Boydstun Posted April 1, 2011 Report Share Posted April 1, 2011 In the summer of 1937, Ayn Rand wrote Anthem. At the core of this manifesto of individualism she set a foundational sequence of thoughts: “I am. I think. I will.” In 1943 in The Fountainhead, Rand wrote of the secular sense of soul: the inner you, “the thing that thinks and values and makes decisions” (GW II 454; also HR IV 582–83, and XVIII 737). The protection of man is a thought in the mind of a man, and fundamentally, “not the content of that thought, nor the result, . . . nor the will . . . that [makes] it real—but the method of his thought, the rule of its function . . . .” (HR I 548). Roark tells Wynand “We live in our minds, and [our] existence is the attempt to bring that life into physical reality, to state it in gesture and form” (HR II 558). Roark’s self-conception has a hint of what Friedrich Schelling would have called an unconditioned, or absolute being. Roark remarks “I never think of myself in relation to anyone else. I just refuse to measure myself as part of anything. I’m an utter egotist” (HR IV 631). This self-standing of the purely selfish ego is absolute not with respect to the limit of widest existence, but with respect to the limit of a person’s social surroundings. In his egoism, Roark is sovereign “in the realm of values, of judgment, of spirit, of thought” (HR XI 658). In Roark’s courtroom speech near the close of Fountainhead, Rand included the following fundamental ideas: Man cannot survive except through his mind. . . . To plant, he needs a process of thought. To hunt, he needs weapons, and to make weapons—a process of thought. (HR XVIII 737) The code of the creator is built on the needs of the reasoning mind which allows man to survive. . . . / The egoist in the absolute sense is not the man who sacrifices others. . . . He is not concerned with them in any primary matter. Not in his aim, not in his motive, not in his thinking, not in his desires, not in the source of his energy. (740) The creator faces nature alone. . . . / The basic [social] need of the creator is independence. (738) By the summer of 1945, Rand’s crafting of the foundational core of her philosophy had reached this stage: “Any conception or discussion of man’s existence is an axiom implying three parts: that man exists, that an objective world exists around him, and that he has the faculty of rational consciousness which enables him to know the external world” (Note, quoted in Harriman 1999, 300). Her transformation of the foundation for her philosophy, from ’37 to ’45 consisted of the shift of perspective: From I am to Man and the objective world exists. From I think and will to Man has rational consciousness of the world. By the fall of 1949, Rand had formulated her far-reaching and settled view on the basic nature of consciousness and logic. From her Notes: “Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification. / The essence of consciousness is identification” (ibid., 612). By the summer of 1953, Rand had in her notes “Existence Exists—A is A” (ibid., 646). As readers of Rand 1957 know, she no longer rested her systematic philosophy on I am nor on Man exists. Rather, on Existence exists. She retained the old work for I am: “I am, therefore I’ll think” (AS 1058). That counter-Cartesian thrust had been set already in print in 1943, and in ’57 it is magnified by being set within a widest metaphysics of existence exists, existence is identity, and consciousness is identification of existence (AS 1016). “Existence exists—and the act of grasping statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness [of existence]” (AS 1015). One’s self is one’s mind (AS 1030). “Self-esteem is reliance on one’s power to think. The ego . . . that essential ‘you’ . . . is not your emotions or inarticulate dreams, but your intellect, that judge of your supreme tribunal” (AS 1057). “By refusing to say ‘It is’, you are refusing to say ‘I am’ (AS 1018). It is instructive to compare Rand’s final configuration of existence, consciousness, and ego with their configuration by Schelling, as of his famous 1800 work System of Transcendental Idealism. The objective component in knowledge is what we call nature. The subjective component is called “the self, or the intelligence” (5). Nature is what can be presented to us; it is the non-conscious. Intelligence is the purely presentative; it is the conscious. Truth is the non-accidental coincidence of presentations with their objects. In knowledge there is, necessarily, reciprocal concurrence of the conscious and the non-conscious. Schelling sets himself the task of explaining how that concurrence takes place. Natural science, without realizing it, works on the question “How does intelligence come to be added to nature, or how does nature come to be presented” (5). “This and nothing else is at the bottom of the urge to bring into the phenomena of nature.