login about faq

My interpretation is that package dealing is a type of conflation where an essential difference between the two concepts is being ignored whereas conflation is merely combining two different concepts together into one.

So for the example of:

All bats are animals.

Some wooden objects are bats.

Therefore, some wooden objects are animals.

This is conflation but is not package dealing because the label (in this case the spelling) of a concept is not essential to defining the similarities or difference in a concept.

FOLLOW-UP: Looks like there are two different meaning to the word "package-dealing".

Package-deal: An invalid concept that blurs the essential difference between two valid concepts.

Package-dealing meaning #1: The act of blurring the essential differences between two valid concepts where a package-deal is created. This meaning is not the same as conflation since conflation does not necessarily create a package-deal.

Package-dealing meaning #1: The act of blurring the essential differences between two valid concepts, set of ideas, etc. In other words, this meaning is the same as conflation.

Is my understanding correct?

asked Aug 13 '15 at 22:38

Humbug's gravatar image


edited Nov 29 '15 at 13:01

Greg, you make my heart race with excitement to see Objectivist Answers finally back in action (for now, at least) after a continuous interruption from 6/28/15 until now (11/22/15), except for a brief return from 8/9/15 to 8/15/15. Despite occasional "issues" of my own, I've found this website to be extremely invigorating for me as I formulate my own postings. I hope whatever "issues" may be affecting this website (technological? economic? legal? ideological?) will remain at bay this time, as we move forward.

(Nov 23 '15 at 22:17) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Hi, Ideas -- my apologies for the downtime! It's nothing too serious, just a silly mixture of technical/personal stuff that has caused/prolonged the interruptions. It is good to have it running again; I have missed your insightful postings!

(Nov 24 '15 at 01:58) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Someone “conflates” two things when they confuse them—i.e., they mistakenly assume the two things are the same when in reality they are different. For example, if a person says that “OJ Simpson cannot be guilty of murder because he was acquitted at trial”, this person likely is conflating “acquittal” with “innocence”. In the person’s mind, both “acquittal” and “innocence” mean the person is not guilty, whereas in reality it is certainly possible for a guilty person to be acquitted at trial.

Of course, in order for a person to conflate two things they do not necessarily have to believe that the two things are literally identical in every respect—instead, the person simply confuses the things as being the same in all relevant respects (with relevance being set by context). So, returning to the example above the person may understand that “acquittal” and “innocence” are not literally identical—they may think, for example, that acquittal specifically relates to a formal judicial proceeding whereas innocence is a more general term—but they do erroneously confuse these things as being the same in the respect that is relevant in the context of the statement, namely they erroneously think that both terms mean that the person is not guilty.

The “package deal” fallacy is the error of attempting to group essentially dissimilar things together under the same concept. The result of this erroneous grouping—which is a concept in someone’s mind—is often referred to as a “package deal.” For example, many people hold a concept in their mind that they label as “sacrifice”, which groups together acts of self-destructively giving up a value for nothing in return with acts of giving up a value in order to gain more in return. The grouping of these things together in this way is an example of the package deal fallacy because, in this context, acts of self-destructively giving up a value for nothing in return are essentially dissimilar from acts of giving up a value in order to gain more in return; thus, the resulting concept is a package deal.

Note that what is an “essential” dissimilarity depends on the context of the “concept”. Thus, grouping together acts of self-destructively giving up a value for nothing in return with acts of giving up a value in order to gain more in return under the concept “sacrifice” is a package deal, because under the relevant context (moral judgments) what is essential is the life-impact of the actions on the person taking them. However, in a different context it may be fine to group these two things together—for example, the concept “actions” would include both acts of self-destructively giving up a value for nothing in return with acts of giving up a value in order to gain more in return (as well as all other types of actions). Thus, one must know under what context the concept is formed/used in order to determine whether or not a package deal is involved.

The package deal fallacy differs from conflation in that the package deal fallacy is specifically related to concept formation, whereas the act of conflating is not (at least not directly). A package deal is an actual concept in someone’s mind—they have formed and stored a persistent mental unit in their mind that unites the essentially dissimilar things, complete with its own concrete label (word). On the other hand, a person can conflate two things without necessarily forming a concept that unites the two things—for example, the person may simply have temporarily forgotten a relevant distinction between the things. Using the examples above, the person who is conflating “acquittal” and “innocence” is not necessarily forming a new concept that unites “acquittal” and “innocence”, they may simply have forgotten (or perhaps was never aware of) the relevant distinction.

