Guide To Objectivism.
bekende uittreksel van Dr. Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy
of Ayn Rand" lijkt van het Web verdwenen. Vanwege het belang van dit document
heb ik besloten het op mijn website te publiceren.
Howe's famous summary of Dr. Leonard Peikoff's "Objectivism: The
Philosophy of Ayn Rand" seems to have disappeared from the Web. Because
of its importance I have decided to publish it on my website.
Existence, consciousness, identity
are the basic axioms.
The axioms mean: existence (reality)
is, consciousness exists perceiving it, something is what it is.
"There is something
of which I am aware" sums them up.
Causality is a corollary of
identity, relates an entity and its action.
Every entity has identity, which
it must act in accordance with (it cannot contradict it's own nature)
This is the law of identity
applied to action, all actions are caused by entities.
Existence possesses primacy
One is conscious because one
exists, not vice versa.
i.e.: the object of consciousness
precedes its subject - that to which consciousness is directed must necessarily
come before consciousness itself.
Consciousness observes reality,
it does not alter its identity (non-contadiction).
Knowledge of existence (apart
from one's consciousness) can be gained only by directing one's consciousness
outwards, to apprehend reality.
Knowledge of consciousness itself
may be gained by introspection.
The metaphysically given is
Anything in existence apart
from human action is metaphysically given.
The metaphysically given is
"necessary" since it's non-existence would involve contradiction (causality).
Necessary is the antonym of
chosen, but man-made objects don not violate causality.
Man must enact the requisite
causes by rearranging combinations of natural elements.
Value judgments can not be made
of the metaphysically given, it simply is.
To validate epistemology, one
must first validate sense perception and volition.
If one is unable to observe
reality (without distortion) there can be no cognitive enterprise since
there are no innate ideas, conceptual content is derived from the senses.
If the conceptual level is automatic,
if human beings are determined, then no cognitive guidance is applicable.
The validity of the sense is
an axiom, it is a precondition of proof.
If one is conscious of that
which is, then one's means of awareness are one's means of
are valid - a corollary of consciousness.
Sense organs are a link in a
causally determined chain, they do not have an ability to distort; they
give us evidence of everything impinging upon them, the full context of
Sensations are caused in part
by objects in reality and in part by our organs of perceptions (in the
forms they provide) - a difference in sensory form, however, does
not matter. Beings with different senses will not come to different conclusions,
they simply gain different kinds or amounts of knowledge.
Sensations are real, they are
the inexorabl effects of primaries, they are neither wholly in the object
or the subject, they are results of an interaction of the two; however
in the sense that the source of sensory form is a fact independent of consciousness,
they are "out there".
Consciousness, like all entities,
possesses identity; it is finite and limited,it is something which
has to grasp its objects somehow.
It is not omniscient - an infinite
consciousness would have no identity, it is a nothing, it does not exist
since it has no identitiy in particular - infinity is merely a potentiality,
the actual is always finite.
A means to perception cannot
be used to negate perception.
The perceptual level is the
metaphysically given, the brain integrates disparate sensations into percepts
The conceptual level, however,
is not automatic.
The actions required of a consciousness
on the conceptual level are not automatic.
The primary irreducable cause
of volition is the choice to "focus" ones consciousness.
This decision to perceive reality
precedes value judgments and ideas.
Volition does not defy causality
- man is neither indeterminate nor determined, man chooses the causes that
shape his actions, his actions do have causes; they are both caused and
Volition is axiomatic, self-evident
To ask for proof of free
will is to presuppose the validity of volition, since proof is only necessary
because of free will.
Volition is a corollary of consciousness.
Thus the need for epistemological
norms is proven.
The conceptual level (which
animals do not possess) is the ability to regard entities as units.
Units are things viewed as being
in existing relationships.
Differentiation and integration
of entities into a concept are the means to a unit-perspective, concepts
achieve "unit-economy" - they condense the vast array of units "out there"
into a single idea - so instead of the need to remember all the trees ever
encountered, one simply remembers the concept tree and it's characteristics.
