Friday, August 5, 2016

Free Will and the Primary Choice

In my earlier essay about the perceptual level, I mentioned that the sensory and perceptual levels of consciousness are automatic, but the conceptual level is not. Our brains, nervous systems, and minds as well as those of other animals are biologically set to have sensations or perceptions with an environmental stimulus or a change in one’s perceptual field. There is no choice or alternative in the matter. But the same cannot be said for the conceptual level of consciousness.

(In this essay, Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness will be cited as VOS, Peikoff’s Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand will be cited as OPAR, and Branden’s “The Objectivist Theory of Volition” (Parts 1 and 2) will be cited as TOTV I and TOTV II, respectively. Binswanger’s How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation will be cited as HWK.)

The human mind does not form concepts or think by an effortless process. In fact, how a person exercises their mind will impact all of their conceptual activities, including their beliefs, values, motives, and judgments. The Objectivist view is that the rationality or irrationality of our mental processes is what is under our volitional control. The manner in which we use our minds will determine what conclusions we reach, what goals we’ll strive to accomplish, and what actions we’ll take.

In order to use our minds in one way or another, we have to make a choice. Free will or volition is the faculty that permits us to choose. (I’ll use “free will” and “volition” as meaning the same phenomenon and mental faculty.) These choices are left up to the person to make, and thus they are “free.” Before the choice is made, there are two or more potential futures that could happen, and the person makes one of those futures occur through their own choice. Peikoff states that with free choices, “the difference is made by the individual’s decision, which did not have to be what it is, i.e., which could have been otherwise.” (OPAR, p. 58)

The power of free will cannot be overstated. By controlling the rationality of our mental processes by choice, we can determine the ideas we’ll believe and live by, and the actions and purposes we’ll choose to carry out and make a reality. Our choices will ultimately create our characters, and eventually affect the whole of our lives, for good or for ill.

If free will is so important to a conceptual consciousness, then how does it operate? What is a choice? What causes choices, and what do choices affect exactly? What of those who object to the reality of choice (determinism) or to the belief that choices have causes (indeterminism)? These are the kinds of questions that a philosophical account of volition will have to answer, and their answers will occupy this current series of essays.

The Levels of Self-Regulation

We must learn about a wider biological principle in order to fully understand the freedom of the will. This principle is that all living things carry out processes of self-generated, self-regulated actions.

Inanimate objects are affected by physical changes in their environment, such as a rock being blown by the wind over a cliff, but it has no internal power to regulate its actions one way or another. But even a simple single-celled organism has mechanisms in place that automatically generate actions in order to preserve its life. (The actions and processes of non-conscious organisms are automatically geared towards the organism’s continued survival, but not “purposefully” set as is the case with (some of) the actions of conscious organisms.) This most basic level of self-regulation can be termed as the vegetative level, and encompasses the actions of single-celled organisms, bacteria and fungi, on up to the most complex of plant-life. This level includes the processes of metabolism, of self-repair of many forms of damage, and of disease resistance and immunity granted by the innate immune system, to name a few actions of this order. All living things above plants have this level of self-regulation in conjunction with one or more higher levels. (TOTV I, pp. 8-9)

The next level of self-regulation is known as the conscious-behavioral level. At this level, the animal can sense or perceive changes in its environment, and use this information to regulate its movements accordingly. Awareness of the world is used to direct and guide the animal’s actions. Using its consciousness and motor skills, the animal can search or hunt for food, seek shelter from drastic weather changes, and evade predators, among countless other actions. The faculty of awareness, combined with the pleasure-pain mechanism will automatically work towards the life of the animal in the vast majority of cases. Some animals only have sensations (like flatworms) and so their movements are heavily dependent on the sensory data that reaches them. Whereas more complex animals (including us) perceive the wider environment around them and have a much more diverse suite of behaviors that they can perform as compared with the simpler animals. (TOTV I, p. 9)

We possess both the vegetative and conscious-behavioral levels of self-regulation. We are given various internal systems for sustaining our bodies, and the sensory-perceptual level of consciousness to guide our actions in the environment. However, unlike any other living thing currently known, we can move to the level of conceptual consciousness—the level of ideas, principles, reasoning, and self-awareness. Self-consciousness grants us the power to identify and manage our own mental processes, to judge their validity and alter them if they are considered to be in error. This is the third level of self-regulation: the ability to regulate the mind’s actions. The self-conscious level of self-regulation is the domain of our conceptual activities. Our immune system automatically protects us from viruses, but our cognitive faculties do not automatically form new concepts or perform chains of logical reasoning. Unlike the vegetative and conscious-behavioral levels of self-regulation, conceptual awareness is not automatically sought by us. (TOTV I, pp. 9-10)

