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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Epistemology #4: Percepts, not sensations!

Epistemology #4: Percepts, not sensations!

Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX

Consciousness, as a state of awareness, is not a passive state, but an active process that consists of two essentials: differentiation and integration.

Although, chronologically, man's consciousness develops in three stages: the stage of sensations, the perceptual, the conceptual—epistemologically, the base of all of man's knowledge is the perceptual stage.

Sensations, as such, are not retained in man's memory, nor is man able to experience a pure isolated sensation. As far as can be ascertained, an infant's sensory experience is an undifferentiated chaos. Discriminated awareness begins on the level of percepts.

A percept is a group of sensations automatically retained and integrated by the brain of a living organism. It is in the form of percepts that man grasps the evidence of his senses and apprehends reality. When we speak of "direct perception" or "direct awareness," we mean the perceptual level. Percepts, not sensations, are the given, the self-evident. The knowledge of sensations as components of percepts is not direct, it is acquired by man much later: it is a scientific, conceptual discovery.
--Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 1. Cognition and Measurement
Robert B.
user 4213210
Dallas, TX
Post #: 3
Hello Mr. Old Toad from Robert Bumbalough

Your posting reminded me that I've an interest in this subject. Resultant from a search for "primacy of existence" I found a link to Greg Perkins essay ""God, Faith, and the Supernatural: The Objectivist Perspective" at http://gregperk.googl...­

Perkins wrote "...belief and knowledge are not the same sort of thing. Actually, they are
categorically different, even though they are related. Belief is basically agreementwith
or assent-to a statement (I believe that it is raining). But knowing something
is not just believing it (we have all believed wrong things, a pretty clear indication
we did not know them), and it is not a belief with a really good reason tacked on,
or even one that is true to boot. Knowledge is not a kind of belief at all—it is
awareness, the grasp of a fact (I am actually aware of the rain falling).
The essential distinction is that beliefs are internal (your agreement with a
statement, all between your ears), while knowledge is between you and reality
(your grasp of a fact—out there). That’s a big difference. They are not the same
kind of thing. But they are related: knowledge results in true beliefs, but beliefs
(even true) are not themselves a source of knowledge."

Knowledge is derived from direct perceptual awareness of reality, while beliefs are generated in the mind without regard to direct sensory perception. This goes to my earlier question about the analytic-synthetic dichotomy in that Perkins would seem to agree with the distinction. I however do not in that I think that all knowledge is both analytic and synthetic. Knowledge is analytic because it must be processed by a reasoning mind using logic as the non-contradictory means of identification, and it must be synthetic for the reason Perkins asserts. Beliefs on the other hand are neither analytic or synthetic as they constitute mental agreement with a proposition without regard to logic or perception.

What did Rand or Peikoff write in ITOE about this?

Best Regards for Continued Success

Robert B.
user 4213210
Dallas, TX
Post #: 4
"Any theory that propounds an opposition between the logical and the empirical, represents a failure to grasp the nature of logic and its role in human cognition. Man's knowledge is not acquired by logic apart from experience or by experience apart from logic, but by the application of logic to experience. All truths are the products of a logical identification of the facts of experience."

Leonard Peikoff, "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy," Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Expanded Second Edition, p. 112.
Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,001
Hello Robert,

I appreciate your feedback on the epistemology snippets I am sending out, and I apologize for the slow response to your e-mail.

I am not an Objectivist scholar, but I would be glad to discuss the analytic-synthetic dichotomy with you.

Perhaps because I was raised "in the real world" mostly with Objectivism, and because I never took any philosophy courses except on Objectivism, I have a hard time understanding why anyone would buy into the "analytic-synthetic dichotomy." I feel like the character of Fred Kinnan in Atlas Shrugged:

"Mr. Kinnan," said Dr. Ferris, "you must not make the old-fashioned mistake of drawing wide generalizations. Our policy has to be flexible. There are no absolute principles which—"
"Save it for Jim Taggart, Doc," said Fred Kinnan. "I know what I'm talking about. That's because I never went to college."

"The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" by Leonard Peikoff is included at the end of Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (at least in the second edition that I have).

I find these short excerpts to be most helpful, in summary:

Since concepts are complex products of man's consciousness, any theory or approach which implies that they are irreducible primaries is invalidated by that fact alone. Without a theory of concepts as a foundation, one cannot, in reason, adopt any theory about the nature or kinds of propositions; propositions are only combinations of concepts.
The Objectivist theory of concepts undercuts the theory of the analytic-synthetic dichotomy at its root.
. . .
In one sense, no truths are "analytic." No proposition can be validated merely by "conceptual analysis"; the content of the concept—i.e., the characteristics of the existents it integrates—must be discovered and validated by observation, before any "analysis" is possible. In another sense, all truths are "analytic." When some characteristic of an entity has been discovered, the proposition ascribing it to the entity will be seen to be "logically true" (its opposite would contradict the meaning of the concept designating the entity). In either case, the analytic-logical-tautological vs. synthetic-factual dichotomy collapses.

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