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Objectivism and relativism

  1. Dec 1, 2005 #1


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    in ayn rand's philosophy of objectivism she says that a man's only absolute is his reason. Since no man has the exact same reasoning (or intuition) would this imply that mankind's reason is relative?

    and if you were an objectivist, would that mean you would also be a relativist?

  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2005 #2


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  4. Dec 2, 2005 #3


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    I've never read Rand, but from talking to adherents of her ideas, it does not seem that they are relativists. Their belief seems to be that all humans, through the proper application of reason, should come to the same conclusions. As far as I can tell, her epistemology is anti-intuitionist, so the fact that men can intuit differing conclusions should not have an impact on their beliefs.

    Do you have a passage of text or a synopsis? A paraphrasing of one of her arguments? There isn't much here to discuss if one hasn't already read her works, and I don't know whether she's all that popular in these parts.
  5. Dec 2, 2005 #4
    Here are a few comments on your question.
    1. It is not clear that Rand ever stated that a man's only absolute is his reason--do you have a citation ? Rand spoke about many differ absolutes, for example she wrote " reality is an absolute...a speck of dust is an absolute...whether or not a man lives is an absolute"...etc. So, I would think that "reason" is not the only absolute for Rand, just one of many.
    2. As to the question "is reason relative", I would think that Rand would answer no. For Rand, "reason" (e.g., the concept) is defined as "the faculty that identifies and integrates the material provided by the senses". That is, all humans share a fundamental identity to integrate perceptions by means of forming abstractions and conceptions, all humans have the potential (or faculty) to reason, thus reason itself is not relative, it is an absolute faculty of the brains of all humans.
    3. However, Rand also holds that "reason is a faculty that each man has to exercise by choice". Thinking is not an automatic function, thus in this way, perhaps one could suggest that the "process of reasoning" is "relative", that is, the quantity and quality of reasoning would differ from man to man.
  6. Dec 2, 2005 #5
    true, Rade.

    because "reason" is implemented, utilized, in various degrees, does not mean that reason is relative. only that the utilization of "reason" is relative to varying degrees, pending on the "utilizer"

    "reason" is not equally "unfolded" in all "reasoners". that is why statements can be refuted. the "stater" has not unfolded "reason" sufficiently, and therefore allows the "more exposed, 'weathered', or unfolded" reason to clarify the statement.

    this may be the foundation of "wisdom". wisdom being the ultimate "unfolding" of reason. wisdom is, then, the paragon of rational thought.
  7. Dec 2, 2005 #6


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    here's the quote i read

    "My philosophy, in essence, is the concept of man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute. [1]"
  8. Dec 3, 2005 #7
    Thank you. What Rand is saying here is that "reason" as opposed to "emotion-feeling" is the only absolute way that any single human gains knowledge. This conclusion derives logically from the basic axioms of her philosophy: existence, consciousness, identity. The best summary of this thought process is found in the 1991 book by philosopher Leonard Peikoff, titled: Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand". The vast majority (but clearly not all) of professional philosophers since Rand first published her novels in mid 20th Century completely disagree with Rand, starting from rejection of her axioms as not in fact being axioms.
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