For ten years—from 1958 to 1968— Nathaniel Branden's lectures on "Basic Principles of Objectivism" were given at Nathaniel Branden Institute in New York City and, via tape transcription, to groups in over eighty cities throughout the United States and abroad. More than 35,000 students attended these lectures.
"Basic Principles of Objectivism" is a detailed, 20-lecture, systematic exposition of the philosophy defined by Ayn Rand and introduced in her novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. The lectures are devoted to a presentation of Rand's philosophy—and to Mr. Branden's application of objectivism to his own field, psychology. Special emphasis is given to the concepts of human nature, mental health and personal development. The entirety of "Basic Principles" will be published online this year, and will be available in iTunes.
basics of objectivism lecture 1 Ladies and gentlemen, some time ago, an acquaintance of mine in Canada began a philosophical discussion with a young woman. Although he made no reference to Ayn Rand or to objectivism in the discussion, it was the philosophy of objectivism that he was in fact expounding. When he met the young woman again a week or so later, she told him of the following incident. It seems that she was undergoing psychotherapy and, thinking over her conversation with my acquaintance, she walked into her psychiatrist's office and said to him, doctor, what do the words objective reality mean to you? Her psychiatrist answered, they mean that you've been talking to someone who's an admirer of Ayn Rand. While I should hate to think that objectivism enjoys a monopoly of this kind, a monopoly in the concern with objective reality, the psychiatrist's remark has rather eloquent implications concerning the present state of our culture, whether he intended them or not. Ours is not an age in which objectivity, realism, or rationality are conspicuous cultural traits. If I were asked to summarize the essentials of the objectivist philosophy in a single sentence-- a rather long sentence-- I would say that objectivism holds, A, that existence, reality, the external world is what it is independent of man's consciousness, independent of anyone's knowledge, judgment, beliefs, hopes, wishes, or fears. That facts are facts, that A is A, that things are what they are. B, that reason, the faculty that perceives, identifies, and integrates the material provided by man's senses, is fully competent to know the facts of reality. C, that man's perception of the facts of reality must constitute the basis of his value judgments, that just as a reason is his only guide to knowledge, so it is his only guide to action. D, that man is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others. He must live for his own sake with the achievement of his rational self-interest as the moral purpose of his life, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. E, that no one has the right to seek values from others by the initiation of physical force. F, that the politico-economic expression of these principles is laissez-faire capitalism. And G, that the absence of these principles from men's minds and actions is responsible for the present state of the world. If I were asked to summarize the philosophy of objectivism in a shorter sentence, I would say, man must live exclusively by the guidance of reason. But that is a very wide abstraction. What is reason? How does reason operate? What is entailed in the principle that man must live exclusively by reason? What are the practical consequences of living by reason or attempting to act against it? These are the questions this course of lectures will undertake to answer. If in reading Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead you admired the novels' heroes and their manner of facing existence, if part of the motive that brought you to these lectures is the desire to understand the philosophical and psychological premises that makes such men possible, then I want to stress at the outset that the fundamental character trait of the Ayn Rand hero and the key to all his other virtues is rationality. Character traits such as ambitiousness, integrity, independence, self-esteem are derivatives and consequences. Rationality is their root. To quote from "Who Was Ayn Rand," quote, "An unreserved commitment to reason and the acceptance of reality as an absolute are the hallmark of the Ayn Rand hero. He is the man who holds nothing above the rational judgment of his mind, neither wishes nor whims nor the unproved assertions of others. He is not the man without desires. He is the man who has no desires held in defiance of reason. He is not the man without emotions. He is the man who does not substitute his emotions for his mind. He is not the man without passion. He is the man without arbitrary whims. He is not the man without the capacity to feel. He is the man with the highest capacity for feeling because his feelings are the product of rational, non-contradictory values," close quote. In Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand has presented the essentials of the objectivist philosophy, most particularly of the objectivist ethics. Our task will be to elaborate and amplify those essentials, to make explicit that which in the book is only implicit, to explore and analyze aspects of Ms. Rand's philosophy that are not covered in the book at all, to discuss some of the purely psychological implications and applications of objectivism, and to organize our knowledge of the subject into an integrated structure so that we can see how the various concepts interrelate, what conclusions proceed from what premises, and what constitutes the proof of our various principles. One does not know a philosophy if one knows merely its conclusions but not the reasoning that led to them. Even when the ideas one accepts are true, to accept a body of conclusions without understanding the proofs that validate them is to embrace dogma, not to hold a philosophy. To be an objectivist on faith is worse than a contradiction in terms. The purpose of philosophy is to provide man with an integrated view of existence of his own nature and of his relationship to the world in which he lives. Philosophy is the science that deals with man's relationship to existence. The five basic branches of philosophy are metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and aesthetics. Metaphysics deals with the fundamental nature of existence. It defines those basic principles which are true of everything that exists as distinguished from special sciences, which study specific particular fields, such as physics, which studies matter and energy, biology, which studies living organisms, mathematics, which studies quantity, and so forth. The principle that that which is is what it is independent of any perceiver is a metaphysical one. The law of causality, the principle that every event has a cause, is similarly metaphysical. By metaphysical, we mean pertaining to existence, to reality, to the nature of things. Epistemology deals with the nature and means of human knowledge. It is concerned with such questions as, what is the role of sense perception in the acquisition of knowledge? Is certainty possible to man? How does man form and validate his concepts? What is proof? That the material provided by man's senses is the ultimate source of all human knowledge or that contradictions in one's thinking constitute proof of an error are epistemological principles. Ethics is concerned with discovering and finding a code of values to guide man's actions and choices, the actions and choices that determine the purpose and course of man's life. Ethics ask such questions as, by what standards should man choose his values? For what purpose should man live? How should men deal with one another? Politics deals with the principles, purposes, and organization of social systems. It is concerned with such questions as, what is the proper relation of government to the individual? Is the power of government limited? Does man possess rights? What issues are properly the subject of legislation? Aesthetics deals with the nature of art. It is concerned with such questions as, what are the criteria of good and bad art? What is the role of art in man's life? One cannot define a code of ethics and answer the question, what actions are right or wrong for man, until one has answered the question, what is the nature of the universe in which man lives, and by what means does he know it? That is, without a metaphysics and an epistemology. Politics is derived from ethics. One cannot answer the question, what social system is proper for man, until one has answered the question, what actions are right or wrong for man? Aesthetics is derived from metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. All three are required to answer the question, what is the nature of art and its value to man? To give a simple illustration of the dependence of ethics on metaphysics and epistemology, if the nature of the universe were such that men could obtain anything he wanted or needed merely by wishing for it, productiveness would not be regarded as a virtue as the objectivist ethics holds it to be. And if the nature of man's consciousness were such than any knowledge he required could be obtained merely by consulting his feelings, thinking would not be regarded as a virtue, as the objectivist ethics holds it to be. The briefest statement of what metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics encompass and of how they relate to one another is contained in three short questions. What exists? How do you know? So what? Many people naively believe that philosophy is some vague, abstract, esoteric subject which has nothing to do with