What is Man? Philosophy and Human Nature

1.   Philosophy and human nature

This is Leonard Peikoff speaking in the fall of 1990. The following lecture is part of a course originally given in 1976 with Ayn Rand’s endorsement and in her presence. As of 1991 however, the course will be superseded by my book Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand. My book recapitulates the 1976 course, but its formulations and logical structure are immeasurably superior. Despite this fact, I am making the original course available for purchase for several reasons. Students may find it profitable to compare the course to the book and discover for themselves the differences. Also, the 1976 course is the only recorded statement of the entire content of Objectivism. My new taped course on Objectivism is selective taking for granted a knowledge of the philosophy. Finally, Ayn Rand, herself, took part in most of the question periods in 1976, and I do not want her recorded comments to disappear from the Objectivist scene. To all of you now, who are about to hear this lecture, let me stress at the outset that I myself — speaking some fifteen years later — regard my new book and not this course as the definitive statement of Objectivism. Thank you.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. There is no question more crucial to man than the question, what is man? What kind of being is he? What are his essential attributes? In the history of thought many philosophers and artists have claimed to answer these questions, to look at man and to report on his nature. Their reports have clashed through the ages. Aristotle for instance, defined man as the rational animal. Plato and the medievals looked at man and reported that they saw a drooling hunk of flesh encasing a soul, yearning for supernatural salvation. Shakespeare in his plays presented man as an aspiring but foolish mortal, inevitably defeated by a tragic flaw. Immanuel Kant saw a blind, duty-ridden chunk of unreality in permanent hock to the unknowable. Victor Hugo saw a self confident, purposeful valuer, undercut by a malevolent universe. Hegel saw a half-real fragment of the state. John Dewey saw a ward heeler chasing the expediency of the moment. Freud looked at man and claimed him to see an excrement-dripping pervert itching to rape his mother. Ayn Rand looked at man — at man, not men — and saw the possibility of Howard Roark and John Galt.

What kinds of philosophic questions did Miss Rand and all the others I mentioned have to answer in order to define their view of man? Is man a rational being, and if so, what does this mean? What is reason? Is man an autonomous entity, who functions and survives as an individual, or does his survival depend on erasing his individuality and merging into a group? Is man an integrated being of mind and body, or is there a clash, a dichotomy between these two elements? Does man possess any irrational elements — by his nature, now I mean — such as for instance mystic insight, or inexplicable instincts, or an indefinable — quote, creative spark, or a supernatural conscience? And if the answer is, there are no inherent antirational elements, then what about emotions? Is man a puppet, shaped, moved, defeated by forces beyond his control by God or society, or his genes, etc. Or is he the shaper and master of his own destiny? Is philosophy a luxury, or is it a necessity to man by his nature, and if so, what is it necessary for? Such are the kinds of questions subsumed under the heading of tonight’s lecture, the first in this course on the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

Now metaphysics — as I’m sure you know — is the branch of philosophy that studies the nature of the universe as a whole. It’s the branch of philosophy which studies existence, or studies reality. And metaphysical means pertaining to existence or pertaining to reality. When we speak of man’s metaphysical nature, we mean his essential enduring attributes including, above all, his basic relation to reality. In other words, those fundamental attributes, which every human being has in every era and country by the very nature of a human being. Now this is a metaphysical, not an evaluative subject. We are not here this evening to make value judgments. We are not here to say what is good for man or evil, what he should or should not do. We are concerned now with the factual question, what in fact is the essence of human nature? All value judgments presuppose and follow from a view of man’s metaphysical nature. Without such a view, whether it’s conscious or subconscious, explicit or implicit, but without such a view, no one can enter the field of ethics or politics or esthetics or practical decision making of any kind. Until you know in some terms what you are, you cannot know whether you should be selfish or just or free, whether you should get a job and pay your debts, or go on welfare. Whether you should admire America or Russia, George Washington or George McGovern. Whether you should send your children to a progressive or a Montessori school. Whether for emotional refueling you should contemplate the statues of Michelangelo and the Greeks or the modern collages made of dirt and bus transfers.

All these and ten thousand other ethical, practical, esthetic issues are derivative. Their root is the nature of man. The issue of man’s nature, however, is not the base of philosophy. It is not a primary. You can see this yourself. If you consider the many contradictory views of man’s nature that have been put forward through the ages and that I have touched on at the outset. The reason for these differences is that one’s view of man depends on more fundamental questions. It depends on one’s view of the nature of reality as such — that’s metaphysics as I’ve just defined it — and it depends on one’s view of man’s means of knowledge. That of course is epistemology. I won’t insult you by spelling it. It’s on the brochure, anyway. That is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature and means of human knowledge. In this regard you can think of the issue of man’s nature as the center of any philosophy, the center in a literal sense. At the base and start of philosophy are metaphysics and epistemology. As a consequence — an expression of this foundation — one reaches a view of the nature of man? Then as an expression and implementation of this view, one reaches answers to the evaluative question, the questions of ethics, politics, esthetics?

Ethics of course is the branch of philosophy which defines the code of values to guide human choices and actions. Politics is the branch of philosophy which studies the nature and proper function of government. Esthetics is the branch of philosophy concerned with the nature and proper standard of art. Now if you see the place of man’s nature in an organized systematic philosophy, you will see that all philosophical roads either lead to the nature of man, or they lead from it. If philosophy is likened to a fifty-story skyscraper — this is obviously just an analogy — then I would say that the first twenty-five stories at least are pure metaphysics and epistemology. Then for several floors comes the first major cashing in — the center — the metaphysical nature of man. And then comes the top twenty odd floors, the value branches of philosophy. So we are not starting at the beginning tonight in our study of Objectivism. We are starting right in the middle of the structure. My reason for such a procedure is this: nothing, not even its ethics, reveals the essence of any philosophy more eloquently than its view of man. If we have the Objectivist view of man before us at the outset, that will serve as a beacon and guide to us for the rest of the course. Thereafter, we have a shining goal that we want first to reach and validate and then to implement and apply practically.

So, after this evening we will go back to the foundation and study the issues on which the Objectivist view of man rests. That will be lectures 2 through 6. and then we will consider the evaluative consequences and implication of what we discuss this evening and that will be lectures 7 through 12. By this method we don’t plunge into the more abstract aspects of philosophy, until you see clearly by your own judgment that those technical questions are of life-and-death importance, because everything including your own understanding of man and therefore yourself and your life rests on.

Now, before we turn to our subject this evening, which is what is man according to the Objectivist philosophy, there are a few preliminary remarks I want to make about the nature and content of this course. To begin with, these lectures — and I think at this point the outline of subjects on the brochure makes clear — these lectures presuppose a certain knowledge of the Objectivist philosophy. I’m taking it for granted that in a general way you are familiar with the leading ideas of Objectivism. In a sense my presentation is self-contained in that I do cover all the essentials of Objectivism and for each point that I introduce I define the term and explain how the issue arises and offer the validation. Or, at least I indicate where you can look it up. So, in that sense the course could theoretically be followed by someone who had no previous knowledge, but the pace and the emphasis would be extremely difficult for such a person. There is too much, too many different points in any given lecture for such a newcomer to be able to digest or retain. And in addition my emphasis often stresses points and topics that could be of interest only to a person who is already at home on a certain level at least, with the basic Objectivist viewpoint.

My purpose in this course is to present in essential terms the entire theoretical structure of Objectivism. Its central principles in every branch of philosophy, their interrelations, their applications, their validations. In particular I propose — and I ask you — to be highly conscious about the issue of methodology. Be sure you know the proof and the validation of each central point that we make. And of course it’s my business to present these proofs. By the end of the course you should be able for every principle, theory, conclusion of Objectivism, you should be able to state, this is what it says and this is how I know it. This is its basis in reality. This is its validation. If you can do that, you will really have learned Objectivism and, I might add, philosophy even more broadly. If you cannot do that, the entire course is a useless endeavor. I will say more by way of propaganda on this point at the end. However I must point out that in our discussion tonight, I cannot give you Miss Rand’s proof of all the points I cover, because tonight we are deliberately starting in the center. On each issue this evening, therefore, I will take the argument up to a certain point. And then I will remind you here we raise fundamental question such and such. Which we’ll discuss, and then I’ll name the lecture we’ll discuss it in. And I suggest that you will want to keep a list in the nature of an agenda. Or, from another perspective, a promissory note, which I have to guarantee to make good on.

And I hope by this method to let you see for yourself how much of the basic metaphysics and epistemology you take for granted and count on when you consider the sort of questions that we deal with tonight; and thereby give you a personal reason for caring when next time we start to plunge into the very more abstract issues. Now finally before we start formally on the content of Objectivism, I want to identify one point clearly at the outset. The philosophy of Objectivism from metaphysics through esthetics is the creation and achievement entirely of Ayn Rand. Not infrequently there will be points or examples in the lectures which I have learned from Miss Rand in private philosophic conversations. I’ve been fortunate enough to hold such conversations with Miss Rand across the period of about twenty-five years now. And I have taken and kept notes on these conversations throughout that period. And many of these points do not appear in Miss Rand’s writing. They are, however, her discoveries.

2.   Reason as man's means of survival

What is man, according to the Objectivist philosophy? The first thing to say is that he is a living entity, a living being of a specific nature, a specific identity. And as such he has like every living organism a specific means of survival, a means inherent in his nature. What is man’s means of survival? Well, how will we answer this question? By the only means there is to answer any philosophic or any other question, by looking to the facts of reality. In order to sustain and protect his life, man requires food, clothing, shelter, tools, medicine and countless other objects which are not given to him automatically by reality, which do not simply drop into his lap in answer to a wish, a hope, a law or a prayer. He requires a vast spectrum of values which he can obtain only by his own action. Now all living beings must act, as such this point in not distinctive to man. The lower species, however, act automatically to pursue the values their life requires. In the case of animals they act by the direct guidance of sensory experience, a percept. Man, however, does not have the capacity of automatic action in contrast for instance to a plant. And he cannot survive as animals do by the guidance of mere percepts. Quote from Miss Rand:

“A sensation of hunger will tell him that he needs food, if he has learned to identify it as hunger. But it will not tell him how to obtain his food, it will not tell him what food is good for him or poison.”

