Objectivism the Philosophy
Disclaimer: This Will Take Time and Effort
Before you can appreciate the logical arguments that shore up the conclusions on the previous page, you must understand two things:
A Technical Beginning
To give you a "mile high" view, the Objectivist philosophy is depicted schematically in Figure 1. The philosophy is broken into three pieces. The first, called "metaphysics," is just a statement to describe what we know about reality. The pure sciences -- such as biology, physics, chemistry -- aspire to improve the description under metaphysics. (This is why an advanced scientific degree is best termed "Doctor of Philosophy," not "Doctor of Science," which has narrower implications.) For those who are not technically trained, metaphysics in philosophy describes at its most fundamental level what reality is.
The second piece is called "epistemology," which means only "study of knowledge." Strictly speaking, a philosophy needs to explain what it means to be conscious, and concordantly, what it means to be conscious of something. Epistemology is now more specifically called "teaching and learning sciences," and is therefore absolutely essential to an institution like MIT, although the technical name of the field remains the province of philosophy.
The third piece is called "ethics," or morality, which answers the day-to-day question of "Given what's around me, and what I know about it, what should I do now?" From ethics derive politics, humor, and even art, along with the answers to many of the "unresolved" issues debated today.
The Three Axioms
There are three primary pieces, or axioms, on which Objectivism rests. These axioms are taken as self-evident, therefore unprovable. Just as in thermodynamics, one cannot "prove that energy is conserved," we take it as an empiricial fact and hold it as knowledge. The first two axioms are contained in the upper left bubble, the one about reality. The third is contained in the upper right bubble, the one about knowledge. The Objectivist Ethics (or Morality) follows, with ample evidence to support it, from the two top fields. What we care about in every day life is politics, or art, or what to do with ourselves and our lives. These questions are answered once the field of ethics has been examined.
The first axiom is the acknowledgement that existence exists. In other words, life is not just a dream, it's real.
The second axiom is that existents have definite identities. Stated differently, when a thing exists, it has a definite nature, such that "A is A," "a rock cannot also be not a rock," or most simply, the rules of logic hold.
The third axiom is that we are conscious of reality, and that knowledge of reality is possible.
Big deal, right? Well, it's important to be clear about the starting point and working assumptions, and many past philosophers have not been this explicit. Worse yet, some have suggested the following:
Copyright MIT Objectivist Club 2005