their actual life. They believe that philosophy is the problems exclusively of academic scholars, requiring years of special study, something on the order of higher mathematics, only less practical. They believe that they don't hold any philosophical convictions and that in fact there is no necessity to hold them. If any of you share any part of this belief, I suggest that you check your premises. Men have no choice about the fact that they do hold a philosophy of life. Their only choice is whether they know it or not, whether their philosophy is held consciously or subconsciously, whether their philosophy is true or false. It is true that most men do not choose their philosophical convictions consciously by a logical process of thought, by gathering evidence, judging it, and drawing rational conclusions. They get their philosophical beliefs for the most part from the culture in which they live. That is, from the kind of ideas, values, customs, prejudices, catch phrases, or traditions which are prevalent around them and which they hear most often. They accept their ideas not by thinking but by default, by osmosis from the cultural atmosphere. They do not judge whether these ideas are true or false, right or wrong. They do not ask where these ideas come from. They do not inquire about the origin or the originators of the doctrines to which they surrender of the job of directing their lives. I once met a businessman who was rather socialistically inclined, and I became engaged in an argument about free enterprise versus collectivism. The man was semi-illiterate and aggressively anti-intellectual. He declared that he had no interest in philosophy, that all theories were nonsense, and that abstract ideas had nothing to do with actual life. Then he proceeded to tell me that everything I was saying might have been true in the 19th century, but after all, we are living in the 20th century. And what was true yesterday is not true today. Everything changes. Nothing stands still. There is no such thing as a fixed permanent reality. There is only constant change. He did not know that he was offering a metaphysical view of reality first promulgated in Western civilization 2,500 years ago by a philosopher named Heraclitus, who taught it to Hegel, who taught it to John Dewey, who taught it to his students, who taught it to the writers of newspaper editorials, who taught it to the comic strips, who taught it to this gentleman. I should like to suggest that this is not the best way to acquire one's philosophical convictions. To appreciate the manner in which philosophical issues touch our lives daily and inescapably, consider the following example. Suppose that you are having an argument with a person who describes himself as a liberal. Suppose you state that it is improper to attend the performances of the visiting Soviet ballet because one should not give any form of spiritual sanction or financial support to a dictatorship. The liberal answers, you're wrong. Art has nothing to do with politics. You say, art expresses values, and it was values I'm concerned with. I do not serve them by helping to support a dictatorship. Now you are touching on an issue of aesthetics. The liberal says, no, art transcends all other values and speaks a language common to all of humanity. You ask, what language? He answers, besides, I don't see why you call Soviet Russia a dictatorship. You say, because it is a country where individual rights are not recognized and men are ruled by brute force. Now you are dealing with an issue of politics. The liberal says, but everybody knows that individual rights have to be sacrificed to the welfare of society as a whole. You ask, why? He answers, man can't live just for himself. The only moral justification of his life is service to others. Now you are dealing with an issue of ethics. You ask, why? He answers, if you do not know that self sacrifice is the highest moral duty, you are selfish monster. You say, no, I did not know that. How do you know it? He answers, I feel it. Every decent man feels it. Don't you? You say, no I don't, and feelings are not knowledge. You are now dealing with an issue of epistemology. The liberal says, knowledge? What is knowledge? Everything is relative. Man can be certain of nothing. You say, reason is man's means of knowledge. He asks, what is reason? You answer, reason is the ability to perceive and understand the facts of reality. He says, that's just your opinion. There are no facts. What is a fact to you may not be a fact to the Russians. And here you end up. You end up with an issue of metaphysics. You end up where properly you should have started, because metaphysics, one's view of the nature of reality, is the base of every thought, feeling, and action on man, explicitly or implicitly, consciously or subconsciously. You can transpose the pattern of this argument to any argument you have ever entered on any subject. And although the line of debate may not always be so brief and so clear cut, although there will be many more detours, evasions, and side issues, you will find that every major argument among men, every debate or dissension will ultimately resolve itself into an issue of ethics, epistemology and metaphysics, at which point most men will stop arguing and give up in confusion, in bewilderment, in helpless anger or frustration and will decide that communication with other men is useless, that thinking is useless, that philosophy is useless. They will decide it on the premise that they are thus escaping from philosophy. But observe that no escape is possible. By giving up, they have implicitly accepted and given in to the worst of all philosophical doctrines, that man's mind is impotent, that thinking is futile, that knowledge is impossible, that reality is unknowable. Now, let me give you an example of what will happen to the man who has given up or never acquired an interest in philosophy. Suppose that such a man falls deeply in love and one day has a quarrel with his sweetheart. He walks out on her angrily, declaring that he'll never be back, then comes home. Then his anger ebbs and vanishes, and then he is left alone with the meaning of what has occurred. He feels desperately unhappy, and he does not know what to do. He realizes that he cannot remember the cause, the start, or the progression of the quarrel. He may remember the general subject, but he does not know by what steps the disagreement grew into a break. He does not know whether he had presented his side of it clearly, nor whether he had understood what the girl was saying. He attempts to review the quarrel, but the grey, heavy, hopeless feeling paralyzes his mind. He does not attempt to identify the nature of the feeling. He knows only that it amounts to the words, what's the use? He does not ask himself the source of the feeling. He does not know that it comes from a philosophical premise subconsciously accepted long ago, the premise that thinking is futile and that communication with men is impossible. He has never heard the word epistemology. Nevertheless, he has formed a conviction about it, a conviction which he does not know how to correct but which is now determining his actions. He feels that he ought to try to patch up the quarrel, that he ought to call his sweetheart, talk things over calmly and reach an understanding. He feels a desperate desire to do so, but another feeling stops him, a dim, ugly feeling that has a tinge of something resembling shame or guilt. He does not attempt to identify the nature of the feeling. He knows only that it amounts to the words, a man ought to have his pride. He does not ask himself what is pride and weather pride is achieved by refusing to retract or correct one's own irrational statements and whether pride consists of giving up the happiness of one's lifetime without knowing why or if it had to be given up. All these are moral questions, and he has never been interested in morality nor in forming any conscious moral convictions. He feels a moment's violent despair at the sudden thought that he is giving up his happiness, that he will never find it with any other woman. He leaps to reach for the telephone to call his sweetheart, but then his hand drops, and he shrugs and reaches for a drink instead. He is prompted by a feeling he cannot bear to experience for long. It is a feeling that comes from all the disappointments he had ever encountered and had never tried to analyze, from the time his mother did not buy him the bicycle she had promised, to the teacher who gave him a lower grade than he deserved, to the friend who was afraid to take his side in a quarrel with older schoolmates, to the first girl he had ever kissed who deserted him for a boy he despised, to the examination which he failed to pass, to the contest which he failed to win, to the employer who refused to give him a job he wanted. All of this summed up somehow in a sentence he had heard or read somewhere and had tried for years not to think about. Happiness is impossible to man on Earth. No, he had never heard of metaphysics. No, he did not call the girl. And as to the girl, well, project the identical emotional torture raging and dying in her mind after that quarrel, identical but for a few changes of details, such as a girl ought to have her pride being followed by the addition of, no nice girl ever runs after a man. Such is the manner in which these two human beings parted and never saw each other again and never found any romantic happiness for the rest of their lives. Such is the manner in which countless human tragedies occur. And such is the method of making crucial decisions which wrecks the lives of countless millions of men. Just as an individual man can be destroyed by the lack of a rational