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It seems like some objectivists believe that induction is the only way to go. Any hint of deduction in a discussion can often lead to cries of "rationalism."

For example, when discussing with a prominent objectivist legal thinker the proper application of the principle of individual rights in the context of intellectual property, I was told that I needed to come up with rules inductively, and not try to deduce the proper rules from the broad principle of individual rights. I certainly see that induction would be helpful and valid, but is deduction in such a case invalid/rationalistic?

What is deduction's proper role in thinking? What is its relationship to induction? Are they alternative but equally valid paths to knowledge. Are both valid, but one is superior to the other? Superior always, or only in certain circumstances?

asked Oct 06 '11 at 12:11

ericmaughan43's gravatar image

ericmaughan43 ♦

When thinking abstractly, one should always ask onself: how do these terms and statements relate to actual concretes, i.e., to reality? What do they mean? When I try to do that with the idea of deriving conclusions about intellectual property entirely deductively from the principle of individual rights, I find that it never quite integrates completely. There is always a void that can't be crossed without resorting to an element of induction in addition to the deduction. I find that an opponent could always point out that the principle of individual rights itself is largely inductive, dependent on a specific context, and that the notion of intellectual property was not part of that original context. The opponent could then ask: how can individual rights be assumed to apply to intellectual property in the same way that it applies to other kinds of property? How can one simply assume, or ordain, that intellectual property is just like other kinds of property? What is the proof of such a claim? Doesn't it reduce, in the end, to nothing more than a mere social convention?

Even in the physical sciences, it often happens that "laws" derived in one context don't necessarily hold without modification in other contexts, and that a further process of validation (with significant elements of inductive generalization) is often needed to establish whether or not the old laws still apply in an expanded context.

The process of always relating abstractions to concretes, in turn, exemplifies the essence of what is so unique about Ayn Rand's whole reality-based approach to objectivity. Ayn Rand recognized that all arguments and discussions, and all human knowledge beyond direct perception, are expressed in terms of propositions, which are comprised of concepts. She then consistently and passionately asked what the concepts mean, how they are formed, what they refer to in reality—especially the key concepts that are crucial to philosophical arguments. She asked what makes each concept possible, what it depends on and presupposes. She identified, as a fundamental logical fallacy, any argument that uses a key concept while denying part or all of the essential context that makes that concept possible. She called this the fallacy of the "stolen concept."

In a letter to a philosopher, Ayn Rand wrote that this method ought to be one's "constant [and exclusive] approach to all thinking and all problems.... [She asked:] Do you think that the main tenets of modern philosophy could withstand the test, if you examined them by this epistemological method, with the same rigorous precision, with the same observance of the full context, the genetic roots and the exact definition of every concept involved?" [From Letters of Ayn Rand, p. 511.] In another work, she observed that some children (the most rational ones) learn new words "by treating words as concepts, by requiring a clear first-hand understanding (within the context of their knowledge) of the exact meaning of every word they learn, never allowing a break in the chain linking their concepts to the facts of reality." [From Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd Ed., pp. 20-21.]

To define principles of intellectual property, this method requires reviewing all the key steps in the validation of individual rights in general, with additional reasoning (inductive generalization and non-contradictory identification) showing what "intellectual property" refers to, how it is similar to other kinds of property, and why it ought (objectively) to be treated similarly to other kinds of property in relation to individual rights. Property rights need to be made concretely real. They need to be made objective. One can't do that by deduction alone.

answered Oct 07 '11 at 02:20

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Deductive reasoning in the role of thinking takes an observation and recognizes where in the existing hierarchy of knowledge it belongs. The hierarchy of knowledge, is derived from inductive reasoning. Deductive reasoning would be subsumed under inductive reasoning.

One analogy might be: inductive reasoning builds the structure, deductive reasoning is used to maintain the structure.

In this sense, induction is the path to knowledge, deduction allows you to categorize a new observation within the existing knowledge that was previously induced.

If deduction exhaustively demonstrates that an observation cannot be subsumed or integrated into the existing knowledge structure, in a loose sense, you may have deductively reached the conclusion that you have discovered something new, i.e. not previously induced.

By and far, induction is the integration of observations - such as Newton with his prisms refracting the light into different colors, merging them with the prisms back into white, inductively concluded that white light was actually comprised of all various colors.

Today, we can deduce from Newton's original findings that triple (tertiary) rainbows and fourth-order or quadruple (quaternary) rainbows are possible.

answered Oct 06 '11 at 16:42

dream_weaver's gravatar image

dream_weaver ♦

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Asked: Oct 06 '11 at 12:11

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Last updated: Oct 07 '11 at 02:20