The same pattern applies to all of the values man’s life requires. The lower species find the values their life requires ready made in reality. They simply adjust themselves to the given. They appropriate the values they need directly from nature and consume them. Or they use force against other organisms. Man, however, is not equipped to survive in a contest of brute force with the animals. And the value of his life requires the not ready made. Wheat, shirts, apartments, hammers, penicillin and all the rest do not sit preformed and waiting in reality for man to seize them. Paraphrasing Galt:

 “The goods are not here. They must be created by man. They must be produced.”

What enables man to produce? How is he to discover what to produce? By what means to produce it? How does he discover what materials reality offers him, what their potentialities are, what laws govern their behavior, what techniques and methods will enable him to reshape them into the sustenance of human survival? How in sum is man to discover what goals he should pursue, what values his life requires, what actions will achieve them, what actions will threaten and destroy his life. He needs a commodity indispensable to his survival. Knowledge. Not merely the kind of knowledge the animals have, not merely percepts that acquaint him with the immediately given, but the kind of knowledge that can integrate the past and plan for the future. The kind of knowledge that will enable him to reshape his environment by productive action to meet the requirements of human survival. He needs conceptual knowledge. He needs to engage in a process of thought. He counts above all therefore on the faculty which forms concepts and performs the process of thought. The name of this faculty is reason, which in Ayn Rand’s definition is: “the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses.”

Life requires the achievement of value — I’m summarizing now. Life requires the achievement of values, which requires action, which in man’s case means above all, production, which requires conceptual guidance and direction, which means the exercise of reason. Reason is man’s distinctive means of knowledge. It is his only means of dealing with reality and guiding his actions. As such, reason is man’s basic means of survival. This is the first crucial tenet of the Objectivist view of man’s metaphysical nature. This is the fundamental tenet of which all the rest of tonight’s points are elaborations or consequences. Man is a rational being, by which I mean not that he always uses the faculty of reason, but that he is the being that possess the faculty, above all, the being who survives by the use of reason. A quote here from Galt’s speech, a key paragraph on this point:

“Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him. Survival is not. His body is given to him. Its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him. Its content is not. To remain alive he must act, and before he can act, he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch or build a cyclotron without a knowledge of his aim and the means to achieve it. To remain alive he must think.”

The role of reason in human survival is a metaphysical fact. And as such, evidence of it is to be found in every era of human history. History in this respect is like a huge philosophic laboratory, in which the philosophic expressions are written in capital letters and italics, for everyone to see if they trouble to look. In regards to the role of reason in human survival you could read these letters wherever you look. You can see for instance the nightmare of poverty, of starvation, the back-breaking labor, sweeping plagues of that era of anti-reason, the Dark and Middle Ages. You can see that as late as the 17th century, when the West had already begun to enter the modern world, life expectancy in many European areas was under twenty-five years. You can see that as late as the 18th century before the industrial revolution, nine out of ten working Americans had to work full time on the production and distribution of food, whereas today, and enormously greater quality and quantity of food is produced and distributed by only one out of five working Americans, leaving 80% of the labor force free to produce the undreamed of, unimaginable wealth and prosperity and safety and life expectancy that the West enjoys today, since the culmination of modern science, the industrial revolution. And against that you can see how men endure and suffer and still to this day die in hordes, not only in war, but in peacetime, as the norm and the to be expected die from starvation and disease in the non-industrialized, non-scientific, non-rational rest of the world. From the simplest necessity of man to the highest abstraction. quote:

 “From the wheel to the skyscraper” — this is Howard Roark speaking —“everything we are and everything we have comes from a single attribute of man, the function of his reasoning mind.”

If you call reason as man’s means of survival, point one, than you can call the next point, point two, if you want, and find the value in numbering. It’s merely an elaboration of what we’ve said so far. And this is, reason is an attribute of the individual. There is no collective mind, and no collective brain. A process of thought is a private, enormously complex process, which must be initiated and directed at every step by the decision and judgment of the thinker. It’s a process of perceiving facts, making connections, grasping abstractions, integrating new data, defining one’s term, drawing conclusions, all of which can be done only by an individual. Just as Roark observed,

 “You cannot digest food for another man, or breathe for him. So you cannot think for or through another man”.

Men can and do learn from others, and this is a crucial element in human progress. But to learn from others means to understand their conclusions, by grasping the reasons for them, which can be done only by the exercise of the learners own mind. Men do build on the achievements of their predecessors. And this is crucial to human progress.

 “But what we receive from others,” as Roark says, “is only the end product of their thinking. The moving force is the creative faculty which takes this product as material, uses it and originates the next step. This creative faculty cannot be given or received, shared or borrowed. It belongs to single individual men.”

In a division of labor society, men gain enormous advantages from the work of others, and they can achieve feats by concerted, joint effort that no man could achieve by himself on a desert island. But this does not mean that the thought or even the work involved is literally collectivist. In any joint effort each man must do his own thinking to guide his own part of the labor, if he is to contribute to the final result anything other than mindless muscle power. And in any joint undertaking some one thought must find the nature and goals of the undertaking, and integrate its components.

 “No work,” as Roark says, “is ever done collectively by majority decision. Every creative job is achieved under the guidance of a single individual thought.”

If you want an idea of what a collective thought process would consist of, or the nearest a man could get to this impossible idea, it would have to be where each man in a group puts forth a half formed, half idea, and quickly withdraws it if the others don’t take it up. Now this is where no man puts forth a firm, definite idea of his own to which he is committed, where none tries to convince the others of his view, where each shrinks from independent self-assertion, or intellectual responsibility, and waits for the others to decide something. The others who are engaged in the same abstention, the same empty, timorous waiting, and the result is a committee meeting, such as the board of directors meeting of Taggart Transcontinental in Atlas Shrugged. That scene is not a caricature of collective thought. It is the perfect typical example of not collective thought it dramatizes, by non-thought.

Now I don’t have to give this audience examples on a historical or social scale of the individualistic nature of thought. If you have read The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, you understand the role of the great creators and innovators in human history and how and why their achievements on which all our lives rest are a product which occurs only in a private mind and brain. Man is an entity who thinks as an individual; he survives as an individual. The collectivists from Plato to Hegel to the present are wrong, wrong metaphysically, not just morally or politically, but metaphysically. The fragment of the group that they talk about does not exist. Only man exists. And if someone tells you that man survives only by means of society, you have to ask him, well what then is society’s means of survival? And you will quickly see that the only answer is the power of thought the only kind of thought which exists, individual thought.

Now our discussion tonight — let me remind you — is metaphysical, not ethical. I am not now saying man should be intellectually independent. I won’t say that for going on two months. I’m making a different, a related, but a different point. I’m saying as a matter of fact, a fact of reality, thought — man’s tool of survival — is a private, individual process. Now to help you see the metaphysical nature of this point, I want to remind you that there are certain living species, for instance ants, who are built differently from man, who have a different metaphysical nature in regards to the present issue, who are not equipped to survive as individuals. Now the creatures I have in mind are, you could say, an embodiment of Plato’s philosophy. Each of them functions in such a way that it can only perform one of the functions that its survival requires. Such creatures are metaphysically components of the group, wedded to the group by nature. By itself each such ant is incapable of survival.

So, if you were a philosopher for ants, collectivism would be the truth. But man is not an ant, or a coral bush or a Hegelian fragment of society. Man survives by reason. Of course he gains inestimable advantages from living in society, if it’s a rational society. But the point is he is capable of independent survival, and the crucial requirement of this survival, whether he is alone or in society, is a private process of thought. And I might add, man can not only survive alone, he can survive much better and longer on a desert island with all its disadvantages and problems than within a society which is irrational and statist. Man as seen by Plato or Hegel requires a collectivist dictator to suppress and rule the individual. But man in fact cannot survive under such conditions. By his nature he is a rational and therefore autonomous being.

Now let’s stop here a second for station identification — I mean methodological identification. Everything that I’ve said so far, rests on the premise that reason is man’s distinctive means of knowledge, and therefore, his only means of dealing with reality. What subject covers the topic of man’s means of knowledge? Epistemology. When one says that reason is man’s means of knowledge, does that need validation, and detailed explanation? Does it raise complex critical questions that urgently require an answer? Yes. Dozens and dozens of such questions, the wrong answer to any one of which invalidates reason and wipes out everything I’ve said tonight. What are these questions, and what are the answers? Tune in for the next five weeks.

3.   The relation of mind and body

All right, let’s turn to another allied issue in regards to man’s nature. You can call this number three, if you wish. The relation of mind and body. Now I want you to observe in discussing the role of knowledge in man’s life, I have not said or implied that knowledge is an end in itself, or that it’s for the sake of cocktail party or professorial chit-chat, or that it is disinterest. I’ve said the opposite. Knowledge is for the sake of dealing with reality, of production, of preserving and safeguarding man’s life I’ve said in other words that reason is in essence to be a guide to action. That reason is indispensable in the practice of living. That it is a practical faculty. Now this approach to reason is distinctive to Objectivism. Everyone to be sure grasps it in some form and to some extent. But prior to Ayn Rand, no one and no philosopher, not even Aristotle, grasped this point fully. What stopped previous philosophers from grasping it is a crucial error that all and in various degrees have come to. An error concerning the metaphysical relation of man’s mind and body. An error that in full-blown form has the effect of making thought useless in action and mindless. An error called the mind-body dichotomy and the soul-body dichotomy. Now this dichotomy declares that mind and body are two opposite antagonistic elements in human nature, inherent in war or in conflict with each other. And that man, therefore, must chose between them. He can cast his lot with the mind or soul, in which case he must disdain and reject the body, or vise versa. He can endorse the body and its claim in which case he must reject the mind. On this view you see among many other things, knowledge being intellectually divorced from physical action and practice and must be pursued, if at all as some kind of spiritual end in itself.

