Brian Smith

On-Topic and Off-Topic Issues

418 posts in this topic

Again, I ask: Truth is dependent on whose consciousness? Answer this question directly.
Since the answer I already provided in the context of my "Napoleon" example doesn't seem to have been grasped, I am happy to try to clarify that answer.

Because truth is a consciousness' recognition of reality, then "truth is dependent on" that consciousness which is attempting to recognize reality.

So, the existence of this messageboard, THE FORUM, is not a truth unless someone, somewhere makes a statement saying "THE FORUM is a messageboard."?

Now that I have provided that clarification, perhaps you will be kind enough to return the courtesy and answer the question I asked you in my "Napoleon" response to your question.

I assume you are talking about post 245. Since you did not address the question to me, I did not - and do not - recognize it as a response. Kindly restate your response in the context of the post you were referring to. Here on THE FORUM, we believe in keeping context.

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So, the existence of this messageboard, THE FORUM, is not a truth unless someone, somewhere makes a statement saying "THE FORUM is a messageboard."?
Since I identified the Objectivist definition of 'truth' and you seem intent on disputing it, at this point I can only make the recommendation of reading ItOE or OPAR (specifically the selections on knowledge, truth, logic and reason). A forum is not a venue in which one can teach Objectivist epistemology.

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Again, I ask: Truth is dependent on whose consciousness? Answer this question directly.
Since the answer I already provided in the context of my "Napoleon" example doesn't seem to have been grasped, I am happy to try to clarify that answer.

Because truth is a consciousness' recognition of reality, then "truth is dependent on" that consciousness which is attempting to recognize reality.

So, the existence of this messageboard, THE FORUM, is not a truth unless someone, somewhere makes a statement saying "THE FORUM is a messageboard."?

Truth is the relation between consciousness and reality in which an assertion corresponds to the facts. Truth is therefore dependent on both existence and consciousness in a particular relation, viz., consciousness corresponding to facts. The consciousness is any that grasps the particular thought in question. There cannot be a statement without some consciousness having formulated it or understanding it, or without a reality to be conscious of. The existence of the Forum is a fact independent of anyone's recognition of it; the statement that it exists is true, which concept depends on an objective relationship between both consciousness and existence. (Of course the Forum is man made and required a consciousness to create it, but that is another matter.)

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All the back-and-forth so far has only served to confuse me and, I suspect surveying the wild topic drift and a landscape littered with dead crows, many other posters as well.

One consequence was that this post of mine got lost in a flurry of other postings. It's important so I'm reposting it to give Brian a chance to clarify his actual position rather than having it further misunderstood.

Just to make sure I understand you correctly, Brian, how would you fill in the blanks?

If the premises of an argument are true and the argument is logically valid, then the conclusion is _______.

If the premises are not true, then the conclusion is ______.

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is ______.

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One consequence was that this post of mine got lost in a flurry of other postings. It's important so I'm reposting it to give Brian a chance to clarify his actual position rather than having it further misunderstood.
Just to make sure I understand you correctly, Brian, how would you fill in the blanks?

If the premises of an argument are true and the argument is logically valid, then the conclusion is _______.

If the premises are not true, then the conclusion is ______.

If the argument is not logically valid, then the conclusion is ______.

1. true

2. could be either true or false

3. could be either true or false

It is possible to give a bad argument for a statement that is true despite that. Regardless of the validity of an argument for it, if a statement is meaningful, i.e., it is an actual statement, then it is either true of false, which is the Law of the Excluded Middle.

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So, the existence of this messageboard, THE FORUM, is not a truth unless someone, somewhere makes a statement saying "THE FORUM is a messageboard."?
Since I identified the Objectivist definition of 'truth' and you seem intent on disputing it, at this point I can only make the recommendation of reading ItOE or OPAR (specifically the selections on knowledge, truth, logic and reason).

You identified nothing. Notice also that your "response" is a type of Argument from Intimidation:

Let me emphasize that the Argument from Intimidation does not consist of introducing moral judgment into intellectual issues, but of substituting moral judgment for intellectual argument. Moral evaluations are implicit in most intellectual issues; it is not merely permissible, but mandatory to pass moral judgment when and where appropriate; to suppress such judgment is an act of moral cowardice. But a moral judgment must always follow, not precede (or supersede), the reasons on which it is based.
A forum is not a venue in which one can teach Objectivist epistemology.