The potential for conceptual awareness is given to each of us, but how it will function, what information will it deal with, or even whether it will be used at all or not, depends on our choice. Perceptual awareness is automatically given to us but conceptual awareness is volitional: it has to be chosen by us. We have to expend the mental effort to gain and sustain conceptual awareness, and the choice to do so takes the form of focusing one’s mind. (TOTV I, pp. 10-11)

To understand the idea of cognitive self-regulation, we’ll need to analyze this idea of “mental focus” and differentiate it from other mental activities.

The Nature of Mental Focus and Volition

Free will at its most basic level is a choice, a primary choice: the choice to attain a state of active mental alertness of reality, or to not do so. Choosing the purpose of being aware of reality and of yourself is the mental state known as “focus.” The choice to “not focus” takes one of two general forms: drift or evasion. Drift essentially is failing to be aware at the conceptual level, literally not using one’s mind conceptually. Evasion is mental effort directed to the purpose of non-awareness of some fact, of shrinking the range of your conceptual awareness. For now, I’ll explain the meaning of “focus” in more detail.

Focus is a basic way to “set” your mind. It is not limited to a particular object you’re aware of or to a particular action you are taking, but rather it is the operation or the method of your mind as such. The concern of mental focus is how you use your mind, not what you use it on. Another name for this method is rationality. Dr. Binswanger notes that “focus” is the psychological feeling one has when utilizing one’s conceptual faculty; “rationality” names the actions one performs while exercising it. (HWK, p. 326) This choice to use one’s conceptual faculty
consists in exerting the effort to take charge of one’s mind, to set it to the task of understanding what one is dealing with, to monitor one’s own mental operations and direct them toward what one judges to be their most effective, rational deployment—as opposed to anything less than that. (ibid.)
As the overarching rational action, focus is the precondition for all of the others. I’ll note that while focus is the prerequisite for rationality, thinking is clearly the supreme and cardinal rational action once one is using focus. Rand in her writings often stresses the process of thinking, and emphasizes the choice “to think or not.” Our lives consist of understanding more and more aspects of reality through thinking, and then acting based on our thoughts and identifications. This means that we must use thinking and the logical connections that we possess to understand and guide our goals, beliefs, desires, and actions through the whole of our lives. Rand stated the philosophical importance of thinking when she wrote: “Psychologically, the choice ‘to think or not’ is the choice ‘to focus or not.’ Existentially, the choice ‘to focus or not’ is the choice ‘to be conscious or not.’ Metaphysically, the choice ‘to be conscious or not’ is the choice of life or death.” (VOS, p. 21)

Though thinking is the most important rational action, it is far from the only one. I’ll name some examples of a few rational actions in no particular order:

Observation is focusing on a specific fact(s) in order to gain cognitive information about it. One could also describe it as perceptual awareness with the explicit purpose of gaining knowledge (perceptual and conceptual) for a specific purpose. An example would be watching a baby to see how he responds to food that he has never tasted before.

Thinking is a kind of focusing in which the mind purposefully directs the conceptual faculty towards a specific issue to answer a specific question, gain information, and/or solve a problem. The process can result in the acquisition of new information, a contemplation of old information, or a combination of both. It can take the form of solving problems step-by-step, or the form of integrating new information about a subject being studied. For instance, a car customer could be thinking about the relative costs, safety features, and size of a group of cars he’s interested in buying. These thoughts will eventually lead to his decision to buy one of the cars, solving his problem of determining what car to purchase, or he may decide to look elsewhere and figure out his problem later.

Attention is a kind of special focus towards something or someone, to the possible exclusion of other things that were being observed (or could have been observed also in the situation). It could also be described as selective focus towards an object. A businesswoman could be attentively dealing with an inquisitive employee while still mentally alert about an upcoming meeting and her need to get some lunch.

Concentration is focus in the form of undivided attention to a particular task or object. Since focus is a general state of awareness, you could be in focus, mentally alert, but not concentrating on a particular task. You could concentrate on chopping carrots in the kitchen, but your phone rings and so you walk over to answer the call. In that case, your concentration and attention towards chopping the carrots was broken, but your focus hasn’t been dropped, only shifted.

