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Objectivism: Dual Foundationalism
and the Core of Objectivist Logic

The Basis for Epistemic Normativity

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is an excerpt from a work in progress. It is, in fact, the second of five sections on the standard of objectivity. In the book, this section is presently titled "The Metaphysical Basis for the Standard of Objectivity." Despite its title, this is clearly part of epistemology, and occurs after my treatement of concepts and propositions. What the title itself alludes to is the fact that the ultimate explanatory foundation, whether for knowledge in general or for the knowledge which constitutes epistemology, logic, or even more narrowly, knowledge of the standard of objectivity itself, is the metaphysics. Despite a few references to early points in the book, I believe this excerpt can largely stand by itself.

The standard of objectivity is a species of the principle of the metaphysical vs. the manmade, not of the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade. However, to make this distinction clear will require some explanation.

The metaphysics is primarily a study of the (epistemologically) fundamental nature of existence. As such, it subject matter is confined to the fundamental kinds and laws of existence. However, in addition to being aware of these kinds and laws, we are also aware of our awareness of them. First, we discover the external world, primarily by means of perception. Second, we are aware of our perceptual awareness of existence. Finally, we are aware of our conceptual awareness.

Conceptual awareness is the means by which we are able to identify perceptual awareness, and it is also the means by which we identify conceptual awareness, and thus it is capable of self-reference. Corresponding to each element of the metaphysics, there exists a corresponding element of conceptual awareness, an element which we can be aware of. In the case of the kinds of existence, the corresponding element of conceptual awareness is a metaphysical concept. In the case of the laws of existence, the corresponding element of conceptual awareness is a metaphysical principle. A principle is primarily the conceptual identification of a law.

The distinction between a law and a principle corresponds to the distinction between object and subject, existence and consciousness, between that which is known and that which knows it. Such a distinction is essential to both metaphysics, which is primarily the study of existence, and epistemology, which is primarily the study of our means of knowing existence: consciousness. But the identification of existence must precede the identification of consciousness. Thus if we are to examine the principle of the metaphysical vs. the manmade, we should begin with the study of the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade.

However, the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade is discovered at the end of our study of the nature of existence, not at the beginning. Thus to properly understand the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade, one should begin by understanding the nature of the other metaphysical laws.

Now the most fundamental law of existence is "Existence exists." There is no more fundamental law than this, and, because it is implicit in the affirmation of any proposition, it is often taken to be tautologous, and therefore, empty of cognitive significance. However, such a view flows from the acceptance of the analytic/synthetic-dichotomy. But, as I have already argued, the theory of the analytic/synthetic-dichotomy is false. All valid concepts are empirical in nature, and thus dependent upon experience for their existence.

Now if this applies to all valid concepts, it necessarily applies to the concept of existence. Thus the concept of existence has empirical content. But what content? Anything which one ever has, is, or will know by means of experience. As such, the proposition "Existence exists" has empirical content: the very same empirical content as the concept of "existence" itself. But if the proposition "Existence exists" has empirical content, it cannot be empty of cognitive significance.

And in fact, it is by reference to this law that one may identify the invalidity of the question "Why does existence exist?": to explain existence as such would be to explain existence by reference to something which is not an aspect of existence, that is, by means of non-existence. But existence exists, and only existence exists. Therefore the question is invalid.

Likewise, it is invalid to ask "What created the universe?" For by the universe, one means everything which existed, exists, or will ever exist. Or in short, one means existence. But existence can only be explained by means of existence. Thus the question of "What created the universe?" asked one to identify that which was before existence which explains the existence of existence. But nothing can preceed existence, otherwise it would be non-existent, and therefore would not be.

Theists, in posing this question, are intent upon answering it with a single word: "God." But then either "God" exists or he does not exist. And if their original question is valid, then it is equally valid to ask "What caused God?" If they deny that this question is valid, then they cannot, in all consistency, grant validity to their original question. And if "God" does not exist, then "God" cannot be used to properly explain the existence of the universe. Thus the principle "Existence exists" is properly regarded, not as something to be proven or to be explained, but as the fundamental principle underlying all proof and all explanation, that is, as the fundamental axiom of philosophy. (1)

Now in accordance with the subject/object-distinction which is fundamental to the definition of awareness, and therefore, knowledge, the principle by which we recognize the law of existence has two fundamental corollaries: first, the principle by which we recognize the law of identity; and second, the principle by which we recognize the law of the primacy of existence. But of these two corollaries, it is the first which is (by far) the most fundamental.

By the law of identity, we mean: a thing is what it is, or to translate this into philosophic terms, existence is identity. Each of the later metaphysical laws (including the primacy of existence) is ultimately, logically dependent upon this law. Causality, the metaphysical law which we recognize by stating "a specific entity acts in a specific way," is a species of the law of identity. It is the law of identity applied to action, which is a kind of existence.

The primacy of existence is the fundamental species of the law of causality which applies to consciousness, consciousness being a kind of action. It is recognized with irreducible brevity by "consciousness is identification." Consciousness is irreducibly intentional. Thus consciousness must precede self-consciousness, just as the object precedes the awareness of the object, and just as cause precedes effect. Thus consciousness is dependent, and existence is independent. Existence exists independently of consciousness, and the function of consciousness (qua consciousness) is not to create its object, but to discover it. And finally the metaphysical vs. the manmade is the primacy of existence as it applies to volition, an aspect of volitional consciousness. (2)).