philosophy, so can a society or a culture. When one looks at the world today, one sees that it is torn by profound conflicts. Politically, these conflicts center on the clash of capitalism and communism. Or more abstractly, of individualism versus collectivism. Ayn Rand has shown in The Fountainhead that the ethical or moral root of this clash is the issue of egoism versus altruism, of the principle that man has the right to exist for his own sake versus the claim that the purpose and justification of man's existence is service to others. She has shown in Atlas Shrugged that beneath the political and the ethical clash is a still more fundamental conflict, reason versus mysticism. To quote once more from "Who Was Ayn Rand," quote, "In the world of the present, we are told by our leading philosophers and intellectuals that factual certainty is impossible, that the contents of men's mind need bear no necessarily relationship to the facts of reality, that the concept of facts of reality is an old-fashioned superstition, that reality is mere appearance, that men can know nothing, that to feel uncertain as one's chronic state is the insignia of enlightened intellectuality. We are told that personal happiness, self-interest, and the profit motive are ignoble, that man must live for others, that the competent must exist for the sake of the uncompetent, that those who suffer or are in need have first claim on the lives [? and enmity ?] of all the men around them, that theirs is the right superseding all other rights, that man's mind and effort are the property of the community, of the nation, of the globe. We are told that none of this is demonstrable in reason but that morality is outside the province and judgment of reason. We are told by theologians and philosophers alike, by Niebuhr and by [INAUDIBLE], by Tillich and by Russell, by Brunner and by Carnap, by [? Bouabre ?] and by Reichenbach that reason cannot provide man with a code of values. Reason deals only with means not with ends. Ethics, we are told, is a matter of faith and feelings. And the collective faith of mankind, the consensus of its noblest feelings, has revealed the standard by which good and evil are to be judged. The good is that which is motivated by concern for the interests of others. The evil is that which is motivated by concern for the interest of self. And our political leaders are putting these principles into action by moving toward the society in which self-interest is forbidden, in which profit is impossible, in which no man is permitted to exist for his own sake, and all are sacrificed to all. That is, toward the society of collectivism, toward the totalitarian state," close quote. It is on metaphysics and epistemology on their views of reality and of human knowledge that civilizations stand or fall. To understand in what way this is true, let us review briefly the role of reason in the development of Western civilization. No matter what their complexities and their superficial differences, all philosophical systems fall into one or the other of two categories, those which hold in metaphysics that reality is a stable, objective absolute and in epistemology that man's mind can know it. And those which hold in metaphysics that reality as perceived by man is an indeterminate, unknowable illusion. And in epistemology that man's mind is impotent. The most illustrious exponent of the first category is Aristotle, of the second Plato. It has been said that every philosopher and every man is either an Aristotelian or a Platonist. The issue can be stated in another way, reason versus mysticism. In the entire history of Western civilization, there were only three periods when the predominant school of thought permeating and directing the culture was a philosophy of reason, ancient Greece, the Renaissance, the 19th century. This is not to say that reason had won a total victory in those periods, far from it. There were disastrous errors, confusions, and contradictions in the theories of the best advocates of reason in those times. It is to say only that at those times, culture was dominated by the conviction that reality is a stable absolute, that man's mind can know it, and that reason is man's tool of knowledge. Reason, not faith, instinct, intuition, or revelation. Philosophy itself was the product of that first great period in human history, ancient Greece. Philosophy as a science dealing with the nature of reality as an integrated view of the whole of existence was born in Greece in the sixth century BC in an era when political unrest had created a comparative degree of freedom and the primordial stranglehold of mysticism had relaxed sufficiently to allow men for the first time to take an unclouded, unfrightened look at the universe around them. Up to that time, any questions on the nature of the universe and of man's place in it had been the exclusive province, the monopoly of religion, which meant that such questions were not to be asked. The various religions of the various tribes or nations provided men with collections of legends or mythologies purporting to explain the nature and origin of the universe in place of metaphysics. And in place of epistemology demanded of men's consciousness the practice of faith. Faith means acceptance without evidence or proof. When man's reason is placed in the position of a menial servant permitted to study the problems of digging wells or taming horses but forbidden to venture into any fundamentals or to direct the course of human life, the result is century after century of stagnation that leaves nothing behind but records of suffering and nightmare brutality. Ancient Greece is like a startling, magnificent flare in the darkness of the ages, a flare whose rays 2 and 1/2 thousand years later are still lighting our existence today. That flare was ignited in the city of Miletus by a man who decided to ask, what is the nature of the universe? And to answer it by means of reason. His name was Thales, and he is acknowledged as the father of Western philosophy. The enormous revolutionary significance of his achievement was not in its content but in its method. What he accomplished was an epistemological revolution. His attempt implied that man's mind was competent to deal with the whole of the universe, with all the problems of man's existence, and the reason was man's key to the solution of all problems. In recorded history, it was the first attempt to proclaim the validity and efficacy of man's consciousness. That the specific metaphysical theories of Thales and of his followers in the Milesian School of philosophy were naive and crudely primitive isn't important. They were the first faltering steps. What is important is that man was learning to walk upright. The result of this epistemological revolution was that brilliant period which is known as the classical period of Greece. You have all heard of the importance of ancient Greece to Western civilization. What is meant by ancient Greece in this context is a very brief period of about 200 years. But that brief period threw mankind forward further than all the preceding centuries had done. While men had been gathering knowledge drop by drop so that it took generations to discover some improvement in carting stones or building chariots, ancient Greece was like a torrent spreading forth such wealth of knowledge that its consequences were not exhausted to this day. That brief period presented such a burst of creative energy, so many men of genius, so many fundamental achievements in philosophy, in science, in art and literature, that when one looks at it across the centuries, it seems more fantastic than the Atlantis of Atlas Shrugged if any of you thought of it as fantastic. When one looks at ancient Greece, it appears as if mankind had been a race of crawling pygmies that turned into giants for two centuries, then shrank back into pygmies again. But reason did not win a full victory in ancient Greece. The advocates of mysticism fought it from the start. They fought it then as now by means of perversion and subversion, that is by attempting to use reason against itself. All the tricks, the gimmicks, the sophistries, the evasions, the equivocations which one hears today in university classrooms were heard and originated in ancient Greece. The use of reason to prove that reason is impotent or that it is limited or that it leads to contradictions or that it gives us nothing but probability, et cetera, et cetera. There were many variations on the same theme. The most famous variation was devised by the greatest of the philosophical mystics of that period, Plato. In briefest essence, Plato's metaphysics and epistemology are as follows. The material reality which we perceive by means of our senses is semi-unreal. It is only an illusion, an imperfect reflection of another higher reality. Only a few among men, a special elite, can perceive this higher reality, and they can perceive it only by means of a flash of mystical insight or illumination, which transcends reason, thus providing them with a superior kind of knowledge. Plato's influence stretches through the centuries down to the present day. All subsequent mystics big or small have had little to offer in essence but variations on Plato's system. Plato himself did not originate all of his theories. He was the transmission belt by which Oriental mysticism infiltrated into Western culture. But Plato was the first to build a complete philosophical system or at least the first whose record has been preserved. The greatest philosopher of ancient Greece and of all the centuries that followed was Aristotle. He was the first and only thinker who declared that reality is real and that man's consciousness is conscious, which means that there is only one