|A brief excerpt from Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The
Philosophy of Ayn Rand
How, then, do we know that man has volition? It is a self-evident fact, available to any act of introspection.
You the reader can perceive every potentiality I have been discussing simply by observing your own consciousness. The extent of your knowledge or intelligence is not relevant here, because the issue is whether you use whatever knowledge and intelligence you do possess. At this moment, for example, you can decide to read attentively and struggle to understand, judge, apply the material or you can let your attention wander and the words wash over you, half-getting some points, then coming to for a few sentences, then lapsing again into partial focus. If something you read makes you feel fearful or uneasy, you can decide to follow the point anyway and consider it on its merits or you can brush it aside by an act of evasion, while mumbling some rationalization to still any pangs of guilt. At each moment, you are deciding to think or not to think. The fact that you regularly make these kinds of choices is directly accessible to you, as it is to any volitional consciousness.
The principle of volition is a philosophic axiom, with all the features this involves. It is a primary a starting point of conceptual cognition and of the subject of epistemology; to direct one's consciousness, one must be free and one must know, at least implicitly, that one is. It is a fundamental: every item of conceptual knowledge requires some form of validation, the need of which rests on the fact of volition. It is self-evident. And it is inescapable. Even its enemies have to accept and use it in the process of any attempt to deny it. Let us see why...
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