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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Metaphysics: The real power of creation

Metaphysics: The real power of creation

Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
To grasp the axiom that existence exists, means to grasp the fact that nature, i.e., the universe as a whole, cannot be created or annihilated, that it cannot come into or go out of existence. Whether its basic constituent elements are atoms, or subatomic particles, or some yet undiscovered forms of energy, it is not ruled by a consciousness or by will or by chance, but by the law of identity. All the countless forms, motions, combinations and dissolutions of elements within the universe—from a floating speck of dust to the formation of a galaxy to the emergence of life—are caused and determined by the identities of the elements involved. Nature is the metaphysically given—i.e., the nature of nature is outside the power of any volition.

Man's volition is an attribute of his consciousness (of his rational faculty) and consists in the choice to perceive existence or to evade it. To perceive existence, to discover the characteristics or properties (the identities) of the things that exist, means to discover and accept the metaphysically given. Only on the basis of this knowledge is man able to learn how the things given in nature can be rearranged to serve his needs (which is his method of survival).

The power to rearrange the combinations of natural elements is the only creative power man possesses. It is an enormous and glorious power—and it is the only meaning of the concept "creative." "Creation" does not (and metaphysically cannot) mean the power to bring something into existence out of nothing. "Creation" means the power to bring into existence an arrangement (or combination or integration) of natural elements that had not existed before. (This is true of any human product, scientific or esthetic: man's imagination is nothing more than the ability to rearrange the things he has observed in reality.) The best and briefest identification of man's power in regard to nature is Francis Bacon's "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." In this context, "to be commanded" means to be made to serve man's purposes; "to be obeyed" means that they cannot be served unless man discovers the properties of natural elements and uses them accordingly.

For example, two hundred years ago, men would have said that it is impossible to hear a human voice at a distance of 238,000 miles. It is as impossible today as it was then. But if we are able to hear an astronaut's voice coming from the moon, it is by means of the science of electronics, which discovered certain natural phenomena and enabled men to build the kind of equipment that picks up the vibrations of that voice, transmits them, and reproduces them on earth. Without this knowledge and this equipment, centuries of wishing, praying, screaming and foot-stamping would not make a man's voice heard at the distance of ten miles.

—Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, No. 12 March 12, 1973, The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made (original emphasis).
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