Words, language, are essential
to the process of conceptualization and thought by providing a visual/auditory
"tag" for a concept, itself functioning as a unit.
The unit, both in measurement
and conceptualization, brings the universe, the potential of all existents
and quantities within the range of finite consciousness.
Man relates concretes quantitatively;
to form a concept we retain characteristics but omit their measurements
(which exist but are not specified).
A concept is "a mental integration
of two or more units possessing the same distinguishing characteristics
with their particular measurements omitted".
Higher level concepts (those
removed from the strictly perceptual level) also involve measurement omission,
they are abstractions from previous concepts.
A definition is the final step
A definition specifies the essential
characteristics of a concept's units, since listing all characteristics
The genus and differentia, or
species, are the necessary parts of a definition, which reflect the differentiation
of the units from a larger group (genus).
Concepts are contextual, as
are definitions since man's mind operates under a certain context of knowledge
(it is not omniscient, it has identity).
As one's knowledge expands,
definitions rnay have to be revised to reflect the new context - the new
definition does not contradict the old one however, it is just a refinement
of it since the facts in the old definition no longer serve to differentiate
the units subsumed.
Concepts also remain open-ended
to new knowledge - characteristics which are added to the concept which
do not contradict earlier knowledge.
A definition is made on the
basis of the concept's fundamental characteristie(s); the definition implicitly
contains all known features, but it is not interchangeable with the concept
itself - it is a condensation.
Concepts and definitions are
objective, there is a real rnetaphysical precedent (observed characteristics),
which are processed by a volitional consciousness; concepts are the products
of existence and consciousness.
Some concepts (synonyms or borderline
cases) are optional, one can alter an existing concept to accommodate the
new concept, create a new concept, or simply describe the object (i.c.;
hanging tables) as long as the option makes no cognitive difference or
leads to contradiction.
Knowledge is the grasp of an
object through an active, reality based process chosen by the subject (to
find this method and explain it is epistemology's purpose).
This method is logic ('non-contradictory
Objectivity, the means to knowledge,
is "volitional adherence to reality by the method of logic"
Knowledge is contextual and
A concept is objective when
defined within the full context of current knowledge, this context cannot
be stripped away since knowledge on everv level is relational, a non-contradictory
sum - not disconnected concretes.
Knowledge is hierarchical, proof
is available by reduction to perception (axioms); 'stolen concepts' cannot
be proven to have any relation to reality - dropped context.
False concepts represent attempts
to integrate errors, contradictions, and cannot be reduced to perception
- they are invalid.
The objectivist epistemology
amounts to the injunction to follow reason.
Reason is "the faculty that
organizes pereeptual units in conceptual terms by following the principles
Reason is the faculty
of proof, one cannot then 'prove it' as such by simpler factors, it must
be accepted since it is reality.
However reason can be validated
by showing that it is man's only means of knowledge, and that it can lead
man to certainty.
Reason is man's only means of
knowledge, all other claims are reducible to emotional response (i.e.;
how do you know? "I feel I am right").
Emotions are not inexplicable,
they are products (effects) of ideas.
They are an automated value
judgrnent based on explicit or implicit beliefs.
There is no dichotomy between
reason and emotion, they are integrated.
Since emotions are the consequences
of conclusions, they can only seem inexplicable if one does not explicitly
identify and logically integrate ideas.
Emotions are not tools of cognition
because they have no means of independent access to reality, their basis
can be either true or false.
Emotions are important, Objectivism
is not anti-emotion (stoicism), emotions play an essential role in life,
but not in cognition.
Arbitrary statements are neither
true nor false, they are entirely divorced from cognition, they are worse
than false, they are wholly invalid.
One can transfer the status
of an arbitrary statement to truth or falsehood only by relating it to
an established context.
The onus of proof is on someone
who states the arbitrary, one cannot prove a negative or disprove the arbitrary
if it has no relation to existenee - "no inference can be drawn from a
zero" which has no impact on reality.