Now Objectivism denies and throws out the mind-body dichotomy completely, as a matter of principle, and in every one of its countless forms. Why? What is the Objectivist view of the metaphysical relation of mind and body? First there is no ineffable, mystical soul. This is s-o-u-l. If we use the term soul, it’s perfectly okay. We use it to designate an aspect of man’s consciousness. Similar, the term mind designates an aspect of consciousness. It designates the conceptual faculty. And consciousness, according to Objectivism — consciousness as such, now, whether animal or human — is a part of nature. It is a fact of reality. It is an attribute possessed under specific conditions by certain living organisms. It is not unnatural, or supernatural. It is a natural faculty. And its function is not to attune us to a mystical dimension, but to perceive physical reality. This reality, the world of nature revealed by our senses. Human consciousness, therefore, is this worldly in its essence and function, as this worldly as the human body. And when the two elements are united that constitutes a single indivisible entity — man.

Man, according to Ayn Rand, is an integrated being made of two attributes, consciousness and matter. Or mind and body. The function of the mind is to acquire knowledge and define value. The function of the body in this context is to carry out or enact the conclusions and value judgments of man’s mind. Each of these attributes is indispensable to the other and to the total entity which is man. Without a mind, man has no means of knowledge and no way to direct his actions or preserve his life. Apart from its internal, vital processes the body does not and cannot function automatically. It does not move by an inexplicable urge or drive or mystic instinct. A human being — an animal for that matter, too — moves at and only under the guidance of his consciousness. If a man loses consciousness, his body becomes inert. On the other hand without a physical brain and body man can have no consciousness or ideas at all, let alone any way of carrying out his ideas in action. The two elements are two indivisible aspects of one harmonious integrated entity. That’s the Objectivist view.

Now consider the mind-body dichotomy. Without the centuries of profound historical corruption behind them, the idea of a clash between the mental and the physical would never occur, at least to an ordinary, decent person. The idea of such a clash is literally senseless and unintelligible, if taken literally. What would you think if someone said to you that he was a metaphysical battleground; that there was a bitter war being waged in his person between two clashing elements? His faculty of vision versus his toes, or his knees or his pancreas. His eyesight versus his legs. Now if you even deign to speak to such an individual, you would say that his idea is fantastic. How can perception clash with a physical organ? What could such a clash consist of? Does his eyesight — I keep turning to President Ford — while his legs keep running on their own after Carter, or what?

Now in fact you would say that the truth is the reverse of this claim. The eyes see, and the man uses his legs to walk to, around or away from what he sees. The one yields awareness, the other is guided by that awareness. The metaphysical relationship is harmony, union, integration, not conflict, clash, war. Now the same is true more broadly of the relation between mind and body as such. The one is a source of knowledge, the other translates the knowledge into action. Both attributes are indispensable to man, both are indispensable to human life. Quote:

 “A body without a soul is a corpse,” says Galt. “A soul without a body is a ghost, and both of these, ghosts and corpses,” he notes, “are symbols of death.”

Now if a man accepted the traditional dichotomy literally, and attempted conscientiously to act on it, he would find himself in an impossible position. Suppose he decided to cast his lot with the mind and reject matter and physical action of any kind. What are his choices? Well, you might think he could spend his time daydreaming, but no, he could not daydream about what he or others could or should do because action is out. Well, you say he might be religious, but, no he couldn’t even utter a prayer to God, which is a physical action — by the way an action which certain ancient sects proscribe. They regarded praying as sinful as a means of sullying their spiritual religion with materialistic elements. Well, this purely spiritual man, you might say, could be a fraudulent hypocrite. Well maybe, so long as he simply spun theories in his mind without reference to physical reality, and stayed in bed, if he could find a non-material bed. Or, he could be schizophrenic, out of contact altogether with physical reality and in a catatonic trance, immobile and waxy flexible. That he could be, so long as some low grade materialist was around to feed and bathe him.

Now on the other hand if a man rejected thought and the mind, literally and fully, and decided to cast his lot with matter and action, with mindless physical action. What are his choices? He could be a sleepwalker, but no, he can’t count on any previous knowledge or any subliminal awareness to guide his movements. Well, could he be a plain brute? Well there’d have to be somebody to tell him whom to beat up and how to do it. But again he could be a psychotic, this time of the manic variety, out of contact with reality and flailing around grotesquely and insanely. Now these patterns are as close as a man could come to pure thought or pure action. Pure thought is non-thought, because it means it has no reference to physical reality. Pure action is non-action, it is simply purposeless movement. Both patterns enacted fully, mean suicide.

The same principle applies to the relation of theory and practice. A theory in this context is any conceptual identification of the facts of reality, or of guidelines to govern human action. Practice action is impossible without such an identification, or, in other words, without knowledge of some kind. And in turn theory is senseless without reference to material reality and pointless without reference to action and practice. The idea that something can be good in theory, but not work in practice, is a bad theory, which does not work in practice. A good theory means a true theory, one which recognizes all the relevant facts of reality, and integrates them into a non-contradictory whole. Such a theory has to work in practice, if you act on it appropriately, because that means that your actions are guided by reality at every point. It takes account of every relevant fact, it is consistent with every such fact, it is in harmony with reality. In other words, it works.

What gives the theory-practice dichotomy any shred of plausibility to the average man? The advocates of the dichotomy put forward some bad theory some theory that they wish was true even though it blatantly isn’t. And then they wail that see I have a great theory here, but it doesn’t work. It’s as though I were to say I have a terrific new theory. Let’s fly airplanes without fuel. Think of the money we’ll save And then I apply this theory and I see a holocaust of plane crashes, mangled bodies; I shrug and I say, so much for the mind. My idea was good in theory but for some mysterious reason theory doesn’t work in practice. Of course the mysterious reason the theory doesn’t work is that the theory is wrong. It is false. The same applies in every good theory that doesn’t work in practice. It doesn’t work, assuming that it has been appropriately applied, because it is not good in theory. It overlooks facts. It contradicts reality, it substitutes an error, or an arbitrary wish for the truth. This is especially true in the case of moral and political theory, such as the idea to sell sacrifice or Communism. It’s good in theory, but not practical. They surely are not practical because they are fundamentally anti-reality, anti-reason theories, as we’ll discuss in several months. Now if you ask me, how do I know when a theory is true, when it’s non-contradictory, when it corresponds to reality? The answer is, that is epistemology. That comes later.

Now how did the disaster error of such dimensions as the mind-body dichotomy ever arise? How did it win the allegiance of so many millions men? It stems from two closely allied schools of philosophy, both of which go all the way back to ancient Greece and right up to the present. Their standard names in philosophy texts are the Idealists and the Materialists. Both of these terms, by the way, are used in the technical sense. The Idealists are those who in metaphysics advocate consciousness without existence. And in the case of man, claim that he has a mind without a body. The body they say, or matter as such, is either an illusion which isn’t real at all or is a half-real manifestation of something spiritual, and in any case is low, evil and to be shunned. That’s the Idealists. The Materialists are those who advocate existence without consciousness, and in regard to man, claim that he is a body without a mind. The mind, they say, is either an illusion, which doesn’t exist, or a useless byproduct of brain or nervous system motion. Examples of the first school are people like Plato, Augustine, Kant, Hegel. Of the second the ancient Greek philosopher Democritus, Thomas Hobbes, Karl Marx, Skinner and his brood.

Ayn Rand has a better name for these two schools, a more informative name. She calls them the mystics of spirit and the mystics of muscle. Now why mystics? A mystic is anybody who claims that knowledge is possible to man by means other than the senses or reason. Well the Idealists, the mystics of spirit, reject the physical realm. Knowledge of reality, they claim, comes not from sense perception, but from the supernatural or the ineffable, from revelations or faith or a sixth sense or innate ideas, et cetera. The Materialists, the mystics of muscle, avowedly reject the faculty of reason. Man they claim is a chunk of flesh and bone, a mindless chunk, whose conclusions reflect the blind workings of glandular squirtings, or of atomic dances or S-R conditioning or that weird waltz-like contortion known as the dialectic process, et cetera. And speaking of the mind-body dichotomy, Galt says:

 “Do you observe what human faculties that that doctrine was designed to ignore. It was man’s mind that had to be negated in order to make him fall apart. Once he surrendered reason he was left at the mercy of two monsters who he could not fathom or control. Of a body moved by unaccountable instincts, and of a soul moved by mystic revelation. He was left as the passively ravaged victim of a battle between a robot and a Dictaphone.”

And one sentence from Galt to Dagny in the Valley, quote:

“The defenders of man’s soul were concerned with his feelings, and the defenders of man’s body were concerned with his stomach, but both were united against his mind.”

Now observe that the mind-body dichotomy is not a primary. Both types of mystics derive their view of man from their fundamental philosophy. The same kind of fundamental philosophy from the same metaphysics, the same epistemology. In metaphysics, both start by denying reality, I mean this reality, the reality man perceives. The traditional Idealists do so in the name of God or a supernatural dimension, to which they go on to say, the soul really belongs. The simplest example of the Materialists is the modern Communists, who reject reality in the name of an alleged dimension which is the opposite of everything we know about the world and man and life, and which they call the future. A future which Miss Rand observes, which consists of denying the present.

Now what is the actual truth on all of these issues? What is the nature of reality? Is it mind? Is it matter? Is it both? What? And what are its laws? This is one set of questions we must answer if we are to validate the Objectivist view of the mind-body question. And these questions form part of metaphysics, our subject next time.

