aren't just arguing against false positions, but trying to communicate with someone who fundamentally thinks in terms of them. He has been evading questions and statements about his posts while he continues to ramble with pronouncements, false premises, misunderstandings, and misrepresentations like the one you just caught him on and rejected.

He has now started three threads here on the same topic, trying to flood the Forum with his promotions of ideas antithetical to Ayn Rand while he misrepresents her philosophy, which he does not understand. His mode of thinking couldn't be more different than Ayn Rand's, despite his buzz-work appeals to reason and logic.

It was clear from his first post consisting of a laundry list of out of context non-essentials containing vague rambling and misrepresentations of Ayn Rand that something was very wrong. But the subsequent pattern is so clear that it is worth knowing that looking him up reveals that he has been doing this all over the internet for years, with no improvement. This most recently includes the exact same posts he has just put here posted simultaneously on multiple forums elsewhere and on his own web sites. This is a campaign, not the kind of discussion he has pretended to seek here.

He is not here for discussion of Ayn Rand in accordance with the purpose of the Forum, he is an eclectic with a cause of his own who has partly plagiarized Ayn Rand and mostly misrepresented and trashed her and other Objectivists for not following his obsession to munge Ayn Rand with Karl Popper, which he calls the 'most important goal in philosophy today'. He is also a programmer, not a philosopher, but that is less important.

All this while misrepresenting himself across the internet as an "expert on Ayn Rand". Despite his claims, he has no credibility and is of no importance. Serious attempts elsewhere to correct his misstatements about Ayn Rand's ideas have resulted only in his personally trashing people by name later as "ignorant", "stupid", "irrational", etc. under the guise that he had personal discussions and knowledge of them. There is more, but that is enough for now. He does not warrant the benefit of the doubt. You take him and his pronouncements seriously at your own peril.

I agree with your conclusions and your observations of his method of presenting of ideas. His flood of posts indicate that he is not here to discuss his ideas or discuss Rand's ideas in relation to his his assertions. Who is he and what is his website? What does "across the internet" mean?

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I think you're wrongly accusing curi of being malicious and trashing Ayn Rand. He likes Ayn Rand and he always defended her fiercly. He calls on people when they misunderstand Ayn Rand. He helps people understand her work.

I probably would not have known about Ayn Rand (and be trapped forever in leftist nonsense) if not for curi. I also managed to start sorting anger issues by reading his stuff.

Can I suggest you try to be more positive in your interpretation of him?

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