—The highest consummation of natural laws into laws of intuition and thought” (6). Nature develops so as to become an object to herself, an intelligence. “The dead and unconscious products of nature are merely abortive attempts that she makes to reflect herself” (6). Nature’s aim is attained in man, or, more generally, in “what we call reason, whereby nature first completely returns into herself, and by which it becomes apparent that nature is identical from the first with what we recognize in ourselves as the intelligent and the conscious” (6). That is the outline of an approach to explaining how in truth presentation coincides with object and how in knowledge the conscious and non-conscious concur. That is the approach of nature-philosophy. (See Schelling 1799 and 1803.) It describes in a grand arc how the subjective is derivative of the objective. That way of exposing the unity of object and subject, explaining truth and knowledge, is perfectly valid according to Schelling. But there is a second valid way, which Schelling calls transcendental from its kinship to leading methods in Fichte and Kant. In Schelling’s transcendental approach, one begins with subjectivity alone, as ground of all reality. Innately, we are convinced “that there are things outside us,” things other than self (8). The truth of this conviction cannot be disproven, nor proven, by inference from something else. The transcendental task Schelling sets for himself is to demonstrate that I exist entails by identity there are things outside me (7–9). What does one know unconditioned by factors external to self? One knows the purely formal A=A, where A is abstracted from all particular content. In such abstraction, this formula comes only to this: “In thinking A, I think nothing else but A”( 22). Well, “having thought A, I admittedly think of it as A; but how then, do I come to think of A in the first place? If it is a concept freely engendered, it begets no knowledge; if it is one that arises with the feeling of necessity, it must have objective reality” (22). Genuine knowledge has its object outside itself. A proposition that is knowledge has subject and predicate linked not “by the mere identity of thinking, but by something alien to the thought and distinct from it” (22). Such propositions are called synthetic, in contrast to analytic ones stating relations of identity only within thinking. Only in synthetic propositions do we find genuine knowledge. “The whole of our knowledge consists of nothing but synthetic propositions” (22). If there is some point in which the identical and the synthetic are one, we shall have there a spring for certainty in synthetic propositions, thence in all our knowledge. At such an originating point, “being and presentation are in the most perfect identity” (24). There, “subject and object are immediately one” (24). It is obvious now that the desired point is in self-consciousness, where the presented and that which presents are the same. Self-consciousness is a free act of thought. Thinking is not the consciousness we have in an involuntary succession of presentations. These latter, however manifold and diverse they may be, will still appear as belonging to a single identical subject. If I reflect upon this identity of the subject among its presentations, there arises for me the proposition ‘I think’. It is this ‘I think’ which accompanies all presentations and preserves the continuity of consciousness between them—But if we free ourselves from all presentation, so as to achieve an original self-awareness, there arises—not the proposition I think, but the proposition ‘I am’, which is beyond doubt a higher proposition. (25–26) The proposition I think has an actual predicate. The proposition I am has only potential predicates; it is “the locus of an infinity of possible predicates” (26). The self knowing I am is purely act, making itself by its doing. The self as the producing of itself stated in I am is what stands in Schelling’s fundamental postulate and principle of philosophy: self=self. Here, product is identical not only with product, but with its own producing (26–30). Self=self converts A=A into a synthetic proposition. The supreme formal principle, A=A, is indeed only possible through the act expressed in the proposition self=self—through the act of thinking that becomes an object to itself and is identical with itself. Thus, so far from the self=self falling under the principle of identity, it is rather the latter that is conditioned by the former. For did not self=self, then nor could A=A, since the equivalence posited in the latter proposition expresses, after all, no more than an equivalence between the judging subject and that in which A is posited as object . . . . (30–31) There is some ambiguity and hand-waving in Schelling’s presentation of his thought. His philosophy is sufficiently clear in this 1800 work for definite comparison with Rand’s philosophy (and with Kant, Reinhold, and Fichte, whose ideas are refashioned into Schelling’s own edifice). Rand, too, makes A is A into a form of all true existential propositions, a form beyond the keeping of a thing with itself and the tracking of that keeping in thought. This she does by the conception existence is identity (where identity answers what) and the conception of logic as presupposing existence exists. Schelling does not have Rand’s conception that consciousness is fundamentally identification of existence. “Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification” (AS 1016). That is the basic connection of subject and object. Let us see some more of Schelling’s attempt to arrive at there exists things outside me from I exist by showing their identity. The self who knows the self-construction of I am should not say, strictly speaking, that it exists. Rather, “it is being-itself” (32). The self of I am does not possess the predicates of determinate, conditioned things. Such things derive from the free act that is self-constructed self. Unlike things, this self is unconditioned and free. This the self knows directly and most surely. Freedom is more fundamental