One can only teach what one grasps.

In any case, since you say you have studied Objectivism, I am sure you are familiar with Dr. Peikoff's words here:

The true is identified by reference to a body of evidence; it is pronounced "true" because it can be integrated without contradiction into a total context. The false is identified by the same means; it is pronounced "false" because it contradicts the evidence and/or some aspect of the wider context.
Thus one can disprove a claim...but only by demonstrating that the claim contradicts established knowledge; i.e., only by relating the claim to a positive cognitive context, when this is available.

[Emphases added.]

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Again, I ask: Truth is dependent on whose consciousness? Answer this question directly.
Since the answer I already provided in the context of my "Napoleon" example doesn't seem to have been grasped, I am happy to try to clarify that answer.

Because truth is a consciousness' recognition of reality, then "truth is dependent on" that consciousness which is attempting to recognize reality.

So, the existence of this messageboard, THE FORUM, is not a truth unless someone, somewhere makes a statement saying "THE FORUM is a messageboard."?

Truth is the relation between consciousness and reality in which an assertion corresponds to the facts. Truth is therefore dependent on both existence and consciousness in a particular relation, viz., consciousness corresponding to facts. The consciousness is any that grasps the particular thought in question. There cannot be a statement without some consciousness having formulated it or understanding it, or without a reality to be conscious of. The existence of the Forum is a fact independent of anyone's recognition of it; the statement that it exists is true, which concept depends on an objective relationship between both consciousness and existence. (Of course the Forum is man made and required a consciousness to create it, but that is another matter.)

I am well aware of the Objectivist formulations in this regard. Yes, truth is dependent on both existence and consciousness; but even here there is the matter of primacy, and I maintain truth is primarily dependent on existence and only secondarily on consciousness.

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One consequence was that this post of mine got lost in a flurry of other postings.
No. It did not get lost. I purposefully refrained from answering it based on the issues raised in this post:
Thus, if the argument which is the evidence for a conclusion has been identified as invalid, then that leaves the conclusion without evidence - ie one is left only with the idea. Its connection to reality is severed. Until and unless other evidence is provided for that conclusion, it is simply an arbitrary idea.
I disagree. The evidence for a conclusion is contained in the premises and not in the form of the argument.
What is it you believe establishes the relationship between the premises? What is it you believe establishes the relationship between the premises and the conclusion? It is the evidence of logic which establishes that relationship (evidence which can be reduced to the evidence of the senses - ie to Identity).

As such, on what basis do you make the claim that the evidence for a conclusion is just in the premises?.

My answer to your 'fill-in-the-blanks' query is predicated on a view of the nature of evidence, proof, and logic which (given your above comments and its preceding post about 'invalid arguments proving a conclusion') you seem to oppose. Since these are views which establish the foundation for and inform any answer to your question, I was therefore waiting for you to answer the questions I asked above before even considering moving onto subsequent issues like the ones about which you ask. In other words, the more fundamental questions I asked need to be answered before we can rationally proceed to your questions.

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You identified nothing.
It is unfortunate my statement of the Objectivist definition of truth went unrecognized as such. It is just as unfortunate that you have chosen to identify its statement as the identification of "nothing".

Given the nature of that and your other, similar accusations, I see no reason to continue the discussion with you. I will simply stand by my recommendation about ItOE and OPAR.

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Oh - and since it is a perfect example of the error I explained HERE, I would simply like to point out that Mercury's accusation:

Notice also that your "response" is a type of Argument from Intimidation:
Let me emphasize that the Argument from Intimidation does not consist of introducing moral judgment into intellectual issues, but of substituting moral judgment for intellectual argument. Moral evaluations are implicit in most intellectual issues; it is not merely permissible, but mandatory to pass moral judgment when and where appropriate; to suppress such judgment is an act of moral cowardice. But a moral judgment must always follow, not precede (or supersede), the reasons on which it is based.
is obviously false. A claim that one lacks specific knowledge is not a "moral judgment". That it is viewed to be one is, as I have previously identified, a major problem here.

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I am well aware of the Objectivist formulations in this regard. Yes, truth is dependent on both existence and consciousness; but even here there is the matter of primacy, and I maintain truth is primarily dependent on existence and only secondarily on consciousness.