Reason leads one to objective
Certainty is contextual, like
concepts and definitions.
Certainty is an absolute within
the relevant context.
Further knowledge will not lead
one to contradiction of previously held ideas, if their contextual nature
It is crucial to identify what
man's nature is; normative ethics (value judgrnents) presuppose an answer
to this question, for it is necessary to know man's nature in order to
know what we should do.
Living organisms are goal directed
Their existence requires action
to maintain (death is a static state)
Man is a living organism.
There are three forms of consciousness:
sensual, perceptual, conceptual.
Man cannot live by the survival
means of lower organisms, ours is a conceptual consciousness and our means
of survival is reason; we survive by means of our knowledge and action,
not unerring instinct.
Reason is an individual attribute,
there is no 'collective mind'
Men may share their knowledge,
but not their thinking.
A conclusion can be reached
by discussion, but each person's brain is theirs alone to use.
The individual is a sovereign
A code of ethics should deal
with three questions:
For what end should one live
(value) - life
What principle should one follow
to achieve this (virtue) - rationality
Whom should benefit from one's
actions (beneficiary) - oneself.
Morality is not a primary, facts
of reality give rise to it.
A value is "that which one acts
to gain and/or keep".
A value needs both a valuer
and at least two choices, an altemative to the value; otherwise it cannot
be a value.
The alternative of existence
vs. nonexistence is a precondition of values, an immortal being could not
possess them, only living organisms have grounds to pursue a particular
side of this alternative - life is the root of value.
Morality is a code of values
accepted by choice.
Man needs morality in order
to survive - man's life is the root of morality.
If man is to sustain his life,
he must act long range.
This need to project consequences
into the future is made possible only by the same kind of consciousness
that necessitates it - man must conceptualize the requirements of survival.
Man must abstract principles
(a general truth on which other truths depend) and then act on principle
in any given circumstance.
The opposite, a short range
outlook, viewed long-range, is self destructive (pragmatism).
Rationality is the primary virtue,
reason the ruling value.
Evasion of reality constitutes
the essence of irrationality, of evil.
Reality is an interconnected
whole; any evasion of its parts will grow in scope if it is sustained,
resulting in intellectual disintegration, in non-perception.
Hope, faith, wishing are the
opposite of virtue.
The individual is the proper
beneficiary of his own moral action.
Egoism - rational self-interest
- is the correct policy -'selfishness'.
Involves not sacrificing yourself
to others, nor sacrificing others to oneself.
Man's life is not ruled by conflict,
it does not require martyrs.
Neither does egoism rule out
caring for those whom you value.
Values, like concepts, are not
intrinsic (i.e. mandated by gods) or subjective (picked arbitrarily), but
objective - they depend on a proper relationship between your mind and
Value presupposes an act of
evaluation, it is not good in itself.
The 'good' is also an aspect
of reality in relation to man, its not intrinsic or arbitrary.
The three ruling values of one's
life if one chooses to live are - reason, purpose, self-esteem.
These values imply and require
all of man's virtues.
The primary virtue is rationality;
six derivative virtues are:
Independence, integrity, honesty,
justice, productivity, pride.
These are useful for clarification
of the primary virtue, but not necessarily an exhaustive list, they are
the minimum knowledge of virtue needed to follow reason consistently.
Independence is one's acceptance
of the responsibility of forming one's own judgments and of living by the
work of one's own mind, it is an orientation towards reality, not towards
living off of others.
Integrity is loyalty to one's
own convictions and values, loyalty to rational principles.
Honesty is the refusal to fake
or evade reality, it is the rejection of unreality.
Justice is the virtue of judging
men's character and conduct objectively, and of acting accordingly when
dealing with them - rationality when evaluating others.
Productivity is the process
of creating material values, whether goods or services - adjustment of
nature to man (this is the main existential content of virtue).
Pride is the commitment to achieve
one's own moral perfection, it is moral ambitiousness.