than even being, which “in our system is merely freedom suspended” (33). Kant had answered Hume’s subversion of rational causal necessity in experience by arguing that a principle of causality is required else experience is not possible. Similarly, Schelling argues against the subversion of human free will stemming from total determination of physics and physiology by arguing that knowledge of the deterministic world is only possible if it is a manifestation of the thought I am, the free act I am. In the self, freedom and restriction are cohorts; the self cannot be one without being the other (35). As the self, originally pure activity, becomes an object for itself, it wins the concept of something limited and restricted. The pure producing self could never become product unless it set limits on itself. This limit on producing cannot be had without the self opposing something to itself (36). The freedom of the self is expansive. It cannot expand its boundary without acting on the boundary and “cannot act upon it unless the boundary exists independently of this action. Hence the boundary becomes real, only through the assault of the self against it” (39). The boundary there is beyond one is real, but as the boundary depends on the intellect I am, it is also ideal. As Kant’s transcendental idealism would set out the world of experience as at once empirically real and transcendentally ideal, so Schelling’s transcendental idealism (drops Kant’s noumenal realm and) sets out the real and ideal as an endless dynamic of the self-conscious self. Rand does not concur with Schelling’s nature-philosophy. Philosophy is not to derive consciousness from existence. Consciousness is necessarily acknowledged in comprehending the statement existence exists (AS 1015; ITOE 249). There is no need to make the act of consciousness a prior of being in order to warrant assertion of the reality or freedom of thought. With consciousness most fundamentally identification, utterly dependent on independent existence, there is no need to retain the religious model of world-making intelligence as the manner of coincidence between the world and the human mind. So Rand also does not concur with Schelling’s transcendental idealism, his subsequent objective idealism, his idealism. Existence exists. Existence is identity. All things have specific natures or are specific natures. A is A. Man is man. Consciousness is identification of existence. The consciousness that is thinking is volitional. Notes 1. See also Rand’s first notebook for Fountainhead on page 78 of Harriman 1999. 2. Rand’s 1938 protagonist in Anthem is given these lines: “All things come to my judgment, and I weigh all things, and I seal upon them my ‘Yes’ or my ‘No’. Thus is truth born. Such is the root of all Truth and the leaf, such is the fount of all Truth and the ocean, such is the base of all Truth and the summit. I am the beginning of all Truth. I am its end” (quoted in Mayhew 2005a, 39; see also Milgram 2005, 17–18). This sounds subjectivist. I think, however, Rand is only affirming in this passage that all judgment of truth is individual and that all truth we render from the world is for our own final value. Those lines in Anthem (in ’38; excised in ’46) are preceded by these: “It is my eyes which see, and the sight of my eyes grants beauty to the earth. It is my ears which hear, and the hearing of my ears gives its song to the world.” Something is seen, and with the subject, it is rendered beautiful. Something is heard, and with the subject, it is rendered song of existence. Something is given, and with its recognition, it is rendered truth. A subjectivist reading of ’38 is unsustainable given the protagonist’s discovery of scientific truths by (in part) his own physical experimentation in defiance of doctrine accepted merely on authority. Furthermore, the subjectivist reading is unsustainable given Rand’s portrayal of protagonists in We the Living (1936) as set on objective reality contrary to Communist mockups and mandates of reality. 3. This work was 10 years after Kant’s third and final Critique; 7 years after Fichte’s Wissenschaftslehre and 7 years before Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. 4. Schelling reaches his philosophy known as objective idealism in 1801 in Darstellung meines Systems der Philosophie (Exposition of My System of Philosophy). This work is not available in English. Consult Beiser 2002, chapter 6. References Beiser, F. C. 2002. German Idealism: The Struggle against Subjectivism, 1781–1801. Harvard. Harriman, D., editor. 1999. The Journals of Ayn Rand. Plume. Mayhew, R. 2005a. Anthem ’38 & ’46. In Mayhew 2005b. ——., editor. 2005b. Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Lexington. Milgram, S. 2005. Anthem in Manuscript: Finding the Words. In Mayhew 2005b. Rand, A. 1938. Anthem. Cassell. ——. 1943. The Fountainhead. Macmillan. ——. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. Random House. ——. c. 1970. Seminar Transcript. In Appendix of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. 2nd ed. H. Binswanger and L. Peikoff, editors. 1990. Meridian. Schelling, F.W.J. 1799. First Outline of a System of Nature. K. R. Peterson, translator. 2004. SUNY. ——. 1800. System of Transcendental Idealism. P. Heath, translator. 1978. Virginia. ——. 1803 . Ideas for a Philosophy of Nature. 2nd ed. E. E. Harris and P. Heath, translators. 1988. Cambridge. Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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