Once you have a statement and know what it means, including the full context, its truth depends only on the facts -- that is the sole criterion, that's where you go to look to see if it's true -- it is or it isn't depending on whether or not it corresponds to them. But the concept of truth itself pertains to statements and not solely to facts; truth is a relation between consciousness and existence -- it is objective, pertaining to both existence and consciousness, not intrinsic. That is how you answer the question of how truth is, in part, dependent on consciousness. I don't think Brian ever gave a definition of truth or a direct statement of the Objectivist theory of truth -- truth is a correspondence between an assertion and the facts, not a "consciousness' recognition of reality" -- to clarify what he meant but he did say:

nlike existence, truth is dependent upon consciousness (upon that which you were asking about in the context of identifying truth). In other words, truth is neither intrinsic (apart from consciousness) nor subjective (apart from existence). Truth is objective. It is a relationship between consciousness and existence. It is "dependent" upon both.

Has anyone here claimed otherwise?

But I agree with what I think Mercury is saying, namely, that in accordance with the Law of the Excluded Middle a meaningful statement is either true or false, whether or not anyone knows which and with no third category, and that this is distinct from the nature and cognitive status of arguments for the truth of a statement by means which may be invalid or entirely arbitrary.

If someone makes a logically arbitrary but otherwise meaningful assertion it is still either true or false, corresponding to the facts of reality or not whether or not you can verify which, but as arbitrarily asserted it has zero cognitive worth as an argument for any plausibility whatsoever and, in the context of argument for serious consideration, should be dismissed out of hand, not regarded somehow as "possible", because no evidence of even a possible truth has been given. You are still at ground zero as if nothing had been said. It is still true or false, but so what? There are all kinds of possible assertions that are either true or false with no reason to take them seriously as "possibly" true. The onus of proof for any consideration whatsoever is on he who asserts the positive. The "arbitrary" pertains to the cognitive status for serious consideration, not a third category along with true or false. That a meaningfull statement is either true or false is not evidence for the possibility or impossibility of either one, and in that sense it is to be dismissed as "arbitrary".

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As I understand it, some are saying that the form of a person's argument is irrelevant to whether the conclusions are valid (or right, or true, or correct--any form you use as a standard), and that one need only check the facts of reality in judging a particular statement. By this standard of argument, it is said that who is making an argument (or statement) isn't important, and that it is off topic to discuss anything but the ideas expressed. At least, this is the gist of what I've gotten from the many different posts.

Is it true that the form of an argument (or statement), and what the form tells you about how that person came to the conclusions in his argument, is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of the conclusion?

-----------------

Let me give you my thoughts on this subject, as I understand it (as presented in Dr. Peikoff's course Introduction to Logic, and Joseph's book An Introduction to Logic).

As Joseph put it, logic studies the general principles by which rational people think about things. Logic does not make people rational if they have no rationality; logic teaches people what rationality consists of, what process rationality uses. It would be impossible to teach logic to an entity that did not have rationality. This is a significant reason why it is impossible to move irrational people by a logical argument. It is like describing the color green to a color blind person. Objectivism identifies that rationality is volitional, so until an individual chooses to be rational, all the logical arguing in the world will most likely fall on deaf ears.

A syllogism is one type of argument. It "is actually an argument in which, from the given relation of two terms, in the way of subject and predicate, to the same third term, there follows necessarily a relation, in the way of subject and predicate, between those two terms themselves." (Joseph, p249) The general form is: All S is M; All M is P; therefore All S is P. "M" is the third term relating the subject and predicate in the conclusion. Any argument with that form is a syllogism, subject to rules and fallacies (valid legitimate reasoning and invalid faulty reasoning, respectively). It is true that the syllogism will not indicate the truth or falsehood of the conclusion or the premises. There are some forms of arguments where both premises may be true and no conclusion follows as a result of the form of the argument. The form of the argument tells you whether a rational process was used.

The truth of each premise and the conclusion must be established by means outside the syllogism. From my notes of Dr. Peikoff's course: "Proof is the process of deriving conclusions from antecedently know truths by reference to a logical process." "The direct evidence of the senses is the final premise that needs to be checked." The arbitrary is that which is put forth without proof (not a conclusion which does not follow from premises).

