North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Epistemology #1: Where is the "manness" in men?

Epistemology #1: Where is the "manness" in men?

Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
The issue of concepts (known as "the problem of universals") is philosophy's central issue. Since man's knowledge is gained and held in conceptual form, the validity of man's knowledge depends on the validity of concepts. But concepts are abstractions or universals, and everything that man perceives is particular, concrete. What is the relationship between abstractions and concretes? To what precisely do concepts refer in reality? Do they refer to something real, something that exists—or are they merely inventions of man's mind, arbitrary constructs or loose approximations that cannot claim to represent knowledge?

"All knowledge is in terms of concepts. If these concepts correspond to something that is to be found in reality they are real and man's knowledge has a foundation in fact; if they do not correspond to anything in reality they are not real and man's knowledge is of mere figments of his own imagination." (Edward C. Moore, American Pragmatism: Peirce, James, & Dewey, New York: Columbia University Press, 1961, p. 27.)

To exemplify the issue as it is usually presented: When we refer to three persons as "men," what do we designate by that term? The three persons are three individuals who differ in every particular respect and may not possess a single identical characteristic (not even their fingerprints). If you list all their particular characteristics, you will not find one representing "manness." Where is the "manness" in men? What, in reality, corresponds to the concept "man" in our mind?

--Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Foreword to the First Edition
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