Tag Archives: Epistemology

Table

What is it that makes a coffee table and a kitchen table both tables? What is it that makes a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd both dogs? What is it that makes you and I both human? Table, dog, human: these are all concepts used to unite many particular things into singular categories. But what are those concepts based on? What is it that makes it proper to classify a German Shepherd and a Golden Retriever as dogs, while excluding a squid from that same category?

This is the "age-old" philosophical conundrum known as "the problem of universals" ("universal" being the term which refers to concepts such as table, dog, and human) -- but what you will see very shortly is that there is not really any problem at all - and there never should have been.

The Battle: Realism vs. Nominalism

Historically, this "problem" of why we classify things the ways that we do has caused a philosophical rift between two camps: that of realism and that of nominalismRealism holds that the similarities between particular objects are part of objective reality; that there is some real 'dog-like' essence to both Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds. In contrast, nominalism holds that those 'similarities' are only nominal -- in name only; that our classification of Golden Retrievers and German Shepherds into the category of dog is based, not in real similarities between the two, but in our subjective and pragmatic decision to classify them as such. 

When it is broken down like that, it seems pretty obvious which position is the most conducive to objectivity. When simply stated as it is above, realism is the only rational option -- and nominalism is basically synonymous with subjectivism. Unfortunately though, there have been some very annoying and distracting ideas attributed to realism which have given it a far less attractive rap -- and those distracting ideas have arisen because of a failure to distinguish between three very different issues.

Three Separate Issues

When dealing with this topic of universals, there are three separate issues which have historically not been treated as separate -- and thus have led to mass confusion.

Issue #1: Metaphysical or Not? The first (and most foundational) issue to be addressed in this debate is that of whether or not the universal (essence, or similar attribute) is metaphysical, or not. That is to say that we must determine whether 'dogness' or 'man-ness' is part of metaphysical (objective) reality -- or whether is it only part of our subjective understanding of that reality. Realism says that universals are metaphysical. Nominalsim says that they are notThis issue is the essence of realism.

Issue #2: Metaphysical NatureIf, as the realist claims, universals are metaphysical, then they must have some sort of metaphysical nature. Are these universals 'perfect forms up in heaven' (Plato's theory), 'attributes intrinsic to particular things' (Aristotle's theory), or 'ideas in the mind of God' (Augustine's theory)? Or, are they something else which has not been discovered yet!? The point here is to understand that the issue of their metaphysical nature is not the same as the issue of whether or not they are metaphysical, per se. If Plato's theory that there is a perfect table up in heaven is false, this doesn't mean that his idea that 'table-ness' is metaphysical in some way is also false.

Issue #3: Epistemological Discovery. These universals, or concepts, are things which we use everyday in our reasoning about all of reality. If universals are metaphysical, we must ask ourselves how we come to discover them. How do we discover the metaphysical similarities between German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, in order to arrive at the concept of dog being applied to both? Is it because we are remembering that similarity from a past life (Plato's theory), or is it by some other form of passive intuition (Aristotle's - and many others' - theory), or is it be some other means altogether!? I'll answer this one below, but the point here - as with Issue #2, above - is that this is a separate issue from the issue of whether or not the universals are metaphysical. Plato and Aristotle and every other philosopher since then can be (and many are) completely wrong about issues #2 and #3, but right about issue #1.

The idea that universals are metaphysical (i.e. real) does not in any way demand that there is a perfect dog or table up in heaven (Plato); nor does it demand that the only way to discover those universals is by some mystical experience or passive intuition (Plato, Aristotle, and many others). In other words, realism, properly defined and understood, only refers to the first issue: whether or not universals are metaphysical. Any given realist may have varying theories about the second and third issues (which will be either true of false), but those will be varieties of realism -- not realism, per se.

Missing this extremely obvious point is the only reason for the rabid rejection of realism by nominalists -- and surprisingly by Objectivists and Christians, alike. I'll leave the Christian aversion to realism for another day. Right now, I want to discuss the Objectivist 'response' to realism -- if you can call it that. 

Objectivism's 'Response' to Realism (or 'Intrinsicism')

Objectivism, as an explicitly held philosophical system, begins with issue #3 (from above), and views everything else in metaphysics and epistemology through that lense. This is likely because Ayn Rand absolutely dominated every other philosophical thinker on that issue; on the issue of how we discover similarities between particular things in order to form universals or concepts in our minds. This was done in her theory of 'concept formation' which gives a remarkable account and defense of how we form various concepts based on sense perception.

Rather than believing that man discovers universals by mystical intuition or remembrance of past life experiences, Ayn Rand held that man discovers universal attributes and forms concepts through a process of abstraction (this theory is detailed in her 'Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology'). Thus, her theory of Issue #3 from above; her theory of discovering universals and forming concepts is rationally superior to that of Plato, Aristotle, and many others, who believed that universals were discovered in some way apart from reason. 

However, as noted above, that issue of discovery is a very separate issue from the issue of whether or not universals are metaphysical -- or real (part of reality). Rand, Peikoff, and Objectivist thinkers in general have all confused this third issue of universal discovery and concept formation to be the end all and be all of the topic of universals in general -- when in reality, it is a mere sub-topic of the actual issue: whether or not universals are metaphysical. So Rand rejected realism based on non-essential ideas attributed to it -- and then, likely because of wanting to sound "pro-reality", she renamed that which she was denouncing: changing 'realism' to 'intrinsicism'. Since traditional realists (or 'intrisicists' to her) have been wrong on that third issue, Objectivists presume that realism is wrong in general -- without ever pausing to consider the alternatives or the implications. Believing themselves to have 'solved the problem' between realism and nominalism, they have really just taken positions on both sides in the attempt to have some sort of third option -- but there is no third option.

Real or Not: There is No Alternative

Rand's theory of concept formation was great at describing how we discover similarities between things -- but notice that it is about discovering something (i.e similarity) in reality. Regardless of how we discover them (and I think Rand is right about how we do), are the similarities between a Golden Retriever and a German Shepherd real or not? Are those attributes of dogs which make them dogs and not caterpillars, real or not? If they are real, then they objectively are - apart from any subjective discovery of them. If they are not real, then there is no objective basis for our classification of them into such categories.