Thus, I am in agreement with Betsy that it is off-topic to change the subject from what is under discussion to one of logic within that thread because, as you can see within in this thread, discussions of what is logical or not can get far beyond what anyone intends. So, the best way to discuss the logic of an argument (if one intends to go into any significant detail) within a thread is to simply start a new thread with the logic of the argument as its subject. This is quite easy to accomplish and I just don't see what the controversy is all about.

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------------------

But I agree with what I think Mercury is saying, namely, that in accordance with the Law of the Excluded Middle a meaningful statement is either true or false, whether or not anyone knows which and with no third category, and that this is distinct from the nature and cognitive status of arguments for the truth of a statement by means which may be invalid or entirely arbitrary.

If someone makes a logically arbitrary but otherwise meaningful assertion it is still either true or false, corresponding to the facts of reality or not whether or not you can verify which, but as arbitrarily asserted it has zero cognitive worth as an argument for any plausibility whatsoever and, in the context of argument for serious consideration, should be dismissed out of hand, not regarded somehow as "possible", because no evidence of even a possible truth has been given. You are still at ground zero as if nothing had been said. It is still true or false, but so what? There are all kinds of possible assertions that are either true or false with no reason to take them seriously as "possibly" true. The onus of proof for any consideration whatsoever is on he who asserts the positive. The "arbitrary" pertains to the cognitive status for serious consideration, not a third category along with true or false. That a meaningfull statement is either true or false is not evidence for the possibility or impossibility of either one, and in that sense it is to be dismissed as "arbitrary".

You make excellent points here, ewv. I agree with what you've stated.

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Thus, I am in agreement with Betsy that it is off-topic to change the subject from what is under discussion to one of logic within that thread because, as you can see within in this thread, discussions of what is logical or not can get far beyond what anyone intends. So, the best way to discuss the logic of an argument (if one intends to go into any significant detail) within a thread is to simply start a new thread with the logic of the argument as its subject. This is quite easy to accomplish and I just don't see what the controversy is all about.

I think Paul has made a good suggestion. Should a thread require extensive discussion of a side topic, I second his suggestion to open a separate thread. Suitable side topics might include detailed discussion of particular facts in a premise, or taking a discussion to a more fundamental philosophical level (e.g., taking a discussion of choosing between two political candidates to the issue of whether individual rights are practical).

I would also consider discussions of methodological criticisms side issues.

Also, one may wish to add a link in the initial thread to the thread discussing the side topic.

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Thus, I am in agreement with Betsy that it is off-topic to change the subject from what is under discussion to one of logic within that thread because, as you can see within in this thread, discussions of what is logical or not can get far beyond what anyone intends. So, the best way to discuss the logic of an argument (if one intends to go into any significant detail) within a thread is to simply start a new thread with the logic of the argument as its subject. This is quite easy to accomplish and I just don't see what the controversy is all about.

I think Paul has made a good suggestion. Should a thread require extensive discussion of a side topic, I second his suggestion to open a separate thread. Suitable side topics might include detailed discussion of particular facts in a premise, or taking a discussion to a more fundamental philosophical level (e.g., taking a discussion of choosing between two political candidates to the issue of whether individual rights are practical).

I would also consider discussions of methodological criticisms side issues.

Also, one may wish to add a link in the initial thread to the thread discussing the side topic.

Thanks for the support Ed. I've suggested that maybe two or three times already in this thread, and I have yet to receive any comment about it by those who still want to start arguing about logic within the thread under discussion.

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All the back-and-forth so far has only served to confuse me and, I suspect surveying the wild topic drift and a landscape littered with dead crows, many other posters as well.

Dead crows describes my epistemological state very well. It is why I keep trying to find the essence of what this argument is about. Trying to find some kind of coherence in all of the discrete statements has become almost impossible for me.

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Should a thread require extensive discussion of a side topic, I second his suggestion to open a separate thread.
But what properly qualifies as a 'side' topic (ie what is "off topic") is precisely what is in dispute here. Therefore the suggestion that side topics be opened in separate threads does nothing to address this issue let alone serve to resolve it.

The claim under dispute here is that the logic of an argument is 'off' topic. The claim is that one can rationally discuss whether an idea is true or not without identifying and validating the logic used to connect the ideas to one another and to reality.

On what basis is it claimed one can continue a discussion about the validity of an idea if the logic used to support that idea is in question? One would not rationally claim this about the other facts used in the argument, so why is the claim made when it comes to the facts of the logic used in the argument?

