By Harry Binswanger
The dismal state of today’s intellectual life stems from the lack of a genuine concept of objectivity, the concept for which Objectivism is named.
The essence of Objectivism is not just a championing of objectivity but also the identification of a radically deepened concept of what objectivity is.
In the first lecture, Dr. Binswanger approaches the concept of objectivity by asking Ayn Rand’s key question: What facts of reality give rise to the need for such a concept? The answer involves distinguishing the metaphysical from the man-made and the self-evident from the inferred. Then one must recognize the need for a concept (“objective”) that goes beyond the simpler concepts of “logical” and “rational.”
This leads to Ayn Rand’s major contribution to epistemology: her recognition that the law of identity applies to consciousness—to man’s means of cognition. Lecture one identifies three facts about the identity of man’s consciousness, and discusses how they give rise to new principles of methodology.
Before Ayn Rand, theorists saw only two alternatives: the intrinsic or the subjective—i.e., revelation vs. whim. Either we are to remain mentally passive, hoping The Truth will flow in (intrinsicism), or we are mentally active—by embracing the emotional, the arbitrary, the socially approved (subjectivism). In short, either we relinquish control of our minds (intrinsicism) or we give up reality (subjectivism).
In the second lecture, Dr. Binswanger applies the trichotomy of intrinsic-subjective-objective to identify three corresponding schools of thought on concepts, essences, the good, virtue, the initiation of force, rights, and economic value, showing how, in each case, only the objective school, developed by Ayn Rand, provides a rational understanding of the issue.
This course was recorded at the 2009 Objectivist Summer Conference in Boston, MA.
(MP3 download; 3 hrs., 6 min., with Q & A, 133.86 MB)