Practice is a focused activity that repeats a skill-exercise or regularly performs an action(s) in order to gain and/or maintain proficiency (or mastery) in that activity. Practicing one skill is directing one’s attention towards that skill and away from other potential skills or actions that one could exercise or perform. An example would be a new cook baking a devil’s food cake over and over to master the recipe and the specific baking requirements for that cake.

Investigation is a complex, systematic set of inquiries and researches into a subject in order to discover facts or learn the truth about something. This type of action involves various, interrelated acts of focusing. A police detective for instance may observe evidence at a crime scene, concentrate on the exact wording of witness statements, and think of hypotheses about how the crime took place, all within the same investigation.

All of these actions and more are available to any person with a functioning brain, nervous system and mind. This is because the primary choice and the decision to be rational can be undertaken regardless of one’s intelligence, prior knowledge, or interest, since the only factor that matters is the purposeful effort expended to be aware of reality. (HWK, p. 328)

Volition allows for thought, analysis, and many other rational actions, but in the Objectivist view they are derivative choices, depending on a primary choice: the choice to focus one’s mind.

Mental Focus or Drift…

The conceptual level involves many forms of action. It can also have many stages or degrees of awareness. A man can attempt to solve a math problem with the most acute focus possible to him, with his full cognitive resources available to him, or he may try to solve it inattentively as he would a minor annoyance. He could also try to solve it through a myriad of other degrees of awareness, using his intelligence almost fully, or partially, or barely at all.

As stated by the late Nathaniel Branden (pre-break with Ayn Rand), a person’s degree of awareness can be affected by “(a) the clarity or vagueness of his mind’s contents, (b) the degree to which the mind’s activity involves abstractions and principles or is concrete-bound, (c) the degree to which the relevant wider context is present or absent in the process of thinking.” (TOTV I, p. 11) A woman could think about her future job prospects clearly with diligent research, or dimly as a far off, vague question with no immediate answer. A researcher could observe an experiment with abstract hypotheses in mind, or simply stare blankly with little to no effort at any abstract thought. Or an author could work on a book’s chapter with its connections to the preceding chapter’s plot in mind, its overall context, or consider it as an isolated story with no relation with the rest of the work-in-progress.

From the standpoint of “degrees of awareness,” focusing means raising your degree of awareness. It is the decision to not be mentally stagnant, to operate with a conceptual mindset, essentially to decide “to use one’s intelligence,” as Dr. Peikoff stated in OPAR. The optimum form of this is known equally as being “in focus,” possessing “full focus,” and having “full awareness.” It also means operating at the highest degree of awareness possible to you at that given time. Full focus or awareness doesn’t mean omniscience or omnipotence, but it does mean understanding and dealing with the world with the full perceptual and conceptual resources at one’s disposal, which includes “the evidence, the past knowledge, and the cognitive skills available [to that person] at the time.” (OPAR, pp. 60-61)

Choice exists on a continuum of degrees of awareness, where the choice to focus is to raise one’s degree of awareness from a relatively passive level, or to maintain an ongoing process of full focus. This means that that the choice to focus does not and could not mean the rise to full mental awareness from a state of literal, actual unconsciousness. If one is asleep, under the influence of certain drugs, suffering an unbearable mental or physical pain, or if one’s mind is otherwise paralyzed or incapacitated, then one would be incapable of making the choice to focus or not, or think or not. The power of volition is not impervious and can be rendered inoperable temporarily (e.g. deep sleep, unconscious from head trauma) or permanently (e.g. a degenerative mental disease, death)

Clarifying further, full focus (and rationality) doesn’t mean constantly conceptualizing or thinking for the rest of one’s life. Thinking is important but there are situations where a person’s knowledge is adequate, and so simply being alert and paying attention to any environmental/physical indications or mental cues is enough to be in focus. Relaxing in a park while watching your kids play can easily be done in focus, so long as you are aware of what you are doing and why. This implies that you are mentally ready to begin thinking, concentrating on a subject/object, etc., if any of those actions become advisable or necessary.

Focus and its derivative forms (thought, attention, observation, etc.) are the result of mental effort. Effort is work, a disbursement of energy to accomplish a purpose. The purpose of this sort of mental effort is for the mind to reach and/or maintain full awareness. This means that our choice every waking moment is to expend this mental exert to focus, or choose not to.

