Friday, March 27, 2009

Edicts Of Ayn Rand Or Tolerance For All Ideas.

Is that an either-or? Most people in Indian Universities seem to think so. To be honest of the views of people on Objectivism – are mostly subjectivist or intrincist or a hash of both. This issue came up explicitly when I was remarked at, time and again, from different people that "everything about me is about Ayn Rand". Most people in college who know me associate me with Ayn Rand and think I am one of those "Ayn Rand types". These are the subjectivists. To them, some people have a thing for Ayn Rand and some others have a thing for Che Guevara. It's not much of a difference. They don't even care to think of the kind of a mental process would lead to a person upholding reason and what kind of a mental process leads to ideas of Che. Some subjectivists, even openly admit that Atlas Shrugged is a book about big business with loads of long speeches. Of course, I don't expect anybody to understand the whole book in their first read, but evaluating probably one of the greatest book of our time with a bored, unimportant look convinces me all the more that they think "anything goes". I wonder whether they really care to understand the book in the first place. They fail to understand that the luxuries that they enjoy today, from matchsticks to cyclotrons are not metaphysically given. They are a product of reason – to which they remain disinterested to. Sadly, this does prevent them from carrying Ayn Rand's books in between classes to look cool and to be counted as a "rebel".

The intrincist goes the other way. He thinks everything about an Objectivist is primarily and fundamentally about Ayn Rand. To him, an Objectivist is not one who processes Ayn Rand's philosophy, judges it as great for man's life and applies the Objectivist framework to the best of his knowledge to his life. Far from it, an Objectivist to the intrincist, is a person who follows the edicts of Ayn Rand dogmatically. Any mention of an Objectivist, and they immediately think that everything about him is only about Ayn Rand, not Objectivism. They mean it in the sense that reason is not an Objectivist's means of knowledge, but the edicts of Ayn Rand are. To them, the choice is intrincism or subjectivism. It's either the dogma of Ayn Rand or "anything goes" including glorifying killers like Che Guevara on t-shirts. To the subjectivist, people supporting the ideas of Ayn Rand are "extreme" and "stifling" and to the intrincist, people supporting the ideas of Ayn Rand are "dogmatic moralizers" or "angry emotionalists." Such an alternative is patently false.

As Peikoff writes in Fact and Value:

"Do any of you who agree with her philosophy respond to it by saying "Yeah, it's true"—without evaluation, emotion, passion? Not if you are moral. A moral person (assuming he understands philosophy at all) greets the discovery of this kind of truth with admiration, awe, even love; he makes a heartfelt positive moral evaluation. He says: Objectivism is not only true, it is great! Why? Because of the volitional work a mind must have performed to reach for the first time so exalted a level of truth—and because of all the glorious effects such knowledge will have on man's life, all the possibilities of action it opens up for the future." [Bold Added]

I think, any person who agrees with the ideas of Ayn Rand, is an Objectivist, not a Randian or whatnot. He upholds the fundamental of the philosophy: objectivity. Objectivity denotes a certain kind of a relationship between concepts and reality; concepts are a result of a volitional
observation of existence by the human consciousness. Another Ayn Rand's seminal discovery is that any kind of cognition or fact amounts to an evaluation for man – carbon is good for man and the global warming agenda is anti-man. There can be no thought for thought's sake or "pure thought" without any value-judgments to draw. Even a pebble on the street is evaluated by man as harmless to man. One cannot value with without a process of evaluation. Yet, this is what everybody think of when they talk of a "spiritual" or an "intellectual" realm of a person. This is why they award the same status to Ayn Rand and Che Guevara. For them, ideas, concepts or theories are other-wordly "spiritual" matters which cannot be looked upon judged and evaluated in the cold light of reason. It does not matter whether the question is: is capitalism is a superior system, morally and politically, than communism. Most students just simply repeat what is taught in classrooms: they are two different schools and cannot be judged on a rigid standard of objectivity. Translation: it doesn't matter what kind of a thought process led to such an irrational idea and what kind of an effect such a philosophy will have on man's life.

