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Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology: Expanded Second Edition Paperback – April 26, 1990

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; 2 Expanded edition (April 26, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452010306
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452010307
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #175,138 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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123 of 136 people found the following review helpful By J. Fulton on December 23, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is precisely what the title states. It is an "introduction" and as such is the gateway to Rand's theory of knowledge by way of her theory of concepts. Human knowledge is conceptual knowledge and Rand validates the objectivity of concepts by explaining, from the ground up, the method by which they are formed in the mind. The points she makes which seem misguided and arbitrary are cleared up in subsequent re-readings as long as the reader keeps in mind that once she defines a term, she does not deviate from its meaning. For most of us who are generally unsure about specific definitions of terms and rely on our feelings to give meaning to the words we read, discipline is required. For those who start with an axe to grind based on their disagreements with Rand's political philosophy, deliberate mis-interpretations of terms generally abound (as can be seen in most of the on-line reviews.) One such example is the damning of Rand over her claim to have solved the problem of "universals". In this context, this problem refers to the issue of the relationship between concepts and their perceptual referents; the HISTORICAL problem of universals. It is unfortunately too common to find those who are willing to drop this necessary context and argue against the Objectivist claim based on various meanings of the term universal, few of which are relevant to the issue at hand.
It is amusing to read disagreements of the Objectivist theory of concepts which are addressed and cleared up in the appendix. The appendix of the second edition of I to OE really is amazing. It is simply transcripts of round table discussions of professors who had read the original text presenting their questions and objections on finer points of epistemology.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By M. Peterson on August 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is the clearest exposition of the most important problem in epistemology: the problem of universals. Most philosophers have believed that the meaning of concepts are not derived from sense perception. The Platonists and religious philosophers such as Augustine believe that concepts come from pre-existing forms, which are revelations from the highest form God. The Sophists, nominalists, and other secular philosophers such as Kant believe concepts are inventions of the mind and do not correspond to reality. Rand argues persuasively that a concept (or universal) is not synonymous with its definition, but an organization of an entire class of existents, our defintion of it changing as we learn more about the similarities of this class. For instance, the concept of "atom" has changed a lot from the Ancient Greeks through Dalton to the present day; but this change in defintion was not arbitrary. The scientists were responding to their observations, and the more they learned about atoms, the more they were obliged to change the definition of atom in accordance with their new understanding. Rand recognizes her debt to Aristotle in epistemology, but also points out flaws in Aristotle's theory of universals, and how these flaws were relentlessly exposed by philosophers eager to attack reason and promote faith, brute feeling, and other forms of irrationality. Most philosophy in the modern period is very abstruse, obscure, and incoherent; this book, by contrast, presents the issue very clearly.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
Philosophy has traditionally (since the nineteenth century) been the province of "intellectuals", religious Pooh-Bahs and the like who seem to derive some sort of perverse pleasure out of constructing riddles out of real-world moral and ethical questions. As Rand herself put it,

"The men who are not interested in philosophy need it most urgently: they are most helplessly in its power. The men who are not interested in philosophy absorb its principles from the cultural atmosphere around them from schools, colleges, books, magazines, newspapers, movies, television, etc. Who sets the tone of a culture? A small handful of men: the philosophers. Others follow their lead, either by conviction or by default."

This book explains the fundamentals of Objectivism it's shared roots (Aristotle's) and it's opposition (Mysticism, Kant, etc.). It's not an easy read, but the author doesn't talk down to the reader and it is readily understandable by someone with a high-school education.

I wouldn't recommend this book for folks who are new to philosophy as it requires some background knowledge. For this I would recommend Rand's wonderful introduction (to philosophy in general and Objectivism specifically) entitled "Philosophy, Who Needs It?"
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 22, 1999
Format: Paperback
Of all Ayn Rand's own expository works that I've yet read, this is the most well-organized. As always, she treats the subject matter with a level of lucidity that I only came to fully appreciate after reading the works of other philosophers. The degree of precision -- and concision -- with which she treats every important topic is simply astounding. Her ability to isolate the essentials of any issue is displayed brilliantly in this book. Her theory of concepts, and her entire philosophy, is groundbreaking.
There are those who would detract from her towering achievement based on the questionable behavior of a few of her "followers"; however, the behavior of individuals has no bearing on the validity of her ideas. I highly recommend this book.
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