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North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › Metaphysics: In summary

Metaphysics: In summary

Old T.
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
”Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.
. . .
“To exist is to be something, as distinguished from the nothing of non-existence, it is to be an entity of a specific nature made of specific attributes. Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.
. . .
“. . . The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature. An action not caused by an entity would be caused by a zero, which would mean a zero controlling a thing, a non-entity controlling an entity, the non-existent ruling the existent . . . .

“The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too. The law of causality does not permit you to eat your cake before you have it. . . .
—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, "This is John Galt Speaking" (original emphasis).

The primacy of existence (of reality) is the axiom that existence exists, i.e., that the universe exists independent of consciousness (of any consciousness), that things are what they are, that they possess a specific nature, an identity. The epistemological corollary is the axiom that consciousness is the faculty of perceiving that which exists—and that man gains knowledge of reality by looking outward. The rejection of these axioms represents a reversal: the primacy of consciousness—the notion that the universe has no independent existence, that it is the product of a consciousness (either human or divine or both). The epistemological corollary is the notion that man gains knowledge of reality by looking inward (either at his own consciousness or at the revelations it receives from another, superior consciousness).
—Ayn Rand, The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II, No. 12 March 12, 1973, "The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made" (Original emphasis).

AR: "[Nothing] is strictly a relative concept. It pertains to the absence of some kind of concrete. The concept "nothing" is not possible except in relation to "something." Therefore, to have the concept "nothing," you mentally specify—in parenthesis, in effect—the absence of a something, and you conceive of "nothing" only in relation to concretes which no longer exist or which do not exist at present.
"You can say "I have nothing in my pocket." That doesn't mean you have an entity called "nothing" in your pocket. You do not have any of the objects that could conceivably be there, such as handkerchiefs, money, gloves, or whatever. "Nothing" is strictly a concept relative to some existent concretes whose absence you denote in this form.
"It is very important to grasp that "nothing" cannot be a primary concept. You cannot start with it in the absence of, or prior to, the existence of some object. That is the great trouble with Existentialism, as I discuss in the book [Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology]. There is no such concept as "nothing," except as a relational concept denoting the absence of some things. The measurements omitted are the measurements of those things.
—Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Appendix—Abstraction as Measurement-Omission

AR: ". . . The concept of "infinity" has a very definite purpose in mathematical calculation, and there it is a concept of method. But that isn't what is meant by the term "infinity" as such. "Infinity" in the metaphysical sense, as something existing in reality, is another invalid concept. The concept "infinity," in that sense, means something without identity, something not limited by anything, not definable. . . ."
—Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Appendix—Abstraction as Measurement-Omission

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

". . . Reality is an absolute, existence is an absolute, a speck of dust is an absolute and so is a human life. Whether you live or die is an absolute. Whether you have a piece of bread or not, is an absolute. Whether you eat your break or see it vanish into a looter's stomach, is an absolute."
—Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, "This is John Galt Speaking"
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