Conflation in a person’s actual thinking may be a result of not being aware of the difference between two concretes, or may be a result of not understanding that the difference is relevant in the context. Conflation in communicated statements can be a result of conflation in one’s actual thinking, or can also simply be a result of ignorance of the meaning of words. In other words, just because someone conflates two things in a communicated statement does not mean that the person would conflate the concrete referents in their mind—the person may simply be unaware of what their words actually refer to. Thus, it is possible that the person in the example above simply does not know what “acquittal” means and thinks that it is a synonym for “proved to be innocent”—explaining to the person that acquittal merely means “the state did not present sufficient evidence to prove guilt” would resolve the persons error. On the other hand, if the person is aware of acquittal’s meaning, then the error would have to be one of failing to recognize the relevant differences between “the state did not present sufficient evidence to prove guilt” and “innocent”.

Finally, a note about the example you use in your question—it is not an example of conflation or package dealing. Instead, your example illustrates the fallacy of equivocation. The argument equivocates on the meaning of the word “bats”, and thus is logically fallacious. The problem here is not that the arguer is confused about whether “flying nocturnal rodents” are relevantly dissimilar from “wooden rods used in baseball” (conflation) or that the person has grouped together essentially dissimilar things under the same concept (package deal). Instead, the arguer is exploiting the fact that two entirely different concepts share the same label (word). Remember, a word is not a concept. A concept is a mental integration in an actual person’s mind, while a word is merely a label that has been assigned to the concept. In existing languages, the same label is often used for different concepts, and figuring out which concept is being referred to in a statement that uses the word must be done by considering the context of the statement using the word. Arguments that equivocate rely on trying to switch the context without the listener realizing the switch has occurred.

answered Aug 14 '15 at 10:31

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦

The example on "bats" came from the Wikipedia article on conflation.

Would it be accurate to say:

A package deal is a conflation where a new concept is form which destroys an existing valid concept.

An equivocation is a conflation where the context the similiarities in the labels of concepts.

(Aug 14 '15 at 14:39) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

In the original question and again in the comments, the questioner seems to be trying to compare and contrast "package-dealing" with "conflating" and/or "equivocating." There are actually some additional terms that are often closely related to "package-dealing," also:

  • definition by non-essentials
  • anti-concepts
  • evading

In the literature of Objectivism, the best description of "package-dealing" that I know of is the opening excerpt in the topic of "'Package-Dealing,' Fallacy of," in The Ayn Rand Lexicon:

"Package-dealing" is the fallacy of failing to discriminate crucial differences. It consists of treating together, as parts of a single conceptual whole or "package," elements which differ essentially in nature, truth-status, importance or value.

This same formulation (authored by Leonard Peikoff as a footnote to Ayn Rand's article, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made" in PWNI) also appears in the Glossary of Objectivist Definitions under "Fallacy of Package-Dealing."

Unfortunately, this formulation is highly essentialized and generalized. It doesn't specify the range of instances that are subsumed by the expression, "crucial differences" (in what?), and the term "elements" (of what kind?). To narrow the intended meaning more precisely, it is necessary to examine a wide range of actual instances in which Ayn Rand uses the term "package-dealing" or "package-deal."

A partial list of instances that I have found is itemized below. I found that "package-dealing" isn't limited to individual concepts, but can apply to an entire paragraph or argument; it isn't limited to "equivocation" but often depends on equivocation as the basic means of constructing the package-deal; it doesn't always rely on definition by non-essentials if "definition by non-essentials" is considered to refer to definitions of single concepts, whereas "package-dealing" is often wider than individual, isolated concepts; it doesn't always involve anti-concepts, although it can when "package-dealing" is done with individual concepts; and it isn't the same as evading but usually involves evading as part of the total "package." It is probably safe to say that "package-dealing" always involves "conflating," although the entire literature of Objectivism (as far as I have been able to determine) never uses the term "conflate" or its other tenses and forms. (I never heard the term "conflate" before myself until I read it from time to time on this website. It seems to be more popular outside of Ayn Rand's writings.)

As far as I know, "package-deal" originated as common slang denoting two or more things loosely "packaged" together and treated as a unit, such as a "two-for-the-price-of-one" offer in ordinary commerce, or selling a "package" containing dry-erase markers together with a white-board eraser and erasing fluid for the markers, or two or more different novels by Ayn Rand or any other author (or even different authors) bundled together as a special set offered for a discounted price (compared to buying all of them individually). That's a good "deal" for the "package." Ayn Rand simply enclosed "package-deal" in quotes and applied it freely to abstract philosophical issues as appropriate, apparently assuming that readers would readily understand what she meant by doing that. Apparently to make sure they would understand, Leonard Peikoff added his footnote to an important PWNI article, "The Metaphysical Versus the Man-Made."

