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Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology:…

Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Expanded Second Edition (edition 1990)

by Ayn Rand

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Title:Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Expanded Second Edition
Authors:Ayn Rand
Info:Plume (1990), Paperback, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Philosophy, Nonfiction, Objectivism,

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Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Expanded Second Edition by Ayn Rand



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I know many sneer at the idea of Ayn Rand as a philosopher. (Just look at reviews below.) I believe mainly because they're so radically opposed to her views and so consider her a threat to their values. And many find it easy to be derogatory because she won fame as a writer of fiction and didn't have the academic credentials of those who usually call themselves philosophers. And sorry to say, it probably didn't help back then--may even hurt her now--that she was a woman poaching on very male territory. All I can tell you is that the much-lauded Anarchy, State and Utopia by Robert Nozick, which won a National Book Award in philosophy and religion, basically takes Ayn Rand's political arguments and presents them in academic language and is by someone with those academic credentials--and it's awarded respect.

But if any aspect of her philosophy has some grudging acknowledgement from philosophers, and is truly original, it's probably her epistemology. Epistemology is that branch of philosophy that deals with knowledge--its nature, what can we know, how do we know it. Once, when Ayn Rand was asked to define her philosophy while standing on one foot, she replied: "Metaphysics: Objective Reality; Epistemology: Reason; Ethics: Self-Interest, Politics: Capitalism." Well, I might take issue with "capitalism" as the name of a political, rather than economic concept, but otherwise that's summarizes her beliefs well. But then a lot of philosophers might define themselves similarly. What makes a philosophical system are the details and the arguments. In the case of epistemology this book actually has a pretty narrow focus--though a crucial one. The original edition was not much longer than 100 pages--a very slim mass paperback. Peikoff has added to it material from taped lectures. Basically, this focuses on the nature of concepts and especially concept formation and how that feeds into consciousness and identity.

These are difficult concepts--within any philosophy. Just try reading Locke or Kant on the subject. In this Rand's lack of an academic background and her strengths as a popularizer of philosophy is a blessing: because the arguments she presents are lucid and clear. You can find the main criticisms of the arguments on the Wiki--that it doesn't take cognitive psychology into account and that "conflates the perceptual process by which judgments are formed with the way in which they are to be justified." I haven't read the counterarguments in their entirely in a way I can judge their validity. But personally, and I know this is not in itself an argument for her epistemology--but I know how relieved I felt to find a thinker defending the validity of the senses and reason after I had been filled with philosophers in school that would deny their reality. So yes, I find this book amazing, powerful and valuable. ( )
  LisaMaria_C | Sep 14, 2013 |
This makes me think of an old Cheech and Chong routine. If it looks like bullshit, and smells like bullshit, you probably don’t need to step in it. Rand tried to invent an entirely new approach to epistemology by disregarding 300 years of philosophic thought and political economy. Some people think she was a philosopher but, no, she wasn’t.
1 vote HectorSwell | Jul 4, 2011 |
I like Ayn Rands fiction, but must admit, I did not expect her to be much of a philosopher. But I was positively surprised. First of all, it is actually a real introduction to (her theory of) epistemology, written without to much "look-at-me-I-am-doing-philosophy".. I do not agree with her conceptual realism, that concepts exists completely independent of humans. It smacks of Platonisms, which neither she or I believe in. But towards the end in the chapter called 'The cognitive role of concepts', I feel her theory comes together, and she really has something to contribute: an anti-metaphysical philosophy that is far from relativism. It also supports her political antagonism of communist social engineering, by believing fully in basic condition of being human. This may not be material for 'The 20 greatest philosophers', but her - somewhat 'simple' - common sensical philosophy is an interesting contribution to a theory of the human situation. ( )
  sharder | Dec 1, 2010 |
Just the ramblings of an absolutist utopian narcissistic know-it-all. I can't recommend it. ( )
1 vote JGL53 | Feb 8, 2010 |
2nd edition, edited by Harry Binswanger and Leonard Peikoff

Ayn Rand states her revolutionary theory of concepts; transcripts of invaluable epistemology workshops she conducted are also included.

Topics covered include: What qualifies as an entity? How the act of abstracting is volitionally initiated. Do definitions narrow or expand as knowledge increases? How to validate induction. The meaning of "implicit concept."
  rob.sfo | Dec 5, 2006 |
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