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Objectivism: Dual Foundationalism
and the Core of Objectivist Logic

The Basic Idea Behind Dual Foundationalism

In his taped lecture series "Objectivisim: The State of the Art," Dr. Leonard Peikoff distinguished between the logical and the chronological order of knowledge. For him, the logical order of knowledge is the chronological order insofar as it is unavoidable. Such a distinction might seem to carry little import, but it is in fact a key element in the theory behind Dual Foundationalism.

The term "Dual Foundationalism" refers to the fact that knowledge and justification require not one, but two foundations for knowledge. The first is the metaphysically-given, empirical foundation in which we are directly aware of the objects of external reality by means of perception. The second is the man-made foundation of metaphysical knowledge which contains the fundamental concepts and principles underlying all explanation, a foundation which we create in accordance with our need for unit-economy. Chronologically, it is the empirical foundation which comes first, but logically (that is, in the order of explanation in accordance with the principles of knowledge) it is the metaphysical foundation which comes first.

The idea behind this approach is in essence quite simple: evidence must chronologically precede the generalizations which it gives rise to, but since a given generalization may have been arrived at by means of any of its instances, none of its instances necessarily, logically precedes (i.e., explains) the generalization itself, whereas the instances are explained by reference to the generalization as explanatory principle, and thus in the logical order of knowledge, the explanatory principle precedes that which it explains (i.e., all its instances). Thus I may see a few rocks fall and arrive at the generalization that rocks fall, but once I have formed this generalization, it is the principle in accordance with which I explain the fact that rocks fall, and not simply the falling of other rocks, but the falling of the rocks which formed the original evidence for my generalization.

But once formed, such lower-level inductive generalizations may form the instances from which further, higher-level inductive generalizations may be made, higher-level inductive generalizations which serve to explain the lower-level inductive generalizations from which they were formed. Thus chronologically, lower-level generalizations precede higher-level generalizations, but logically (that is, in terms of the order of explanation) fundamental, higher-level generalizations precede the lower-level generalizations from which they are formed. Now from each of the two perspectives (that is, the chronological and the logical), knowledge must have a foundation. But from the chronological perspective, this foundation is the empirical foundation provided by direct awareness, whereas from the logical perspective, this foundation is the Objectivist Metaphysics which is the fundamental explanatory foundation for all knowledge.

At this point, it is important to realize that both foundations are interdependent.

In Objectivism, we recognize the fact that all knowledge is empirical. But if this applies to all knowledge, then it certainly applies to metaphysical knowledge. Yet metaphysical knowledge is highly abstract, providing the most fundamental categories for all existents, and the most fundamental principles by which to explain existents. Thus the Objectivist Metaphysics is the result of a very high-level induction from the empirical foundation and the first-level concepts (e.g., "tree", "dog", "rock", "man", etc..) which immediately succeed the empirical foundation. As a form of empirical knowledge, the metaphysical foundation is radically-dependent upon the empirical foundation, not immediately, but in a highly mediated fashion.

Likewise, we recognize the fact that all systematic explanation is ultimately, logically grounded in the metaphysics. Now if this applies to all explanation, then it certainly applies to the explanation of sense-perception, and thus to the explanation of the empirical foundation for man's knowledge. Thus, for example, any proper theory of sense-perception must begin with the metaphysical presupposition that there is a distinction between the object of awareness and the awareness of the object. Similarly, it must make the metaphysical presupposition that the object of awareness exists independently of the act of awareness itself. Likewise, it must begin by taking the existence of entities (e.g., particular rocks, trees, dogs, etc..) for granted. Man, after all, is an entity, and the various faculties of perception are themselves parts of this entity, and as such, entities themselves. And most essentially, a proper theory of perception must make the metaphysical presupposition that entities behave causally.

Without these metaphysical presuppositions, one cannot even begin to identify what sorts of existents constitute the empirical foundation for man's knowledge. Are they objects internal to man's consciousness (i.e., should we begin by presupposing some form of representationalism)? Are the objects incapable of being divided (i.e., should we begin by presupposing some form of atomism, possibly combining the presupposition with representationalism, and adopt a form of sensationalism)? Of course not. But to arrive at this conclusion, one must make certain metaphysical presuppositions: namely, those which I named above. It is the metaphysics which makes the conceptual identification of the empirical foundation itself possible, even though chronologically, the conceptualization of elements of this foundation must long precede the formation of the metaphysics.

Consequently, I conclude that the two foundations are complementary. Not only is it true that all of the rest of our knowledge is dependent upon the these two foundations, but it is equally true that each foundation is radically-dependent upon the other, with the metaphysical foundation resting upon the empirical foundation as the basis for its own empirical nature, and with the fundamental identification and explanation of empirical foundation resting upon the metaphysical foundation.

Now this is only the beginning of an explanation of the complementarity of the two foundations. To fully explain this complementarity, one must identify the method-- and the basis for the method-- which explains not the metaphysical foundation, but how we form and validate the knowledge which is the metaphysical foundation. This must be done without recourse to circular reasoning. And central to this project will be the logical identification of the metaphysical basis of the central epistemic norms which properly guide all human cognition.

In order to make such a program work, one must recognize the complementarity between material and method. For example, not simply induction but all concept-formation takes place in accordance with the rule of simplicity (perhaps the most well-known epistemic norm in mainstream philosophy). Thus, even the formation of our metaphysical knowledge takes place in accordance with the rule of simplicity. However, this does not mean that our metaphysical knowledge presupposes our knowledge of the rule of simplicity. The rule of simplicity is a later discovery, as are all the epistemic norms which guide human cognition.

In epistemology, it is vital that one distinguishes between what one is aware of and how one is aware of it, and it is vital to realize that, fundamentally, the "what" must precede the "how." Thus, logically (i.e., in the logical order of explanation), the metaphysics must precede the logic which explains how we arrived at knowledge of the metaphysics. We arrive at metaphysical knowledge in accordance with, but not by reference to, the epistemic norms; in fact, it is our metaphysical knowledge which provides the fundamentals for the explanation of the epistemic norms, not the other way around. Such is the essential nature of the complementarity between material and method within the realm of general logic.

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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