Now look at epistemology for a moment. In epistemology both of these schools, the Idealists, and the Materialists, reach their conclusion by denying reason, as we’ve seen. And both note this. Both subscribed to the theory-practice dichotomy. They have to, given their epistemology. Theory, they all say — and this is true of those materialists who claim not to believe in any super world — theory, they say pertains to one world, and practice to another opposite or conflicting world. And that’s why a good theory does not have to work in practice.

Theories, they say, pertain to, for instance, to a world of floating abstractions — that’s Plato — or to a world of sensations that have nothing to do with physical objects. That’s the Greek sophists. Or a subjective world created by and existing only in man’s mind. That’s Kant. Or a world of linguistic manipulations, or dialectic computations or collective feelings, et cetera. That’s sundry moderns. Whereas action practice occurs in this world, which is the opposite of the world that theory studies. And therefore they say that something can be good in theory, but not work in practice, and therefore the mind-body dichotomy is true. Now what is wrong with all this? What is wrong with all these views of reason and the mind?

Is knowledge objective? What is the relation between theory and the world, between abstractions and concretes, between language and physical objects, between sensations and physical objects, between logic and knowledge, between reason and reality? Here again you see a whole set of urgent questions. This time from epistemology on which the Objectivist view of the mind-body question depends absolutely and which we will have to consider for several weeks to come. As to ethics and the value branches of philosophy — I will merely note in passing here — both schools, the Idealist and Materialist characteristically preach sacrifice, whether to God or society, and both preach man’s impotence on earth and his inevitable suffering and defeat. The mystics of spirit of course promise happiness in heaven, the mystics of muscle in the Communist version, promise happiness in the future, to your great-grandchildren, as Galt puts it. Now this kind of conclusion is unavoidable to both schools, because neither a man without a mind, nor a man without a body can exist, can function, can achieve values, can live. If he tries to approximate this by fricative condition, he is to that exact extent, he is metaphysically, doomed to suffering, defeat, impotence.

Now when I was first preparing this lecture, I wanted at this point to quote you a few passages from one of the most eloquent expressions that I know of, the right view on the mind-body question. And that is the sequence in Atlas Shrugged which presents the first run of the John Galt line. That sequence is magnificent on many counts, but I was focusing on it as the perfect artistic and philosophic expression of the integration of mind and body. It represents such an integration because it unites the deepest intellectual issues with the most breath taking action. And philosophically it is explicitly concerned with the issue of the relation of mind and body. I’m sorry to say, however, that I found that I could not quote only a few passages. The sequence is so integrated that every paragraph I selected necessitated just one more, until I found that I was quoting the entire thing, which I would love to do, but time makes impossible. But I do urge you to go home and reread that sequence, reread it specifically in the light of the mind-body issue. It will give you an image of the Objectivist view of man and man’s life in the context of the present topic. A radiant image that only art, great art can approach.

Now there are countless forms of the mind-body concept prevalent today, many, many more than the few that I have discussed tonight. Some of them we will discuss in future lectures. Some we will not get to at all in this course. But for your information, so that you can get an idea of the enormous ramifications of this error, here is a typical partial list of dichotomies, all flowing from the same mind-body split. All resting ultimately on the same sorts of metaphysics and epistemology that I indicated to you. And in everyone of these cases note a person can choose either side of it. He can choose the alleged soul side and turn against the body one, or vice versa. Now this is just a for instance — there is, ideas versus money, one side saying that ideas are important, but inefficacious in life, while money a mindless product is the vulgar power that rules the world — that’s many of today’s intellectuals. The other side saying that ideas are spiritual and cultured and all that, but they’re are a waste of time and the thing to do is to say to hell with philosophy, theory, ideas, and achieve security by simply amassing physical goods — that is many businessmen, unfortunately.

There is an allied dichotomy, the Platonists versus the pragmatists, one saying, truth — with a kind of reverent tremble around that word — truth is an end in itself, not to be degraded by physical objects or actions. And the other the pragmatists, action is what counts, action unrelated to concepts or principles which are some kind of old fashioned unnecessary spiritual hangover. There is love versus sex, the witch doctor type versus the Attila type, Happiness versus pleasure, pure science versus applied science, woman versus man — and that one I have heard both ways. If the woman as the spiritual and the man as the low and materialistic, or the woman as the physical and the man as the sublime and the spiritual. Both are wrong. There’s art versus business, politics versus economics, morality versus science, rationalism versus empiricism, concepts versus percepts, In art there is profundity versus entertainment, and on and on, both sides relying on the same false alternative, same fundamental soul-body dichotomy, with both factions in each case being wrong. Now some of these as I’ve said we will discus later in the appropriate context. The point now is simply that the ramifications of this issue alone could fill an entire course by themselves. And you have to be on the lookout for any smell, any faint odor of these soul-body dichotomies.

4.   The relation between reason and emotion

Now there is one further manifestation of the dichotomy that I must, however, discuss now, because there are widespread confusions in regard to it, and it is critical to a proper view of man’s metaphysical nature. I mean — and you can call this point four, if you are keeping score — I mean the relation of the mind and the so called heart, or more formally of reason as emotions. Now this subject has been distorted perhaps more than any other of the soul-body dichotomy. And it has been distorted in every imaginable form and varied. Plato for instance offers one widespread view. Plato held that the mind is a spiritual, exalted faculty, and that emotions are worldly, animalistic, materialistic and therefore, they should be shunned or repressed. The sophists, the group of Greek skeptics contemporaneous with Plato, agreed with Plato in essence, but they opted for the emotions, preached whim worship and rejected the mind as a myth.

On the other hand, many of the medieval and the 19th century German philosophers held what seems on the face of it the completely opposite view. Emotions, feelings they held, are the spiritual element in man. They are exalted, supernatural, cognitive powers which lead man to true reality in their view of it, whereas reason with a mind they said, is an earthbound faculty cut off from true reality, limited to vulgar physical sense perceptions. In other words mind is spiritual and emotions are physical, or emotions are spiritual and mind is materialistic. You can have the dichotomy either way. The common denominator is the dichotomy, and the conclusion, man cannot live exclusively by reason. The conclusion drawn by these people from if man cannot live exclusively by reason, they say, because he has emotions. And emotions are an inherently non-rational element that has to be reckoned with separately. Or to put their view another way, the central premise shared by every variant on this issue is, emotions are an independent phenomenon, in other words independent of a man’s thoughts, ideas, premises independent of the mind. And whether people go on to say that emotions are good or bad, high or low, physical or spiritual, a product of chemistry or God, or utterly inexplicable, doesn’t make any difference.

Now this premise that emotions are independent of the mind is wrong. It’s false. Both mind and emotions have physical and conscious elements or conditions. The mind is not, quote, purely spiritual. It requires as we’ve seen, a brain and body in order to exist, and its primary task is the study of physical reality on the basis of physical sense data. And emotions are not, quote, purely physical. They are conscious states or experiences with bodily accompaniment and above all with spiritual, intellectual causes. This last point indeed is how one distinguishes a pure physical sensation from an emotion. A sensation can be transmitted by purely physical means, and will be experienced in the appropriate circumstances regardless of the person’s ideas or premises. If you touch a man in the right place with a red hot poker, he will have a certain sensation from strictly physical causes, regardless whether he is an Objectivist or a Communist. But emotions as against sensations are not merely the product of physical stimuli. Fundamentally, they depend on and come from something in the mind, a product of the conceptual faculty. How? What exactly do they come from? And why, if emotions are a product of the mind, do there appear to be conflicts sometimes between a man’s thoughts and in his fears? These are the questions we want now to consider, but first let’s take a break for about fifteen minutes.

Ladies and gentlemen, let us now pick up the subject of emotions. The first thing to stress is that emotions — love, fear, desire, hatred, happiness, suffering, anger, joy et cetera —emotions are not irreducible primaries, are not just there, inexplicably popping up out of the blue. They have causes, definite, definable causes, intellectual causes. Now let’s develop this point systematically. An emotion is a response to an existent or object of some sort, which one perceives, such as a man, an event, a situation et cetera. The object however, the thing you perceive, whatever it is, has no power by itself to invoke feeling or emotion in you. It can do so only if you supply the necessary conditions, the link between the perceived object and the feeling. That link consists of two distinguishable intellectual elements.

First, you must know in some terms what the object is that you are perceiving. You must have some kind of understanding or identification of it, true or false, but some kind. Otherwise to you the object is a cognitive blank. It’s a zero. You have no idea what it is, you cannot react. And second, you must evaluate the object, situation, event, whatever. You must appraise it. You must pass a value judgment on it. In other words, you must conclude in some terms that it’s good or bad, desirable or undesirable, for your values or against them. You don’t have to evaluate it explicitly to have an emotion. The value judgments in question may be explicit or implicit, conscious or subconscious, rational or contradictory, sharply defined or vague and blurred, clearly known to you, or buried, hidden, unidentified. But in some terms you must appraise the object in accordance with your values in whatever form you hold your values. If you do not, then the object even if you have an idea what it is, would be an evaluative blank or zero to you. It would be meaningless to you, one way or the other. You wouldn’t see it as good or bad, for you or against you, so, it becomes a matter of indifference, and you can’t react to it emotionally.

