Judge my Answer

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Ignore all formatting. I don't know the source, but everything I post to this message, interrupts the basic format - spaces, fonts, etc. I don't get it but want to convey this idea.

The Beginning, Hey, A big request you may reasonably ignore because it will take a lot of time to answer with reason. I answered a bad post from a Philosophy Forum and wondered if I got it right.

The copy from the other site is causing me all kinds of problems in transfer to our site, so I hope you will forgive the bad formatting and look to the link above as the origin of this post which I try to answer below. Look at my answer and tear it apart so I might learn.

He asked a question about the primacy of analytic truths on a Philosophy Forum and I couldn't resist. He sounded like a new student, with a good mind, who was confused by the system at his University. The only benefit I could receive is to have people, more knowledgable than me about Objectivism, comment on my response. The original post is linked above and my response is below. Please tear me apart in the response. I need to confirm what I believe is my understanding of Aristotilian metaphysics; add Objectivist corrections too. I am a student, Thanks, Jack

The original post asked how analytic truths had any validity if they were based on definitions. The old idea of, it only answers itself, if it involves only senses and not reason, and, therefore, doesn't reveal knowledge.


Below is my answer. The gaps are an attempt to give structure to the different fonts and spaces. This program seems to have a mind of it's own and I can't figure it out.


Above is the introduction and below is the answer I gave to the poster. I hope you can figure it all out. This is weird but may be worth it if you read my response.


Yes, but how did the definition's originator figure it out? What is the human origin of any of the Analytic Truths you describe.

The same way you did as a child. You made the abstraction (recognizing from your senses, the similarities and ignored the differences) involving - dog, cat, bat, beetle, and man - you decided, animal; you induced a concept. You added cattail, sponge, bacteria and induced the "living stuff "concept. You then took the "living stuff" concept you induced from several independent investigations and noticed thru your senses that they all die. You then Deduced man is mortal.

You have reasoned thru induction and deduction the facts of reality and you have gone back and forth all your life. Aristotle liked to say, (this is a re-statement) I don't know all of the how or why it works the way it does, but it is a fact you know because you can think yourself doing it - Some axioms are purely empirical and others are purely reason-based. In either case, you know it is true from experience. (There may be an error in this statement.)

You now have been taught to take the subset of characteristics that are defining to each entity you think about and call them "Analytic." Defining means charateristics that, in total and no more, combined, distinguish each entity. This almost always requires two terms, a genus and a species or differentia. That is a character that identifies the class and then a character that is specific to the entity being defined. It's important to not be too specific and not too general. Reason is an acquired skill. Can you see that you might pick a character that was not essential, but based on a more basic character - the more basic character may be more appropriate in the context of your definition.

After you determine this definition, you note that it doesn't tell you all of the characteristcs of the entity and you list all the other things that are true of your subject. The characteristics that are not part of the definition are still true of the entity if you were careful, but they are not defining and are called "Synthetic."

That's called the Analytic/Synthetic Dichotomy and now my post becomes what most would call opinion, because many thinkers disagree. They say that Analytic truths are true because of the evidence of your senses and Synthetic truths require reason - Aristotle says, so what. Then you get two groups of thinkers. Empiricists want to invalidate your reason in favor of you senses and Rationalists want to invalidate your senses in favor of your reason. This crap has been going on since before Christ, back to the ancient greeks. The amazing truth is that we're still debating it.

The difference between these Analytic and Synthetic identities is, to me, a lack of recognition of the method of human reason. The characteristics of entities exist independent of our consciousness. Humans make sense of the world by sensing reality, but they are also able to recognize similarities among entities and to ignore the differences - and in doing so, the process of abstraction - they can think in concepts. At some point these concepts can be used to retrace, by deduction and additional sense data, the process you used to arrive at the meaning of the original concept. If you were inconsistent, you'll see it unless it requires a characteristic that is yet to be discovered - you then hold on to your knowledge and continue searching and thinking until you arrive at a logically provable conclusion. The best system that evolution has yet found; except, that this system, does not guarantee that humans can perceive it. And so, we've been arguing about it for about 2612 years.

Concepts or particulars based on defining charateristics are called definitions and that is Analytic. Concepts or especially particulars true of entities, but not defining, are Synthetic. All are true if you don't screw it up and there is no epistemelogical reason to treat them differently, but many philosophers have used the fact that there is an inconsequential reason to treat them differently metaphysically.

Now think for yourself. Good luck and remember, if you are a student, spit back the crap you hear to get an "A." When you're done, start your investigation of reality.

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It's hard to follow, especially not knowing the context of the person it is addressed to. There is no such thing as a "primacy of analytic truth" so to tell someone how to get one is hopeless from the start. There is only truth as correspondence between statements and reality.

The first thing I would have done is to recommend Leonard Peikoff's article on the fallacy of the analytic synthetic dichotomy, in IOE, with a few comments to tie it to what he had written rather than try to condense a full explanation that would most likely be floating abstractions for someone not already familiar with the process. Explanation is integration with what someone already knows. If the ASD article is too much, he can go back and read about concepts first, which is probably what he needs.


The formatting by the forum software has a 'mind' of it's own trying to force formatting you don't want. Try toggling the upper left format icon for BB code mode to get more control. Experiment with the other formatting icons such as those controlling 'font' and 'size' to see what codes they correspond to. Sometimes to skip a line you have to use blank spaces, and inserting a LF in the 'wrong' place can have drastic effects that are unrecoverable in WYSIWYG mode. You have to toggle to BB code mode and correct the directives.


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