When we recognize this law by means of the words "the metaphysical vs. the manmade," our attention is first drawn to a dichotomy between two kinds of existents: those which exist independently of choice and those which are the product of choice, that is, of the chosen actions of men. But the law is more than just a dichotomy: it is the fundamental relationship between the metaphysical and the manmade. The manmade is radically dependent upon the metaphysical, standing in relation to it as effect to cause.

Man has the capacity for volitional action. Volitional action is the act of choosing between two or more alternatives. Thus man's actions are not necessitated. But as action, volitional action, in both the realm of external reality and the realm of cognition, is subject to the law of causality. Thus the alternatives which man faces are determined by his metaphysical nature and the metaphysical nature of the rest of existence. Both form the means for volitional action, although it is his metaphysical nature which is more fundamental in this context.

Given the preceding analysis, it is possible to state the principle by which we recognize the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade: "To command nature, man must obey it."(-Francis Bacon) To achieve a specific effect, man must enact a specific cause. Man may, in accordance with his nature, enact a specific cause in order to achieve a specific effect, but he cannot legislate the law of causality to the object of his awareness. The relationship between cause and effect is beyond his power to change. To make reality conform to his choices, man must conform to reality.

There is in the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade no normative element, only a narrowing of the law of causality. Thus one would be entirely mistaken to regard the law as a principle by means of which one could evaluate things, even in the realm of cognition. A metaphysical law is not a principle. Metaphysically, man has no choice but to conform to reality. Regardless of what he chooses, his choices will always be constrained by the metaphysical laws applicable to a being of his nature. He cannot choose to have a different metaphysical nature from that which he has. If he chooses a certain course of action, such as jumping off a cliff, certain consequences will follow. He will not float down to the ground, unless he has a parachute (or something similar). Metaphysically, whatever choice man makes, his actions will necessarily conform to the metaphysical nature of reality. This much follows from the law of causality.

There is, however, a normative element in human cognition, and it proceeds from the principle of the metaphysical vs. the manmade. If man chooses to achieve a specific effect, he should enact a specific cause. The principle of the metaphysical vs. the manmade is the conceptual identification of the corresponding metaphysical law. But conceptualization is a form of volitional action. It is performed by choice. And in choosing to recognize the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade, man chooses to recognize reality by identifying it and conforming to it, choosing his course of action by the goals which he sets for himself. This is what he ought to do by reference to his own choice. (3) Now we must see how this is specifically applied to cognition.

From the theory of volition, we know that in the realm of conceptual awareness, there can be no more fundamental explanation of man's conforming to reality than his choice to recognize it: this is the act of focusing his mind. It is a primary done by reference to the principle of the primacy of existence, but even this involves the recognition of reality, and thus presupposes it. The act and the motive are inseparable: usually, the motive of volitional action (i.e., that which man wants to acquire) precedes the act and may be regarded as a necessary element in the cause of the action, for it is the awareness of the goal which gives rise to the act of achieving the goal, but in the act of focusing the mind, one's awareness is the goal of the act of focusing the mind, and thus cannot precede it. Thus the act of focusing the mind is the exception to the rule: in this case, the motive and the act are indistinguishable. (4)

The principle of the metaphysical vs. the manmade is the product of focusing one's mind on reality, or to be more specific, on the law of the metaphysical vs. the manmade. The principle is the conceptual awareness of the law. And once one has choosen the conceptual awareness of reality as one's goal, a certain course of action proceeds from that choice. The course of action is to be objective. The choice to be objective is done by reference to a certain standard, a standard which is the application of the principle of the metaphysical vs. the manmade to the realm of cognition.

This is the standard of objectivity. Man ought to volitionally adhere to reality. Since the standard of objectivity is conceptual in nature, it necessarily subsumes all of its units. Thus as long as man sets his goal to be the conceptual awareness of reality, he must choose to be objective in all his cognition. This choice must be a matter of principle. Thus while it is always possible for man to drop this standard, if he wishes to maintain or increase his conceptual awareness of reality (i.e., knowledge), he must be objective all of the time. The attempt to place some goal higher than the goal of volitionally adhering to reality is the act of sabotaging his means to identify all his goals and the means of achieving them.

The standard of objectivity cannot be treated as something which one appeals to only when it is convenient, for how will one know when it is convenient to appeal to the standard except by reference to the standard itself?(5) This is the standard by reference to which we achieve and secure all our knowledge. It is properly regarded as an absolute standard in all human cognition.

Thus while metaphysically, man has no choice but to conform to reality, epistemologically, man does have to choose whether he will conform to reality in the sense of achieving volitional awareness of it, and as a result, he requires a normative standard to direct him in making this choice. This normative standard is the standard of objectivity, and it is a universal, absolute standard which applies to all cognition qua cognition. It is the "ought" which lies at the foundation of and is implicit in one's identification of any fact. To say "it is" is to imply that one ought to recognize the fact that "it is." Such normativity is implicit in the self-conscious affirmation "Existence exists." (6)

The Basic Idea Behind Dual Foundationalism
The Basis for Epistemic Normativity/Notes
A Distinction Regarding Justification
The Nature of Epistemic Norms
The Core of Objectivist Logic
Reference Tables

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General Index


©1996 by Timothy D. Chase. All rights reserved.

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