In OPAR (Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand), on page 143, Peikoff criticizes nominalism because, in it "there is no metaphysical basis for classification". Well, does Objectivism hold that there is a metaphysical basis for classification or not? If yes, welcome to realism! If no, welcome to nominalism. But those are the only two options. Either attributes like 'redness', 'man-ness', 'dog-ness', 'table-ness', etc... are objectively part of metaphysical reality, or they are subjective figments of our imaginations. Either reality is what is is "in itself", apart from any subject, or reality is not objective at all. The 'Objectivist' cannot have it both ways here. Either universals are real (i.e. objective ), or they are not real (i.e. subjective ). There is no third option.

No amount of changing the subject (by focusing on issue #3 from above), and no amount of fear about what the answer to issue #2 might be (the Objectivists is naturally afraid of the idea of non-physical reality) will change the fact that objectivity demands metaphysical realism. And now the Objectivist will have to choose: Will he embrace metaphysical realism as the only metaphysical foundation for an objective worldview, or will he - for the sake of protecting sacred cows in his worldview - forsake objectivity altogether and dive headlong into nominalism. Consciously or sub-consciously, everyone will do either one or the other. Which will you do?

ATHENSVJERUSALEM

"What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?"

-Tertullian

In its modern usage, this quote means: "What does Philosophy have to do with Scripture?" "What does reason have to do with Christianity?" "What does objective reality have to do with God and His people?" The answer:... Everything.

Why the Dichotomy?

What is it that makes Christians think that there is some sort of necessary dichotomy between these things? If objective reality has nothing to do with God, then God is not objectively real. If reason (i.e. truth) has nothing to do with Christianity, then Christianity is not true. If Philosophy (i.e. foundational ideas about reality) has nothing to do with Scripture, then Scripture has nothing to do with reality. If Athens has nothing to do with Jerusalem, then Jerusalem is just a Middle-Eastern version of the North Pole.

If you really want to know why so many force such a dichotomy, you need only to listen to their repetitive bromides: "You can't build a ladder of reason to God", "We shouldn't attempt autonomous reason, independent from God", "We should follow God's Word, not 'Greek speculative thinking'", etc... All of this assumes that reason or knowledge which does not come from Scripture is necessarily not knowledge revealed by God; that the attempt to obtain any knowledge about God outside of Scripture is the attempt to "autonomously" reason our way to God; that 'secular' knowledge (knowledge discovered by non-Christians, like in Athens -- or discovered outside of Scripture) is second-class truth, at best - and "mere speculation" at worst. But where does this assumption -- that God's revelation of Himself, and knowledge about Him, is exclusively contained in Scripture -- come from? Certainly not the Bible!

"because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse."

-Romans 1:19-20

Notice first, where this knowledge about God outside of Scripture is coming from: it is coming from God. "He made it evident to them".

"The heavens declare the glory of God; and their expanse is telling of the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words where their voice is not heard. Their sound has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world"

-Psalm 19:1-4

Who created the heavens and causes them to do all of this proclaiming, speech, and revelation? Not man, God.

So, this "autonomous reason"; this knowledge of God outside of Scripture; where is it coming from: from God or from man? The verses above make the answer crystal clear: God is revealing Himself outside of Scripture -- which means that this knowledge outside of Scripture is also revelation. It is what theologians refer to as "General Revelation".

General and Specific Revelation

General Revelation refers to any true knowledge of God outside of Scripture, and Specific Revelation refers to true knowledge of God which is contained in Scripture. General Revelation is general, primarily in respect to its audience (everyone) and its content (knowledge about God's existence, essence and attributes). Specific Revelation is likewise specific, primarily in respect to its audience (the Church) and its content (many particular details about God's relationship to His people and His dealings with the world). Notice that both are revelation.

 At this point, the insecure Christian may concede that both are revelation, but he is hasty to insist that, in the event of any disagreement between the two, Scripture (or Specific Revelation) should always be given the priority over Philosophy (or General Revelation), "because it is more clear", he might say.

But I would suggest that there is a fundamental confusion in this mind-set which must be dealt with, and it has to do with a failure to distinguish between the object and the subject. "Disagreement between the two" -- two what? Disagreement between God's various means of revealing Himself (the object)? OR, disagreement between someone's particular understanding (subject) of what God has revealed in the two?

You had better not mean the former - that would imply that God is contradicting Himself in His revelation. If you mean the latter, then the question should not be "whose opinion should we go with: the pastor or the philosopher?" -- that is wildly subjective and evil. The questions should be "which position (if either) is true -- and what mistakes have been made in the other position to give rise to this disagreement?"

The Pastor vs. The Philosopher

For example: If a pastor is quoting Hebrews and claiming that faith should replace reason, and a philosopher is explaining that faith cannot lead to truth - only reason can, your first instinct should not be to side with the pastor (or the philosopher, for that matter). Remember, God is revealing truth both in and out of Scripture -- and no one person is guaranteed to get it right, in either case! So, your first instinct, rather, should be to ask "which is objectively true?" [Now, to answer that, you will need to have a pretty good idea of what truth is, and how to identify it (i.e. epistemology) - but that is a separate topic.] Once you've determined which is objectively true (in this case, the philosopher), then you can move on to question what mistake the pastor might have made which brought him to his error. [For the answer on what mistake the pastor has made regarding faith in this instance, see my post: Faith: The Fruit of Reason]

The point is that the object, God's revelation of Himself (no matter the form) is not the same as the subject's understanding of that revelation. Therefore, we should permit no disagreement between the different forms of God's revelation, because God does not contradict Himself. If we think there is a disagreement, the problem is with us, and our current understanding of it -- not with God and either of His forms of revelation.

One Final Point

There is much else which needs to be said on this topic (including an explanation of how both forms of revelation hold different sorts of priority over each other), but that will have to wait. However, there is one thing which must be grasped from the above.

The Christian (and particularly the Pastor and the Theologian) is concerned with knowing all of God's truth accurately, and glorifying Him to the max with all that He is revealing about Himself. Therefore, though there can be many non-Christian philosophers, there should not be many (if any) non-philosophic Christians. The degree to which a Christian is dealing with and spreading ideas about God is the degree to which he must be dedicated to accurately understanding all of the ideas being revealed about God, in both forms of revelation. How will one exult in the glory of God as revealed in Scripture if he is not convinced that God exists outside of Scripture? How will one trust a particular promise of God in Scripture without being convinced of the absolute impossibility of God to contradict Himself outside of Scripture? How can the God of Scripture be fully enjoyed apart from a full understanding of His "invisible attributes, eternal power, and His divine nature" as revealed certainly outside of Scripture? How can Jerusalem (the Church) enjoy and glorify God in everything, if they exclude Athens (the rest of reality) from that enjoyment and that glory?