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But I agree with what I think Mercury is saying, namely, that in accordance with the Law of the Excluded Middle a meaningful statement is either true or false, whether or not anyone knows which and with no third category, and that this is distinct from the nature and cognitive status of arguments for the truth of a statement by means which may be invalid or entirely arbitrary.

If someone makes a logically arbitrary but otherwise meaningful assertion it is still either true or false, corresponding to the facts of reality or not whether or not you can verify which, but as arbitrarily asserted it has zero cognitive worth as an argument for any plausibility whatsoever and, in the context of argument for serious consideration, should be dismissed out of hand, not regarded somehow as "possible", because no evidence of even a possible truth has been given. You are still at ground zero as if nothing had been said. It is still true or false, but so what? There are all kinds of possible assertions that are either true or false with no reason to take them seriously as "possibly" true. The onus of proof for any consideration whatsoever is on he who asserts the positive. The "arbitrary" pertains to the cognitive status for serious consideration, not a third category along with true or false. That a meaningfull statement is either true or false is not evidence for the possibility or impossibility of either one, and in that sense it is to be dismissed as "arbitrary".

Yes, that is what I am saying. Your words go right to the heart of the matter.

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It cannot be automatically assumed that pointing out some fallacy instantly discredits the conclusion. That expectation is indeed an ad hominem. It's not always clear how a person reached a certain conclusion as well; so assuming certain premises and certain deductive chains in a person that lead to a conclusion you as a debater disagree with, is likewise mind-reading.

I do not understand this statement. How does pointing out a fallacy within an argument, whether it discredits the conclusion or not, amount to an ad hominem?

The basic point is, it's fine to understand and notice fallacies. But more so, let's talk about the facts of the matter; and let's not emphasize the person's faulty processes, because oftentimes you actually have no idea what they are, and instead emphasize the conclusions they reached.

Compare "you are not thinking this properly" to "the facts are different here".

I agree that the focus of one's questions about a particular statement can certainly make a difference in how the questions are received. If one's purpose is to learn or to persuade, keeping the discussion within the bounds of polite and respectful expression is very important. Discussions can get heated enough without personal epitaths being tossed in with this or that point. But what I'm not understanding is how a fallacy does not rise to the level of being a fact of reality, along with all the rest of the facts. I understand that it isn't the focus of a discussion, that would rightly be the subject being discussed. But we often have a difficult enough time understanding what each other is saying--and what they mean by what they are saying--and it seems to me that I am being asked to ignore something that may very well be crucial to coming to an understanding.

Overly emphasizing the (perceived) process, and the person saying it, can indeed be very offensive. NOTE, not that it's improper to be offensive either; but on a Forum like this where benevolence is the law of the land, it's certainly improper, even if the offense was only in the eye of the beholder and not intended by the speaker [bold emphasis added].

Once again, I agree that it is important to stay focused on the subject being discussed. But the subject is being discussed by people. People are giving their opinions. If they are here, I assume that they are putting those opinions out there for the purposes of discussion, not merely making flat statements expecting automatic agreement.

It is because man is neither infallible nor omniscient, and, especially because knowledge is contextual, that I engage in discussions with others. I may very well have made an error in my thinking because my knowledge is limited, something that another person with more, or different, knowledge can point out to me. But benevolence is a two way street, requiring both parties to show respect for each other's mind. With this in mind, I don't easily take offense because something I've said is under contention. Unless I have ample and overt evidence that I'm being personally attacked and insulted, I give the benefit of the doubt to the speaker, recognizing that some people have a way of speaking that can be off-putting. I try to focus on what is being said, not how it is being said. I think this is especially important in a context where all we have to go on are another's written words. It sometimes takes a special effort, which I'm not always in the mood to make, in which case, I don't engage.

The part I emphasized in your statement above, however, seems to say that I'm supposed to consider the fact that no matter how careful I am in framing my point, I have behaved improperly if someone takes exception and feels insulted--"even if the offense was only in the eye of the beholder and not intended by the speaker." With this onus, how is anyone to feel comfortable saying anything? I don't mind making my meaning clear if someone has misunderstood me, but I could never enter a discussion knowing that any perceived insult by any one involved means that I am behaving improperly.