reality, the one that man perceives, that man's consciousness is valid, that reason is man's exclusive tool of knowledge, and that the task of reason is the perception of reality. It is impossible to present briefly the scope, the magnitude, the originality, and the inexhaustible significance of Aristotle's achievements. If I were to name only one of them, it would be sufficient to say that he was the father of the science of logic. He was the man responsible for the concept of the law of identity, the one basic principle which separates a thinker from a mystic, a civilized man from a savage, a sane man from a schizophrenic, the basic principle without which no thinking, no knowledge, and no culture is possible. I will discuss the law of identity later in detail. For the moment I will state only that every attack on reason from any quarter, ancient or modern, every attempt to undercut or subvert man's mind starts with and aims at an escape from the law of identity. By defining the laws of logic, Aristotle laid the foundation for all scientific knowledge. He did fundamental work on almost every science. He is often referred to as the first scientist. And at the base of many of our modern sciences, you will find his treatises. Thinking is not an activity that men learn by instinct. Aristotle taught mankind how to think. It is true, of course, that men did think before his time. But they did not know the nature, the rules, the proper methods, or the value of their own mental activity. Aristotle was the first man who undertook to think about thinking, to identify and to make explicit what had been practiced only by implication. That which men do not know consciously is not in their control. Aristotle gave them control over the power of their own mind. If you wish to think symbolically and to project mankind as having a father, then I would say that Aristotle was the father of the human race as distinguished from the pre-human and pre-rational. Aristotle's philosophical system is far from perfect. I should like to state most emphatically that it contains a great many flaws, errors, and puzzling contradictions. But remember that a philosophy must always be judged by its fundamentals, by its basic view of reality and its basic view of knowledge. These will determine the nature of a philosophy's influence and consequences. From the time of ancient Greece, the intellectual history of the Western world has been, in effect, a duel between two men, Aristotle and Plato. Some periods were dominated by one, some by the other. You will see the consequences. The immediate consequence of the great age of Greece was the era of Rome, which was like a steady enlightened, civilized current fed by the motor behind it. Roman culture was only an extension and elaboration of the base created by Greece. And although there were individual men of greatness and noteworthy achievements in Roman history, there were no fundamental epic making innovations. Intellectually, Rome was riding on the power of Greece. What Rome collapsed, undermined by two elements which always go together-- mysticism and statism or faith and force-- the cultural picture changed. The collapse of Rome in the fifth century AD was the relapse of mankind into savagery. What followed was a period of approximately 10 centuries eloquently known as the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages. It is not necessary to go into details about the state of human knowledge and human existence during those centuries. If you wish to get a clear sense of it, take a look at some photographs of the objects still preserved in museums which were instruments of torture, such as the rack or the iron maiden. Then remind yourself that these were not the possessions of some criminal sadist but the legal instruments legally employed by the courts of justice. And then remind yourself that those centuries were the one period of the history of Western civilization ruled fully, totally, and exclusively by mysticism. The ruling power of medieval culture was religion. It controlled every activity and every aspect of human life. Philosophy still existed, but it was regarded as the hand maiden of theology. The philosophical ideas well suited to that position, the ones that exercised the strongest influence on all the thinkers of that period were Plato's via the Neoplatonists, such as Plotinus, who constructed the metaphysics consisting not of two but of four realities. During the greater part of medieval history during a span of about eight centuries, the works and ideas of Aristotle were almost entirely lost to Western civilization. They were unknown to the thinkers and scholars of Europe. The originals had been burned in the fire of a Great Library of Alexandria, and nothing but some fragments had penetrated into the eight centuries long night of mankind. The intellectual leader and ruling philosopher of the Dark Ages was Augustine, fourth, fifth century AD. Augustine was a Platonist and as such, he split the universe in two and damned this earth altogether. The good, according to him, was to be found in another reality in heaven. This earth was evil. Man was, quote, "crooked and sordid, bespotted and ulcerous," close quote. The pursuit of any happiness on earth was depraved. As to reason and knowledge, well, I will quote a passage from Augustine's Confessions which sums up his position quite clearly. After denouncing all the pleasures of the flesh, he writes as follows, quote. "To this is added another form of temptation more manifoldly dangerous. For besides the concupiscence of the flesh, which consists in the delight of all senses and pleasures, the soul has, through the same senses of the body, a certain vain and curious desire veiled under the title of knowledge and learning, the seat whereof being in the appetite of knowledge and sight being the sense chiefly used for attaining knowledge, it is in divine language called the lust of the eyes," close quote. If the quest for knowledge is a lust, then no era in history was as chaste as that period. There was no sight to pollute it or reason or mind or science or progress. Once again, as in the pre-Grecian centuries, men crawled from generation to generation making torturously minute improvements in their store of knowledge while the alleged philosophers were debating such topics as whether a mouse that slips into a church and happens to eat the Eucharistic bread does or does not achieve communion with God and while the masses of the people were existing in the state now recognized as mass neurosis, mass hysteria. In the 13th century, Europe rediscovered Aristotle. Some of Aristotle's works had been preserved by the Arabs and were made available to European scholars in the wake of the Crusades. Parenthetically to this day, what we possess is estimated to be only about one quarter of the total of Aristotle's works. The rest is lost. In the 13th century, a German philosopher Albertus Magnus wrote a monumental work containing everything on and by Aristotle that he could find. In the same century, a pupil of Albertus Magnus created the first comprehensive system of philosophy since the great age of Greece. And he created it on a predominantly Aristotelian basis. He was the greatest intellectual giant of the Middle Ages and the man who ended them. His name was Thomas Aquinas. What Aquinas attempted was a synthesis of religion and philosophy. It was not, however, what he achieved. Declaring that faith and reason did not have to clash, he stated in effect that the mind is the gift of God, and therefore it is proper for man to use it to the fullest extent of human capacity. It is permissible even to attempt to prove the tenets of religion by means of reason. And as the proper rules for the use of reason, Aquinas accepted and brought back Aristotle's epistemology. If Aquinas intended to strengthen religious faith, he achieved the opposite. Aristotle's thinking was the atom bomb that blasted the darkness of the Middle Ages and ended the reign of faith. What lay at the end of the road cleared by that explosion was the Renaissance. Historians are still arguing about the causes of the Renaissance. It is certain that in any major historical upheaval many factors have to be involved. Is also certain that no movement in history has ever succeeded without a philosophical base, without a system of ideas to give it coherence, direction, and purpose. No individual man and no group of men can sustain any long-range action without some knowledge to guide, justify, and validate their decisions. The history of the Middle Ages is full of mass uprisings, of blind, desperate rebellions against the nightmare conditions of existence that ended in bloody defeats. One does not fight the irrational by means of the irrational. To succeed, the Renaissance had to have an intellectual base. That base was provided by Aristotle via Thomas Aquinas. What millions of warring feudal barons and club-brandishing rioting serfs could not accomplish, Aristotle accomplished 17 centuries after his death. Aristotle, in the former fragments and remnants that one quarter of his power, further diluted and distorted by Aquinas' theology, but still Aristotle. A little reason goes a long way. The full result of the impact did not become apparent till a century later. It is in the late 14th century that the philosophical ideas of the 13th took form in practical reality. Culturally, the late 14th century is the start of the Renaissance with the 13th serving as an overture. You will observe the same phenomenon throughout history. Just as in the light of a man an idea must be grasped by his mind before it can be translated into action, so in the history of a nation a philosophy must be formulated by its thinkers