Related Posts & Pages

There is No Such Thing as Scripture "Apart" From Philosophy

The "Christian" Fairytale

Epistemology

The Christian Intellectual

 

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2+2=4

It is imperative to remember that the goal in epistemology is to properly identify objective truth criteria. "Truth criteria" which can only pertain to an individual's subjective experience is of very little value in attempting to know and understand the objective nature of reality. Mistaking one for the other makes a very profound difference -- it is ultimately the difference between objective rationality and functional solipsism.

If certain knowledge is only obtainable through empirical means - i.e. by means of perceptual observation; i.e. by means of personal experience - then "certain knowledge" is reduced to subjective knowledge, and there is no objectivity to speak of. I can not perceive your perception - and neither can you perceive mine. Your "truth" is entirely built upon your own subjective perception - to which I have no access. And vice-versa. Everyone has their own (subjective) truth, but there is no access to truth which transcends personal experience; no access to truth which transcends individual perception; no access to objective truth.

Of course, adherents to this doctrine can (and must) make exceptions in order to play in the world of objectivity -- but they are exceptions; exceptions which necessarily step outside of this doctrine in order to borrow from an other, more rational, more objective epistemological principle: Logical Necessity.

Logical necessity grants to the realm of empirical observation, perception and experience that element which is necessary to break free from the tyranny of the subjective, into the world of objectivity: logic - and with it, objective identity.

Of course, peddlers of various forms of empiricism can also believe in logic and identity - but not consistently. Only as exceptions. They can believe that "A is A" regarding everything which they have perceived, but according to their epistemological principles, there is no way to know that it is true about that which they have not perceived - it can be (and is) assumed - but it certainly cannot be certain. Therefore, to them, the "law" of identity is not so much a law which is and must be true about everything in reality. It's more of a general rule about everything that they have experienced, and it's assumed to be true about everything else.  2+2 equals 4, not because it must, but because we've never experienced an instance of 2+2 equaling anything else -- it could equal 5 somewhere in the universe, or with some object which we have yet to discover. Contradictions don't exist - but not because they can't. Rather, it is because we simply haven't found any. There could be contradictions out there that we simply haven't observed yet. Thus, there are no laws - whether mathematical or logical. Only pragmatic generalizations. Such is the end of that doctrine which attempts to skirt around logical necessity.

The alternative: accepting that there are some things which are simply true whether we have experienced them or not (i.e. accepting objective truth!) "How do we know that such things are true though, if we don't experience them!?". You think. You think about reality, consider alternatives, and realize that sometimes, there is only one option. For instance, you think about the question of contradictions. You consider the alternativses: either contradictions exist or they don't. You realize (hopefully) that the former idea is, itself, contradictory and ultimately destructive to all knowledge, truth, reality and life; that if it is true, then it is false; that it cannot be true. Therefore, the only other alternative - that contradictions do not exist - is necessarily true. It must be.

Notice that I am not claiming that this thought process makes these things true. I am claiming that this thought process is the method (the only method) of discovering these things to be true. The law of identity is universally true about all of reality. It always has been and always will be - and it always would have been even if none of us ever knew about it. My thought process in discovering it no more "makes it true" or "creates it into reality" than the scientist's perception in discovering a new bacteria "makes it true" or "creates the bacteria into reality". This is not "primacy of consciousness" as Objectivists are in the habit of claiming. This is simply another form of discovery - performed by the mind rather than the senses; a form of truth criteria which is analytical rather than empirical.

Apart from this form of truth criteria, the modern empiricist (regardless of the name he wishes to go by) is stuck in his own subjective fairytales. The key - the only key - to accessing the realm of objectivity is to understand that we know some thing to be true simply because of the fact that they must be true - they are logically necessary.

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In my last post, I spoke of an epistemological category called “Logical Necessity”, and suggested that it being missed or downplayed in philosophical circles has led to the downfall of many epistemological systems. As a quick refresher, epistemology is the branch of philosophy which studies truth criteria; it aims to study the nature of truth and to identify the proper criteria for judging particular ideas as either true or false. In a way, epistemology is thinking about your thinking; analyzing your process of analysis - to be sure that your analysis is as accurate as possible.

Think about that for just a moment: Any method of analysis must, itself, be accurate. If you attempt to use a faulty method of analysis, the conclusions of your analysis will always be skewed. Epistemology is the most general method of analysis; it analyzes, shapes and defines every other method of analysis (science, history, morality, etc..) because it analyzes and identifies the nature of the thing which all of those others depend upon: truth. Notice, though, that epistemology is, itself, a method of analysis -- in fact, it is the method of analysis. Imagine the ideological (and therefore practical) destruction which might ensue if one’s epistemological principles were not accurate. Nothing else in one’s thought world (and therefore in one’s life) could be certain, accurate, or fully in tune with objective reality. Hopefully you are not only beginning to see the significance of epistemology, but also the grave importance of ensuring that you have an accurate epistemology - an accurate method of defining and identifying truth.

And that is where epistemology must be turned in on itself, so to speak. One’s epistemological principles must, themselves, be analyzed for accuracy. How is an epistemological principle determined to be accurate or not? We will begin to touch on that in the next post, however in this post, I want to point out what should be obvious: that one’s epistemological principles ought to at least stand up to their own criteria. I want to encourage everyone to get into the habit of testing epistemological principles by first asking “does that principle at least stand up to its own standards? If we apply that standard to to the principle, itself, does it stand or fall?” If an epistemological principle cannot even stand up to its own demands, then how on earth could it possibly be used accurately as a standard for all other truth? The answer: it can’t. Going through this simple process will automatically eliminate a whole host of epistemological errors and free you from years of unnecessary confusion.

Why do I bring this up in talking about logical necessity? Because every epistemological system which attempts to deny logical necessity fails to stand up to its own professed criteria. Here are a few examples:

1) “Only that which is falsifiable can be considered true”. Is that proposition falsifiable? Can you falsify the idea that all truth is falsifiable?

2) “Only that which is empirically observable can be considered true.” Is that proposition empirically observable? Can you empirically observe all truth being empirically observable?

3) “Only that which is reducible to perception can be considered true.” Is that proposition reducible to perception? Can you reduce “all truth being reducible to perception” to perception?

