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Objectivism 101 PowerPoint Presentation
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Objectivism 101

Objectivism 101

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Objectivism 101

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  1. 14th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Two: Reality and Reason Monday, June 30, 2003 Objectivism 101

  2. Objectivism 101 Schedule • Sunday Ayn Rand and Philosophy • Monday Reality and Reason • Tuesday Life and Happiness • Wednesday The Virtues • Thursday Individual Rights and Capitalism • Friday Art as Spiritual Fuel

  3. Laying the Foundation • We need to know the basic nature of the world (metaphysics) and how we acquire knowledge of it (epistemology) before we can consider what we ought to do (ethics) or how people in society ought to interact (politics)

  4. Metaphysics • Metaphysics studies the basic nature of reality • Subject/object distinction • A subject is a knower • An object is what is known • What is the relationship between subjects and objects?

  5. Existence or Consciousness? • What is the relationship between between a subject (consciousness) and its objects (the external world)? • The Primacy of Existence • Existence is independent of consciousness • Consciousness is dependent upon existence • The Primacy of Consciousness • Existence is dependent upon consciousness • Consciousness is independent of existence • The real-life difference between these two views

  6. Real-Life Implications • Primacy of Existence versus Primacy of Consciousness affects everyday thinking and choices: • Need $20 to pay rent. Earn or gamble? • Trouble in a new product line. Hear bad news or not? • Discover lump in breast. Visit doctor or ignore it?

  7. God as Ultimate Consciousness • God is… • An eternal being • Pure consciousness • The creator of the universe • A performer of miracles • God is the perfect embodiment of the Primacy of Consciousness • Accepting the Primacy of Existence means rejecting the idea of God (and thus both theism and agnosticism) in favor of atheism

  8. Rejecting the Supernatural • Objectivism rejects the idea of the supernatural (that which transcends nature), including: • Supernatural beings (gods, ghosts, and invisible pink elephants) • Supernatural realms (heaven, hell, and purgatory) • Supernatural events (miracles, reincarnation, resurrection) …on the basis of the Primacy of Existence Objectivism… does not accept God or any variant of the supernatural. We are a-theist, as well as a-devilist, a-demonist, a-gremlinist… To put the point positively: we accept reality, and that's all. — Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand

  9. Epistemology • Epistemology studies the nature of and means to knowledge • The Objectivist metaphysics says that consciousness apprehends reality by particular means in accordance with its nature • Epistemology asks: What is the nature of consciousness? How does it apprehend reality?

  10. Two Forms of Awareness • Perceptual awareness is direct knowledge of the world through the senses • Smell of pungent odor of garlic cooking • Sight of fluffy white clouds in sky • Feel of roughness of sandpaper or heat of coffee • Conceptual awareness is abstract knowledge of the world through reasoning • Abstract concepts like blue, rain, obligation, love • Inference that if driveway wet, then rained last night • Theory that rain is part of a cycle of evaporation and condensation • Perceptual awareness is automatic, but conceptual awareness is not

  11. The Nature of Reason • Conceptual awareness is not automatic; it requires: • Effort: We must exert effort towards the goal of awareness by focusing the mind • Foundation: We must always base our conceptual abstractions upon the perceptual facts of reality • Method: We must use the principles of logic in all reasoning

  12. The Effort of Focus • To focus is to “direct… mental effort and integrate… mental activity towards the goal of conceptual awareness—by choice” (Nathaniel Branden). • Free will: Our most basic choice, the one that influences all others, is the choice to focus • Our capacity to focus is like a dimmer switch, allowing us to raise or lower our level of awareness

  13. Focus, Drift, or Evasion • The choice to focus or not results in three basic types of mental states: • Drift: no effort exerted, mental passivity “In one ear and out the other” • Evasion: exerting effort towards goal of ignorance “LALALALALALA! I can’t hear you!” • Focus: exerting effort towards goal of awareness “Bright eyed and bushy tailed”

  14. The Foundation of Facts • Conceptual reasoning is not automatically grounded in the facts of reality; we can imagine, err, and evade “Man’s senses are his only direct contact with reality and, therefore, his only source of information. Without sensory evidence… there can be no knowledge and no science.” — Ayn Rand, “Kant Versus Sullivan” • All conceptual knowledge is built upon a foundation of perception

  15. Focusing on the Facts • We can ground out thinking in the observable facts of reality by: • Cultivating a Primacy of Existence mentality • Asking Rand’s Question: What are the facts of reality that give rise to this concept? • Avoid bias and prejudice by considering all and only the relevant facts

  16. FINISH START The Method of Logic • Valid reasoning requires the method of logic, i.e. “the art of non-contradictory identification” of reality (Ayn Rand) • Logic is not just formal logic, but all forms of valid inference • Fallacies are errors of logical errors of reasoning to be avoided • Francis Bacon on method and genius

  17. Knowledge Through Reason • In order to gain conceptual knowledge of reality, we must be objective by: • Exerting effort towards the goal of awareness of reality • Always grounding conceptual abstractions in the facts of reality • Reasoning in accordance with the laws of logic • Recommendations: • David Kelley’s The Art of Reasoning • Barbara Branden’s Principles of Efficient Thinking

  18. Alternatives to Reason? • Some people seek a shortcut to conceptual knowledge • They look to authorities, but authorities have no special insight “…An error made on your own is safer than ten truths accepted on faith, because the first leaves you the means to correct it, but the second destroys your capacity to distinguish truth from error.” (Ayn Rand) • They look to their emotions, but emotions are not a means to knowledge

  19. The Nature of Emotions • Emotions are subconscious value judgments; as such, “emotions are not tools of cognition” (Ayn Rand) • Reason and emotion can be in harmony, if we always seek to understand the cause of our emotions “A rational man… has no inner conflicts, his mind and his emotions are integrated, his consciousness is in perfect harmony. His emotions are not his enemies, they are his means of enjoying life. But they are not his guide; the guide is his mind.” — Ayn Rand, “Playboy’s Interview with Ayn Rand”

  20. Reality and Reason • Metaphysics: Reality • Primacy of Existence • Rejection of God and the supernatural • Epistemology: Reason • Knowledge requires the effort of focus, consideration of all and only the relevant facts, and the method of logic • Questions of the astronaut: • Where am I? • How do I know it? • What should I do?

  21. Today’s Topics • Primacy of existence • Primacy of consciousness • God and the supernatural • Perceptual and conceptual awareness • Free will as the choice to focus • Grounding in facts • Logic as non-contradictory identification • Alternatives to reason: emotion and authority • The nature of emotions