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...in accordance with the Law of the Excluded Middle a meaningful statement is either true or false... with no third category
First, I have to seriously dispute your assertion about the Law of Excluded Middle. The Law of Excluded Middle states everything is either A or non-A at a given time and in a given respect. For example a man is either a genius or he is not (at a given time and in a given respect). What the Law does NOT however state is that everything is either A or B. It does not state "A man is either a genius or an idiot." That, as I have indicated in other posts, would be a False Alternative. No. The Law says a man is either a genius or he is not a genius. And the category of non-genius includes all men in the above average intelligence category, the average intelligence category, the below average intelligence category, and the idiots category.

Thus the attempt to claim that the Law of Excluded Middle somehow prohibits multiple categories for the non-A is simply false. In other words, the Law does not state that an idea must be "either true or false". Again, that is a False Alternative. The Law simply states an idea must either be 'true' or 'not-true'. As such, it does absolutely nothing to exclude 'arbitrary' from the category of 'not-true'.

If someone makes a logically arbitrary but otherwise meaningful assertion it is still either true or false...
An assertion can be "logically arbitrary" and true or false? The meaning of the terms used here REALLY need to be identified. For instance, what is a "logically arbitrary" assertion and what distinguishes such an assertion from an 'ordinary' arbitrary assertion? What is truth and how can an assertion be both true -and- "logically arbitrary"?

There are plenty more to explain but that would be a good start.

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Oh - and this needs to be pointed out as well:

I don't think Brian ever gave a definition of truth or a direct statement of the Objectivist theory of truth -- truth is a correspondence between an assertion and the facts, not a "consciousness' recognition of reality"
I actually did give a definition of truth - the one identified by Miss Rand herself. As she stated on numerous occasions, (including in PWNI) "Truth is the recognition of reality" (in my statement I simply explicitly identified the thing doing the 'recognizing' - ie consciousness). So ewv's assertion that "truth is...not a "consciousness' recognition of reality"" contradicts the Objectivist definition of truth.

Not only that but, in "Letters to A Philosopher" (in LoAR) Miss Rand has a passage which reads as if it were written almost directly in response to ewv as a rebuttal to his assertions:

You object to my definition "Truth is the recognition of reality," and you say: "No—for truth may not be recognized .... There are truths even when nobody knows them and nobody recognizes them. Many things are true about the world which nobody yet knows." Aren't you confusing "truth" with "facts"? "Truth" is a concept that refers to epistemology, not to metaphysics; to consciousness, not to existence or reality. "Facts" cannot be "true" or "false"; facts are ("existence exists"). "Facts" are the standard of truth or falsehood; it is by means of "facts" that we determine whether an idea of ours is true or false. "Truth" is the attribute of an idea in somebody's consciousness (the relationship of that idea to the facts of reality) and it cannot exist apart from a consciousness. You say: "There are truths even when nobody knows them and nobody recognizes them." No, there are "facts" even when nobody knows them and nobody recognizes them; these "facts" are potentially the material of truths; the recognition of these "facts" by some human consciousness constitutes "truths." You say: "Many things are true about the world which nobody yet knows." Isn't this a colloquial, verbal foreshortening, which is inexact? To be exact philosophically, one would have to say: "Many facts exist in the world, which nobody yet knows, and when somebody discovers them, he will be able to form many true ideas which nobody can form at present."

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Is it true that the form of an argument (or statement), and what the form tells you about how that person came to the conclusions in his argument, is irrelevant to the truth or falsehood of the conclusion?

Yes, it is true. The conclusion in reality (existence) differs from the conclusion as held by the argument-presenter in his own mind (consciousness). That an idea is improperly integrated or presented has no bearing on the truth of the idea. As you very well know, existence exists independent of consciousness.

Truth or falsehood does not apply to existence. Existence is the standard of truth or falsehood for a conceptual consciousness and would never come up in any other context. If a person has failed somewhere in his logic, i.e., has failed to integrate perceived facts without contradiction with the rest of his knowledge, then he has committed a mistake that will give him trouble to one degree or another down the line.

As for the quarreling, I find no real difference between Brian's insistence that others conform to his standards for discussion, and those who demand that Brian conform to theirs. Yes, I know that it involves more (in particular, objective rules for discussion on the FORUM), but because of the personalities involved, people have become frustrated, angry, and sarcastic in presenting their arguments.
I don't mean to be rude or unkind - I generally think highly of you - but your first sentence here is unfortunate, and your second veers dangerously close to ad hominem (if isn't in fact ad hominem).