Notice the important qualifiers in each of these: they are claiming to apply to all ideas  or to all truth (which means that they must obviously apply to themselves as well). If one wished to say “some truth is falsifiable”, or “those things which are empirically observable can be considered true”, or “most truth is reducible to perception”, then there would be no inherent contradiction, and one could use further means of establishing the accuracy of these principles. But as it is, all of them fall immediately under the weight of their own demands - and are therefore unfit principles for universally judging all other ideas.

Ironically, though, these self-contradicting principles reign supremely in most of what is considered to be the “rational” and “academic” circles of our day. You will find very few legitimate intellectual institutions today which do not operate primarily off of one (or more) of the above epistemological assumptions (or some variant thereof)  - totally ignorant of the fact that their entire worldview is founded on a glaring contradiction.

How did principles which appear to be so obviously contradictory become so popularly championed among apparent intellectual authorities? Well, charitably, a lot of it is likely oversight: many just don’t think to ask such obvious questions, like “does this supposed all-encompassing principle meet its own standards?”. But that amount of charity cannot be extended to all. There are many who should have (and likely did) know to ask such questions, but refused to - for fear that some very uncomfortable ideas might be let into the room. Ideas like theism. And ultimately, you will find that the dogmatic insistence with which many so stubbornly hold to such epistemological principles (one’s which discard or deny logical necessity) is rooted in a deep-seated desperation to ban any form of theism as inherently irrational. In other words, many of today’s supposed champions of rationality are often consumed and driven by the very emotional (i.e. non-rational) need for reality to be God-less. They know (even if subconsciously) that to allow for logical necessity is to allow for theism - and that, above all, must be avoided.
Stay tuned for a reasoned defense of logical necessity.

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...Because there is no such thing as Scripture apart from reality.

“Keep philosophy out of Scripture. Scripture is the authoritative Word of God - philosophy is just the opinions of man. Just tell me what the Bible says - apart from Greek speculative categories”.

If you're a Christian in today's world - or if you've had any significant conversation with Christians in today's world - you may recognize some of that sort of language. To the modern Christian, it's the epitome of piety. To the Objectivist,  it's  the beginnings of a mystical fairy tale -- and the Objectivist is right.

The modern Christian's anti-philosophical demands are horribly wrong-headed, and based upon a number of defunct philosophical assumptions. But, this is just a single blog post, so we can't get into all of that here. All of the details and inevitable objections regarding this issue could fill an entire book - and may well some day! 😉 But for now, I simply give you a brief breakdown of what Scripture and philosophy actually are, in order to better understand how they should properly relate to each other.

What is Philosophy?

Philosophy is the study of the most fundamental aspects of reality - aspects which contain everything else in reality. I know that it is fashionable today to speak of philosophy in a very subjective manner, as though one’s philosophical beliefs are no different than their dessert preferences, but that is not what philosophy properly means, and that certainly is not what I mean. Philosophy is properly comprised of three fundamental categories: Metaphysics, Epistemology, and Ethics. In layman’s terms, this means everything that exists - including the natures of those things which exist (Metaphysics), the nature of truth and how we can know it (Epistemology), and the nature morality (Ethics). In short, philosophy studies the most general aspects of all of reality. There is nothing in reality which falls outside of the realm of philosophy. To demand that something be “apart from philosophy” is to demand that it be apart from reality, reason, and morality - and if something is apart from those three, then it is against those three. Something “apart from philosophy” would be unreal, irrational, and immoral. Such is the end - whether intended or not - of the supposedly pious Christians above when they attempt to divorce Scripture from philosophy.

What is Scripture?

Scripture is communication from God with very specific details about reality, with a very specific overall message and purpose, given in the midst of very specific contexts, and with very specific theological aims. In the same way that Scripture deals with historical and scientific details, and yet it is not meant to be an exhaustive historical or scientific textbook - so also Scripture deals with many philosophical ideas and yet is not meant to be an exhaustive philosophical treatise. Scripture is not meant to be a substitute for all knowledge (whether historical, scientific, or philosophical), and therefore it is not necessary to set up an artificial dichotomy between Scripture and all other knowledge. Further, because Scripture deals with many historic, scientific, and philosophical concepts, it is absolutely detrimental to the study of Scripture for one not to properly study other general areas of knowledge in concert with Scripture, where relevant. And because, as explained above, philosophy is foundational to all major aspects of reality, the study of philosophy is always relevant to the study of Scripture -- if you believe that Scripture actually pertains to reality.

That is your choice, “pious” Christians: Scripture has nothing to do with reality or Scripture is to be studied in concert with philosophy (i.e. the study of general reality). One or the other.

Related Posts: 

The "Christian" Fairytale

Jesus Christ AND Ayn Rand?

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The debate between Objectivist philosopher, Andrew Bernstein, and Christian Apologist, Dinesh D’Souza, which was hosted by The Objective Standard and The University of Texas Objectivism Society, held at the University of Texas in Austin on February 8th, was indeed a historical event. It was the first (and hopefully not the last) time that a major intellectual in Objectivism went toe-to-toe with an influential figure in Christianity. As the first of what is hopefully to be many such encounters, this event proved to unearth some important issues which must be addressed by both sides if either wishes to move forward in “being good for mankind”.

The Wrong Topic

That was the topic of the debate: “Christianity, Good or Bad for Mankind?” The discerning reader will notice right off the bat that such a topic is logically premature. You cannot have a reasonable debate over the morality of a worldview without first establishing the reality of that worldview. In other words, you cannot legitimately discuss whether Christianity is good without first discussing whether it is true. Morality comes from reality – and never the other way around. If Christianity is true, it will be good - and if it is false, it will be bad. As I’ve said before, “If Christianity is false, then it should be wiped from the face of the earth. If it is true, then it should be spread over the face of the earth. Such is the nature of ideas. They are either false and evil or true and glorious. There is no in-between.”

It is no wonder, then, that while the two debaters did cite some historical and modern statistics about relatively “good” or “bad” things which have been associated with Christianity, they spent a larger amount of time debating the truthfulness or rationality of Christianity. Such a topic would have been more appropriate for the debate to begin with, but in spite of the poorly chosen topic, they did get around – rather quickly – to the more fundamental issues. And it is those fundamental issues which I wish to cover in this review, because those are the essential issues which must be properly grasped by both sides if either wishes to be any good for mankind.