The initiation of physical force
against others is the primary vice, which negates the ability to employ
Force is the opposite of both
mind and value - good cannot be achieved through evil.
In existential terms, the moral
man's reward is life.
In emotional/spiritual terms,
the concomitant reward is happiness.
The achievement of happiness
is the only moral purpose of ones life.
Virtue is practical - there
is no dichotomy between virtue and value since virtue is the means to value,
to be moral is to be practical.
Virtue is not automatically
rewarded however, since man is neither omnipotent nor omniscient.
It is rewarding in the sense
that it maximizes one's possibility of success.
Virtue is long-range, one must
enact the means to succeed.
As virtue is practical, so evil
is impotent, capable only of negation.
Evil is capable of destroying
only itself and its victims.
No thought, knowledge, or consistency
is necessary to destroy.
Evil can only exist as a parasite
on the achievements of virtue if one gives it sanction to do so.
Morality can only be viewed
as impractical if one holds a flawed view of consciousness and the nature
of existence - a culmination of errors.
Happiness is the normal condition
Pleasure's cause is the gain
of some value, which on the physical level is a requirement of survival
- pain is the opposite.
The emotion of joy results from
the gain of some value chosen on the conceptual level, suffering from a
failure in this regard.
Pleasure/pain is a barometer
of the fundamental altemative of life vs. death.
Properly, so is joy/suffering
- but man's chosen values are not necessarily in harmony with the requirements
Happiness is the state of consciousness
which proceeds from the achievement of one's values (since a course of
self-destruction is an anti-value course, one cannot long pursue values
opposed to life and be happy, since irrational values cannot be achieved
- the irrational man is tortured, unhappy).
Happiness is not the absence
of unhappiness, but vice versa - values can only be achieved by seeking
goals, not by seeking to escape consequences.
Rationality is a sufficient
precondition of happiness, because though one may be beset by obstacles,
the pain is superficial.
Beneath this pain are the values
of reason, purpose, self-esteem - one feels the efficacy of knowing that
achievement is possible.
Contrast: the irrationalist
feels that happiness is superficial, beneath which lies anxiety, 'nausea',
conflict, self-doubt, metaphysical pain.
Happiness is thus the normal
underlying state - one holds the recognition that the universe is benevolent
(neutral), that it is not malevolently pursuing your destruction.
By accepting this premise, one
refuses to take pain seriously, to grant it metaphysical primacy or significance;
pain is a stimulus to corrective action (What can I do?) not (What is the
A rational man needs not only
to know of his efficacy, but toexperience it metaphysically as well.
Sex is the way in which one
directly experiences a celebration of life, of self-esteem and the
Sex is to love what action is
to thought, to introduce a breach between the two (under the appropriate
circumstances) is to breach one's integrity.
Sexual feeling is a summation
which presupposes all of a rational human being's moral values and one's
love for them (and one's self), and one's love for a partner who also embodies
them; it is a physical capacity in the service of a conceptual need of
mind-body harmony; it is an end in itself and not necessarily a means to
a further end (i.c. procreation).
One cannot reverse cause and
effect - if one wishes to gain self esteem through sex, it becomes an act
of escapism, of trying to momentarily diminish the anxiety caused by false
premises (malevolent universe) - it is tantamount to groveling for self
Any human pleasure is largely
spiritual, meaning not mere satisfaction of physical need.
Our pleasure comes dominantly
from our emotions, frorn human satisfaction.
This principle applies preeminently
to sex - no human pleasure so intense can be dominantly a matter of physical
sensation - it is dominantly an emotion, and it's cause - intellectual
Politics is the normative branch
of philosophy which defines the principles of a proper social system -
it rests upon, and is an application of, ethics.
What kind of a society conforms
to the requirements of man's life? is the question all political
principles must answer to.
The basic principle of politics
is - individual rights as absolutes.
Rights have no meaning outside
of a social context, they are a moral principle defining and sanctioning
a man's freedom of action with regard to other men.
Rights are the link between
the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, they subordinate
society to moral law.