before it can infiltrate the various aspects of a culture and take form and action. Every age is the actualization of the thinking of the preceding period. The Renaissance was another miraculous era in human history, miraculous in the sudden prodigality of human achievement, in the number and stature of men of genius in every branch of endeavor. Again as if the human race had turned into a species of giants, again as if an irresistible torrent had broken loose, stripping away every barrier to human growth. Politically, it broke the feudal system and gave to men a period of comparative freedom, if only by default, if only by virtue of chaos. Religiously, it broke the monopoly of the Catholic church through the rise of the Protestant churches. Culturally, it broke the stranglehold of mysticism. What was the slogan of the Renaissance? The right to see. The right to that lust of the eyes denounced by Augustine. In philosophy, the right to study the universe and man's place in it. In science, the right to study physical nature with the rebirth of such forbidden sciences as anatomy and astronomy. In art, the right to study this earth and to depict the full reality of the human body of nature, of perspective, of three-dimensionality as perceived by our senses. But while men were rediscovering, reclaiming, and remaking the earth, philosophers were rejecting it. Neoplatonism was again rising. The history of philosophy since the Renaissance is the history of a long retreat from the responsibility of reason. Philosophers were struggling to reconcile reason with many of the tenets of religions, such as the creed of self-sacrifice, which cannot be done. They were struggling to undercut the validity of men's mind and reintroduce mysticism in one form or another. But with the spectacular achievements of science growing before them, the mystics seldom dared to denounce the mind explicitly. And thereafter, the mystics' counterrevolution predominantly took the form of attacking the mind by means of the mind, of claiming to speak in the name of science, of seeking to invalidate reason in the name of reason. What made matters still worse, many of the advocates of science considered themselves anti-Aristotelian because Aristotle through Aquinas had been appropriated by the Catholic Church, and much of his scientific writing was upheld as religious dogma. Aristotle was denounced by philosophers and scientists who saw themselves as champions of reason. Yet it was Aristotle who made their revolt against the authority of the church possible, and his was the intellectual spirit that was carrying them forward. It was he who taught them to recognize that all of the universe is open to man's reason and that there is no higher authority than man's sovereign intellect. The history of the post-Renaissance world was an intellectual civil war between two trends that clashed and intermingled and contradicted each other, most often in the works of the same individual philosopher. One trend in its basic spirit was Aristotelian. It led to the philosophers of the so-called Age of Reason, the 18th century, to the Industrial Revolution, to the creation of United States of America. The other trend was Platonist. It led to Kant, to Hegel, to Marx, to Soviet Russia. Neither ancient Greece nor the Renaissance had created a political theory to establish a free therefore rational society. It was the semi-Aristotelian philosophers of the 17th and 18th centuries who formulated the first practicable theories of political freedom. The most prominent among them was the British philosopher John Locke, who became the dominant philosophical influence on the group of men known as the Founding Fathers of America. Reason and freedom are political corollaries. It is mysticism that needs force in order to control a culture. Since mysticism consists of arbitrary doctrines, which supersede reality and are to be accepted without proof, mystics have no way to ram such doctrines down the throat of a whole society except through the use of physical force, which means through political enslavement. The philosophical battle of the post-Renaissance world was reflected in a corresponding political battle. At first, the main refuge of mysticism was in theology. The philosophical doctrines of some of the Protestant churches such as Calvinism expounded a view of man that would have made Augustine appear as a cheerful, benevolent lover of reason. The union of faith and force led to centuries of religious wars with such carnage that at one time a third of Europe's population was slaughtered. These wars were made possible by the absolute monarchies that rose to replace the feudal system. But the full climax of the Renaissance came with the triumph of the Aristotelian trend that swept away the monarchies, the religious wars, and mankind's primordial state of semi-starved subsistence, the Industrial Revolution. If you have read Atlas Shrugged, you understand the meaning of the Industrial Revolution. That was as near as mankind had ever come to a full reign of reason on earth. That was the act of man's liberated mind taking control of man's material existence. Look at the results. New York City is a monument to the non-impotence of the human mind. You all know that the United States of America is a phenomenon unprecedented in the whole of human history. In the brief period of 150 years, the United States created a level of freedom, of progress, of achievement, of wealth, of physical comfort, a standard of living unmatched and unequaled by the total sum of mankind's development up to that time. If life on earth is the standard, it is not necessary to evaluate for you the Industrial Revolution. I have only to open the window and say, look. The triumph of the Industrial Revolution was the third great era of human history, the 19th century. That was the century of greatest freedom ever known on earth, the century of capitalism or as near to capitalism as men have yet come. That was the century that ended the periodic famines which used to sweep Europe every 20 years, killing off the surplus population that pre-capitalist economies could not feed. That was the century that gave mankind the longest period of peace it has ever known, a period without a world war between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and World War I, approximately from 1815 to 1914. That was the century that abolished slavery and serfdom in the whole of the civilized world. That was the century which we now hear denounced by the neo-savages of our day who sneer at it as the barbarians of 1,500 years ago sneered at the marble remnants of Rome under their bare feet. Where did the new barbarian invasion come from? From the cloisters and the ivory towers of mild abstract academic theoretical philosophers. While reason had taken control of man's material existence, mysticism was taking control of his spiritual or intellectual life. The tragic paradox of the 19th century was that it was Aristotelian in its action and Platonist in its thinking. The Platonist and irrationalist trend kept growing and spreading, while such semi-Aristotelians as did exist were second and third raters whose systems were so full of compromises, contradictions, and betrayals of reason that any conman of the intellect could and did blast them apart. The major figure of the Platonist counterrevolution was an 18th century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Kant's metaphysics has two realities. He calls them the phenomenal and the numinal world. But while Plato merely considered reason inadequate to a full perception of reality, Kant disqualifies it all together. Beneath all the complexities of Kant's system, his central epistemological conclusion, the one that influenced most of the philosophers who followed him, is that man's reason cannot know reality as it really is, cannot know things in themselves. Kant's epistemology declares in effect that man's mind is not a tool for perceiving but for faking reality. That is, Kant asserts that the knowledge which we gain through our mind is produced not by the evidence of reality but by the mind's own structure, which distorts that evidence so that we can never have any objectively valid perception of reality. True reality is unknowable. We can never know what things are in themselves because the nature of our consciousness stands in the way. To perceive, declares Kant, is to distort. Needless to say, Kant present himself as a champion of pure reason. But observe in what manner he was conceding the basic claim of mysticism, that man's reason is impotent to know the real world and that the world knowable to reason is not real. All the leading philosophical schools of today, such as the pragmatist, the positivist, the existentialist, are graduates of Kant's epistemology. While the Aristotelian trend was achieving political freedom for men, the Platonists were laying the philosophical foundations for the cult of the state. Remember that Plato and his Republic had created the first blueprint of a totalitarian state which has served as archetype and inspiration for all of his followers down the ages. The most influential among them was the German philosopher Hegel of the late 18th early 19th century, a Heracletian Platonist who proclaimed that material reality is an illusion, that nothing exists except change and motion without any entities to do the changing and the moving. This same Hegel preached that a rigid, absolute totalitarian state is mankind's predestined goal and ultimate ideal. The worship of the state and the pleas for the enslavement of men came in the 19th century not from the so-called underprivileged masses nor from the captains of industry nor from the remnants of feudal aristocracy but from the