Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Order of the Objectivist Metaphysics

Previous: The Metaphysically Given as Absolute

With the final principle of the Objectivist metaphysics articulated, we can now see the structure of this branch of philosophy.

The Basic Axioms, and Their Corollaries

We begin with the metaphysical axiomatic concepts and axioms, which I’ve already discussed in my essay on the axioms (the others will be discussed in the following essays on sense-perception and free will):
1. Existence: Existence exists.
2. Consciousness: Consciousness is conscious.
3. Identity: A is A.
4. Existent: 'The building-block of man’s knowledge is the concept of an 'existent'—of something that exists, be it a thing, an attribute or an action.'
5. Entity: Entities are the primary existents. (Or: Entities constitute the content of the world men perceive; there is nothing else to observe.)
6. Action: Actions are actions of entities. (Or: 'Action' is the name for what entities do.) [1]
Whatever axioms and axiomatic concepts that are discovered in any future philosophical investigation, it is Objectivism’s position that the concepts of “existence,” “consciousness,” and “identity” are the basic axiomatic concepts, and the Existence, Identity (Law of Identity), and Consciousness axioms are the basic axioms of philosophy.  This principle is known as “Existence, Consciousness, and Identity as the Basic Axioms.” 

This implies that the other axiomatic concepts are derivative, not basic.  “Existent” is a specification or narrowing of the concept “existence.”  “Entity” is a narrowing of “existent.”  “Action” is a narrowing of “entity.”  And lastly, the epistemological axiomatic concepts “sense-perception” (specifically its validity), “volition,” and “self” are corollaries of the fact of consciousness.[2]

Once a person has conceptualized enough material, one can then reach other axiomatic concepts like “entity,” “existent,” and “action,” and thus comprehend the next intuitive induction/unhypothetical principle: “The Law of Causality.” The Law of Causality (Cause and Effect) is the Law of Identity as applied to the case of “action”; actions are expressions of an entity’s identity, and cannot contradict an entity’s nature.  “Every action has a cause (the cause is the nature of the entity which acts); and the same cause leads to the same effect (the same entity, under the same circumstances, will perform the same action).”[3]  Due to this perspective on causality, Objectivism emphasizes the principle as “Causality as a Corollary of Identity.”

Notice that the principle is that causality is a corollary of identity.  Objectivism does not say that causality is the only corollary of the law of identity.  Because everything is something, all of the non-basic axioms and corollaries in metaphysics and epistemology are corollaries of the law of identity.  While this point is implied in the description of each derivative axiom and of all corollaries, it is explicitly mentioned in the Objectivist principle, “Consciousness as Possessing Identity.” (This is an axiomatic corollary in epistemology that I’ll discuss in a future essay.)

Expanding on the existence axiom, if we integrate it with the fact of consciousness, the law of identity, and the law of causality, then we can reach “The Primacy of Existence.”  Existence comes first; consciousness is aware of existence but does not create or control the nature of existence.  Consciousness is an attribute of some living entities with its own nature and actions, and so it follows the Law of Causality; it acts in certain ways and only in those ways.  And its chief action is to be aware of existence; it is incapable of creating or altering it.  Such is the reason why the principle is expressed as “Existence as Possessing Primacy Over Consciousness.”

The final principle, “The Metaphysically Given as Absolute,” is the culmination of the above principles.  Human volition makes it possible for our actions to be otherwise, but everything else apart from human action necessarily exists by the laws of reality, unaffected by the actions of consciousness (The Primacy of Existence).  They could not have been otherwise, so any alternatives to these facts of reality would be impossible.  They exist as an absolute, as the standard for our knowledge and values, and as the immutable background for all man-made facts and actions.


[1]: "On Axiomatic Concepts and Axioms,"
[2]: Existent: Ayn Rand, Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology (IOE), 2nd. Edition, Appendix, sub-section "Fact."
Entity: Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand (OPAR), note 12 of Chapter 1, "Existence, Consciousness, and Identity as the Basic Axioms."
Action: IOE, Appendix, sub-section "'Entity' vs. 'Attribute,' 'Action,' Etc."
Validity of Sense-perception: OPAR, "The Senses as Necessarily Valid."
Volition: Ibid., "Volition as Axiomatic."
Self: ItOE, sub-section "Self."
[3]: OPAR, "Causality as a Corollary of Identity."

Next: Objections to the Axioms (Part 1)

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