Jun 202002

A while back, I was working on my lecture on metaphysics and epistemology for the Objectivism 101 course soon to be given at the TOC Summer Seminar. Working on that lecture reminded me that my own serious interest in Objectivism was largely sparked by Ayn Rand’s short description of her theory of concepts in “The Objectivist Ethics” (of VOS). At the time, I was immersed in the confusion and muddle of a very demanding philosophy of language course. The obviousness and simplicity of Ayn Rand’s account hit me like a sack of bricks:

A “concept” is a mental integration of two or more perceptual concretes, which are isolated by a process of abstraction and united by means of a specific definition. Every word of man’s language, with the exception of proper names, denotes a concept, an abstraction that stands for an unlimited number of concretes of a specific kind. It is by organizing his perceptual material into concepts, and his concepts into wider and still wider concepts that man is able to grasp and retain, to identify and integrate an unlimited amount of knowledge, a knowledge extending beyond the immediate perceptions of any given, immediate moment. Man’s sense organs function automatically; man’s brain integrates his sense data into percepts automatically; but the process of integrating percepts into concepts–the process of abstraction and of concept -formation–is not automatic. (VOS 21)

It was clear to me at the time — and is even more clear now — that this description was merely a beginning of a theory of concepts. But what a promising beginning it was — and still is!

So I’ve long wanted to write a book entitled How I was Seduced by Epistemology. Perhaps that will be the title of my autobiography when I’m a wrinkled old philosopher. In any case, with a title like that, the book cover will have to look like this:


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