The fundamental right is the
right to life, which has the derivatives of the right to liberty, property,
and the pursuit of happiness.
Man has a method of survival,
his mind - and he requires the freedom to act and achieve his values -
To sustain life, man needs to
create the material means of his survival - the right to property is the
right to gain, keep, use, and dispose of material values.
Man needs to be governed by
a motive to sustain his life, which is his own welfare - the right to happiness
is this right, the right to live for one's own sake.
Freedom is indivisible, none
of these rights are possible apart from the rest.
Man's life is the moral standard,
it is only the requirements of man's life that make morality (and rights)
These are the only rights -
all other valid rights are applications of these three, and are derived
Rights pertain only to action
- they are the freedom to act, the freedom from physical compulsion, interference
or coercion (force).
A man's rights impose no duties
on others - they are stated in the form "freedom firom..."X or "thou shall
not...", not "freedom to..." X, or, "you must..." since man does not act
Rights are a negative obligation,
to infringe another's rights, they do not constitute a claim to assistance
on others, nor are they a guarantee of success in all endeavours.
The idea of human rights vs.
property rights is a contradiction - it means some human beings want to
make others their property (by controlling their ability to live independently).
Rights are an attribute of the
individual, there are no such things as collective rights (rights possessed
by a group) since these all demand a distinction between beneficiaries
An individual can neither acquire
new rights nor lose rights by belonging to a group.
There are no rights to other's
labour, no rights of groups, nor rights of parts of humans or non-humans
Rights can be violated only
by the use of force.
Rights are objective, and their
protection involves protecting innocents from force.
This is the sole moral purpose
A govemment's power must derive
from the people, it is a servant and not a ruler.
It is the agency of protection,
The government has a monopoly
on the use of retaliatory force in a rational society - this use of force
cannot be arbitrary, it must be objectively defined by law.
Citizens therefore delegate
the right of self-defence to the government except in cases of immediate
Government, therefore, must
consist of police, military, and a court system in order to protect citizens
against criminals (both individuals and agressor nations) and to resolve
honest disputes and misunderstandings (contracts, Civil law).
Since force is inherentty negative
(destructive), it must be used in this capacity only to destroy agents
Government's power is thus inherently
negative, it cannot be used to sustain virtue.
It must not intervene in the
intellectual or moral lives of its citizens.
The function of government is
to protect freedom, not truth or virtue.
A government can play no part
in promoting the philosophy it is based upon, this is the responsibility
of private citizens (if they so choose).
Laws must be objective and clear-cut,
neither capricious in interpretation nor indefensible; meaning, not arbitrary.
Citizens cannot spend their
lives trying to anticipate the government's whim.
The government may not initiate
force in regard to its own legitimate functions by demanding service in
the police or the militia, nor may it seize property to finance its activities
Politics identifies the principles
which should govem every social field.
One of the aspects of a proper
political system is a proper economic system.
The economic system which does
not prevent man from acting in accordance with individual rights is capitalism.
Capitalism is the only moral
It is the social system based
on the recognition of individual rights (incl. property rights) in which
all property is privately owned.
Capitalism is the moral system
because it is the only system which subordinates society to moral law.
It adheres to the virtues of
independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.
Capitalism rewards the pursuit
of rational self-interest and thus, though this is not its primary validation,
The justification of capitalism
is that it is a system which implements a scientific code of morality -
which recognizes man's nature and needs - which is based on reason and
The good of the public can only
be achieved through freedom - to reject this causal sequence is to reject
reason, capitalism, the public good, and freedorn - this leads to slavery
Capitalism is objective because
it is based on the proper view of metaphysics and epistemology.
Virtue and objectivity are the
same phenomenon as viewed from the aspect of action (existence) or thought
(consciousness) - it is the proper volitional relationship between consciousness
Economie valuc (price and profit)
can not be set or gained arbitrarily under a capitalist system.
Economic power is not the same
as political power (political power is negation, economic power (like knowledge)
is an earned value.