Judging any Objectivist merely to be "a follower of Ayn Rand" misses the whole point about an objectivist; an objectivist is a person who seeks to advance his life, spiritually and materially, knowing fully well that any good (the rational) can only be achieved by the means of reason and not by means of evasion. "The most eloquent badge of the authentic Objectivist who does understand Ayn Rand's philosophy," Peikoff writes in the same essay,

"is his attitude toward values (which follows from his acceptance of reason). An Objectivist is not primarily an academician or a political activist (though he may well devote his professional life to either or both pursuits). In his soul, he is essentially a moralist—or, in broader terms, what Ayn Rand herself called "a valuer."

A valuer, in her sense, is a man who evaluates extensively and intensively. That is: he judges every fact within his sphere of action—and he does it passionately, because his value-judgments, being objective, are integrated in his mind into a consistent whole, which to him has the feel, the power and the absolutism of a direct perception of reality. Any other approach to life comes from and pertains to another philosophy, not to Objectivism."

It's a shame that most students in India see Ayn Rand and Objectivism as a subjective fancy or an intrinsic edict coming from Ayn Rand instead of God. In reason, they are two ways to get Objectivism fundamentally wrong.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Global Warming -- A Summary.

A friend of mine recently asked me to prepare a short speech on the issue of global warming. Based on my reading on the internet, I wrote the following:

Global Warming, in and of itself, is no longer a science that scientists publish papers about but has become a distinguished political movement of our time. To understand the issue, it is important to get the facts straight. To put the whole issue into one question: is global warming man-made or is it occurring due to factors unrelated to man? Do we know that a warmer planet is harmful in the first place, before we start closing industries as fast as possible? Here are some facts to help make up your mind: The climate of the planet has changed for centuries without any help from humans. For instance, consider the fact that the warmest years of human civilization occurred much before the industrial revolution had happened. In fact, when temperatures were considerably higher in the medieval period, that period is referred to by scientists, as the climatic optimum – in other words an optimum temperature. In this period, Greenland, which is now covered with snow was a booming economy. All in all, higher temperatures are shown to be good for man than being covered by snow when life becomes impossible. Are carbon emissions causing the planet to warm?All the evidence points to the all important fact that carbon-di-oxide increased some 800 years after there was a rise in temperature. All of this combined with fact that scientists in the 1970’s predicted a large scale global cooling and anybody who disagreed was thought of to be a freak. However, no such cooling infact happened. On the other hand, the same people are crying over global warming today. The only “facts” that the global warming alarmists show is a “consensus” of a number of scientists who think that the planet is warming because of man – and the dissenters today, like the 1970’s are turned away as freaks. But consensus is not the way of science. For instance, Galileo was prosecuted because the consensus was that the world was flat. If it’s science that we are concerned about, then its facts that matter, not consensus. If global warming alarmists have their way, it is the developing countries who will take the worst hit if we indulge in carbon trading or put a limit or close down industries. The thing to understand is that even if we decide to combat global warming, we will be sacrificing a poorer generation for a richer generation in the future.

Considering all the above facts, could we say that these alarmists do not know the facts. Obviously not. Ignorance cannot be a plea. It's pertinent to ask: if facts don't motivate the policy behind the green movement, then what does? It cannot be imagined that people like Al Gore who have millions of resources at their command couldn't get to the evidence. Global warming alarmists or environmentalists are anti-development and anti-man. It’s a radical statement to make but conforms to reality. How many times have we heard to keep the wilderness “pure” instead of “corrupting” the earth with malls and buildings? Or consider environmentalist claim that until man hopes to rejoin the nature, we can only hope that the right kind of virus can come along. Everything man needs, from matchsticks to airplanes violates the “rights” of rocks, trees and weeds. If we are interested in uplifting humanity out of poverty, it is important that we throw global warming nonsense out of the window – and proudly assert a pro-life philosophy instead of listening to the man haters.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Some Of The Stuff Around Me.

I have a few tabs open on my firefox that I dont want to write them as full posts. A lot of bloggers do their weekly round up's and stuff -- I think I understand why now.

Anyway, here is some of the stuff around me and some interesting reads I've read in the past week--

1. One of my friends participated in the Moot Court whose problem I had mentioned about earlier. I usually don't participate in these competitions because they simply don't really interest me. I mean, its the same environmental law or international law they teach in classrooms. You only just have to be polite to the Judges and that's that. For instance, take a look at my friend's story: He quoted a verse from the Quran that says that Jihad is the duty of Muslims to prove one of his points about extradition of a terrorist from an Islamic country to a civilized country. The Judges immediately jumped down this throat screaming about civilian rights and the like. In short, islamic appeasment. Anyway, what I thought was funny about the whole incident was the million dollar look on their face when my friend called out the equivalent of "the Emperor has no clothes!" in reaction to Islam. Heh!