philosophers and from such political philosophical riffraff as Karl Marx, Auguste Comte, and sundry apostles of socialism. One of these totalitarian lines via the German philosopher Fichte, who worshipped the race, led in the 20th century to German Nazism. Another via Karl Marx led to Russian communism. Ideas take time to penetrate a culture. Just as the people of the 19th century were enjoying the practical dividends of the philosophies of the 18th, so we today are paying the price for the philosophies of the 19th century. Now let us turn to the state of our modern culture and to objectivism. If you wish to diagnose the state of a culture in which you live and to get some idea of what you may expect of the future, take a look at the barometer which throughout history has foretold whether progress or horror lay ahead, the status of reason in the dominant philosophies of the time. Today all the current schools of thought are Platonist Kantian. There are no influential representatives of Aristotelianism. Aristotle is almost as lost to our culture as if his works had vanished in another book burning. He has been surrendered to theology and appropriated by the neo-Thomasts, the modern followers of Thomas Aquinas. In their doctrines, there is little left of Aquinas and less of Aristotle. While the father of reason has been kidnapped and is held prisoner by religion, the alleged representatives of science are declaring the following, quote, "One of the most brilliant writers in intellectual history, [? Carl ?] [? Decker, ?] claims that the most important event in this field in modern times was the shift in the place of logic and science. The marriage of fact and reason, as [? Decker ?] puts it, proved to be somewhat irksome in the 19th century and was altogether dissolved in the 20th century. The modern 20th century physicist lives in an atmosphere which is so saturated with the actual that we can easily do with the minimum of the theoretical. We have long since learned not to bother much with reason and logic," close quote. This is from a book entitled Modern Science and Its Philosophy by Philipp Frank, a prominent physicist philosopher. Here is another voice, quote, "While fully developed mysticism seems to me mistaken, I yet believe that by sufficient restraint there is an element of wisdom to be learned from the mystical way of feeling. Even the cautious and patient investigation of truth by science, which seems the very antithesis of the mystics' swift certainty, may be fostered and nourished by that very spirit of reverence in which mysticism lives and moves," close quote. This is Bertrand Russell, philosopher and mathematician, in an essay entitled "Mysticism and Logic." In the second century AD, a philosopher named Tertullian stated his views as follows, quote, "And the son of God died. Is by all means to be believed because it is observed. And he was buried, then and rose again. The fact is certain because it is impossible," close quote. Now, you might think that this is the mental attitude of the Dark Ages safely and distantly behind us. But now listen to this, quote, "Faith is faith, vital and indescribable. He who has it knows what it is, and perhaps also he who is without it has some inkling of what it is in its absence from a heart that feels itself dry and shriveled. Faith can no more be described to a thoroughly rational mind than the idea of colors can be conveyed to a blind man. Thus vital, indescribable faith partakes of the mystery of life itself. The opposition between faith and reason is that between the vital and the rational," close quote. No, this is not the second century. This is William Barrett, professor of philosophy at New York University in a book proudly entitled Irrational Man published in 1958. Another quotation from the same book, quote, "Irrationalism holds that feeling or will or instinct are more valuable and indeed more truthful than reason, as in fact they are," close quote. Here is another mother voice, quote, "Thinking only begins at the point where we have come to know that reason glorified for centuries is the most obstinate adversary of thinking," close quote. This was said by Martin Heidegger, one of the pillars of existentialism, a philosophy which is the latest fashion among many of today's intellectuals. The International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, published by the University of Chicago Press, contains the following reference to Otto Neurath, one of the founders of another fashionable philosophy, logical positivism. Quote, "Neurath even recommended half jokingly that an index of prohibited words should be set up. In a monograph on the foundations of the social sciences, he avoided, as he explicitly states, words like entity, essence, mind, matcher, reality, thing," close quote. Will Durant, whose book The Story of Philosophy was a national best seller, offered the following intellectual guidance to the general public. After discussing Aristotle's achievements as a logician, Durant wrote, quote, "But no man ever lived who could lift logic to a lofty strain. A guide to correct reasoning is as elevating as a manual of etiquette. We may use it, but it hardly spurs us to nobility. Not even the bravest philosopher would sing to book of logic underneath the bough. One always feels towards logic as Virgil bade Dante feel towards those who have been damned because of their colorless neutrality. Let us think no more about them but look once and pass on," close quote. And while the neo-mystic intellectuals of the 20th century think no more about logic and pass on in search of a bough to sing under, the collector of their efforts, the conqueror marching triumphantly down the road they have paved, is not long in coming. He announces himself as follows, quote, "We are now at the end of the Age of Reason. The part played by the bourgeoisie is finished, permanently. A new age of magic interpretation of the world is coming. We must distrust the intelligence and the conscience and must place our trust in our instincts. People set us down as enemies of intelligence. We are, but in a much deeper sense than these conceited dolts of bourgeois scientists ever dream of," close quote. The author of this statement was Adolf Hitler. Such is the intellectual philosophical state of our age. What are its practical results? That atmosphere of panic and lethargy which permeates our entire culture, an atmosphere of tension and stagnation, of open cynicism and secret terror, a world where men live under the threat of split-second annihilation with an H-bomb suspended over their heads. Where one out of every 12 persons in this country spends some part of his life in a mental institution, where teenage savages are running amok murdering their parents or one another for kicks while their elders gape at a group of dazed bums who utter unintelligible sounds about the glory of communion with another dimension and with narcotics, for which sounds they are acclaimed as a vital new school in literature, particularly for announcing that life on Earth is a sewer. While playwrights present mankind in the form of beings who inhabit garbage cans, while actors project the human soul by means of unseeing, unfocused eyes and a voice of hysteria-tinged monotony that breaks in ungrammatical places, while politicians are proclaiming a crusade for freedom by imposing greater and greater controls and for the right to property by confiscating it. While a blustering anthropoid declares that he will bury us because it has been scientifically proved that communism will win, and he is answered by a nervous gentleman who declares that our ideals of freedom rest on our faith in God. Ladies and gentlemen, this culture is bankrupt. Mysticism and its product, the creed of self-sacrifice, have brought the civilized world through the blind alley of a moral vacuum where they have nothing further to offer you but nuclear disintegration from a bomb placed into the hands of a homicidal dipsomaniac who acts on his feelings or will or instinct by scientists who had indeed learned not to bother much with reason and logic. But there is no historical determinism, no fate which dooms mankind to perish. The trend of the present can be stopped. The disaster created by ideas can be fought, but only by means of ideas. It is philosophy that brought men to their present state. It is philosophy that will take them out. No, it is not too late. It is never too late so long as men live and are willing to think. If you wish to fight for a world where human life will once more be possible, you must now understand why that battle has to be fought on the field of philosophy and why it has to begin by understanding and upholding the supremacy of reason. Perhaps it is now clear to you why, when one fights for reason, one is fighting, to quote John Galt, "for any achievement, any value, any grandeur, any goodness, any joy that had ever existed on this earth," close quote. In the effort to formulate a rational view of man's relation to existence, Aristotle did not say the last word in philosophy. His genius is that he said the first. Not only were there flaws and contradictions in his metaphysics, such as his doctrine of [INAUDIBLE]. There was one crucial weakness in his system, an omission which was the factor most responsible for his defeats in history, the lack of a fully defined code of ethics or morality. Aristotle's ethics is a vague, generalized, unproved therefore non-objective set of observations, which at best gives man some decent common sense rules of behavior. In the field of morality this is not enough. The tragedy of Western civilization is that while men rejected the theology of mysticism, they did not reject its ethics. They still clung to