The degree to which these attributes
are arbitrary is the degree to which a society has adopted statist controls
- unadulterated capitalism has never yet existed.
Opposition to capitalism is
based upon a bad view of epistemology - on rejection of reason to some
degree - evasion, whim, dialectic, etc.
To defend it, one must first
grasp capitalism's intellectual basis.
Two opposing systems of thought
not conflicting "ideologies" (meaning, arbitrary political systems viewed
in a vacuum), is the arena in which the intellectual battle for the world
is being fought.
The last of the five branches
that comprise a full system of philosophy is esthetics, the philosophy
of art, since art is a need of man, not simply a professional field.
Art has the purpose of fulfilling
an essential spiritual need of human life.
Man's consciousness is conceptual,
and a spiritual being needs guidance.
This guidance is provided by
philosophy, which integrates principles.
However, man cannot explicitly,
consciously, think in philosophical terms all the time, he must have an
implicit philosophical context available at all times - an ulitimate integration,
sum of his metaphysical value judgments; since his mind is an integrating
mechanism, it needs this vision, this unity - this is the function
achieved by art.
Art is a "selective re-creation
of reality according to an artists metaphysical value-judgments" - whether
these judgments are explicit or not.
An artist presents what
he considers to be of metaphysical import.
Art is an end in itself, it's
purpose is to show, not tell (not didactic).
The telling is the province
of philosophy, but either art or philosophy alone are not enougb to satisfy
man's need of philosophy.
Art converts man's concepts
into the form of a percept - it not only integrates metaphysics, but objectifies
it in the form of an existential object - presenting it not as a content
of consciousness, but of existence.
Since the purpose of man's consciousness
is to observe, this conversion makes one's metaphysical abstractions into
a concrete, which one may deal with directly, in the same way that language
Men respond to art in a profoundly
personal way since it is either an affirmation or rejection of their deepest
Both subject and style are significant
in art - one reveals the artist's metaphysics, the other his psycho-epistemology.
Art cannot be an instrument
of literal reproduction of reality (naturalism).
It is a selective recreation
- since art is subject te contemplation, everything included is important
by the fact that it is included, it acquires metaphysical significance
- in life, one ignores the unimportant, in art - one omits it.
All men are able to respond
to art by virtue of an implicit sense of life - a subconsciously
integrated appraisal of man and life which is created as a sum of one's
choices and conclusions throughout life - most men do not know in explicit
terms what they consider to be important, but they consider it nonetheless
- and since art is implicitly philosophical (if not explicitly) they react
There is a difference between
philosophical judgment and esthetic judgment.
In judging an artwork's philosophy,
one is interested in truth.
The purpose of art however is
to show - and so an artwork's philosophy is irrelevant to an objective
It is on the basis of an artwork's
theme that one judges it, as in how well it projects this theme, to what
degree of mastery.
Three ways to judge esthetic
value are selectivity in regards to subject, clarity, and integration.
The subject of an artwork ought
to suit its theme, it can not be meaningless, random, or plagiarized.
Art is not for art's sake;
but for man's sake - philosophical freedom is not the freedom to dismember
art, thus non-selectivity in regards to art's subject, or non-representational
Technique is not enough by itself.
Clarity is also essential since
the purpose of art is not to revel in ambiguity, but to overcome the opacity
of human existence, to show it's essence - not to disintegrate and destroy
The hallmark of art is integration,
every item included must be part of an indivisible whole - the inclusion
of the insignificant produces a contradiction, it undercuts the artist's
recreation of reality as being unreal.
Art can be judged rationally
- it is neither in the object nor in the eye of the beholder - beauty is
a value, it is objective, it is in the object,a s judged by a rational
It is both an esthetic appraisal
and one's own philosophic standards which one must onsult to judge whether
a work of art is of value to oneself - it may be a great work of art, but
it is not a contradiction to not like it.
Esthetics completes philosophy,
by linking it back to concretes, to metaphysics, to reality.