Here are some examples of Ayn Rand's actual usages of the expressions "package-deal" and "package-dealing."

  • The second excerpt in the Lexicon topic of "'Package-Dealing,' Fallacy of" describes "equating opposites by substituting nonessentials for their essential characteristics, obliterating differences." The key is "opposites." If the elements aren't opposite, but belong together, then it is natural and valid to integrate them accordingly in cognition.

  • The next excerpt in the same Lexicon topic describes equating economic power with political power in various forms that all constitute equivocations.

  • The final Lexicon excerpt (from the above-noted PWNI article) describes philosophy professors who artfully attack the concept of necessity by claiming, in effect, that nothing had to be as it is, just because it is, since clearly some things didn't have to be as they are; they could have been different.

  • The lead article in FNI describes the impact of philosophers of pragmatism who blur the "distinction between an external world and a consciousness (between the perceived and the perceiver), [leaving] only an undifferentiated package-deal labeled 'experience,' and whatever one wishes to be true, is true, whatever one wishes to exist, does exist, provided it works or makes one feel better."

  • The Lexicon topic of "Anti-Concepts" includes excerpts describing "credibility" and "polarization" as anti-concepts, along with "extremism." In regard to "extremism" Ayn Rand writes:

[The anti-concept technique] consists of creating an artificial, unnecessary, and (rationally) unusable term, designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concepts -- a term which sounds like a concept, but stands for a "package-deal" of disparate, incongruous, contradictory elements taken out of any logical conceptual order or context, a "package-deal" whose (approximately) defining characteristic is always a non-essential. This last is the essence of the trick.
  • In CUI Chap. 22, discussing the 1960s student rebellion in Berkeley, Ayn Rand observes:
...the Berkeley rebels attempted to obliterate ... the distinction between ideas and actions. They claimed that freedom of speech means freedom of action and that no clear line of demarcation can be drawn between them.... At a superficial glance, the rebels' "package-deal" may seem to imply a sort of anarchistic extension of freedom; but, in fact and in logic, it implies the exact opposite—which is a grim joke on those unthinking youths who joined the rebellion in the name of "free speech." If the freedom to express ideas were equated with the freedom to commit crimes, it would not take long to demonstrate that no organized society can exist on such terms and, therefore, that the expression of ideas has to be curtailed and some ideas have to be forbidden, just as criminal acts are forbidden.
  • The same CUI article also observes:
[The student rebels also sought to obliterate] the difference between private action and government action. This has always been attempted by means of a "package-deal" ascribing to private citizens the specific violations constitutionally forbidden to the government, and thus destroying individual rights while freeing the government from any restrictions. The most frequent example of this technique consists of accusing private citizens of practicing "censorship" (a concept applicable only to the government) and thus negating their right to disagree.
  • The Ayn Rand Column, p. 65, describes the following trend in national elections:
NOVEMBER 18,1962—In the past decades, our elections have taken the following pattern: (1) during the campaign, both parties offer nothing but a package-deal of stale generalities, which can mean all things to all men, evading any discussion of basic principles or issues; (2) after the election, commentators and party leaders declare which basic principles and issues the people have endorsed.
  • ROP, p. 165 ("The Left: Old and New") describes "pollution" used as a package-deal:
The word "pollution" implies health hazards, such as smog or dirty waters. But these are not the [Time Magazine] article's main concern; observe that they are lumped together into one package dealing with such matters as "natural beauty" and that the pollutants threatening us are shopping centers and expressways.
  • ROP p. 274 ("The Anti-Industrial Revolution") identifies "ecology" as a "package-deal":
The attack on technology is being put over on you by means of a package deal tied together by strings called "ecology."
  • RM Chap. 6 discusses the nature of romanticism in literature versus philosophy:
It must be noted that philosophers contributed to the confusion surrounding the term "Romanticism." They attached the name "Romantic" to certain philosophers (such as Schelling and Schopenhauer) who were avowed mystics advocating the supremacy of emotions, instincts or will over reason. This movement in philosophy had no significant relation to Romanticism in esthetics, and the two movements must not be confused.... In terms of essentials, the brilliant sunlight of Victor Hugo's universe is the diametrical opposite of the venomous muck of Schopenhauer's. It was only philosophical package-dealing that could throw them in the same category.
  • RM Chap. 8 discusses a modern usage of the term "humor":
Observe that in the issue of humor versus thrillers, modern intellectuals are using the term "humor" as an anti-concept, i.e., as a "package-deal" of two meanings, with the proper meaning serving to cover and to smuggle the improper one into people's minds. The purpose is to obliterate the distinction between "humor" and "mockery," particularly self-mockery—and thus bring men to defile their own values and self-esteem, for fear of being accused of lacking "a sense of humor."
  • The Introduction to VOS discusses the modern usage of "selfishness":
The meaning ascribed in popular usage to the word "selfishness" is not merely wrong: it represents a devastating intellectual "package-deal," which is responsible, more than any other single factor, for the arrested moral development of mankind.
  • VOS Chap. 9 discusses moral "grayness":
There are many reasons why most people are morally imperfect, i.e., hold mixed, contradictory premises and values.... [But] the fact that most people are morally "gray," does not invalidate man's need of morality and of moral "whiteness"; if anything, it makes the need more urgent. Nor does it warrant the epistemological "package deal" of dismissing the problem by consigning all men to moral "grayness" and thus refusing to recognize or to practice "whiteness."
  • VOR Chap. 29 discusses socialized medicine:
The strategy of the Kennedy administration, and of all welfare-statists, consists of attempts to make people accept certain intellectual "package deals," without letting them identify and differentiate the various elements—and equivocations—involved. The deadliest of such "package deals" is the attempt to make people accept the collectivist-altruist principle of self-immolation under the guise of mere kindness, generosity, or charity. It is done by hammering into people's minds the idea that need supersedes all rights—that the need of some men is a first mortgage on the lives of others—and that everything should be sacrificed to the undefined, undefinable grab bag known as "the public interest."
  • The same VOR chapter also discusses "service" (to others):
The concept of "service" has been turned into a collectivist "package deal" by means of a crude equivocation and a cruder evasion. In the language of economics, the word "service" means work offered for trade on a free market, to be paid for by those who choose to buy it. In a free society, men deal with one another by voluntary, uncoerced exchange, by mutual consent to mutual profit, each man pursuing his own rational self-interest, none sacrificing himself or others; and all values—whether goods or services—are traded, not given away.
  • VOR Chap. 8 identifies "package-dealing" in the Catholic Church's opposition to birth control:
What is meant here by the [Church's] words "man does not have unlimited dominion over his body in general"? The obvious meaning is that man cannot change the metaphysical nature of his body; which is true. But man has the power of choice in regard to the actions of his body—specifically, in regard to "his creative faculties," and the responsibility for the use of these particular faculties is most crucially his. "To acknowledge oneself not to be the arbiter of the sources of human life" is to evade and to default on that responsibility. Here again, the same equivocation or package deal is involved. Does man have the power to determine the nature of his procreative faculty ? No. But granted that nature, is he the arbiter of bringing a new human life into existence? He most certainly is, and he (with his mate) is the sole arbiter of that decision—and the consequences of that decision affect and determine the entire course of his life.