2. I am still delving into Objectivism with the seminar and Objectivism is still quite new to me. Whatever I've read and understood so far, I completely agree with. On the net, there a few great posts that I have treated myself to which made me all the more curious about Objectivism. One of them is Greg Perkin's, D'Souza versus The New Atheists series explaining the Objectivist viewpoint on atheism. The series is one that I recommend to almost every atheist I meet in India. The post has served as a cornerstone in my understanding.

I just found another gem last night. The wider part of it was that although I had subscribed to The New Clarion, I hadn't quite taken to reading to it as frequently I do to read NoodleFood. How wrong could I be? They have put together a few of the finest writers. If you haven't heard of them already, be sure to check them out.

I just read the post "A More Fundamental Problem" by Inspector on New Clarion and am all praise for it. It clearly lays down a tough idea in simple terms why pragmatism (the theory that priciples dont matter) is irrational. I am still working my way through the chapter Reason (OPAR) in the seminar and with this read under my belt, I have a head start. Talking of the allged "moderates", the peice began by how people imagined that harm in to a certain degree was ok but a greater degree or "extreme" harm was wrong. Here's my favorite part:

"The thief may be acting on the principle of murder, but he can get away with it in his own mind because, as a Pragmatist, he doesn’t concern himself with principles. If confronted with the consequences of his actions, a Pragmatist - just like the thief that ends up killing a man in the course of a robbery - will scream that he didn’t mean it, and he couldn’t have foreseen that things would come to this. He’s right, in a twisted way: without principles, he can’t foresee what anything he does will come to.

In their blind terror, the only thing Pragmatists can do is to run screaming from any consistency at all. They know, deep down, that the only difference between themselves - the thieves - and the bloody murderers of the world is that the latter are consistent. The problem is that virtuous, principled men are consistent, also. But the pragmatist makes no distinction between the two. Without principles, he is incapable of such distinctions - he knows only that consistency, for him, is the road to a dark place he dare not visit. He is thus trapped - his only defense mechanism is also the very thing that pulls him constantly toward, and work in the service of, what he knows on some level to be evil." [Bold Added]

3. I was recently thinking about why a few of my favorite writers like Thomsa Sowell, Robert Spencer and Ayaan Hirsi Ali never took note of Objectivism even though they were sympatetic to the notion of individual rights. I did a search in my Google Reader and I found a post by Gus Van Horn that totally nailed the issue down. Here's the heart of it, I think:

"His error is a common one, in which he treats an implicitly rational, reality-oriented philosophical outlook as a given, rather than as an implicit example of just another possible ideology. My last would doubtless strike many, probably including Sowell himself, as moral relativism at first blush, but it is not. For if the rational, "adult" ideology that Sowell implicitly favors can be judged as an ideology, so must all other ideologies be examined under the cold light of reason, and compared against the facts of reality, which include the requirements for man's survival."[Bold Added]

3. Two of the other threads I am following on NoodleFood are Greg Perkin's "Challenging What Everybody Knows" and Diana's "Laws Versus Regulations".

Whew, that concludes my first "Some Of the Stuff Around Me". Weird name, huh?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Desert Island Scenarios – A Great Tool In My Bag.

In my experience, I have generally found that people take a point much better when put in the context of a desert island – and I think with good reason. It is hard for anybody in my generation not to think of the hardships Tom Hanks went through in the movie Cast Away to light a fire upon the mention of a desert island. A desert island example asserts the primacy of existence view and keeps the listener anchored to reality. The listener understands that the cars and supermarkets he takes for granted in a division of labor of society will not pop out of the sky on a desert island. The islander has to take the necessary goal-directed action for him to survive. As Ayn Rand once said, "Reality confronts man with a great many "musts," but all of them are conditional; the formula of realistic necessity is: "You must, if " and the "if" stands for man's choice."