One of the forms in which we can “choose not to” takes the form of mental drift.

Mental drift is an out-of-focus state that avoids exerting mental effort towards one’s mental contents. Drifting is not seeking cognitive clarity in any of one’s mental contents. It is the choice to not raise one’s level of awareness. It means to allow your mind to be directed by random emotions or subconscious associations, or to engage in thought and/or action without knowing what you are doing or why. The mind of a drifter has no consideration for issues like facts, clarity, the wider context of a situation, and what cognitive skills or methods are available for that person to use. For this kind of person, or anyone when they decide to drift to this extent, the conceptual level of consciousness is a hazy, perplexing fog; such a person could be said to be conceptually unconscious of reality.

There are endless descriptions of this drifting state or range of consciousness. A person causes a car accident because they made a quick turn “carelessly/recklessly,” without checking for intersecting traffic. A mother “thoughtlessly” ruins a dinner roast because she didn’t consider setting a cooking timer and failed to check it at adequate times. A girl’s goldfish starves to death because she “negligently” gives the fish no thought for over a week. A man screws up his car’s transmission because he “ignorantly” tried to fix it with no mechanical background or expertise, and no technical manual about how to remove and replace the part. A married couple verbally fights due to the husband “disregarding” the feelings of his wife concerning the amount of time he spends pursuing a hobby. An economics student gets a lower exam grade than he desired because he merely “glanced” at the math-related test materials instead of studying it with more scrutiny.

Focusing and drifting are two basic choices that we all are confronted with, but there is a third possible basic choice: the choice of evasion.

…Or Evasion

Evasion is an out-of-focus state that directly avoids attention towards some fact due to a feeling of some sort. In discussing evasion, Binswanger notes that people can, “by their own choice, make the exercise of reason wait upon the permission of their feelings.” (HWK, p. 329)

A few possible motives/reasons to evade as discussed by Branden (TOTV II, p. 23; my paraphrase):

(1) The feeling of apathy to focusing or thinking generally, a pervasive anti-effort attitude across all mental and physical activity.
(2) A desire or wish that your reason cannot sanction, so reason is evicted in favor of the desire.
(3) An escape from a terrifying fact.

Evasion is the attempt to make a fact unreal to oneself, in the belief that if one doesn’t perceive the fact in question, then it doesn’t exist or its existence won’t have any consequences. Similar to focus and drift, examples abound of this mental action. A boy can evade the promise he made to clean his room so that he can play with his friends outside instead. A woman could ignore the fact that she needs to practice her piano lessons for an upcoming performance simply because she doesn’t feel like practicing. A driver could evade the fact that his car’s “check engine” light has been illuminated for a month, fearing what his (delayed) car troubles might mean but choosing to not make the knowledge and its implications real to him.

Evasion is the lowering of one’s level of awareness to avoid a specific fact. Evasion shrinks the range of one’s awareness. It can mean refusing to raise your level of awareness when you know (dimly or clearly) that you should. It can also mean lowering your level of awareness when you know (dimly or clearly) that you shouldn’t. (ibid., pp. 23-24)

Ayn Rand once gave a plethora of descriptions of the phenomenon of evasion. It can be equally said to be
the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict “It is.” (Galt’s Speech, For the New Intellectual, p. 127)
A significant difference amongst these three choices is that evasion is always motivated by a specific content, whereas focus and drift are generalized “sets” of the mind that apply to all of one’s mental contents at that time. Focus is a general set of the mind that requires mental effort; drift is a general set of the mind that requires no effort, just mental passivity. Evasion is mental effort expended to purposefully direct one’s attention away from a given fact due to an emotional prompt. In its most extreme form, it can effectively become a rejection of conceptual awareness as such, with the responsibility of focus and thought being deemed too much.

(Peikoff mentions that there’s a connection between a habitual evader and a habitual drifter. “If a drifter in a given situation apprehends (dimly or clearly) the need to initiate a thought process, yet refuses to do so, the refusal involves an evasion (he is evading the fact that thought is necessary).” (OPAR, p. 64) Someone who drifts most of the time will not have a lot of interest in daily life, and will find the times when thought is necessary to be stressful and unappealing. Such a man would find it very easy to evade the fact that he needs to think, which allows him to continue his pattern of drifting. Someone who characteristically evades refuses to recognize truths and facts as they come up, but when things are not pressing (or do not seem to be pressing) he will resort to a drifter approach by default.)

