FTNCI 066: Objectivism Book Study (Week 08) — Concept Formation

The Objectivism Book Study is meeting through 2022 to study Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, by Leonard Peikoff.

“The investigation of the meaning of words is the beginning of education.” –Antisthenes

If that is true, then the completion of education is to understand not only the meanings of individual words, but also to understand how words function in human life—what they do, and what the rules are for using them in a way that corresponds to reality.

Words are symbols—auditory and visual symbols—that stand in most cases for concepts. (Except for proper names, any word is a concept.) A concept is an abstract idea or a general notion.

How do our words (our concepts) relate to reality? That is the topic of our discussion this week.

Can we show that our words accurately correspond to reality—in other words, that they are true? Can we do it exactly? Or merely approximately?

Is there a way to justify a generalized claim that something is true and to be able to say “I am certain of it”? That is what is at stake. That is why we need Epistemology.

This week, our reading from Leonard Peikoff was:
Ch. 3 — Concept-formation (Introduction) (Objectivism, 73)
Ch. 3 — Differentiation and integration as the means to a unit-perspective (Objectivism, 74-81)

In this book study, one of our goals is to become intellectually equipped to offer Christian responses to false ideas prevalent in the Church today, especially including ideas related to Postmodern Subjectivism or Skepticism, or also Van Tillian Presuppositionalism.

That last idea is an attempt to combat Skepticism that fails because it does not reject the fundamental premises of David Hume and Immanuel Kant. As we proceed in this material, we will have a chance to see how helpful Rand’s ideas are for understanding why Van Tillian Presuppositionalism is mistaken and how to answer those who advocate it.

According to Leonard Peikoff, the goal in this chapter is to face the fundamental problem of Epistemology: how to ground concepts themselves in the nature of reality. This is necessary in order to fully explain the meaning of our claim that our words correspond to reality and there is a way we can know it with certainty.

When you understand this material, you will have a more robust understanding of the nature of man, the role of reason for man’s life, and, as Peikoff points out later on, of the validation of conceptual knowledge itself—and of reason itself.

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List of Dates and Readings

Why Christians Should Reconsider Ayn Rand

About Us (For the New Christian Intellectual)

Ayn Rand and Christianity?

Christianity + Western Civilization

The Plunder of the Egyptians

Americanism Book Study

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