The Right Topic

In his opening statement, Dr. Bernstein touched on one of the most (if not the most) essential issues of the entire debate; and in doing so, issued a solemn indictment against - and warning to - modern Christianity. The issue, though not explicitly named by him at the time, was that of epistemology (truth criteria). The indictment: modern Christianity has no objective truth criteria. The warning: in such a void, anything goes. To the extent that modern Christians base their Christianity (or anything else for that matter) in “faith” rather than reason, they declare that there are no objective standards for determining truth. And if there are no objective standards for truth, there can be no objective standards for morality. And if there are no objective standards for morality, then anything goes. Such is the inevitable conclusion of faith-based “knowledge”.

Bernstein, therefore, is absolutely correct when he says that such conceptions of Christianity “set the stage” for all kinds of evil in the Twentieth Century, by promoting the irrationality of subjectivism – of holding to ideas, not by reason, but by “faith”; not because of the ideas’ connections to reality, but because of one’s mere desire for the ideas to be true. A worldview (whether Christian or other) which holds anything other than reason as the standard for belief, is a worldview begging to be consumed by irrationality; by corruption; by evil. When there is no objective (i.e. reasonable) standard for truth, there is no reason to condone one action, or to condemn another. A priest may say he’s been called by God to donate to a charity, or he may say that he’s been called by God to slaughter children. If “faith” is the only connection to God (i.e. the only way to know anything about Him), then the priest’s “faith” in the calling to charity, and his “faith” in the calling to homicide are equally unquestionable to the outside observer. You may claim to know that God is against such homicide, but if that claim is founded in nothing but your own personal “faith” (and faith is necessarily a personal – subjective – experience), then it’s your “faith” against his. And he’s a priest. You lose. There cannot be objective morality without objective epistemology – i.e. without objective truth criteria.

As epistemology goes, so goes morality. And that is the fundamental issue in this debate – and the fundamental issue which both Christians and Objectivists must focus on. Bernstein did a fantastic job pointing this out and thus challenging the audience to examine the errors in modern Christian epistemology, but he shouldn’t have stopped there. Bernstein, and Objectivists in general, would do well to check their own epistemological premises to ensure that they, themselves, are not likewise setting a similar stage for all kinds of irrationality and evil in future generations – I would argue that they are. More on that later, though. First, let us examine D’Souza’s presentation of his epistemology, identify the errors, and correct them accordingly.

D'Souza's (and the Modern Christian's) Blunders

We get an early glimpse of D’Souza’s epistemology in his opening statement when he describes faith as that which “goes where reason cannot”. To illustrate, he talks about the speed of light. We can measure the speed of light here and now, but we cannot measure the speed of light in the past or in distant galaxies. Therefore, the assumption that the speed of light is the same at all times and at all places cannot be based in reason. If we are going to believe that, D’Souza insists, we must believe it “by faith”. Notice quickly that D’Souza equates “reason” here with empirical observation or measurement. Whenever D’Souza speaks of reason, he means that which is empirically verified – and when he speaks of that which is not empirically verified, he calls it “faith”. Keep that in mind – it will be essential to understanding his epistemology.

Now, skip ahead to his second speaking session where he clarifies for us what he considers to be the distinction between knowledge and belief. “Knowledge” he says, “means you know. Belief means you don’t know, but you believe”. While these descriptions are circular on paper, their intended meaning is obvious in the context in which D’Souza brings them up. What he means is that knowledge is strictly that which can or has been empirically verified, and belief is in regard to everything which cannot be empirically verified. So, empirical observation (“reason” for D’Souza) gives us knowledge. Non-empirical ideas (“faith” for D’Souza) give us beliefs. The conclusion, therefore, is that no one can know anything about that which is not empirically verified. That is why D’Souza astonishingly says the following:

“Now we are in a university setting so we can stop talking nonsense, and ask the question ‘do we know for a fact that God exists or doesn’t exist on the basis of reason?’ I would concede we do not know…I call myself a believer because I am not a knower… I think we have to admit, if we are honest, that we have no answers to the most fundamental questions of existence.”

And now, we have come to the atrocious end of D’Souza’s epistemology. “To claim to know for a fact that God exists”, D’Souza (the theist!) declares, “is nonsense” – the type of nonsense which is not fit for a university setting. The rest of the quote is even worse, but focus in on the implications of that one part for a moment. D’Souza, here, condemns all theists (and therefore all Christians) to irrationality and nonsense – to the extent that they actually believe that what they believe is true. If a theist, like myself, claims to know for a fact that God exists (and I do), he is condemned by D’Souza as nonsensical – because knowledge only pertains to the empirically verified, and you can’t empirically verify God; which means that you can’t know that God exists; which means that if you believe that God exists, it must be apart from reason; which means that belief in God is no more significant than belief in a fairy-tale. Revealingly, D’Souza later confirms the fairy-tale nature of his beliefs when he attempts to justify Christianity to the audience, not on the grounds of its basis in reality, or its objective big-picture context good for Mankind, but on the grounds of the subjective, personal benefits which he derives from believing that it is true.

So, D’Souza, when taking his epistemology seriously, reduces Christianity to a “feel-good fairytale” or a moralistic fable – at best. But he doesn’t stop there. He not only denies the possibility of knowledge regarding the existence of God, but he also denies (as his epistemology requires him to) the possibility of knowledge regarding “most fundamental questions of existence” – which is no surprise. After all, the fundamental questions of existence cannot be empirically verified. But while we’re speaking of that which can’t be empirically verified, there’s one assumption which seems to have slipped through the cracks – the very assumption upon which his epistemology rests.

D’Souza’s epistemology states, in effect, that “You cannot know that an idea is true if that idea cannot be empirically verified”. But, that is an idea. It is an idea which D’Souza assumes to be true. And it is an idea which cannot be empirically verified. You cannot empirically observe “all truth being empirically observable”. This is the fundamental problem of empiricism. D’Souza adopted empiricism, which denies knowledge regarding the non-empirical, and then he simply said “that’s ok, because we’ve got faith for everything else”. Apparently he missed the memo about empiricism being inherently self-contradictory, and therefore fundamentally destructive as an epistemology.

Bernstein's (and the Objectivist's) Blunders

But D’Souza isn’t the only one who seems to have missed the memo. Bernstein dabbles in his own form of empiricism – the Objectivist form of it. No, Bernstein doesn’t go as far as D’Souza, claiming that knowledge only pertains to the empirically verified – Rand taught him better than that. Instead, he would likely claim – along with other Objectivist intellectuals – that all knowledge is based in the empirically verified (in perception). How does this resemble the empiricism of D’Souza? Well, before we dive into the similarities, it will be helpful to first note the important differences.