To respond emotionally, you need one, an identification of the object, true or false, but enough to constitute an idea in some terms of what it is, and two, an appraisal of the object that you have thus identified in terms of your value judgments. Now here is an example that I constructed illustrating the operation of these two factors. It’s obviously a schematic but I think helpful. Six men say, look through a microscope at a series of medical slides, cross-sections of various tissues. One is a savage fresh from the jungle, to him the procession of eerie moving shapes, shadows, color, which is all he can make of it, suggest say, something undreamed of and inexplicable, some mysterious ominous expression of a supernatural dimension. And he feels, say, a twinge of dread. A second man is an ordinary civilized layman, who knows that the slides are something safe and scientific but he has no idea of what they stand for or mean and merely yawns. A third man is a painter, a representational painter. He, too, has no medical knowledge but he focuses on say, a particular combination of intersecting lines and blobs, and he may think of how hideous, it reminds him of Kandinsky, and he feels a touch of esthetic revulsion. Then St. Augustine looks at the slides, and he understands only say, this is one of the products of that pagan irreligious science everyone is talking about, and he feels antipathy, even anger and outrage that he is in the presence of blasphemy of what he calls the lust of the eye. Then a doctor looks at the slides, and he feels profound sorrow. They’re the slides of tissue taken from a close friend of his, and they mean, he understands, a fatal disease. Finally, an ivory tower researcher looks at the slides. He spent his life looking for a particular type of growth to prove a certain medical theory, the culmination of his life’s work. He sees the growth on the slide. He feels an overpowering emotion of elation.

Now here we have the same object perceived by men of the same species, and depending on their conceptual context, in other words on their knowledge or idea of what it is, and above all on their value judgments. They feel superstitious dread, or yawning indifference, or esthetic revulsion, or religious condemnation, or painful depression, or joyous exaltation. Now what caused these emotional states? The slides, the physical object by itself? No. The slides as identified and evaluated by each of them in the context of his own ideas and value judgments, the slides as grasped and appraised in some terms by a mind. Now when I present the issue of emotions in class to ordinary kids in the sense of not students of Objectivism, my standard procedure at this point, having given only this much theory is without warning or explanation of any kind, suddenly to reach into the desk, take out a pile of examination booklets and start distributing them to the students. Of course consternation breaks out immediately and the class is gripped with terror, and there are cries that you never said we were having an exam today, it isn’t fair, et cetera. And that’s when I stop and take back the exams and ask, how many of you can explain the emotion which just swept over you? Is it an inexplicable primary, a quirk of your body, a message from God, a jostling of your glands or id? Obviously, the answer is clear to them and a shower of hands goes up. Booklets mean an exam. An exam to most of them means failure. Now they’re losing their A in the course, wrecking their transcript is bad news. And on this one example they grasp quickly enough that emotions do have causes, and causes are what one thinks, one’s knowledge and value judgments, the conclusions of one’s conceptual faculty. And I may point out as added confirmation, there are auditors in most classes, that is people who are just sitting in and don’t take exams or get grades. They invariably remain calm during this experiment, which I point out to the class. To the auditors, the exam is not a threat. There’s no negative value judgment as well.

Now if the cause of emotions is so obvious that freshmen can grasp it without difficulty, why is it that the vast majority of men have failed to grasp the cause? Well there are many reasons. But one key reason lies in the very nature of the emotional process itself. If we break it down, there are four steps involved in an emotion. Perception, identification, evaluation and emotional response. Of these steps, only two, the first and the last, perception and emotional response are normally conscious and easily graspable. The two middle steps, identification and evaluation are provided in essence by the subconscious, and occur automatically without the need of conscious awareness, and with lightning-like, instantaneous rapidity. As an adult once you have acquired a whole vocabulary of conceptual knowledge, you automatize it, just as you automatize your knowledge of spelling or typing, et cetera.

You don’t have to reason consciously and deliberately to know for instance that something is an examination booklet. The application of the relevant concept is automatic and unhesitating. It’s the application of past knowledge stored in your subconscious. And similar, once you have formed a set of value judgments, you automatize them. You don’t have to reason consciously or deliberately to decide that you value a friend’s life or a good grade or whatever. You know it and you apply that judgment immediately, instantaneously. Your value judgments, like your past knowledge, are present in your subconscious, which is a store of the mental contents you have already acquired, but which are not in your conscious awareness at a given time. The subconscious automatically integrates, applies your knowledge and your value judgments to the new object you encounter in all these obvious kinds of cases. It does so without the need of a conscious, deliberate thought process. And the result is, it seems to many people that we simply perceive and then feel with nothing intervening. The truth is a whole chain of ideas and value judgments intervene, but it is automatized, so most people are unaware of its presence and role. The subconscious, as Miss Rand has observed, functions in this respect like a computer, a complex computer which you program by means of your ideas and value judgments. But once it has been programmed it feeds its printout, emotions, automatically to you, in response to the object you perceive. And it prints them out so fast that most people regard the results as primaries, forgetting that the mechanism is empty until you program it, until you fill it with the content of ideas and value judgments.

Now there is a further important point to make here with regard to the role of the mind in producing emotions. Value judgments cannot be formed in a vacuum. Just as in formal philosophy we said you cannot reach a value question until you first answer the questions of metaphysics and epistemology. Well the same is true in essence in the case of an individual, even a non-philosophical one. As an adult, he cannot form or hold value judgments except on the basis of some sort of fundamental view of life, in other words of himself, of other men, of the world. This is the base on which every man forms his specific value judgments and preferences and goals. This is the base which conditions the kind of value judgments he will form and therefore the kind of things that will attract or repel him, the kind of emotions he will feel. If a man on this fundamental level holds, usually implicitly, if he holds that he is a helpless nothing, that men are inexplicable brutes out to destroy him, that the universe is unintelligible and malevolent, well that sort of fundamental mental set or philosophy will affect and condition every aspect of his value judgment in every realm. And the Objectivist literature makes the point very clear, I think. That kind of mental set or philosophy will affect his ambition, the kind of work, if any, he is drawn to, his preferences in friends, art, parties, et cetera. In all these areas and countless others this sort of man will have radically different sorts of values and therefore, radically different preferences, likes, dislikes, desires than a man, for instance of self-esteem, who holds that his mind is competent, that man is a rational being, that the universe is an open benevolent realm where achievement and fulfillment are possible.

Philosophy, fundamental philosophic issues such as these are only implicit for most men, not explicit. Yet, such philosophic issues are the base of a psychology. They are the fundamental programming of a man’s subconscious computer, and hence, they shape all of his particular values, and therefore all of his particular emotions. Now you see just from this brief indication the complexity involved.

“An emotion,” says Miss Rand, “is experienced as an immediate primary, but is in fact is a complex, derivative sum.”

An emotion is a derivative of value judgments and a vast cognitive context, all of it resting ultimately on an abstract philosophic base. And most or all of this material at any given time stored and automatized in your subconscious, ready for a lightning-like application to the relevant object as and when you perceive and focus on it.

Now let’s turn to the traditional non-Objectivist view of emotions and consider how its philosophic advocates defend their viewpoint. There is a venerable argument offered by thinkers from Plato to Freud. It is a single argument offered in history allegedly to prove that emotions are independent of the mind. I mean the so called argument from conflict, which was first stated by Plato, and has never been improved on since that time. How, he asked, can you explain the many cases where his mind tells a man one thing and yet his emotions do not respond? They pull in the opposite direction. It seems obvious, Plato says, that over and above the mind we have in effect a beast that he in effect regarded as an independent, autonomous beast, salivating blindly, urging us on to things that rationally, intellectually we condemn. How else, he asked, could you explain the frequent clashes between reason and emotion?

The actual answer to Plato’s question lies not in any beast, but in the fact that a man can, and most men do hold contradictory ideas and that men have the power to remain unaware of their contradictions. A man can hold ideas and values subconsciously or implicitly without identifying the fact, ideas and values which contradict his professed beliefs. When he then responds to some object in terns of such subconscious mental content he may declare that his emotions didn’t follow his ideas. In fact they did, only he did not identify his ideas accurately. For instance, as simple as that. A young man stocks his subconscious across years with positive judgments in regards to say, the field of art. He is not too articulate, he’s not too observant about his mental processes, however, so most of this content in only implicit, unidentified, fragmentary, unknown to him. Then in pattern — I’m obviously cutting out a few decades here — his father tells him one day, you should be a lawyer, that’s practical, you’ll make a big success et cetera, and the boy says that’s true, I agree, but I don’t feel it. I want to go into art, and I have no idea why. Now this is an obvious case in pattern, where the person doesn’t know his own conclusion, he doesn’t know his actual values, so he thinks there is some kind of inherent clash between mind and feelings.

Or another example: a man accepts philosophically the premise that one must speak up for one’s ideas and fight for them in the appropriate public forum, and yet he finds that he feels a great reluctance to do it, he feels cowardice, which he cannot explain, and so he has a painful, and to him, mysterious conflict. Now what kind of unidentified premises could underlie this sort of problem, this kind of cowardice? Well, in pattern, what we call social metaphysics, or the second-hander’s psychology, including the implicit idea that it is crucial to be liked and approved of by others not to provoke trouble or antagonism. Now if you hold this sort of idea, that of course will produce and emotional response completely at variant with the conscious premise and policy of speaking up. And if a man does not know his subconscious premise, he will be helplessly baffled at the conflict. The fact is one always responds on the basis of ideas of some kind. Emotions are not by their nature inexplicable demons, though they become that if you hold contradictions and do not identify your ideas explicitly. The truth is, that a clash between thought and emotions, literally speaking, does not and cannot exist. Such a clash in fact is always at root, a clash of intellectual content, an ideational clash, a clash of ideas in whatever form they’re held. The key line here from Galt is:

“An emotion that clashes with your reason, an emotion that you cannot explain or control is only the carcass of that stale thinking which you forbade your mind to revile.”

Now why did this point elude Plato and his heirs through the centuries? Well there are several factors that may be involved here. But there is one I want to mention, an issue which by itself is enough to account for Plato’s interpretation and for the hold it has had on men throughout the ages, a purely philosophic issue, I mean Plato’s metaphysics and epistemology.

