I find that many naive “social scientists” in our age subscribe to what I am labeling a “generalization theory of truth.” In this essay, I will show that this theory first of all must implicitly posit a metaphysical theory. Second, instead of trying to refute this theory with another different metaphysical theory, I will attempt to refute it through the method of reductio ad absurdum. I will start with an example of a generally accepted logical category and the implications it has on this category.
Action is one of the ten traditional categories in logic. Joyce in Principles of Logic defines the category of action:
Action: The production of change in some other object.
Of course, in the real world of existence, action is one of the nine modes of being for accidents (quantity, quality, and relation being other examples). The term ‘mode of being’ is to the real world as ‘category’ is to the conceptual world. We must use this term because an accident cannot exist strictly by itself but only as an attribute to concrete substances. The reason we can form a concept of an accident by itself is through the ‘power of abstraction’ which is a psychological and cognitive phenomenon. This enables us to separate the concept of a specific accident from the subject which it inheres. Thus, I may make the statement: An action must imply a subject in which it inheres.
The question likely posed is: How do I know an action must involve a subject?
Answer: Because it is implicit in the concept formed in the mind.
Therefore, the statement is an analytic statement since I did not derive it from any outside source. It may be called a priori because I can know any action must imply a concrete subject PRIOR to any sensory experience (although it may not give me information as to the precise nature of that subject). The second likely question is: “How did I form this concept?” Of course, the power to form concepts is known as the ‘power of abstraction.’ Various general theories about how concepts are formed have been advanced for years and years. Some even say that its merely an arbitrary distinction. However, I may say with confidence that almost all of them subscribe to the fact that actions must inhere subjects. Consequently, I may make such a statement with confidence. Indeed, people even commonly accept that its a universal statement applicable in all instances. If you accept there is no possible instance it may not be applicable, then you may make the proposition about its modality: It is impossible for an action not to inhere in a subject. This is the same as: it is necessary for an action to inhere in a subject.
To call this ‘lazy’ is a request for incredibly onerous work not usually required in scientific disciplines. I know there is a general academic and societal consensus. To say I must empirically validate this statement would be a hallmark of scientism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientism). The “proof” of generalizations made by the gathering of statistics is in itself positing a metaphysical theory. To form this theory would to state that the only true non-analytic propositions are those that are generalizations formed by a random sample of data. Perhaps one problem of such a theory would be that the proposition “the only true non-analytic propositions are those that are generalizations formed by a random samples of data” would itself have to follow this criteria. The possibility of this is questionable, and has been indeed questioned throughout the years.
I will not attempt to follow this challenge to such a theory. Instead, I will submit to the pressure and attempt to follow the line of inquiry such a theory would require. Unsurprisingly, the first step actually provides the first roadblock: the gathering of a random sample of data. The statistical population I must represent is that of all conceivable substances. What selection process could possibly give a random sample of conceivable substances? Since I cannot find a selection process capable of producing such a sample, I am unable to provide such a “proof.” At least one demonstration of the impossibility such a selection process would be the fact that some substances conceived by the mind exist within other substances. Therefore, you must find a way to non-arbitrarily delineate substances without making any exclusions from the population. Perhaps many would find this impossible. However, they would have to then “prove” this impossibility using the same criteria.
I may conclude that I have adequately demonstrated the absurdities implied in this “generalization theory.” An an example, I find this to be the common criticism leveled against the fundamental concepts in the Misesian system of praxeology. I have not provided a published example of such a criticism, but I know some people have this view through my personal conversations. Perhaps I may provide a future post of a published example. The subject matter of Misesian praxeology is a subset of actions of which are only attributable to conscious agents. For example, the action of ‘digging’ may not be predicated of a rock. An analogous term may provide the metaphor of an inanimate rock doing things in which the regular sense is only attributable to conscious agents. This is then merely considered a separate term in the realm of logic. I think the fact that certain actions must imply consciousness is another example of the deduction made above (“An action must imply a subject in which it inheres”). I may make the statement with confidence because of its general acceptance in academia and society. However, my goal was not to defend Misesian praxeology but to provide an example of a system which claims to base itself on a fundamental category. As a separate confusion, to call these ‘axioms’ would in my opinion conflate what true axioms ought to consist of. Obviously, Euclidean axioms would have to be based on these categories as well.