To be fair, Bernstein’s Objectivist empiricism is far less immediately destructive than D’Souza’s faith-based one. Whereas D’Souza outright denies the possibility of any knowledge outside of the empirical, Bernstein – as a subscriber to Objectivist epistemology – would at least allow some. He would cite the process of abstraction as that which allows some knowledge of the non-empirical: that we can abstract certain qualities from perception in order to discover universal laws which apply to that which has not been perceived. The most fundamental of these is logic: A is A; Contradictions don’t and can’t exist. This is a principle which Bernstein holds as a universal – a law which applies to everything – rather than strictly pertaining to the empirically observed. So, unlike D’Souza, Bernstein does allow knowledge of the non-empirical, but he is very selective about that which he allows and that which he does not. This is common among Objectivists, and it is due to a flaw in their epistemology to be explored a little later. But first, let’s look at some examples of Bernstein’s epistemological inconsistency as we analyze his major arguments against the existence of God.

There are three main arguments which Bernstein submits against theism. The first is on sound epistemological ground – it rightly allows and employs knowledge regarding the non-empirical – while the other two effectively revert back to D’Souza’s fundamental epistemology: that knowledge of the non-empirical in “nonsense”. Bernstein’s first argument against the existence of God is based in what he believes to be a violation of axiomatic truths on the part of theists. He states that existence exists; that existence is not, and cannot, ultimately be a product of consciousness; that existence holds a logical primacy over consciousness, because to be conscious means to be conscious of something – something which exists. In all of this he is absolutely correct. And notice, in this argument, that he is (rightly) claiming knowledge of the non-empirical: that these axiomatic truths apply to everything – even things which have not been perceived; which means that they must also apply to God. His epistemology and reasoning are absolutely accurate here. So what’s the problem? Recall his application of this reasoning to theism: God, he states, is a consciousness which precedes existence; a consciousness which could not be conscious of anything because nothing existed for it to be conscious of. God is a consciousness which is conscious of nothing but its own consciousness. This is plainly a contradiction, and therefore such a God could not exist. Case closed. Right? Wrong. There’s a flaw in this argument, but it isn’t a flaw in his epistemology; in his reasoning – it’s a flaw in his conception of theism.

Theism claims that God exists – and that He is conscious. Note the difference. God is not a “consciousness”. He is an existent which is conscious. Conscious of what? Of His own existence. God exists, and He is conscious of His own existence. This argument from Bernstein (and Objectivists in general) is nothing more than a straw-man which attempts to redefine the metaphysical nature of God into an inherent contradiction, and then impose that contradiction onto the position of the theist. It’s disappointing too, because as stated above, this is his only argument on sound epistemological ground. The other two fall very quickly because they share the same empiricism as that of D’Souza.

Bernstein’s last two arguments are very simple in nature. One states that the idea of consciousness without a body has no basis in evidence; that all of our knowledge of consciousness involves beings with physical bodies – and since God does not have a physical body, the idea that He could be conscious is completely unfounded. The other states that creation ex nihilo (from nothing) likewise has no basis in evidence; that all of our knowledge of creation involves a re-fashioning of already existent material – and therefore the idea of God creating everything out of nothing is also completely unfounded. Notice the similar reasoning between these two arguments. When boiled down to their essence, they both basically say “We’ve never experienced that, so it can’t be true”. This is where Bernstein’s Objectivist empiricism enters the picture. In his first argument, Bernstein correctly reasons that we can have certain knowledge about that which we have not experienced (via logical or axiomatic reasoning), but here in these two arguments, he assumes that something which is outside of our realm of experience is necessarily impossible. This is a selective sort of empiricism which the Objectivist only applies as it suits him.

Ironically, D’Souza, the avowed empiricist, calls Bernstein out on his form of empiricism here by noting that according to Bernstein’s reasoning, we “knew” with certainty in the 5th Century B.C. that no other stars or planets existed which could not be seen with the naked eye. This is a great demonstration of the problem in Bernstein’s Objectivist empiricism – unfortunately D’Souza’s faith-based empiricism is no better. Neither can legitimately and consistently justify knowledge of the non-empirical – of those facts which must be discovered through the use of logic. D’Souza reduces the application of logic to “faith” and consequently swings the door wide open for the logical and illogical at the same time – without any objective means of differentiating between the two. Bernstein (and Objectivists in general) allows the use of logic for non-empirical knowledge out of one side of his mouth when it suits him, but forbids it out of the other when it doesn’t – with no objective means of differentiating between when the use of logic is appropriate and when it is not.

To be fair, Bernstein, as an Objectivist, would likely cite some vague generalities about the use of logic being connected to, or based in, perception – but nowhere in Objectivist epistemology will you find clearly stated, objective clarification on what this “connection to perception” means, and does not mean; nowhere will you find clearly stated and objective rules regarding the use of logic which do not automatically contradict themselves - thus rendering the line between “proper” and “improper” use of logic completely arbitrary and subjective. Just as D’Souza’s form of empiricism relegates non-empirical truth to subjective whim via faith, Bernstein’s empiricism relegates non-empirical truth to subjective whim via inconsistent and un-stated criteria. Neither can provide an objective foundation for non-empirical truth.

Such is the fundamental problem which must be addressed, and remedied, by both parties: Christian and Objectivist alike. Both desperately need to recover a proper and rational epistemology – an epistemology which neither reduces logic to faith, nor vaguely obscures the necessary distinctions between its proper and improper applications. Both need to retrace their epistemological premises, and follow those premises to their logical conclusions in order to see the irrationality of them. Then, both need to discover and adopt objective, rational, epistemological foundations upon which to build an objective and rational worldview – which takes the entire world (all of reality) into account. Such epistemological foundations are possible – and they do demand the existence of God, but not just any God. They demand a God much like the one described in “Bernstein’s Wager.”

Bernstein's Wager

If God exists, Bernstein argues, He would value rationality, since He created man as a rational being. And since God would value rationality, only those who were completely rational would receive His blessing and be brought into Heaven. This is truer than Bernstein could imagine. Only, more than simply valuing rationality because of creating rational beings, God values rationality because He is supremely rational, Himself. He is not capable of irrationality, and therefore He has the highest standards of rationality for man. Now, if this supremely rational God exists, how does Bernstein imagine He would feel about men who claimed to be rational, while employing contradictory and evasive epistemologies? How would He feel about metaphysical moochers who assume His eternal attributes (logic, good, reason) when it suits them, but deny them when they do not? How would this supremely rational God feel about men who claimed to value truth regarding every other aspect of reality, but not regarding His existence and nature – which are foundational to the rest of reality? Yes, God is supremely rational and expects nothing less than supreme and consistent rationality from man. Therefore evasive reasoning, inconsistent epistemologies, subjective emphases and insincere claims about valuing the truth will not cut it in His court.