If you hold with Plato that there are two conflicting worlds, a true spiritual reality and an imperfect physical dimension, and you hold that the mind studies truth in the higher reality while life and action and desire pertain to this world — if you hold that that kind of philosophic dualism and then you turn to man and observe conflict between mind and emotion, well then the explanation seems obvious to you. Conflict in man, you say, is simply an expression of the metaphysical law. The universe is a conflict of two opposing realms, and therefore it’s only to be expected that man, the microcosm should reflect that conflict, that he should be torn in two parts, with one urging him to the higher spiritual things, and the other pulling him down to the muck. Plato’s metaphysics ensures it and the epistemology associated with it and its equivalents during the centuries of the medieval religion thereafter, and then of modern philosophy. All of it has established a basic philosophic framework in man’s mind, even in many men who profess to reject and despise Plato, a framework which makes them a natural to fall into the trap of regarding emotions as inherently at war with reason.

So, again, we’ve reached the same conclusion. Without the right metaphysics and epistemology you cannot have the right view of man. And until you validate the right metaphysics and epistemology, until you prove it you cannot fully validate or prove the right view of man, including the right view of the relation of reason and emotions. Now in concluding the topic of emotions, I want to stress that our concern with the topic this evening and throughout this course is philosophical. There are a great many interesting questions of a psychological nature that one could discuss about emotions, but that is psychology and therefore, outside the province of a philosophic course such as this one. For philosophy we need to know only one essential fact, which will not be affected by any discovery or technicality in psychology. It is a fact established by philosophic observation of man in conjunction with the appropriate metaphysics and epistemology. The fact that emotions are not independent self-assertive entities, but derivative consequences of ideational content. That’s it. That’s the point as far as philosophy is concerned. In future lectures we will be discussing many philosophic ramifications and applications of this fact. Under epistemology for instance, we will be stressing that emotions are not tools of cognition, that they are no hindrance or obstacle to the practice of complete objectivity. In ethics we will be stressing such points as that emotions are not proper guides to action, that man must live, value and act exclusively by reason, and that man is capable of such complete fulltime, unbreached rationality.

5.   Is man free or determined?

For now, however, I want to turn to and just touch on one particular topic. You can call this number five tonight. It’s going to be briefer than the preceding, and it’s a, well I guess, the second last one. This topic is closely connected to the issue of emotions and it bears directly on the issue of man’s metaphysical nature. I mean the issue is man metaphysically the pawn of factors outside of his control, or is man the master of his own destiny, in other words the issue in philosophy that goes by the name of determinism versus free will. Determinism is the theory that everything that happens, including every thought, feeling and action of every man is necessitated, necessitated by previous factors, and they in turn by previous factors and so on and so on all the way back so that nothing in the past or present could ever have happened differently from the way it did. And everything in the future is already pre-set and inevitable. That’s the doctrine of determinism. Each man’s life in this view is entirely a product of factors outside of his control. And therefore, the most consistent determinists add, no man can be held responsible for his actions. Whatever he does, he has to do, period. It makes no sense to blame or praise him for anything.

As against this, the theory of free will holds in broad terms that man has the power of choice or volition, that he is an independent, autonomous being, in this sense; he’s not a puppet of destiny. He is a being who can be held responsible for his choices and for the actions which flow from them. Now on this issue as I’m sure you know, Objectivism advocates the free will theory in a very specific form. And we will be devoting parts of several future lectures to that subject.

For the moment, I want to comment briefly on determinism. Like the theory of free will, determinism has been advocated in many different forms in the history of thought. Man, determinists have said, is the product of God’s plan, or conditioned reflexes, or of his Id, or of his tools of production, or you name it. But all these varying interpretations of determinism agree on is one point, that man is determined. In other words he is a product of factors outside of his power to alter or control. Now the average man today tends, as a rule, to be contradictory on this issue to swing between determinism and free will. At certain times and in certain moods most people incline to the idea that they are a free agent, the author of their own actions. At other times and moods, the same people will endorse the view that man is helpless and determined. Why people incline to free will is clear enough and is the truth. There is abundant evidence of it in ones own field of introspected observation. But why do people also incline to determinism. It is not just the bombardment of deterministic theories in philosophic history.

There’s also something else, something that rings a bell to a great many people, that makes them feel when they hear deterministic claims, yes, that’s plausible. I do feel helpless, out of control, moved by forces I can do nothing about. What forces? Well, what many people would answer, emotions. And that is the connection I just mentioned between the emotions and of determinism. Most people who accept determinism, whether all of the time, or only on Tuesdays and Thursdays, do so largely because when they look at their own selves and lives, they see that they are out of control. And they are so in significant part, because they cannot explain or account for their own feelings and desires. It seems to them that their emotions are inexplicable entities foisted on them by some power they cannot fathom or control. And that therefore, they are not masters of their actions or destiny, but to that extent they feel like puppets pulled by strings, moved by urges, passions, hates and loves, pleasures that come they know not from where. In a word, the view that emotions are independent of the mind and therefore, that one is a helpless pawn moved by uncontrollable forces. This is one of the most potent weapons of the determinists in gaining converts. Now we will discuss the errors of the doctrine of determinism as a general philosophic doctrine in a later lecture. I believe it’s number three.

For this evening I want to merely look for a minute at two common, popular versions of determinism. That is the heredity version, and the environment version. I want to look at them from the aspect of the role of one’s view of emotions leading one to accept or reject the determinist viewpoint.

 The first one I want to look at is, man is a product of heredity, comes in a variety of forms. Man is born with certain genes or glands or physiological structures, et cetera — some sort of innate factors like these which determine everything essential about a man. That’s what I’m calling the heredity view. The other common view is that man is a product of his environment, that he may be born without any innate factors shaping him, that he may be born without any factors shaping his character, that his character is a product of society, of social conditioning.

Now notice that both of these versions have an element in common, over and above determinism. Both in their commonly accepted forms fail to recognize the role of ideas in the generation of emotions. The heredity school treats emotions as a product of inherited physiological structures in process. In other words it keeps emotions as a product of physical factors, not of thought or ideas. Your basic emotional makeup, these people say, your essential character is innate or physically, or physiologically created. Now, if you understand the Objectivist view on this question, you would drop this school right away. Because you would say, if there were to be an innate emotional makeup or inborn, inherited feelings, that would have to mean, innate ideas, innate value judgments, innate concepts. And there are no innate ideas, so this one is out. Parenthetically, how do you know there are no innate ideas? That’s epistemology. That’s Lecture 3.

Now the environmental school. It, too, in its commonest popular version treats emotions as independent of the mind. It regards emotions as the product, not of innate physiological factors, but in effect of sensations or percepts. How according to the environmentalists — the determinists, not the ecologists. That’s a different type of corruption we’ll discuss later. How according to the environmentalist does society get to you? By what means does it shape and mold your character? Now, most of these people recognize that man has only one primary means of contact with the external world including, therefore, with society, which is sense perception. So, as they construe this, you see people, you watch their actions, you hear their pronouncements. This goes on for many years, and after a repeated bombardment of such sensory data, the result is you build up certain emotional patterns and a certain character, which they say is the product of society. Now what element does this school leave out? Again, ideas. Objects, statements, people do not reach directly into anyone’s mind.

People cannot force you to accept a conclusion against your own judgment, without your voluntary agreement and sanction. They cannot implant concepts in your brain by surgery. You have no choice about perceiving people, including hearing their statements, but perceptions as we know do not invoke emotions, only perceptions that interpret and evaluate. Who does this interpreting and evaluating? Who forms the ideas, who does the thinking here? Not society which cannot think for you. Remember the point, the mind is an attribute of the individual. You form ideas, your ideas, and you are the only one who can. And that means, you are the source of your emotions, your conclusions, not society’s, not the environment, but your mind. So the social version of determinism in its commonest form is also out.

Now as against determinism in all its versions, whether the heredity school, the environment school, or an other, Objectivism says the following — here I’ll give you just a summary in general terms. Man is born without innate ideas, and when he reaches the conceptual level, he is the sovereign. It is his choice to exercise his mind or not, to think or not, and that choice which he has to remake at every moment in every issue, that choice affects and controls the conclusions he comes to, the ideas he accepts, the value judgments he forms, and therefore, the actions he takes, and the emotions he feels. And this means, everything essential to you as a formed individual, your character, your personality, your passions, the typical ways you respond to situations, your characteristic reactions, your preferences, desires, ambitions, your recurrent patterns of action, all of it comes, ultimately, from your ideas, from the ideas you have reach by the exercise of your own mind. So if we use the term soul, to mean your mind and its basic values, then in the words of Galt, quote — this is a very crucial line:

“As man is a being of self-made wealth, so he is a being of self-made soul.”

In this sense, according to Objectivism, every man, man metaphysically, is an independent, autonomous entity, an entity who creates his own character. And this is one cardinal reason why Objectivism views man — speaking metaphysically, now — views man as an efficacious being, a being who can achieve his values here on earth, and can achieve happiness and fulfillment. There are many reasons underlying this conclusion, but this is one of them. This kind of efficacy requires as one condition that man be in control of his own person, his own character and mind, of his inner world. Otherwise he is a helpless puppet, unintelligible to himself, ruled by a mindless destiny. And therefore, this is one route of Ayn Rand’s benevolent universe viewpoint. We’ll pursue this at a later discussion, when we get to happiness, which I think is Lecture 8.

Now have I proved to you that man is a being of self-made soul? No. Not yet. I’ve shown you only this much, if emotions are products of thought, and if thought is volitional so that man has sovereignty over the operation of his mind, then he is a being of self-made soul. But is man such a sovereign? Is the mind volitional? Is free will true, and what, exactly, is its nature? And how do we know all this? That requires a separate discussion, under the appropriate lectures on epistemology. Again, you see, on this topic as on all the others, a metaphysical view of man’s nature, whether it’s the Objectivist view, or any other, requires a deeper philosophic validation. Whether we say man survives by reason or thinks as an individual, or is an integrated entity of mind and body, or feels as a result of what he thinks, or is a self-made self-directed efficacious being, all of it rests on an implicit foundation, on a definite metaphysics and epistemology, which is why Ayn Rand’s view of man’s nature is unique. And it is unique, because her basic philosophy is unique. Men have not seen man the way Objectivism sees him, because thinkers have not held the fundamental premises of Objectivism, but usually they’re opposite — which brings us to the final topic this evening — the role of philosophy in human life, which I’ve been stressing all night.