For instance, say ten people were deserted instead of just Tom Hanks, the rules established amongst men will that of a laissez faire system that does not hinder progress in any fashion. It would most likely be a government established by well intentioned men demarcating freedom whenever disputes arise trying to charter out a better course for survival.A good government. Is that an oxymoron? It's what Glenn Woiceshyn wrote in his excellent post, "What is a good government?" He takes the example of a desert island and logically gets to the fact that capitalism is the only moral and practical system on earth. Here's an excerpt:

"Imagine escaping alone from a tyrannical country and becoming shipwrecked on a desert island. All you have are some fruit and vegetable seeds in your pocket. You are young and intelligent, but without special skills.

To stay alive, you must obtain food and fresh water, and maintain a fire for warmth and cooking, which initially consumes all your time. You soon figure out how to produce your basic survival needs more efficiently -- by constructing fish traps, farming tools, an irrigation system -- thus allowing you to accumulate "savings," which buys you time and affords you insurance against unforseen setbacks, such as storms, injuries, illness.
With the time saved, you discover how to produce other goods, such as clothes, tools, a shelter, furniture, etc., for enhancing your life. You enjoy inventing new technology to increase your production, but find yourself quite limited, not to mention lonely, on your own.
Hurray! Others become shipwrecked. Each person, rather than produce all his own needs himself, focuses on producing one item efficiently, then trades his surplus production at the market for the produced goods of others.
You marvel at the production efficiency of the "division of labour," and the corresponding enhancement of everyone's life, especially when you now have tools, engines, machines, electricity, etc., to enhance production. Consequently, life is more safe, secure, comfortable and enjoyable.

You had specialized in petroleum production but some clever upstart competes with you and produces oil much more efficiently; so you switch to farming. You tell yourself that your desire to produce oil isn't a rational reason to despise or block someone's superior ability. Such reactions would not be in your rational self-interest, let alone anyone else's.

Many more become shipwrecked and specialize in various productive endeavors, thus yielding a greater quantity, variety and quality of goods and services on the market. "Immigration is good," you conclude.""

Arguments ranging from immigration to the gold standard could be made in this fashion. The reason, I think, why such examples work well is because it scales down the issues of the world to a personal level. It cancels out all the hype, popular myth and idiocy and asks the listener to think for himself. I mean the fact that movements like antitrust and environmentalism are incompatible with human life doesn't take very long to understand when there is nobody's blood to suck in the form of taxes or grants. One could then proceed to tell the listener that in fundamental terms, the relationship of a man with reality does not change – in a desert island or in a division of labor society.

I also suspect that crow epistemology is at work here. A desert island example greatly reduces the amount of perceptual data one requires in making a rational decision by scaling it down to the personal level. One has to deal with a relatively few number of concretes and is thus, easier to see through things clearly. Instead of bearing in mind a lot of details, if one wishes to communicate in essentials, I think desert island examples do an excellent job.

Monday, March 16, 2009

A Few Notes On Blogging.

Its's funny how things keep coming back. I started of my blog without really naming a purpose. Blogging was ( and still quite a bit is) new to me, I don't think I really understood the context of it all for quite sometime. So, I waited to acquire some more knowledge before naming a clear purpose to my blog. I was experimenting and seeing where things would take me. Somebody in the Objectivism seminar commented in one the podcasts that Peikoff, in one of his lectures mentioned that even if a person did not fully grasp the full implication of an idea, it's better to move on. If the idea is important yet undigested, then the issue will come up in one form or the other in the future seeking clarification. I'll attest to that.

The reason for starting out was the urge to clarify the ideas I accept in the years by writing things down instead of simply blurting it out. Thanks to Diana for helping me start out. I am happy with the notes I have been taking down and clarifying a lot of ideas in Objectivism. It's great to see am making progress.

The other thing I've noticed among bloggers is their style of writing. They guys at NoodleFood, The New Clarion, Leitmotif, Rule of Reason, Gus Van Horn and others are great writers. I can only hope I will, at somepoint write as well as they do. I think I can convey an idea, but I would like to improve on my writing. I plan to take the writing course by Peikoff or Peter Schwartz soon, before I give my LSAT's. That way, my essay will improve and so will my chances of getting into a good lawschool. My personal favorite writing styles are of Edward Cline and Myrhaf. Cline for the literature and fiction combo (with great quotes), and Myrhaf for his no-nonsense, clear and subtle approach.