And that is what ultimately needs to be taken into account regarding what is good for Mankind. The Objectivist is right that what is rational will ultimately be good for Mankind – but the selective rationality of Objectivism will not cut it. What man needs (because of his nature and because of the nature of the God who created him) is absolute, consistent, objective, all-encompassing, relentless, and passionate rationality. D’Souza’s got the God-part (partially) right, but the importance and nature of reason atrociously wrong. Bernstein’s got the reason-part (partially) right, but the existence and nature of God atrociously wrong. Therefore, neither advocates a worldview which is actually and consistently good for Mankind. There needs to be a rational synthesis of the two, which integrates the good of each, while rejecting the irrationality of each; which embraces the supposed dedication to reason by Objectivists, while rejecting the subjective restrictions they place on reason; which embraces the rational theism of Christianity, while rejecting the modern irrationality of “faith-based” reasoning. It is such a synthesis which the reader will find progressively presented by The Christian Egoist.

Related Resources

For a proper understanding of faith and its relation to reason, see Faith: The Fruit of Reason

For more on Epistemology, see The Christian Egoist's page on Epistemology

For an argument for the existence of God founded in a rational epistemology, see God: The Immovable Mover

For a full presentation of this integrated worldview, be on the look-out for my book in the works, The Galt-Like God: Meditations of a Christian Egoist

And for more on proper epistemological principles, and details of an integrated and rational morality, stay tuned by subscribing to the blog and liking The Christian Egoist on Facebook.

8 Comments

Balance

Ayn Rand railed, with eloquent precision, against many modern evils in the realms of morality and politics. She was able to pierce through the “moral grayness” of our culture in order to see the heart - the principle - behind any moral issue, and then dismantle it with fierce and articulate moral clarity. But she failed to do in the realm of epistemology what she so stringently demanded (and marvelously provided) in the realm of morality: to clearly state one’s principles. Just as in the realm of morality, when epistemological principles are left undefined, the result is a type  of grayness - an intellectual grayness, which is potentially far more destructive than it’s moral counterpart. Epistemology is, in a sense, the court of the intellect - and as such, it requires clearly defined and understood laws which must be adhered to consistently in order to guide one’s worldview into conformity with reality. When left undefined, epistemological principles decay into arbitrary, contradictory and subjective reactions such that the result is an intellectual climate which resembles the political-economic climate under the Anti-Trust Laws which were so adequately denounced by Ms. Rand in the following quote:

The Antitrust laws—an unenforceable, uncompliable, unjudicable mess of contradictions—have for decades kept American businessmen under a silent, growing reign of terror. Yet these laws were created and, to this day, are upheld by the “conservatives,” as a grim monument to their lack of political philosophy, of economic knowledge and of any concern with principles. Under the Antitrust laws, a man becomes a criminal from the moment he goes into business, no matter what he does. For instance, if he charges prices which some bureaucrats judge as too high, he can be prosecuted for monopoly or for a successful “intent to monopolize”; if he charges prices lower than those of his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “unfair competition” or “restraint of trade”; and if he charges the same prices as his competitors, he can be prosecuted for “collusion” or “conspiracy.” There is only one difference in the legal treatment accorded to a criminal or to a businessman: the criminal’s rights are protected much more securely and objectively than the businessman’s.

Similarly, The Anti-Truth laws - an inarticulable, unintelligible, uncompliable mess of contradictions - are the un-named epistemological “laws” by which Objectivists operate - not on their worldview, but on the worldview or positions presented by those with whom they disagree. Under these Anti-Truth laws, a position becomes irrational from the moment it is conceived, no matter what it’s foundations. For instance, if it uses logic to an extent which some objectivists judge too much, it is dismissed as rationalism; if it uses abstraction to an extent which some objectivists deem too high, it is smeared as a “floating abstraction”. There is only one difference between positions which are accepted by Objectivists and those which are rejected on these auspicious epistemological grounds: the conformity (or nonconformity) of the position to the Objectivist’s subjective whim.

For all of the Objectivist’s talk of cutting edge innovations in the realm of epistemology, they are remarkably incapable of explicitly articulating (and then consistently following) their epistemological laws - which is why it is more appropriate to place Miss Rand’s innovations regarding concept formation in the realm of cognitive science rather than in the realm of epistemology. As argued in a previous post, epistemology is primarily truth criteria - meaning that epistemology primarily requires clearly defined and consistently followed laws. Suspend the need to explicitly state your epistemological laws and you can play it deuces wild - which is exactly what many Objectivists do.

Test this though. Ask an Objectivist to clearly and explicitly state their epistemological laws. Then, before checking to see if the rest of their worldview adheres to the laws, first check to see that the laws adhere to themselves. You will find, particularly with the “laws” which they wish to impose on Christian arguments, that they do not.

Stay tuned for examples of such self-contradictory laws as well as my articulation of proper epistemological laws.

5 Comments

Standard

Epistemology is simultaneously the most crucial aspect of Man’s thought, and the least understood. In contrast to Metaphysics and Ethics (the two other main branches of philosophy), Epistemology has received very little attention – and the little it has received has been deplorably less than sufficient. Needless to say, therefore, there is much work to be done in this field. Almost all errors in epistemological theory stem from one crucial mistake – a mistake in accurately identifying what Epistemology is.

Generally, the three branches of philosophy are presented in the following basic fashion:

Metaphysics is the study of reality. Epistemology is the study of how we know reality. And Ethics is the study of the proper implications of the first two upon the life of Man.

Now, focus in on the description of Epistemology and see if you notice a dangerous sort of ambiguity. When asking “How do you know?”, there are two very different questions you could be asking – and if you fail to distinguish between those two different questions (as almost all philosophers have), you will consequently fail to distinguish between the two different answers. You could be asking “How did you discover that?” or you could be asking “How does one know that it is true?” Granted, many times these two questions (and their respective answers) could be very closely related, but not always – and that is where the trouble comes in.