Focus, drift, and evasion can also be contrasted with regard to mental integration. Objectivism stresses that consciousness is an organ of awareness, of identifying aspects and facts of reality. It is an organ that integrates sensational, perceptual, and (in our case) conceptual information. Focus corresponds with integration; it directs our integrative conscious processes by setting our proper biological goal: awareness. Drift is goal-less and requires no effort and thus is a form of non-integration. Evasion is disintegration because its goal is to disconnect knowledge so that you can avoid a fact(s) that conflicts with your feelings.

If consciousness is a biological faculty that is essential for our lives, then the choice to focus is biologically a value because choosing a conceptual awareness of reality is our best means of dealing with it. Drift by contrast is a disvalue because the problems of human survival cannot be confronted properly by being mentally passive, ignorant, and bereft of cognitive skills. Following this logic, evasion must be seen as biologically disastrous; the goal of consciousness is detecting facts, not actively avoiding them and dismissing them. Evasion is working mentally to not understand something that one does not want to consider or deal with, which is the complete opposite of rationality. Just as focus is one and the same with rationality, the choice of evasion must be seen as the essence of irrationality.

The Primary Choice

The choices to focus, drift, or evade are the basic ways that we regulate our minds and gain (or fail to gain) conceptual awareness. None of these choices ever become “automatic” or “wired in” to a person’s mind. The choice to focus or think in one situation will not determine other situations or moments. Even after choosing to focus, think, or perform an action, we have to regulate our mental activity in succeeding moments. In any moment or issue, we can choose to not regulate or monitor our conscious activity, and let ourselves drift. Or we can choose to partially focus, understanding some concrete facts clearly, but failing to try to understand more abstract facts. “The essence of a volitional consciousness is the fact that its operation always demands the same fundamental effort of initiation and then of maintenance across time.” (ibid., p. 62)

If one chooses to drift, then nothing will occur at the conceptual level until one decides to focus once more. (If in a semi-focused state, then no actions that require a higher level of awareness can occur without first raising one’s awareness to that level.) If one chooses to evade, then that specific mental content will be blanked out or dismissed, but as a result nothing else cognitively is done (with that content) until and unless one later chooses to focus upon it. But once one has chosen to focus there are untold amounts and levels of choices that one could undertake.

The choice to focus or not (with the “not” meaning both “drift” and “evasion”) is our primary choice. The choice to focus is primary specifically because all other higher-level choices depend on it and the choice itself is irreducible. The choices of drift and evasion are primaries as well because once either is chosen, they rule out the higher-level choices that would have required focus, and are also themselves irreducible.

(In the case of drift, the higher-level choice is ruled out if the degree of mental passivity is too high to engage in that higher-level choice. Studying for an exam, calculating a math solution, or demonstrating computer repair techniques can all be done in or out of focus, to correspondingly different levels of success. Different rational activities require different minimum amounts of mental focus.)

Primary choices are first causes within a consciousness. There is nothing more fundamental that can explain the choice to focus or not. As Peikoff notes, a primary choice “is not a product of parents or teachers, anatomy or conditioning, heredity or environment.” (ibid.) The choice to focus precedes gaining new ideas or applying old ones to one’s current context. Nor can a value-judgment force a person to focus, since a person would need to be conceptually conscious in order for his mind to even consider one’s value judgments.

This is not to deny that a person’s ideas and values do have effects on his mind and life, both positive and negative. Free will is a causal relationship between one’s regulation of his mind which leads to the development of one’s ideas, beliefs, convictions, goals, character, and the general direction that a person’s life will take, all other things being equal. Habitual focusing and rationality will make it easier to continue to focus in the future, but habitual drifting and/or evading will make future focusing more difficult and mentally stressful. One’s past choices of focus or non-focus will have effects on one’s current mental state, affecting the willingness to engage in focus, and perhaps even one’s view of focus as such. However, the higher-level choices stemming from of the choice to focus cannot determine a mind to go in either direction (towards focus or non-focus).

A normally rational/consistently focused man can still choose to not focus and let himself go into a mental fog, in spite of his usual behavior; a person of the anti-effort, anti-thought sort can still decide to finally focus and (slowly) improve his cognitive tools and more effectively deal with the problems of his life. Such is the power of the primary choice.