Another point. I was thinking about the issue a few days ago and it occured to me that being a law student, I would at sometime also like to introduce the stuff I study in class to clarify it -- like I clarify Objectivism. Lawschool in India is almost done, so I think I will use the blog as a forum to apply reason to my legal knowledge when I go to lawschool in the US. That's about a year and half from now. As of now, I want to enjoy the experience to bring up issues that stimulate me instead of making it a chore. It's a delicate balance to strike but I think with more thinking and writing practice, my ability to find a principle will become better -- and consequently will my blogging.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Indian Rock -- A New Flavor.

In the past few years, I have discovered some Indian rock bands am enjoying a lot of their music. I have listened to songs by bands in three different Indian languages I don't even understand myself. This does not prevent me from enjoying their music and experiencing a whole new smack of rock music. I wish more Indian bands play some rock in their native language than simply play english music. I mean, if I wanted to listen to English music, I would prefer an American or a European band over an Indian band. I think a different language adds a distinct flavor of music to Indian rock bands and comes as an added advantage to both the listeners and the band .

Here are two of my favorite Indian rock songs in the Malayalam language. The first song is the kind of music is soothing and catchy at the same time while the second is faster and louder. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Karukara -- Avial

Nada Nada -- Avial

Being Objective -- Conciously.

To be very honest, I don't find lawschool in India to be all that interesting. I think students in law school are worse of conceptually than they were at the start of their college years. I just cannot seem to ignore the fact that most students in the fag end of the course cough up such bizarre claims like "majority wins" or that there is a "right to a job" and think that they are self- evidencies and require no further proof watsoever. Some even revel in denouncing India's deregulation policies and write prolific articles in "reputed" journals about how India should "go back to its roots"and create its own "identity". The dumbest of such allegations that pisses me off the most is the claim that "majority wins". I mean, it takes a whole new level of self-control for me to stop myself from saying, "If ten out of fifteen of us agree to murder you, you should have no problems watsoever." The question simply cannot be dismissed: how has lawschool advanced college kids conceptually? Or, has it?

A few days ago, a problem for the moot court was released in college. It was concerned with the field of international law and the threat of Islam. The problem is almost taken out of reality -- an Islamic country actively funds terrorist activities against a civilized nation and the civilized nation retaliates in self-defense. After the attack on the Islamist country, international pressure mounts on a ceasefire and the issue is taken up at the International Court of Justice by both the parties.

A friend of mine told me that one of the main issues in the moot problem was that the Islamic country, which was the aggressor, had a constitution which necessitates their jurisdiction in their country. Although it had funded an attack on a foreign country, international law dictates that any country's constitution takes precedence over international law -- laws which are mutually agreed by both the parties are subordinated to domestic law. In essence, the argument was that even the Islamic country has a constitution, even the Islamic country is a sovereign entity, so one cannot simply launch an attack on their soil.

I started off by shooting a series of questions. Hadn't the Islamic country violated the right of the citizens of the other country by funding a terrorist attack? The respondent replied by saying that although it was true that they indeed did fund the attack, they still had a constitution and in case of any conflict between international law and domestic law, the domestic laws are given precedence. In other words, the constitution truimphs over international law.

I found myself asking: Is the Islamic country's "constitution" a constitution in the first place? A constitutions distinguishing characteristic from all other statutes, its essence, is that it is the only document that places a limit on government control whereas other statutes such as criminal law or the law of contracts places certain restriction on the citizens. If a "constitution" violates this fundamental principle and instead, enumerates that the government owns the lives of its citizens, how can one sanely call such a document a constitution. It is just some piece of paper, not a constitution. Moreover, to call such a document a constitution amounts to an invalid concept; where its essential distinguishing characteristic is replaced with a floating abstraction like "balancing freedoms with restrains"or "the heart of the democratic process" and so on and so forth.

It was one of those moments when I was surprised to see how differently I thought about issues than my peers who went to the same kind of schools and ended up in the same colleges in India. I was oddly surprised and elated that I was learning to apply the stuff I had learnt from Objectivism to my own journey through life. Nothing to say of the pride oozing through my head when my friend stood in full focus, listening intently, to my arguments.