Let us break these questions down in order to see the importance of their differences. The first – ‘How did you discover that?’ – emphasizes the subject (‘you’, in particular), and the subject’s experience (discovery). The second – ‘How does one know that it is true?’ – emphasizes the object (‘it’ – whatever it may be) in relation to all subjects in general (‘how does one’ rather than ‘how did you’), and the grounds upon which it is considered to be true (‘that it is true’). So the first is focused on one person’s subjective (though not entirely irrelevant) experience of the object, while the second is focused on the object and the way in which any given subject can know that it is true. That is a pretty radical difference to gloss over. Can you see, now, the chaos that could (and does) result from failing to make this crucial distinction? Without consciously making this distinction, one could confuse one’s own subjective experience of a thing with the objective ground for the truthfulness of that thing. Such is the confusion in most philosophical systems – including Objectivism.

To flesh this out, let’s look at an example:

-A child learns the ABC’s from his parents. Then he learns to count from his parents. Then he learns a plethora of other things – also from his parents. If this child were to consistently confuse his own subjective experience for the objective grounds for believing something, he would conclude that the primary test for whether an idea is true or false is whether or not his parent’s have taught it to him. Obviously, he would be mistaken. Even if everything his parents had ever told him was true, the fact that they taught it to him is not the proper objective ground for believing that it is true.

And that – the objective ground for belief – is the proper aim of Epistemology. The other – a person’s subjective experience in developing that belief – is more appropriately the subject matter for the Cognitive Sciences.  It is not descriptions of subjective experiences and personal discoveries that Man needs in order to guide his worldview, but objective criteria (grounds for belief) with which he may accurately judge between the true and the false.

This, recognizing the crucial need for objective truth criteria, regardless of subjective experience, is the first - but not the only - step that needs to be taken in establishing rational epistemological principles with which Man can accurately and consistently discover the truth.

Look for future posts on Epistemology covering examples of proper truth criteria as well as further coverage on faulty epistemological assumptions in Objectivism and other philosophies. 

7 Comments

The media is abuzz about a “schism” in the Republican Party, a “crisis of values” among Conservatives. But, the media – and unfortunately those responding to it – are all too superficial to see that this is more than a political schism; much more. The political aspect is just a faint echo – a tremor, which serves as a precursor to the massive coming earthquake. It is not a political crisis, but a philosophical one. It is not a crisis of conflicting opinions among groups. It is a crisis of conflicting worldviews within individuals. It is a crisis in the deepest part of one’s soul; a crisis of cognitive dissonance run rampant in the minds of men, a war between ideals – and the opposing ideals are not what the headlines would lead you to believe:

Take a Stand Against Rand” says Christian author, Marvin Olasky in World Magazine.

Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ? Conservatives can’t have it both ways” says Mike Lux of the Huffington Post.

You Can’t Reconcile Ayn Rand and Jesus” says CNN Contributor and Professor of Religion at Boston University, Stephan Plethero  in a USA Today Forum.

Christians Must Choose: Ayn Rand or Jesus” reads a headline for the American Values Network.

There is a choice to be made, but it isn’t between Jesus Christ and Ayn Rand. It’s between reason and irrationality; between reality and fantasy; between the objective and the subjective; between truth and fairytales. And it is a choice that primarily needs to be made by Christians.

The political and religious commentators above are quick to blindly pit Christianity against the philosophy of Ayn Rand and then proceed to wholly denounce one in favor of the other as if the two are some random opposing sports teams behind which the masses are to gather according their personal and subjective preferences. They drop, or entirely ignore, the context and the nature of what is being discussed. These are not sports teams – they are worldviews; ideas about reality. And the context is not a popularity contest – it is reality. We are in reality and we are speaking of different views of that reality. Any given aspect of a view of reality will either be accurate or not: true or false. And this, the accuracy of a worldview (or aspects of it) is what matters in the context of reality.

The question to be asked first is not: Are the worldviews of Christianity and Objectivism (Ayn Rand’s philosophy) compatible? Rather it is: What is true? Or, more specific to the context of this discussion: Is there any truth in Christianity or in Objectivism? And here is where the Christian must make the crucial choice mentioned above: will he be an advocate of reason, rationality, and objective truth by objectively assessing the truthfulness of his conceptions of Christianity (and willingly rejecting that which is found to be untrue), or will he be an advocate of irrationality, fantasy, and subjective fairytales by insisting that Christianity is true without any objective reason for believing so – that it’s true merely because he wants it to be.

This – devotion to truth, regardless of the implications – is the foundational and indispensible first step that any man who wishes to be worthy of the title of “Man” must take. Apart from this first step, every thought and crafty sentence, every argument and concept of “proof”, every illusion of truth in one’s head is just that: an illusion – a fleeting and floating cloud of subjective, emotionally charged nothingness. And, therefore, apart from this step, every critique of other worldviews and every bit of “intellectual” commentary is massively pointless and absurd – akin to a child babbling about his dreams to a board of directors in a business meeting. Such is the majority of content of the articles above.

However, once one has taken that first step and decided to live for and love the truth no matter where it may lead, then – and only then – is he fit (assuming he is armed with a proper epistemology) to evaluate the truthfulness, not only of various conceptions of Christianity, but of all ideas, period. Then, he is fit to discover all of the truth – no matter where it came from and no matter where it leads. Then, he will be capable of rising above the stupid and trite ‘sports game’ demonstrated in the above articles and throughout the media, in order to see what is and is not true in the philosophy of Ayn Rand, and to properly integrate it with all other truth which he has discovered, particularly truth about Christianity. Then, rather than emulate the intellectual cowardice of the Seminary professor who told  Dr. John Piper that “[Ayn Rand’s writing] is incredibly dangerous”, he will be able to emulate Paul’s description of an intellectual hero – a  ‘spiritual man who appraises all things’ (1 Cor 2:15) because he will have an objective standard against which to appraise all things. Then, he will be equipped to say with Paul “we destroy speculations and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and we take every thought captive to obey Christ “(2 Cor. 10:5) because he will no longer be running from speculations and lofty opinions or retreating to his own personal fantasy-land which he calls “truth”.

This is what is desperately needed on the part of Christians today (and on the part of every man in general). This is not the only step which needs to be taken, but it is the first. This is what I have done, and am eager to continually do. And this first step – together with the path to which it leads – is why I can very comfortably and confidently say that I love Jesus Christ and I love Ayn Rand – and, I love myself. This is the foundational reason that, in spite of massively popular contrary opinions, I can very seriously – and with full conviction – call myself a Christian egoist.