6.   The role of philosophy in human life

Philosophy is the shaper of man’s values. Philosophy, and especially its most important branch, epistemology, is the power, which explicitly or implicitly guides man in the use of his conceptual faculty. From just these two points alone, you can see that man is a being of self-made soul then philosophy is the shaper of his soul. It is the element in man, which in fundamental terms makes him the kind of man he is. The fact is philosophy is inescapable in human life. If you say, I don’t care about a view of man or my soul. Let it be whatever it happens to be. I don’t care about philosophic issues. I abstain entirely. Just leave me alone. You can say it, but you cannot literally live it. You cannot, because man, by his nature cannot exist without some kind of philosophy. And here I would like to quote several very eloquent paragraphs from Miss Rand’s West Point speech, which I strongly recommend that you read prior to next time for a magnificent statement of the role and need of philosophy in man’s life. It is in the December issue, December 1973 issue of the Ayn Rand Letter, and I’ve taken just an excerpt to capture the essence of the point for our purposes.

“Without abstract ideas you would not be able to deal with concrete particular real life problems. You would be in the position of a newborn infant, to whom every object is a unique, unprecedented phenomenon. The difference between his mental state and yours lies in the number of conceptual integrations your mind has performed. You have no choice about the necessity to integrate your observations, your experience, your knowledge into abstract ideas. i.e., into principles. Your only choice is whether these principles are true or false whether they represent your conscious, rational convictions or a grab-bag of notions snatched at random, whose sources, validity, content and consequences you do not know, notions, which more often than not, you would drop like a hot potato, if you knew. The principles you accept, consciously or unconsciously, may clash or contradict with one another; they, too, have to be integrated. What integrates them? Philosophy. A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious or rational, disciplined process of thought, and scrupulously logical deliberation, or let your subconscious collect a junk- heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, unidentified wishes, doubts, and fears thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your mind’s wings should have grown.”

Philosophy in sum is a need in man’s physical nature. It is a need just as real, just as inescapable to man as the need for food, because this is a fundamental need of man’s mind without which, in the last analysis he cannot obtain his food or anything else his life requires. In regard to food, you have to ingest something or die. And your choices are only life-promoting nourishment, or dirt, or poison. The same is true of philosophy. You have to take in something. And your choices are the same, which is why Objectivism takes philosophy seriously. It does so, because in the last analysis, philosophy determines everything else about men’s life, their actions, their science, their culture, their history, their triumphs, their disasters, their future. To take philosophy seriously, however, means, among other things, one crucial condition — and here I pick up the point I promised at the beginning that I would elaborate at the end. It means reaching philosophic conclusions by your own independent rational judgment. i.e. you must really see and understand firsthand the truth of the ideas you accept.

There are various areas of human endeavor where under certain circumstances it’s practical to accept the advice of an expert, and declare, he knows best, this is not my field, but you cannot do it in philosophy. And this is so even if you found a certified, completely rational expert. It would be useless, for instance, to turn even to such an expert and say to him, I need a philosophy, you’re an expert, so I’m asking you, should I for instance be selfish? Just tell me, yes or no, so I can act. I haven’t time for discussion and proofs, just give me answer. Now that expert could just say, well that’s easy, just be selfish, and then leave the room, but would that do you any good? After all he told you the truth, but what else would you need?

Now, just in pattern, just to give you a taste of what would be involved, just one example. You’d need to know what selfishness is. That would be very helpful. And how do you apply such a wide abstraction in particular in real life situations? And to be selfish, does that mean do whatever you feel? If so, what do you do if your feelings are irrational and clash with other people, and how do you know what’s rational anyway? And who can say how another man should live? Maybe what’s true for the expert, isn’t true for you. Or is truth objective, or what is truth? What is objectivity? And what’s the use? How do you know if you can achieve your goals in this kind of a world, so is there any point to being selfish, or what kind of world is it anyway? And if everyone was selfish, wouldn’t that mean cut-throat competition, and dog-eat-dog, and child labor? And how do you know the answer to all these questions, by what method of knowledge, et cetera. Now that’s just a taste, a sample of the pattern. The point is you need to know it all — the whole system, not on faith. Faith doesn’t work. It’s useless, even if what you have faith in happens to be true. You need to know it all firsthand with objective proof of each point on strictly practical grounds, to make use of it, to function, to live.

So if you truly wanted to be practical, realistic, hardheaded, you would decide at some point, I’ve got to learn the subject, to start from scratch and to move systematically in the right order, in essential terms with the right connections, with the proof of each point as I proceed. Of course if you started from scratch in this manner, your first question would have to be, where do you begin and how do you know that’s the right starting point, how do you validate basic philosophic axioms and what do such axioms tell you about the nature of reality.

Now ladies and gentlemen these practical hardheaded questions are the ones with which this course begins its systematic study of Objectivism next week. Thank you.

7.   Question period

Hi, ladies and gentleman, I have an enormous number of written questions here. Some pertain to future lectures. Some I will answer briefly. Some I want to take home and see what I can untangle, because they’re too long to look at here. I want to first make an assignment, and that is I would suggest that you go over the brochure for next time, and notice for all the lectures — 2 through 6 — which is the basic philosophy, metaphysics and epistemology, which is before we get to the value branches, and make a list of any topic announced on the brochure, that to the best of you honest judgment is not necessary in order to defend a sensible view of man in a decent view of life and ethics. Now if there’s anything that strikes you as an extraneous technicality, or something that’s for professionals only, but that it would not be needed to validate a view of man. Because I’ve maintained in the lecture that everything I’m going to cover is ultimately necessary to validate the view of man I’ve presented tonight. Make a list of anything that you cannot connect in your own mind to that, and then wait until it’s covered in the lecture on any such topic, and if at the end, you still don’t see, well so what, what does it have to do with a view of man’s nature or with how man should live. Please formulate that as a question and hand it in, and I’ll be happy to make the connection explicit.

I’d also like to recommend just before we start, that for next time, of course assuming that you have read Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead — and I’ll say some more next time about reading specifically, but beyond the obvious things — I would suggest that you read in preparation for the discussion of metaphysics, and article by Miss Rand called “The Metaphysical and the Man Made,” which is in the Ayn Rand Letter in March 1973, because we will be referring to that.

Now the first question.

Q. If identification and evaluation occur automatically and subconsciously in reacting emotionally to a perception, how do you know this is so?

A. This is a question which I believe comes from the modern epistemology, and the implication is you don’t observe these processes and they’re not empirical, how do you know they exist? To begin with the fact that some processes occur automatically, does not mean that they are not observable. You can in a great many cases, and if you are rational, you ultimately can in all cases identify, what are the premises you hold, the conceptual framework you accept and the value judgments you hold. You can actually make those conscious so that the lightning-like process of course will be too fast for you perhaps to identify in the moment of its occurrence, but you can retroactively introspect, and actually observe that you hold those premises and that they are the ones that work. There’s nothing in the fact that a premise acts instantaneously to prevent you from subsequently identifying and perceiving it, subsequently or in advance, knowing that you hold it, so that you cannot assume that the automatic is the non-observable. I’ll pass further comment on that.

Q. Can you re- explain what is the center of philosophy?

A. All I mean by the center here is the topic which comes in the middle. And I mean, that — I don’t know how to say it beyond how I did. There are certain foundation branches, a view of reality, and of how man acquires knowledge. On that basis you then reach a view of man’s nature, what his essential attributes are, of his means of survival, his essential relationship to other men, the relation of his mind and his body, his reason and emotions, does he have free will — the kinds of questions we mentioned and took up this evening. That then is the center in the sense that it’s the cashing in of your foundation, metaphysics and epistemology. And it in turn makes possible an answer to such questions as: how should a man live; what is right or wrong for him — that’s ethics; how should he organize government and society, what are the proper functions, that’s politics, and by what standards should art be created and judged, that’s esthetics. You can actually think of it as that skyscraper. The first half is the foundation. And in the middle comes the nature of man. Then the top blossoming out — to switch the metaphor — is the value of practical branches of philosophy.

Q. Are there not many complex creative ideas, which are integrated subconsciously and seem to spring full grown into conscious awareness? Emotions are not the only automatic responses are they?

A. No. Of course not. There are other forms of automatic responses on automatic functioning other than emotions. Nothing that I’ve said should be interpreted to mean that emotions exhaust the automatic aspect of consciousness, but they are one such aspect and are vital to understand man’s metaphysical nature.

Q. You observed in an earlier course that the philosophic errors of the early Greeks were innocent.

[(L.P.) I interrupt to say that, to begin with in presenting the history of philosophy, I separate the presentation of the ideas from a moral evaluation of the character of those philosophers — this is true in general, you must not commit ad hominem — and confuse attacking a philosopher’s character, however odious it is, with the content of his views. This is particularly applicable to the early Greeks, where we have only fragments and very little is known, either about what they held or in general by mankind. And it’s very, very difficult therefore to pass any moral estimate on the early Greeks. If you know four sentences from a man like Thales, for instance, I defy you to pass an estimate of what was in his mind when he wrote them, except you can give a positive estimate in the sense that his was a great achievement within the scope of the knowledge known, but we can only go by the knowledge that is available of what they were able to do. In that sense I would be inclined to a very generous view of the early Greeks as being — I’d rather pronounce it as innocent than otherwise, simply because of the lack of knowledge of the case. I was to correct that statement. Then the questioner goes on. ]

Does this pardon apply to Plato’s theory of emotions?

