FTNCI 068: Objectivism Book Study (Week 10) — Definitions

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

Welcome to the Objectivism Book Study (Week 10) — Definitions.

This week, the reading was:

Ch. 3 – Definition as the final step in concept-formation 96-104
Ch. 3 – Concepts as devices to achieve unit-economy 105-109

Why are we doing this discussion series?

Because the world would be a better place if Christian leaders were capable of philosophical thinking.

One of my life goals is to help show the Church the value of Ayn Rand’s writing.

To give you a look at why this is needed, let me share a short conversation I observed online that shows the need for this Objectivism Book Study.

A certain seminary president, a follower of Van Til’s Presuppositionalism, said the following:

“The Bible is sufficient in answering philosophy’s ultimate questions—what is real, how do we know what is real, and how do we live? It’s dangerous to mix the Bible with a philosophy that answers these questions differently.”

A Classical Foundationalist (my view) responded:

“Scripture never itself lays claim to a sufficiency in answering ‘philosophy’s ultimate questions.’ Further, Scripture cannot ground an epistemology (how we know) since we employ an epistemology prior to ever approaching, and in our first encounters with, Scripture.”

A third person asked:

“Genuine question here: If as you say Scripture is not grounds for epistemology, what is?”

Here was my response to that question:

“The world and our observations of it are the grounds for epistemology.”

But the person replied:

“How do we know we are interpreting those correctly?”

My response was:

“There is no automatic and guaranteed way. If you think there needs to be, there are a lot of premises to check there.”

To learn how to correctly interpret observations takes a specific kind of work, done regularly over a lifetime. It takes being reality-oriented, by choice, in how we form and use our concepts.

The field of Epistemology accounts for how to do that. The topic is one we have done a lot of work on at FTNCI.

We are working through the details of a sound epistemology right now, so that we can be on firm ground when we learn what nature teaches us about ethics and political theory.

And that is why we are doing this kind of work.

In this week’s discussion, we encounter some of the most important material Ayn Rand and Leonard Peikoff have to offer. We introduce the idea of the floating abstraction and we see the difference between concepts and definitions, and their respective roles in thinking.

“Abstractions as such do not exist: they are merely man’s epistemological method of perceiving that which exists—and that which exists is concretes.”

-The Psycho-Epistemology of Art,” The Romantic Manifesto, 23.

What concepts do, and what definitions do, is allow us to view “concretes” in a way that condenses the material so that our limited minds can work with it can come to general knowledge.

To those who say that certainty is not possible to mere men, here is our answer.

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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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