We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge

Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology

Allan Gotthelf, editor, James G. Lennox, associate editor

Publication Year: 2013

The philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) is a cultural phenomenon. Her books have sold more than twenty-eight million copies, and countless individuals speak of her writings as having significantly influenced their lives. Despite her popularity, Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism has received little serious attention from academic philosophers. Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge offers scholarly analysis of key elements of Ayn Rand’s radically new approach to epistemology. The four essays, by contributors intimately familiar with this area of her work, discuss Rand’s theory of concepts—including its new account of abstraction and essence—and its central role in her epistemology; how that view leads to a distinctive conception of the justification of knowledge; her realist account of perceptual awareness and its role in the acquisition of knowledge; and finally, the implications of that theory for understanding the growth of scientific knowledge. The volume concludes with critical commentary on the essays by distinguished philosophers with differing philosophical viewpoints and the author’s responses to those commentaries. This is the second book published in Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies, which was developed in conjunction with the Ayn Rand Society to offer a fuller scholarly understanding of this highly original and influential thinker. The Ayn Rand Society, an affiliated group of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, seeks to foster scholarly study by philosophers of the philosophical thought and writings of Ayn Rand.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (736.6 KB)
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (542.0 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (685.5 KB)
pp. ix-xiv

The first volume in this series, Metaethics, Egoism, and Virtue: Studies in Ayn Rand’s Normative Theory, focused on aspects of Ayn Rand’s ethical theory. The present volume explores a more fundamental area of her philosophic thought: her epistemology or theory of knowledge. ...

Part One: Essays

read more

Ayn Rand’s Theory of Concepts: Rethinking Abstraction and Essence

pdf iconDownload PDF (716.3 KB)
pp. 3-40

One notable change in the philosophical literature of the last thirty years has been the extent of attention to the nature of concepts. Although philosophers have been concerned with “conceptual analysis” and related issues since the early twentieth century (and in fact since Kant), ...

read more

Conceptualization and Justification

pdf iconDownload PDF (727.7 KB)
pp. 41-84

Given its title, one might expect Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE) to outline her positions on the issues normally covered in introductory courses and texts on epistemology. In particular, one might expect to find discussions of epistemic justification—i.e., “our right to the beliefs we have” (Dancy 2005, 263). ...

read more

Perceptual Awareness as Presentational

pdf iconDownload PDF (639.8 KB)
pp. 85-111

I enter my apartment from the outside. I can feel the smooth key as I take it from my pocket and the slight resistance of the lock as I use the key to turn the bolt. I open the door and feel its handle slide away from me and watch the door as it swings open. ...

read more

Concepts, Context, and the Advance of Science

pdf iconDownload PDF (783.0 KB)
pp. 112-134

One central theme running through Ayn Rand’s Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (ITOE) is that the objectivity of concepts is not threatened by, and in fact is a precondition for, the growth of knowledge. Crucial to her defense of that view is her argument that a proper account of definitions must reflect the fact that we learn more over time ...

Part Two: Discussion

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.2 KB)
pp. 135-138

read more

Rand on Concepts, Definitions, and the Advance of Science: Comments on Gotthelf and Lennox

pdf iconDownload PDF (644.5 KB)
pp. 139-147

Ayn Rand’s theory of concept-formation plays an important role in her broader program of Objectivist epistemology. Some of the themes in her work correspond to core themes in what Ian Hacking calls the “tradition of natural kinds” in mainstream Anglo-American philosophy (Hacking 1991c). ...

read more

Natural Kinds and Rand’s Theory of Concepts: Reflections on Griffiths

pdf iconDownload PDF (731.4 KB)
pp. 148-162

In his commentary on the essays in the present volume by Allan Gotthelf and by James G. Lennox, Paul Griffiths raises a number of interesting issues about (1) how to situate Rand’s theory of concepts, particularly with regard to recent debates about natural kinds, ...

read more

Rand on Definitions—One Size Fits All?: Comments on Gotthelf

pdf iconDownload PDF (565.6 KB)
pp. 163-172

Rand’s normative discussion of definitions and concepts assumes that all definitions are of the same kind, do the same kinds of cognitive work, and should be evaluated against the same standards. This gives rise to troubles reminiscent of the ones Edouard Machery exposes with regard to concepts in cognitive psychology. ...

read more

Taking the Measure of a Definition: Response to Bogen

pdf iconDownload PDF (566.4 KB)
pp. 173-184

Jim Bogen has provided us with a very thoughtful summary and critique of Rand’s theory of definition, attending to its basis in her theory of concepts. Though I do not think he always gets Rand’s views right, my disagreement is not primarily with his exposition but with his critique, ...

read more

On Concepts that Change with the Advance of Science: Comments on Lennox

pdf iconDownload PDF (593.0 KB)
pp. 185-200

These comments represent the first round in print of an ongoing dialectic between James Lennox and me over the proper understanding of concepts and conceptual change in science, with a particular focus on the example of changing concepts of the gene. ...

read more

Conceptual Development versus Conceptual Change: Response to Burian

pdf iconDownload PDF (573.7 KB)
pp. 201-214

In my essay in part 1 I characterized five categories of change in the conceptual structure of a science and stressed the importance of distinguishing them from the philosophically problematic notion of change in the meaning or identity of a concept. ...

read more

In Defense of the Theory of Appearing: Comments on Ghate and Salmieri

pdf iconDownload PDF (569.2 KB)
pp. 215-225

As a fellow direct realist, and as a proponent of the Theory of Appearing (TA) in particular, I am naturally sympathetic to the account of perception that Onkar Ghate and Gregory Salmieri attribute to Rand in their essays in part 1 of this volume. ...

read more

Forms of Awareness and “Three-Factor” Theories

pdf iconDownload PDF (436.5 KB)
pp. 226-241

In my contribution to part 1 of this volume, I discussed Rand’s view of awareness as an activity the identity of which is not exhausted by its objects, and I emphasized her distinction between the form of an act of awareness and its object, which I illustrated with a brief discussion of its application to sense-perception. ...

read more

Direct Perception and Salmieri’s “Forms of Awareness”

pdf iconDownload PDF (409.2 KB)
pp. 242-246

I believe that what Salmieri calls “three-factor views” contain a deep and important insight about the nature of our perceptual relation with the mind-independent physical world around us. He correctly contrasts such views with representationalism, both old and new. ...

read more

Keeping Up Appearances: Reflections on the Debate over Perceptual Infallibilism

pdf iconDownload PDF (770.1 KB)
pp. 247-268

Several contributors to this volume (Onkar Ghate, Pierre Le Morvan, Gregory Salmieri, and Bill Brewer) share an interest in defending direct realism (sometimes also called presentationalism) about the senses. They agree that perceptual awareness is the awareness of objects or even facts in the world, ...

Uniform Abbreviations of Works by Ayn Rand

pdf iconDownload PDF (375.9 KB)
pp. 269-270


pdf iconDownload PDF (412.7 KB)
pp. 271-282

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (662.4 KB)
pp. 283-286

Benjamin Bayer is visiting assistant professor of philosophy at Loyola University New Orleans. He is the author of two articles in Synthese and Acta Analytica that apply insights from the direct realist account of perception to the defense of foundationalist and internalist theories of justification, respectively. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (416.1 KB)
pp. 287-298

Back Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.0 MB)
p. 314-314

E-ISBN-13: 9780822978565
E-ISBN-10: 0822978563
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822944249
Print-ISBN-10: 0822944243

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2013