My first statement is my own evaluation of the essence of the disagreement. You do not say why you find it unfortunate, but I'll try to explain. Brian has his standards for conducting a discussion. I have no problems with his standards, though I think that the way he presents his arguments can be off-putting, and obviously leaves some people feeling personally attacked. Others have different standards for a discussion which do not include a meticulous adherence to formal logic, but rather focuses on the general politeness towards others within a discussion. There has not been any concession of one side to the other. I think both sides have something valid to say about the way discussions are conducted. The point, to me, is to find an objective way to define the rule. If it goes strictly by the way someone feels when challenged, then there is no way to define any objective rule. If the demand is for a strict and formal logical construction, then I, for one, am left out because I don't have the necessary knowledge. Aside from that fact, there comes a point where a focus on structure can become nothing more than argument for argument's sake, and feels very much as though it is being used to pound an opponent into the ground. Nothing is gained by this. That is, if the purpose of a discussion is to either learn something new, or to persuade another to one's thinking, and focusing on logical structure isn't accomplishing the goal, but rather defeating the purpose, then another approach is required. This doesn't mean that one ignores logic, but that one doesn't make an issue of it to the point that the purpose of the discussion flies out of the window.

As for my second sentence: I have attacked no one. I have assiduously confined myself to general statements. It is a fact of human nature, however, that different personalities sometimes rub each other the wrong way. This isn't casting aspersions. There are people I respect, but with whom I wouldn't care to sit down to dinner. This is because sometimes even those I respect get on my nerves. So let's forget my general statement--which I disagree is an attack on anyone--and confine it to myself. I have become frustrated with the discussion, which has made me angry at times, and which has caused me to bite my virtual tongue so that I do not use sarcasm to point out the irony of certain posts. There. I've attacked myself and I'm insulted as all get out! (That's a joke, son. Pitiful, I know, but then I'm no wit.)

The essential point of this thread is that going far off-topic on a thread commits the fallacy of context-dropping.

I'm not sure I agree with this. I'll have to think about it. But I am happy to see that you've included it. It makes me think we might make progress after all. :D

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...in accordance with the Law of the Excluded Middle a meaningful statement is either true or false... with no third category
First, I have to seriously dispute your assertion about the Law of Excluded Middle. The Law of Excluded Middle states everything is either A or non-A at a given time and in a given respect. For example a man is either a genius or he is not (at a given time and in a given respect). What the Law does NOT however state is that everything is either A or B. It does not state "A man is either a genius or an idiot." That, as I have indicated in other posts, would be a False Alternative. No. The Law says a man is either a genius or he is not a genius. And the category of non-genius includes all men in the above average intelligence category, the average intelligence category, the below average intelligence category, and the idiots category.

Thus the attempt to claim that the Law of Excluded Middle somehow prohibits multiple categories for the non-A is simply false. In other words, the Law does not state that an idea must be "either true or false". Again, that is a False Alternative. The Law simply states an idea must either be 'true' or 'not-true'. As such, it does absolutely nothing to exclude 'arbitrary' from the category of 'not-true'.

A statement is true if it corresponds to the facts of reality. If it does it is true; if it does not it is false. They are opposites. The statement either does or does not correspond to the facts. There is no third possibility, which is what the Law of the Excluded Middle says as applied to truth. No one has said that the law means A or B, or challenged Leonard Peikoff's example of genius or not genius, which are extraneous to the discussion. Nor has anyone said that false assertions cannot also be arbitrary. Arbitrary is not a kind of truth status as an alternative to corresponding or not corresponding to the facts. In accordance with the Law of the Excluded Middle I reject alleged multi-valued truth logics.

If someone makes a logically arbitrary but otherwise meaningful assertion it is still either true or false...
An assertion can be "logically arbitrary" and true or false? The meaning of the terms used here REALLY need to be identified. For instance, what is a "logically arbitrary" assertion and what distinguishes such an assertion from an 'ordinary' arbitrary assertion? What is truth and how can an assertion be both true -and- "logically arbitrary"?

You have dropped the context. Arbitrary pertains to the lack of justification. An invalid argument can be given for a true statement or for a false statement. The truth or falsity of a statement pertains to the statement and whether it does or does not correspond to the facts, not to a particular claim for it, although you can say that a claim that a valid argument or an arbitrary or otherwise invalid argument demonstrates something is itself true or false. The statement allegedly proved either does or does not correspond to the facts of reality regardless of why anyone thinks so in accordance with any particular argument for it.