Intuitive Induction of Free Will

To reach this principle as an intuitive induction, quite a number of observations and conclusions would have to be made.

A person would have to notice that conceptual awareness isn’t “given” to him. His mental clarity with his ideas isn’t automatic like his heart beat or the digestion of his food. He would have to see that his body does not automatically follow his thoughts or convictions just because he possesses them. Another key observation would be that his conclusions can be right or wrong, that his mind’s deductions or inferences are not error-proof. He would need to see some contrasts between his senses and his conceptions, and the states of his awareness.

His senses are set by nature and cannot err; his conceptual awareness is set by his own action or inaction, and is capable of error. He would have to reach the idea in some terms that his consciousness is fallible and conceptual. He forms and uses concepts to operate at a higher level of consciousness than just perceptions, and he can form and use these concepts properly or improperly.

This person would also have to observe himself making choices all of the time, in all areas of his life. He studies, has conversations with relatives, performs his responsibilities at work, and enjoys some late-night TV. To really see the reality of free will, he would have to notice that everything he does in his waking hours can be done in or out of focus, that he can do things in his daily life with conceptual clarity or dimness, with many degrees of awareness in-between. Introspection is vital here, since we’re dealing with the mental clarity or vagueness of one’s own conceptual faculty and thought processes.

If a person is trying to understand the deeper meaning of a novel, does he scrupulously use logic to extrapolate a more universal theme in its story, or does he skim through the book’s chapters half-awake, barely mustering the effort to even read it? If a supervisor must discuss an employee’s subpar job performance, does he clearly focus on the task at hand and address the employee, or does he evade his responsibility because he has problems with addressing stressful situations head-on? Does he characteristically deal with the world by focusing on reality and using his mind, or does he characteristically choose not use his mind (drift) or to escape from the problems he is confronted with using distractions or rationalizations (evasion)?

The connection of focus to the other rational actions is essential, as are the negatives that come from failing to focus. Having made those connections, and realizing that all fallible, conceptual beings live by adjusting their level of awareness, he can reach the Objectivist view of this principle. We operate our free will in our waking hours primarily by regulating our degree of awareness through focus and non-focus, and this affects all of the other choices and in turn the course of our character development and lives. How we exercise our free will essentially causes us to live our lives rationally, more-or-less rationally, or irrationally.


Having discussed the primary choices in some detail, I’d like to close with a description of cognitive self-regulation that is of monumental importance. Within the field of choosing to focus or not and of choosing to think or not, there are three broad ways of cognitive functioning. These three alternatives are:
(1) A man characteristically can activate and sustain a sharp intellectual focus, seeking to bring his understanding to an optimal level of precision and clarity, with regard to any issue with which he is dealing—or he characteristically can keep his focus to the level of blurred approximation, in a state of passive, undiscriminating, goal-less mental drifting. (2) A man characteristically can differentiate between knowledge and feelings, letting his judgment be directed by his intellect, not his emotions—or he characteristically can suspend his intellect in the face of strong feelings (wishes or fears), and deliver himself to the direction of impulses whose validity he does not care to consider. (3) A man characteristically can perform an independent act of analysis, in weighing the truth or falsehood of any claim, or the right or wrong of any issue—or he characteristically can accept, in uncritical passivity, the opinions and assertions of others, substituting their judgment for his own. (TOTV II, p. 30)
These three alternatives are fundamentals in that they in large part lead to the formation of a person’s character, and indicate the level of his mental health.

P.S. I normally discuss how a given Objectivist principle fits in with the preceding principles, but this will have to wait for now. I will discuss volition’s status as axiomatic when I get to that exact point in the upcoming essay, “Volition as Axiomatic.”


Binswanger, Harry. How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation. New York: TOF Publications, 2014.
Branden, Nathaniel. “The Objectivist Theory of Volition.” The Objectivist (Vol. 5/Issue 1). 1966. pp. 7-12.
Branden, Nathaniel. “The Objectivist Theory of Volition (Part II).” The Objectivist (Vol. 5/Issue 2). 1966. pp. 22-30.
Peikoff, Leonard. Objectivism: the Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York: Meridian, 1993 (1991).
Ayn Rand Lexicon Entry: Evasion
Ayn Rand Lexicon Entry: Focus

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