Upon introspection, I realize that what I am trying to do most of the time is to try and apply reason and the tools of objectivism to the stuff around me. My goal, I realize, is to objective -- consciously. Anytime I come across any new knowledge, I try and apply the principles of epistemology in my process of cognition. It's not just limited to new knowledge. I usually have my hands full in identifying floating abstractions and stolen concepts I myself have accepted previously without any proper conceptual investigation. I find myself really enjoying the application of my mind to the particular issues around me. Its not easy but if and when you do realize why you are feeling a particular way and fix the underlying ideas, emotions almost fall in line immediately.

The ideas I have accepted are apparently "extreme" and devoid of any concern for the "public good". It's funny how I have become the guy who holds "extreme" views, when I was simply concerned with reason and its application to the issues around me. Objectivism is something I privately cherish in lawschool. When I hear stupid claims like "majority wins" or "civilian right to life of an agressor country", it is this newfound, private interest in Objectivism, in life that I treasure rigourously. As Ayn Rand wrote in The Fountainhead, "Every form of happiness is private. Our greatest moments are personal, self-motivated, not to be touched."

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Good Things.

I have been on twitter for a few weeks now and have fallen in love the whole concept of micro-blogging. I, too, have decided to write down a few goodthings about my day. I read about the idea from Diana at NoodleFood when I was browsing through their posts.

Here's what Jean Moroney wrote about it:

"Once each day, write down three good things that happened in the last 24 hours. You can write them before going to bed or first thing in the morning. You can write them in a journal or in a calendar or on a Post-it. You can include important achievements such as winning a contract or simple pleasures such as eating a good meal. All that matters is that you write down three such items, every day.

As you can guess, the purpose of this practice is to reinforce a positive outlook and avoid feeling overwhelmed by negativity. Even on the worst of days there are a few bright spots, and bringing them to mind helps you maintain perspective.I have tried writing down a few goodthings in the past few weeks have been trying it for a few days and it really helps.

Dr. Seligman ran controlled experiments to test the technique. Not only did his subjects report being happier and more optimistic during the studies, but they liked participating so much that they continued writing down three good things each day after the experiment was over.

This little bit of thinking each day has large emotional rewards. Why? Because it strengthens two kinds of value judgments:

1) What you hold as good: Every time you decide consciously that something is good, you reinforce, clarify, and concretize what "good" means.

2) What you hold as important: Important means "entitled to attention or consideration." When you spend a little time focusing on the good in your life, you are implicitly asserting that the good is what's important.

Not bad for three minutes of thinking each day."

I am usually a little sceptical about these "esteem boosters" which pull out a kick of esteem from thin air, but I have to admit, this one seems to be bang on target. The thing that makes it great, I think, is that I am now keen on making goodthings happen to me instead of sitting back on my ass expecting to have a good time for free -- ie without any effort. For instance, I constantly find am asking myself why do I have complete a task I have set for myself. If I set a goal, and not acheive it, then what is the point of setting it itself in the first place? More importantly, what is the point of simply thinking about the philosophy of Objectivism if I don't apply it to my life, as best as i can. The concept of the goodthing on twitter is sort of an extra can of fuel to go on and ofcourse there is the awesome pleasure I feel when I do post the goodthing on twitter.

Nothing beats the satisfaction of a task done.

Another awesome treat I had last night, was the spike in traffic on my blog when Diana retweet my post on these hilarious pics. Heh! There is absolutely no downside to it.

You can follow me on twitter to read my good things and I think I can say with a certain degree of certainity now, twitter helps people know each other better.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Some Of My Insights -- Objectivity

[Earlier in the series -- Some Of My Insights -- Concept-Formation]

I have been stalling this post for weeks together now and am so glad I am finally posting it. I have not covered intrincism and subjectivism because are still are a little tricky, intrincism more so than subjectivism.

So here go some of my thoughts on Objectivity after the seminar:

1. Studying the roots of the concept of "Objectivity" is important because it denotes a certain kind of relationship between the whole of concept-formation and reality. If concepts are objectively formed -- our knowledge then refers to observed fact; taking into account both existence and consciousness. On the other hand, if our concepts are arbitrarily formed, then so is the whole knowledge of mankind has accumulated. This is the implication of the validation of the term Objectivity.