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A statement is true if it corresponds to the facts of reality. If it does it is true; if it does not it is false.
This is false. A false statement is not the only kind of statement which does not correspond to reality. An arbitrary statement does not correspond to reality either.
Nor has anyone said that false assertions cannot also be arbitrary.
?!? Wow.

Given your dispute over the nature of such a fundamental fact of reality as a Law of Identity, until that dispute is resolved, there is no means for us to have a rational discussion on any derivative topic.

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Oh - and this needs to be pointed out as well:
I don't think Brian ever gave a definition of truth or a direct statement of the Objectivist theory of truth -- truth is a correspondence between an assertion and the facts, not a "consciousness' recognition of reality"
I actually did give a definition of truth - the one identified by Miss Rand herself. As she stated on numerous occasions, (including in PWNI) "Truth is the recognition of reality" (in my statement I simply explicitly identified the thing doing the 'recognizing' - ie consciousness). So ewv's assertion that "truth is...not a "consciousness' recognition of reality"" contradicts the Objectivist definition of truth.

Not only that but, in "Letters to A Philosopher" (in LoAR) Miss Rand has a passage which reads as if it were written almost directly in response to ewv as a rebuttal to his assertions:

You object to my definition "Truth is the recognition of reality," and you say: "No—for truth may not be recognized .... There are truths even when nobody knows them and nobody recognizes them. Many things are true about the world which nobody yet knows." Aren't you confusing "truth" with "facts"? "Truth" is a concept that refers to epistemology, not to metaphysics; to consciousness, not to existence or reality. "Facts" cannot be "true" or "false"; facts are ("existence exists"). "Facts" are the standard of truth or falsehood; it is by means of "facts" that we determine whether an idea of ours is true or false. "Truth" is the attribute of an idea in somebody's consciousness (the relationship of that idea to the facts of reality) and it cannot exist apart from a consciousness. You say: "There are truths even when nobody knows them and nobody recognizes them." No, there are "facts" even when nobody knows them and nobody recognizes them; these "facts" are potentially the material of truths; the recognition of these "facts" by some human consciousness constitutes "truths." You say: "Many things are true about the world which nobody yet knows." Isn't this a colloquial, verbal foreshortening, which is inexact? To be exact philosophically, one would have to say: "Many facts exist in the world, which nobody yet knows, and when somebody discovers them, he will be able to form many true ideas which nobody can form at present."

Ayn Rand did not equate the concepts of truth and knowledge. A true statement does recognize reality, as she put it in in the dramatized Galt's speech, but it does not explain the theory of truth on anything but the most elementary level. Even in the early (for her formulations of epistemology) work in her 1960 letter to Hosper quoted above she emphasized that

"Facts" are the standard of truth or falsehood; it is by means of "facts" that we determine whether an idea of ours is true or false. "Truth" is the attribute of an idea in somebody's consciousness (the relationship of that idea to the facts of reality) and it cannot exist apart from a consciousness. [emphasis added]

That truth is a correspondence of a statement with the facts of reality was further elaborated and explained in Leonard Peikoff's history of philosophy course in which he explained how the Objectivist theory of truth is a correspondence theory of truth, comparing it with other historical views. In 1974 Ayn Rand in "Philosophical Detection" in The Ayn Rand Letter wrote 'What is the meaning of the concept "truth"? Truth is the recognition of reality. (This is known as the correspondence theory of truth.)"

Simply saying that truth is a recognition of reality with no further explanation does not distinguish the concept of truth from the concept of knowledge and can lead to misunderstandings that ignore the essential attribute of the correspondence that Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff have emphasized. The nature of the correspondence is of course via the Objectivist theory of concepts.

The passage in Ayn Rand's letter to Hospers does not "read as if it were written almost directly in response to ewv as a rebuttal to his assertions", it is fully consistent with my explanation. I did not say that there are "undiscovered truths". I said that a meaningful statement is either true or false. A meaningful statement is a grammatically structured assertion using valid concepts. You can understand the meaning of the sentence without knowing whether or not what it asserts is true because you know what the constituent concepts mean and the stated relations between them. It is true or false but is not knowledge if you don't know why. Truth and knowledge are not the same concepts.

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