Again, the concise definition of "package-dealing" is completely accurate and comprehensive in what it covers, but a rich context of actual instances is indispensable to understanding more precisely what the terms in the definition refer to.

Update: Meaning of Conflate

A "follow-up" from the questioner seeks additional discussion of whether or not package-dealing differs from conflating, and, if so, specifically how. My original answer above is focused on describing package-dealing in more detail, since "conflating" (including "conflate" and "conflation") isn't used anywhere in the published Objectivist literature that I know of, and because I noticed some confusion about the meaning of package-dealing.

The answer posted by Eric states, in part:

The package deal fallacy differs from conflation in that the package deal fallacy is specifically related to concept formation, whereas the act of conflating is not (at least not directly).

My own answer emphasizes that package-dealing isn't limited to individual concepts. But this leaves open the question of how package-dealing (as I understand it) differs from conflating. To address that issue, I have now done some further reading in non-Objectivist sources, including:

  • The Wikipedia article cited by the questioner in a comment, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conflation
  • An on-line dictionary definition of "conflate," http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/conflate
  • Another on-line definition, http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/conflate?s=t

(There is also the on-line Oxford English Dictionary, www.oed.com, but I don't have a subscription for it.)

As far as I can ascertain from these non-Objectivist sources, "conflating" apparently has a range of possible meanings and usages, some of which seem to overlap very well with the Objectivist usage of "package-dealing." One consistent difference, though, is that Objectivism generally treats package-dealing as involving an intent to obfuscate (or intentional disregard for essential distinctions), whereas many usages of "conflate" do not seem to convey that connotation.

From my limited knowledge of the history of words like "conflate," that's about the best I can do to compare and contrast package-dealing with conflating.

answered Aug 15 '15 at 04:02

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Dec 03 '15 at 23:35

Follow this question

By Email:

Once you sign in you will be able to subscribe for any updates here



Answers and Comments

Share This Page:



Asked: Aug 13 '15 at 22:38

Seen: 484 times

Last updated: Dec 03 '15 at 23:35