In the Objectivist position, concepts don't exist "out there" as apart from the human mechanism of concept-formation or "in here" as apart from reality. Attributes such as redness, maness or tablehood do not exist in reality only or in our conceptual process only but such attributes reflect both and fall into a distinct third category which takes into account both existence and consciousness -- the object itself and the human method of classifying the object. To take Greg Perkin's wonderful example, a car collision is the result of an interaction between two cars -- but not a part of just one of cars involved in the collision. Another interesting parallel is also the stand of Objectivism on sense perception. Any entity perceived is not "out there" in reality as apart from man or "in here" in our equipment as apart from reality. The entity perceived exists in a separate third category -- "entity as perceived". However, with regard to concept-formation, there is also the element of volition involved when compared to sense perception. Since forming concepts correctly is volitional and not automatic -- man needs a method in acquiring new knowledge.

2. The concept of objectivity applies to definitions too. An essence or the fundamental distinguishing characteristic of a concept. "Essences" do not exist in existence as apart from consciousness; an essence presupposes an essence to whom? "Out there", things simply are. Thus, essentials are not arbitrary choices "in here" and "out there" but concepts refer to a volitional consciousness observing existential facts. This is why essences, too, like concepts are epistemological in nature and not metaphysical.

However, it is not mandatory that all concretes should be conceptualized. There are concepts that can be handled descriptively. Since we only conceptualize stuff that is cognitively important, there are also some concepts which are optional in nature. To take Greg Perkin's example again, a concept subsuming "a light green, medium sized, cotton t-shirt" may be of relevance to a store keeper but not to a doctor because the doctor may not find it cognitively important to define such a concept.

3. Logic is the method of non-contradictory identification. It works in two ways; it reduces any claim back to first-level concepts and then sense-perception (the hierarchical nature of knowledge) and also integrates all knowledge a person acquires (the contextual nature of knowledge) -- non-contradictorily.

4. Any new knowledge is not acquired in a vaccum of nothingness. All new knowledge that is acquired is built on already or pre-existing knowledge given any subject. For instance, a kid had to get to cat and dog before he gets to the second level concept of an animal and had to get to animal before he gets to the third level concept of organism. All knowledge is hierarchical in nature. It was only after the discovery of logic, did science emerge; as any new discovery in science presupposes the primacy of existence and logic in the least.

Making such a claim explicit helps a great deal in claryfing concepts in terms of hierarchy. Reducing any claim explicitly helps in the process of reduction -- i.e. reducing any claim back to first level concepts and then to the perceptual. Such reduction keeps us tied to reality when we form ever-higher level concepts. On the other hand, if one neglects or evades such reduction of knowledge, there is the ever seductive doctrine of rationalism which one quickly succumbs to. The doctrine of rationalism agrees with the fact that knowledge is gained in a particular pattern but starts deducing away rationalistic castles in air starting from arbitrary premises which are unconnected to reality, thus, betraying objectivity.

Another interesting implication of the fact that knowledge is hierarchical is, as Ayn Rand called it, a stolen concept. This occurs when a person uses the validity of a lower-level concept to deny the validity of the higher level concept based on the lower-level concept. To take an example from the seminar, the claim that "all property is theft" steals the concept property; that any theft has to be the theft of property! Any argument which involves a stolen concept has to be self-refuting as it uses the validity of a lower level concept to betray a higher level concept.

5. All our knowledge is relational. We look at tables as apart from chairs and similar to other tables. The concept of tablehood does not exist in a giant vacuum in our consciousness. Our knowledge is gained by the constant contrasting and comparing of various entities around us. All the relationships that a particular concept has with all the other concepts is the context of the particular concept. Suppose a student at college is taught that man has a right to a wage in class. He later reads a book by an author who says that a right signifies a course of action and not to any particular object (like wages in this case). It is essential for the student to consider both the claims and resolve the contradiction. Various questions may arise in the process. A few could be what are rights in the first place? Whether a person can have the right to violate another persons right?, etc. All such questions and relationships one draws when talking about a particular concept forms the context of the concept and are essential to maintain objectivity. Context, takes into account, both the relationships of a said concept with the other concept and the distance from the perceptual level of the concept (hierarchial nature of knowledge).

[For more on context, see one of my older posts.]

All in all, if "existence is identity, and consciousness is identification", then identity serves as the bridge between existence and consciousness. To acquire any new knowledge of the identity of any concrete, our method, to be successful, must be the volitional grasp of reality by the method of logic.