Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Leonard Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism: Indispensable

Any quality education in Objectivism includes Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism (1983) lecture course. For anyone who listens to the course with functioning ears, Objectivism emerges as the most formidable philosophical system yet conceived.*

One of the basic functions of Peikoff's later (post-1970s) lecture courses is to teach people methods of thinking (i.e., the how as distinguished from the what) about Objectivism as well as about any other subject. The essential core of Objectivist method - a responsible (context-appropriate) approach to checking premises - makes Objectivism itself essentially impervious to refutation. Like induction itself, you couldn't even attempt to refute it without implicitly accept and affirming it. Induction is the essence of rational, reality-oriented thought; Rand identified basic principles of inductive reasoning - the most notable achievement being her theory of concepts - and those basic principles are the very basic principles of Objectivism itself. Objectivism is the method of induction applied to the fundamental issues of man and his relationship to existence.

(I'll also note that Rand had the most perfectionistic thought processes for a philosopher since Aristotle. Same basic idea: check premises responsibly, spiral progression of knowledge, respecting the hierarchy of knowledge, etc. As perfectionism is essentially related to virtue in ethics, so it is in epistemology; Rand's definition of intellectual virtue is her way of establishing a Virtue Epistemology. [Hell, is there any other kind of sound epistemology?] The academic mainstream is, like, totally in the dark on this stuff - and why is that?)

The semi-prohibitive thing when it comes to Peikoff's courses is cost. Many of his courses are in excess of $200 or $300. Fortunately, there is a discount for an internet-only edition of Understanding Objectivism, bringing the cost to a mere $150. Essential preconditions for listener preparedness would be familiarity with the basic literature of Objectivism, including most emphatically Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology. Also, while Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, or OPAR (1991), came out after Understanding Objectivism, it also is of immense preparatory help, since it is based on the earlier 1976 Philosophy of Objectivism course endorsed by Rand.

Cognitive clarity and efficiency are central aspects of successful functioning in life; in that regard, $150 is a drop in the bucket. Familiarity with this course also makes for a good head start as our culture moves in the Randian direction in the coming years. If you have the additional money, Peikoff's advanced seminars on OPAR are the next step.

In the Utopia I envision for humanity's not-too-distant future, familiarity with Peikoff's courses or something of comparable caliber would be an essential qualification for university professors - hell, all university professors, and not just those in the Humanities. There's really no excuse for educators and intellectuals not to be familiar with this stuff. No fucking excuse at all. Their minds might well be blown at just how insidiously, damagingly rationalistic (or emotionalistic, or otherwise dysfunctional) their thought processes were all along. Then they, too, will thank Rand for showing them the way.

The future enlightenment of humanity depends on it.

(* - Widespread exposure to Peikoff's audio courses would work quite nicely in conjunction with my $6 billion plan to fix America.)

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