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Objectivism 101 Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Two: Reality and Reason Monday, July 1, 2002 13 th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center.

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Presentation on theme: "Objectivism 101 Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Two: Reality and Reason Monday, July 1, 2002 13 th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center."— Presentation transcript:

1 Objectivism 101 Diana Mertz Hsieh Lecture Two: Reality and Reason Monday, July 1, th Annual Summer Seminar of The Objectivist Center

2 Objectivism 101 Schedule 1.SundayPhilosophy 2.MondayReality and Reason 3.TuesdayLife and Happiness 4.WednesdayThe Virtues 5.ThursdayIndividual Rights 6.FridaySpiritual Fuel

3 Who Cares?  Metaphysics and epistemology establish a philosophical method and thereby… –Shape a person’s most basic view of the world –Influence all thinking, choices, and actions

4 Metaphysics  Metaphysics studies the basic nature of reality  What is the relationship between internal world of consciousness and external world of reality?  Two basic answers: –Primacy of Existence –Primacy of Consciousness

5 Existence or Consciousness?  Primacy of Existence –Existence needs no explanation –Facts are what they are –Consciousness requires an external world  Primacy of Consciousness –Existence needs explanation –Facts can be what we want them to be –Consciousness can be aware of only itself

6 Example One: Primacy of ? A “This can’t be happening to me. God wouldn’t permit this to happen to a good person like me. So I’m sure it’s nothing, just a harmless cyst. I’ll worry about it later.” B “I’d better make an appointment with my doctor right away. I need to know whether this is cancer or not. If it is, early detection will make a real difference in treatment.” A woman finds a lump in her left breast. She is worried that it might be breast cancer. She tells herself:

7 Example Two: Primacy of ? A “I’m going to learn all I can from in business school, then I’ll work for the best entrepreneur in the industry. With that knowledge and experience in hand, I’ll start my own business.” B “My seven lucky numbers are the key to getting rich. I’m going to buy a lotto ticket every day with those numbers! The world owes me a break!” A college student from a poor family is determined to become wealthy. He formulates a plan:

8 Primacy of Existence  Primacy of Existence says… –Existence needs no explanation –Facts are what they are –Consciousness requires an external world

9 Epistemology  Epistemology studies the nature of cognition  The fundamental question: How do we know reality?

10 Human Forms of Awareness  Perceptual awareness is direct knowledge of the world through sense organs –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 faculty of reason –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

11 The Nature of Reason  Conceptual awareness requires… –Perceptions: We must always ground conceptual abstractions in the facts of reality –Effort: We must exert effort towards the goal of awareness of reality –Method: We must be objective in all reasoning

12 Grounding in Facts  We must always ground our thinking in the facts of reality, so… –Focus your attention on the facts! –Go forth and observe! –Test your theories against reality!

13 Exerting Effort  We must exert the necessary effort for conceptual thought, so… –Exercise your volitional power by choosing to focus your mind

14 The Nature of Volition  Volition is the choice to focus or not, to exert effort towards the goal of awareness or not  Three basic mental states: –Focus: exerting effort towards goal of awareness “Bright eyed and bushy tailed” –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!”

15 The Method of Objectivity  Objectivity is not emotional disinterestedness or considering all opinions equally  Objectivity is the method of making judgments based on… –all the relevant facts –only the relevant facts –the laws of logic  Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification of reality

16 Using Reason Effectively  We must always ground conceptual abstractions in the facts of reality  We must exert effort towards the goal of awareness of reality  We must be objective in all reasoning  Recommendations: –David Kelley’s The Art of Reasoning –Barbara Branden’s Principles of Efficient Thinking

17 Alternatives to Reason?  Some want conceptual awareness to be like perceptual awareness: –Automatic –Effortless –Infallible  So advocate an alternative means to knowledge: –Mystical insight –Authorities –Emotions

18 The Nature of Emotions  Emotions are not tools of cognition, not a means to knowledge  Emotions are subconscious value judgments  Reason and emotion can be in harmony

19 Reason: The Only Path  Authorities and emotions are not means to knowledge  Reason is the only way to gain conceptual knowledge of reality

20 Objectivism and Atheism  Objectivism is an atheistic philosophy, rejecting the existence of… –All supernatural realms  Heaven, hell, and purgatory –All supernatural beings  Ghosts, unicorns, invisible pink elephants –All supernatural events  Miracles, reincarnation, resurrection  The supernatural is that which transcends nature

21 Do We Know That God Exists?  Argument from Design: The universe is too complex not to have a designer. God is that designer. But who designed God?  Argument from First Cause: Everything, including the universe, must have a cause. God is that first cause. But what caused God?  Argument from Mystical Experience: Other people have witnessed miracles of God. How do we know?

22 Agnosticism  Agnosticism claims that we do not know whether God exists or not, after all… –Theists have not proven his existence –Atheists have not proven his non-existence  Agnosticism is inconsistent, treating God as special case  The burden of proof is on those who assert the existence of something

23 Objectivism and God  The arguments for God’s existence all fail… …so theism is false  There is no need to prove God’s non- existence… …so agnosticism is false  Atheism is the only rational alternative

24 Reality and Reason  Metaphysics: Reality –Primacy of Existence –Rejection of the supernatural  Epistemology: Reason –Knowledge requires grounding in facts –Knowledge requires effort of focus –Knowledge requires method of objectivity

25 Today’s Topics  Primacy of existence versus primacy of consciousness  Perceptual and conceptual awareness  Grounding in facts  Volition / free will  Objectivity and logic  Alternatives to reason: emotion and authority  God’s existence: atheism, theism, and agnosticism


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