A. Now we do not give pardons. And I am not going to analyze Plato’s character here. I think Plato was in many respects a profoundly intelligent, not to say, genius in the issues he wrote. And in other respects I cannot believe in any state of knowledge, however you could believe some of the things that he put forth, simply through an error of knowledge, particularly not if the conclusion you come to is that your profession should be given dictatorial power over the rest of the world, whose inferiority would end up taking this world seriously? So, I do not, if you use the term, extend that kind of pardon, to Plato on that question, but I’m not in the business of excusing or pardoning Plato for his theories.

Q. Babies will cry if dropped suddenly — this is a different question — apparently expressing fear. What would be the causes in effect of a baby too young to know of any real danger of falling?

A. This is a good question and it raises the broader issue of emotions, or what you could call the equivalent of emotions in babies, and also the same thing in animals. You wouldn’t have to use just the example of falling, you can use the example of babies fearing the dark. Mother arrives and utters some words and the baby feels pleasure and reassurance, et cetera. Now in those cases we would have to say that there is in effect a grasp of the situation and an evaluation on some sensory or perceptual level term. If you are hypothesizing now as a state prior to concepts about babies or animals who don’t have it, then they have such a thing as a perceptual observation in which they can tell they are in some sense out of control. That’s how we using conscious conceptual terms would describe it and all they know is some kind of sensation of helplessness. And in some sense they know, that this is undesirable and they don’t have the concept undesirable. They can’t however conceptualize this, they can simply grasp as an animal can on a perceptual level, something here is threatening. And all we can do as adult human beings is say, this is what their knowledge would consist of if they could conceptualize, but in actual fact it exists simply in perceptual form, and generates therefore, what you could call the equivalent of an emotion.

Q. Why does the belief in God create a view of man which necessarily implies a mind-body dichotomy?

 A. Well, it depends whether you take the belief in God seriously as a developed philosophic viewpoint. If you do, in that sense the belief in God does necessitate a mind-body dichotomy of the following kind and in the following way. God represents a supernatural spiritual dimension. Now of course you understand the point from Alice in Wonderland, that if you use words however you want,, you can make anything true by the way you use words, but then you are not speaking language. But, in other words, if you use God to mean a package of cigarettes, then God is not a spiritual being. But we’re assuming that you use the term God here to designate the traditional infinite father, creator of the world, omniscient, omnipotent up in heaven, et cetera. Now that is supposed to be a spiritual, non-material entity, which transcends this world, and which is the opposite to this low, imperfect physical dimension. Now right off the bat there you have gotten the foundation of a spiritual-material dichotomy. God is the good, and he is the spiritual. Matter is the imperfect and the physical. And so you have the Platonic-Christian antithesis. Now within that framework it is simply consistent to go on and say man has two aspects, one pertains to God and his goal therefore should be to escape the toils of the wicked body and go home. That is what the whole philosophic tradition that took the belief in God seriously has held from Pythagoras and Plato on up, and you see the logic to it.

Now here is a question I want to answer briefly. It has many parts, but I’m just going to excerpt the part.

Q. If man’s state of mind is a fact of reality, should one man in being rational take into account that other men behave irrationally? [ (L.P.) Did you get that? If man’s state of mind is a fact of reality, should a rational man take into account that other men behave irrationally?] The reason presumed that they will, since they behave rationally, and that’s a fact, and you have to take facts into account, so shouldn’t you therefore, take into account that other men behave irrationally? [And then he goes on] If yes, does taking other’s irrationality into account in determining one’s own action, contaminate one’s own rationality?

A. Now the answer is you have to take every fact that you deal with into account. If it’s a fact you must take it into account, but what do you mean by, take it into account? All that that tells you so far is, identify a fact and act accordingly by the guidance of a rational code of values. So before you could know how to act, you would have to know what is the fact and what is a rational code of values. What advice does it give me in regards to this fact? Now certainly true, if other men behave irrationally you have to identify that fact. You can’t simply walk around and say, everybody is perfectly rational, I just don’t recognize the fact regardless of what they are from Jimmy Carter to Mao Tse-tung and back. They’re all perfectly rational. You are obviously out of contact with reality completely, so you have to recognize the fact. But then, when the questioner says, wouldn’t this contaminate his rationality if he recognizes it and takes it into account. What does it mean to take it into account? There are two ways of taking into account other people’s irrationality — to put it briefly, the method of Keating and the method of Roark. Now they both take it into account. Roark is fully cognizant of the fact that people like Ellsworth Toohey and Peter Keating exist. He takes it into account. He does not intend to get commissions from Keating and Toohey. He has his own course. He recognizes what he is dealing with. He has certain principles and he achieves them. Keating takes it into account in a quite different way. He decides that the irrational people rule the world and therefore taking it into account means abandoning ones own convictions, stopping the rational oneself and then trying to beat them to the punch and being as irrational as they are so they’ll accept you on their terms. In that sense you certainly contaminate your rationality, but you wreck yourself altogether. Now a fuller discussion of this really is the question, what do you have to do when you have to deal with people who are no good? And that we are going to discuss under ethics, but you must not equivocate and speak as though taking something into account tells you what to do when you’ve taken it into account. That leaves open how to act, by what code, et cetera.

Q. You stated that Aristotle supports the mind-body split; if so briefly support this, please.

A. Okay. First of all, Aristotle is as good as you can be on this question without being entirely correct, so I apologize to him if I left any implication that he was in any way like Plato. He is far, far from being an extreme advocate of the mind-body split. On the contrary he is one of the best that there is. I meant, in fact I believe — I’ll go look it up — I said literally speaking, he was not fully consistent on this point and that he was not, as evidenced for instance just to give you two points, out of Metaphysics his point the there is a prime mover, which is an entirely spiritual being existing without any body or any connection to the physical. Now that is the spirit separated from the physical. If he held the absolute premise of the integration of the spiritual and the physical, he could not advocate a pure spirit as he does in the case of the prime mover. Now true, I add immediately, I agree with all those people who are eager to tell me that that’s the Platonic survival in him. Absolutely. It is a Platonic survival in him, but then all of this bad element in him is a Platonic survival. So, if you want me to correct it, Aristotle qua Platonist has remnants of the mind-body split. The other one I was thinking of is in his Ethics, where he tells us that the highest value in life is contemplation as an end in itself, not for the sake of practical guidance, the achieving of material values. He’s in favor of that, but never the less the idea that he should emulate God, and pursue truth simply for the pleasure of contemplating it, has definite Platonic overtones, and definite implications that the spiritual in an end in itself, severed from the material. It is in those ways, not in his major intention, but in that kind of carryover from Plato that Aristotle was not fully consistent.

Give me one second to see if I can find something brief in conclusion. They’re too long to read. Well, this one I can read. Well, I’ll take two more, which are not exactly within the confines of what I call relevant, but they’re brief.

Q. Define solipsism and place it within the context of the main subject of tonight’s lecture.

A. That is you should have done asking the question. Solipsism is the view that I myself alone exist. My consciousness alone exists. It comes from solus, alone and ipse, myself. So it is myself-alone-ism, literally. And it is a reductio ad absurdum of idealism, first off by philosophers denying that there is any matter at all. And he’ll take a position like Bishop Berkeley, for instance, there’s only a whole bunch of minds, and God’s minds, all these various kinds of relations to each other, but no man. And then the next step is someone asks him, how do you know there are other minds, because when you look out and see those bodies, those are just experiences in your mind according to your philosophy. There’s no matter, so everybody else’s bodies become experiences in Berkeley’s mind. And it ends up that he doesn’t know that anything exists but his own mind. And then he gets a philosophy of Solipsism, so it’s like a dead end of Idealism. To anticipate next week, it’s the extreme version of the primacy of consciousness. It’s not only the primacy of consciousness, there’s no other thing but my consciousness. It’s out of the question as a tenable or discussable view. Who would you discuss it with? With regard to placing it in the context of this lecture, there is no man if this is true. So there’s no question of man’s metaphysical nature. There is no truth. There is no reality. There is no logic. There is no philosophy, and there is surely no lecture.

Now this one I’m going to answer and end, simply because it’s fantastic.

Q. Is the issue of the moral propriety of abortion solved by observing that no one, not even a child, is entitled to sustenance by another, even its parent?

A. Now I’m not sure I understand the grammar of this, but if I get it, if I get it this person is saying abortion is good or is all right because a child does, has no right to be fed by his parents. That’s what it seems to me. If so, this is not a statement of the Objectivist viewpoint.

When you bear a child, if you bear a child, and he is born and is a living human being, you are certainly morally responsible for his sustenance. It’s your choice that brought him into existence. You performed the act which is very easy to know what its potential consequences are. You knew that this was a possibility. If you did not chose to abort the child, and he is now in existence, he is a human being, he has the rights of a human being and he is entirely your responsibility until he reaches the age of maturity and can support himself. It is not a principle of Objectivism that “no one, not even a child is entitled to sustenance by another, not even its parent.” That is completely false. If you bring the child into existence, he jolly well is entitled to sustenance on the part of his parents. The moral propriety of abortion lies in the fact that it is not a human being that you are talking about. It is simply a potential human being. It is cells, it is tissue, which will one day if allowed to grow and develop, would become a human being, but it is not yet a human being. Consequently, it has no rights, and it places no duty and no obligations on the potential mother certainly not the obligations that counter her wishes that she sacrifice her entire life and become a slave for decades thereafter to an un-chosen obligation in the name of the rights of a non-existent which is merely a potential. Abortion is justified because you are not dealing with a human being. It does not mean when you are dealing with a human being, with a child who is a real human being, no longer just a potentiality, then yes, you are morally obligated to support the child that you chose to bring into existence.

On that note we will conclude until next time. Thank you.

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