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
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
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
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
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
online via Lyceum International
on tape via Second Renaissance Books