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Understanding Objectivism

This course is addressed to those who agree with the ideas of Ayn Rand, but who may experience difficulty in completely digesting them — i.e., those who want to learn how to integrate these ideas fully into their own knowledge, character and actions. The course is part theory, part demonstration and exercises.

1. Introduction
The widespread detachment of philosophy from life. Are there problems inherent in living by a philosophy? The need for a method of understanding abstract ideas; understanding vs. summarizing. How the mind-body dichotomy negates any such method.

2-6. Digesting Objectivist Ideas
Essentials of the proper method of understanding ideas, including: the need for concretization; the value (and misuse) of definitions; reduction: the need for systematic return to the perceptual level; integration with other knowledge; playing devil’s advocate; establishing an idea’s context; hierarchy and spiral progression. These processes are used to understand several key ideas, including: life as the standard of value; the virtue of honesty; individual rights; objectivity (as against intrinsicism or subjectivism).

7-9. Two False Methods of Dealing with Ideas
The method of rationalism: separation of ideas from reality; improper reliance on deduction from axioms; false demand for “comprehensiveness” and “system”; tendency to intrinsicism. Rationalist polemics.

The method of empiricism: improper emphasis on concretes; rejection of axioms and of hierarchy of knowledge; tendency to subjectivism. Empiricist polemics.

Objectivism vs. rationalism and empiricism: ideas as means of knowing reality; integrating percepts and concepts; the primacy of induction. System without rationalism. Knowledge without omniscience. Cognitive options without subjectivism. Objectivist polemics.

10. Emotions and Morality
The false alternative of repression vs. emotionalism; rationalism and repression; empiricism and emotionalism. “Objectivist repressors.” The false alternative of moralizing condemnation (rationalism) vs. amoralism (empiricism). The Objectivist view: contextual absolutism. Evaluative options.

11. Judging Intellectual Honesty
Tests of honesty; the role of context and of psycho-epistemology; the implicit vs. the explicit; intellectual passivity vs. dishonesty. Can a man honestly support religion? the welfare state? modern art?


All of Leonard Peikoff’s lectures may be ordered from the Ayn Rand Bookstore via their website, or by calling them at 1-800-729-6149 (U.S. or Canada), or 1-949-222-6557 (International).