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In conjunction with her view that philosophy is not a deductive system, Rand based her theory of knowledge on observation and induction.1 Rand refused to rewrite reality; she rejected any attempt to force facts into a preconceived conceptual scheme.2 She constructed an epistemological theory that drew from her understanding of the history of knowledge, ­ mathematics, and science and of the nature of language (Peikoff 1980T, lecture 9). She realized that epistemology is the crucial element of any philosophical system, because it articulates the very methods by which people can know reality (Peikoff 1987T, lecture 6). Rand wrote in her journal: “Philosophy is primarily epistemology—the science of the means, the rules, and the methods of human knowledge.”3 Hence, her system of thought could not be complete without a fully developed epistemological foundation. rejecting epistemological dualism Rand’s epistemology is a species of philosophical realism. And yet Rand was deeply critical of traditional realist and idealist perspectives. In ­ attempting to bridge the seemingly insurmountable gap between reality and consciousness , classical realists and idealists often totalized one realm while suppressing the other. Rand rejected this dualistic antagonism at its root. She argued that like every existent in reality, consciousness has an identity . But for Rand, there can be no conflict between a this-worldly, ­ natural­ human faculty and the reality it perceives. knowing 143 144 ayn rand Rand’s attack on traditional realism and idealism was certainly not the only one of its kind. Thinkers as diverse as Adorno, Derrida, Foucault, Gadamer, Heidegger, Husserl, and Wittgenstein also rejected both realist “objectivism” and idealist “subjectivism.” Many of these thinkers criticized the Platonic realist conception of knowledge because it separated concepts from human life. But they were equally displeased with contemporary subjectivist alternatives, which emphasized the primacy of the cogito.4 Recognizing that classical realism was often characterized as an­ “objectivist” formulation, Rand was compelled to distinguish her own Objectivist epistemology from the traditional view. She eventually developed the term “intrinsicism” to describe the classical realist perspective.5 According to Rand, intrinsicism was the defining characteristic of both extreme and moderate realism. These realists had regarded “the referents of concepts as intrinsic, i.e., as ‘universals’ inherent in things (either as archetypes or as metaphysical essences), as special existents unrelated to man’s consciousness—to be perceived by man directly, like any other kind of concrete existents, but perceived by some non-sensory or extra-sensory means” (Introduction, 53). The realists attempted to preserve the primacy of existence by denying the identity of consciousness. They converted concepts into perceptual concretes that could only be absorbed by the mind through intuition or other supernatural means (ibid.). This was pure mysticism in Rand’s view. Rand defined mysticism in epistemological terms, as “the acceptance of allegations without evidence or proof, either apart from or against the evidence of one’s senses and one’s reason.”6 Rand argued that at the base of traditional realism was this paradoxical commitment to mystic revelation, a belief that the mind was an ineffable substance, attaining “true” knowledge through direct contemplation of the world.7 It is no accident that Rand was able to identify this intrinsicist paradox. Her earliest encounter with the realist-mystic integration was in the teachings of her philosophy professor, Lossky. For Rand, Lossky’s thought must have provided a perfect embodiment of the virtues and vices of traditional realism. Deeply influenced by both Plato and Aristotle, Lossky had argued that God was “the primary and all-embracing intrinsic value.” Hence, each substantival agent created by God was endowed with intrinsic, enabling qualities that could be actualized in the real world. For Lossky (1951, 258), being, love, beauty, truth, and freedom were among the “absolute intrinsic values” constituting God’s organic whole. Just as Lossky’s mystical premises were readily apparent, so too were the realist elements of his philosophy. It was Lossky’s aim “to investigate . . . the process of knowledge . . . in man as a knowing subject.”8 For knowing  145 Lossky ([1906] 1919, 413), the mind was engaged in the “modest activity of discriminating and comparing” the elements of reality. This limited cognitive function regarded “the whole material of knowledge as given in immediate experience.” Lossky regarded his own realism as profoundly empirical in its orientation. He argued that cognitive activity was “least of all creative, but based more than any other activity upon data passively received.” This metaphysical passivity and radical noncreativity was a “most important condition for the acquisition of...


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