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Objectivism Through Induction








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  This course defines a new method of learning Objectivism. It is the method that Ayn Rand herself employed to discover her philosophy — the only method (in her words) of discovering and validating principles in any field: induction.

Induction, in essence, is generalization from perceptual experience. (Deduction is the application of a generalization to particular cases.) Such generalization is at once the best and the least known form of cognition. Because it is indispensable to human learning, it is practiced daily and is in a sense obvious to everyone. Because of the deficiency of philosophers, however, induction is the cognitive method least grasped or defined. Methods not known consciously and explicitly are not within one's control and cannot be relied on to produce accurate results.

The present course answers some of the central questions about inductive methodology and demonstrates how to use the method to reach and validate several of the key principles of Objectivism. The questions include: In inducing a philosophic principle, how does one know where — from what perceptual experiences — to start? When are observations sufficient to warrant a generalization? And: how does one integrate principles learned out of order, so that the end result is not scattered truths, but a systematic philosophy?

The principles of Objectivism induced in these lectures include, among others, causality, egoism, justice, objectivity in cognition and in values, the evil of the initiation of force, and the metaphysical meaning of sex.

The word 'revolutionary' is often tossed around, but this course is revolutionary in the purest sense: it shows how induction not deduction is the primary cognitive process. By showing the student how to induce Objectivist principles, it re-asserts the primacy of reality — i.e., the concretes we encounter in our daily lives — over abstract theory, while simultaneously vitalizing and giving new meaning to abstract theory.

Not merely the corrective for Rationalism (which would be value enough), the course is a pathbreaking guide to the Objectivist method of thinking — the method Ayn Rand herself used to create Objectivism.

Harry Binswanger

In each case, we ask: "Can a person learn this item directly from observable facts, through induction, without the benefit of any other knowledge of Objectivism? What perceptual concretes lead to this item and in what stages? And, if other ideas are inescapable in the process, which ones, why, and how can they be learned by observation and induction?"

By this method, a principle is learned not "all at once," as a finished formulation within a definitive structure, but in gradual stages, contextually-and its relation to other ideas is learned the same way.

The present course, initially given in 1997, is the first of two; its companion, OTI II, will be offered within the next few years. Between them, the courses provide the student with the opportunity not merely to clarify and prove Objectivist principles, but to do so self-consciously, on the basis of his own perceptual experiences, guided by a known, defined methodology. This means: the opportunity to see the ideas of Objectivism growing systematically and inexorably out of incontestable fact.

The goal is to enable the student to learn the principles of a valid philosophy not from books or from lectures, but independently — from reality itself. Nothing less will rescue students of philosophy, old and new, from the widespread problem of "floating abstractions."

As applied to Objectivists, this last is the method of dealing with ideas by relating them, not primarily to reality, but to other Objectivist ideas. Because these other ideas are true, the student often has little insight into his error; he feels confident that his mental process is tied to reality when in fact it is not.

"This is the most important work Dr. Peikoff has done in philosophy. [T]hinking inductively adds cognitive quality time to one's life. [Induction] keeps your epistemological feet on the ground, but leaves your mind free to soar. Its reward is the power of certainty-the knowledge that your concepts are demonstrably true. No matter what your field is, you will profit from Dr. Peikoff's course."

Mary Ann Sures

For example, if you are asked to demonstrate that "Reason is man's basic means of survival," what is your mind's reaction? Do you, like Roark in his speech, focus first on the relevant concretes (food, weapons, motors, etc.)? Or do you come up with a deductive argument, such as "Reason is man's means of knowledge; knowledge is a necessity for action; therefore..."? The great majority of students who give such a response do not understand the issue.

Judging from past results, the inductive approach works. It moves the student form the realm of words to the realm of factual data. It blasts floating abstractions by literally requiring a broad abstraction to grow out of concretes.

The 90-minute classes consist mostly of prepared material, with time set aside periodically for Q & A. There will be a thinking assignment each time, to enable attendees to prepare for the next topic.

I recommend OBJECTIVISM THROUGH INDUCTION to beginners and advanced students alike. It is the best way I know of tying your ideas to reality and acquiring a real understanding of Objectivism." — Leonard Peikoff

Available online via Lyceum International

Available on tape via Second Renaissance Books




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