the creed of sacrifice. What changed was merely the name of the beneficiary. Not God but society was to be the collector and recipients of man's sacrifices. Morality directs men's actions. So long as it remained the monopoly of mystics, mysticism had to win. In Atlas Shrugged, you have seen the reasons, the causes, and the manner in which the morality of mysticism wins and destroys the achievements of rational men. What objectivism offers you is that which was lacking in the history of philosophy, a morality of reason, a rational code of values logically demonstrable based on and derived from a rational view of existence and of men. This is not the only philosophical innovation of objectivism, but it is one crucially important for the translation of philosophical ideas into action and reality. Metaphysics is the base of philosophy, and it is with the metaphysics of objectivism that I will now start. I will name two concepts, and I will ask you to ask yourself whether you understand them fully. I warn you that you will probably think you do because they are very simple concepts and that most of you will soon realize you don't, because they are the widest and most fundamental concepts that men possess. These two concepts are something and nothing. Remember that I am asking you to consider them in their fullest meaning and application. The concept of something applies to every concept in your mind, to the entire content of your consciousness and to the total of your knowledge, regardless of the amount or degree of your knowledge. It is the fundamental concept of consciousness. It marks the start of being conscious. When a baby opens his eyes and receives this first sensation of sight or sound, all that his consciousness can register is that he is aware of something. He does not know what it is, and of course he does not know any concepts. But we know that the concept of something names that first state and stage of his awareness. The blob of light he perceives is something. The sound he hears is something. The blanket he touches is something. To be conscious is to be conscious of something. After this first step of awareness, all the rest of the knowledge he may ever acquire will be a process of discovering more and more about what that something is. But that it is is implicit in his first act of awareness. A blob of light is a blob of light. A sound is a sound. To know whether the blob of light is a lamp, a fire, or a sunset, to know whether the sound is made by a human voice, a violin, or an exploding bomb requires a long process of learning. To know what a something is represents the next steps of knowledge. But that it is, that it exists is the first step without which no further steps are possible. Implicit in the baby's first awareness is the most crucial concept of philosophy, the concept of existence. It is with the awareness of existence that knowledge and consciousness begin. If the blob of light does not exist, it is nothing. Consider the meaning of nothing. You are accustomed to the use of the concept of nothing to indicate the absence of specific things. For instance, you can say, I have nothing in my pocket, meaning that you have no physical objects in your pocket, or the amount of my fortune is zero, meaning that you have no money. But the metaphysical meaning of nothing is nonexistence, the literal void, the blank, the zero. Non-existence does not exist. Nothing is a concept pertaining exclusively to a relation. It has meaning only in relation to something and denotes its absence. Nothing by itself is nothing. If you grasp firmly the meaning and the difference of these two concepts, something and nothing, you have grasped the two broadest fundamentals of philosophy, existence and nonexistence. To be nothing means not to exist. To exist means to be something. To be something means to be something specific, as distinguished from the blank of nothing. To be something specific means to be a thing of a certain kind, of a certain nature, of a certain identity. The identity of a thing is that which it is. The law of identity states that which is is what it is. A thing is itself. A is A. Not to possess an identity, not to possess a nature, not to be anything in particular means not to be anything, which means not to exist. To be is to be something. The law of identity is an axiom. It is the abstract statement of a self-evident truth. It is given directly in immediate awareness or immediate perception. It is not inferred or deduced, nor does it need to be. It is known immediately. It is implicit in man's first sensory perceptions and in all the knowledge man can ever gain. To perceive that a chair and a table exist is to know that the chair is the chair and the table is the table. To learn that an electron exists is to know that the electron is itself. The concept of existence and the concept of identity, therefore, cannot be divorced. To be aware of one is to be aware of the other. They can only enter the mind together. They are indivisible in reality and in consciousness. To know anything is to know that that which is, is what it is. When a scientist asks, what is it, he is asking, what is its identity? When he asks, why did this event occur or how can this event be made to occur, he is asking, what is the identity of the factors that caused this event's occurrence? To quote from Galt's speech, existence is identity. Consciousness is identification. Whenever you hear the concepts of existence, consciousness, or identity being challenged, remember that these concepts are necessarily and inescapably contained and implied in any statement, in any utterance, in any knowledge any man may claim to possess. They are the irreducible base of all human thinking. Any attempt to deny them necessarily entails their acceptance and use. This leads us to the statement in Galt's speech that constitutes the base or starting point of the philosophy of objectivism. Quote, "Existence exists, and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms, that something exists which one perceives, and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists. If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness. A consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms. Before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that's which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness. Whatever the degree of your knowledge, these two-- existence and consciousness-- are axioms you cannot escape. These two are the irreducible primaries implied in any action you undertake, in any part of your knowledge and in its sum. From the first ray of light you perceive at the start of your life to the widest erudition you might acquire at its end. Whether you know the shape of a pebble of the structure of a solar system, the axioms remain the same, that it exists and that you know it," close quote. A classical philosophical question is, how do you know that the external world exists? The meaning of that question is, how do you know that anything exists except consciousness? To which objectivism's answer is, again quoting Galt, quote, "If nothing exists, there can be no consciousness. A consciousness with nothing to be conscious of is a contradiction in terms. A consciousness conscious of nothing but itself is a contradiction in terms. Before it could identify itself as consciousness, it had to be conscious of something. If that which you claim to perceive does not exist, what you possess is not consciousness," close quote. And thus the question, how do you know that the external world exists translates to the self-contradictory absurdity of the question, how do you know that you are conscious? To deny the existence of an external world is to deny the existence of consciousness. But then who is doing the denying and by means of what faculty? Or again, mystics and neo-mystics commonly declare, even if an external world does exist, man can never perceive it as it really is. I will discuss this issue in some detail in lecture three. For the moment, let me point out that when philosophers declare that men cannot perceive existence as it really is, they are declaring that man cannot perceive existence. Existence as it really is is a redundancy. There is no such thing as existence as it really isn't. Man can perceive existence or he cannot. No third alternative is possible. But to declare that man cannot perceive existence is again to declare that man is not conscious, since there is nothing else to perceive except existence. To claim to have arrived by a complex chain of analysis at the conclusion that one is not conscious is scarcely rationally or epistemologically admissible. Remember that how we learn the identities of specific things and what we can regard as knowledge is a different question. It is a question to which we shall devote considerable attention. But that existence exists and that consciousness is conscious are axioms that cannot be escaped. Any attempt to do so collapses in absurd self-contradictions. Now, the metaphysical view I am presenting is one that holds reality to be objective. Reality is that which exists. The objective view holds that that which exists is what it is. That it exists independent of any consciousness, of anyone's knowledge, judgment, beliefs, hopes, wishes, or fears, and that the function of consciousness is to perceive reality. Thus reality is the object of consciousness, the object which consciousness perceives and must learn to perceive correctly. Objective means independent of consciousness. To say that a thing exists objectively is to say that its existence does not depend on being perceived or known by a consciousness. The principle that reality is objective is a corollary of the law of identity. Things are what they are. Neither their existence nor their identity is determined by whether or not they are known, recognized, or believed. A is A. Now, what alternative view of reality is possible? Well, there are a good many philosophers who hold, implicitly rather than explicitly, a view that amounts to subjectivism. They maintain in one form or another that the existence and nature of reality depends on the consciousness that perceives it, which means that reality possesses no independent existence and identity, that its identity is in some manner determined by the perceiver, that that which exists is nothing specific, which means that the function of consciousness is not to perceive but to create reality. Thus reality is not the object but the subject of consciousness. Subjective means dependent on consciousness. Subjectivism is a metaphysical view that scarcely any philosophers are willing to endorse as such. They prefer to repudiate the objective view without committing themselves to the only possible alternative and without acknowledging that subjectivism is the only possible alternative. Those of you who are acquainted with contemporary philosophical movements will appreciate how prevalent this trend is. For a brief introduction to the subject, I refer you to the title essay of Any Rand's "For the New Intellectual." To select only one example, when certain philosophers deny the metaphysical status of the law of identity, when they declare that the principle of identity is not true of or applicable to reality, when they declare that to speak of a thing's identity is meaningless, they are declaring by implication that things possess no fixed, determinate identity and that the illusion of a thing's identity is in some sense a projection or a creation of our consciousness. This means that reality, the only reality we can know, is not the object but the subject of our consciousness. Observe that this position carried to its full logical implications entails the negation both of existence and of consciousness. To be is to be something. To be something is to be something specific. Not to be something specific, not to be anything in particular, not to possess an identity is not to be. The denial of identity is thus the denial of existence. But, as we have seen, the denial of existence entails the denial of consciousness. There is nothing for consciousness to be conscious of, which means there is no consciousness. Such is the dead end of subjectivism in general and in particular of the claim that the law of identity does not apply to reality. To endorse subjectivism as one's explicit and avowed view of reality is of course to be an undisguised mystic. Unfortunately, many people who would reject subjectivism if they identified the issue consciously hold the view subconsciously by implication, by default, by lack of knowledge, and quite frequently by evading the issue. Here are a few simple colloquial examples which you have all heard in our hearing constantly. Whenever you encounter them, you are dealing with subjectivism. This may be true for you, but it is not true for me. Everything is a matter of opinion, and one man's opinion is as good as another. You may be right, but I don't feel it. Wishing will make it so. All our differences are a matter of semantics. It will work if people will only want it to work. All these statements mean and imply that there is no firm, absolute reality, that things have no identities and their natures can be altered by the wish, whim, or evasion of the speaker. You would not be as tolerant of such statements as you probably are if you identified their philosophical meaning. You would not accept the metaphysical theory of objectivism if it were offered to you as such. But then why do you accept such a statement as, this may be true for you but not true for me? That statement comes from the universe of non-A. Truth is the recognition of reality. To be true, a statement must denote facts. It must denote that which exists. If I tell you that mental health requires intellectual independence and you tell me that it requires uncritical conformity to the beliefs of one's culture, both statements cannot be true. There is no way for both of us to be right. When men disagree, at least one of them has to be wrong. It is not possible for two men to be right when they claim opposite views on the same subject. If reality is real, if existence exists, if things are what they are, then with regard to any specific issue, only one position is true. But if reality is not real, if existence does not exist, if things are not what they are, if one is a subjectivist, why then anything goes, and then everybody's truth is true and nobody's, because there is no such thing as truth. And as Ellsworth Toohey would put it, one plays it deuces wild. But remember A is A. A scientist cannot make a false theory true by closing his eyes to the data that contradict it. An inventor cannot make a perpetual motion machine possible simply because he wants it to be possible. A man cannot heal a broken arm by choosing to regard the break as only an illusion. A child cannot love a mother he hates merely by insisting that he loves her. A neurotic cannot experience self-esteem by refusing to acknowledge his self-loathing. But those who make such attempts are the conscious or unconscious practitioners of the metaphysics of subjectivism. And this gives us a clue to the psychological appeal of subjectivism. Philosophically, the concept is observed and cannot be maintained literally or consistently by anyone. The subjectivist universe, a universe without identity where A is non-A, can neither exist nor be conceived. It exists in the minds of most irrationalists not as a literal metaphysical conviction but as a vague, implicit, secret, undefined escape clause, an escape clause that permits them to ignore the law of identity when they find it convenient to do so, when they wish to indulge irrational whims, make irrational demands, pursue an irrational course, and do not wish to be reminded that A is A, that reality is real, and that actions have consequences. The story is told of a geologist who conceived a highly original theory about the rock formation in a certain valley. The evidence he had examined confirmed his theory, and he was exaltant over the sensation that his paper would create in scientific circles. He walked up a hill to enjoy his valley, when suddenly his eye fell upon a large boulder, a type of rock which should not have been there if his theory were true. Thereupon, he put his shoulder to the rock and pushed it down the other side of the hill and proceeded about his business. If he didn't see the rock and nobody else saw it, it didn't exist. That is what the metaphysics of subjectivism comes to in practice. That is all it can or does mean. Another example, a scientist, a name you will all recognize, wrote as follows in regard to scientific research projects, quote, "In order to get a particular result, one must want to get exactly that result. If you want to get that particular result, you will get it," close quote. The author of this statement is professor TD Lysenko, the famous Soviet biologist. A brother in spirit to professor Lysenko, also discussing science wrote as follows, quote, "There is no such thing as truth. Science is a social phenomenon and like every other social phenomenon is limited by the benefit or injury it confers on the community." The gentleman who said this was Adolf Hitler. It is logical that subjectivism does and has to lead on a social level to dictatorship. An objective reality leaves no room and no chance for anyone's whims. It serves as an objective arbiter in any dispute among men, an arbiter to whom men can refer, an arbiter impervious to the influence of anyone's wishes or feelings. It is only on the basis of an objective reality that persuasion, communication, and cooperation among men are possible. But if men believe that there is no reality, that there is no truth, that things are whatever any whim decides they are, then the first question to arise will be, whose whim? It is at this point that the man with the club becomes the master and might becomes right. There is no other kind of right. In the language of modern philosophers, a man who does not accept the existence of an objective reality absolute, determinate, and independent of consciousness is called a subjective idealist, a pragmatist, or a positivist. In the language of the psychopathologist, such a man is called a schizophrenic. A schizophrenic holds his delusions and hallucinations as real and evidence from reality to the contrary as unreal. But existence exists, and man achieves power over reality not by blindness but by sight, not by wishes but by thought and action. In defining your philosophical convictions, this is the first alternative you have to face, the first question you have to answer. Do you recognize the fact that existence exists, that reality is an objective absolute and that your mind can know it? Or do you believe that existence, reality, consciousness, mind are subjective illusions without identity in the non-brain of a non-man? This is the basic issue of metaphysics. All subsequent questions depend on one's answer to this question. Now you know why our philosophy is called objectivism. Tonight we have established the axioms of existence, identity, and consciousness as the base of the objectivist philosophy. We have said that reason as opposed to mysticism, faith, or revelation is man's exclusive tool of knowledge. How does the faculty of reason function? What is the role of the subconscious? What is the nature and source of emotions, and what is their relation to men's reason? These are the questions we will discuss next week.