Monday, August 29, 2011

Happiness Is A State Of Noncontradictory Joy

Dr. Peikoff on happiness:

"Happiness," writes Ayn Rand, in an important elaboration of her definition,

is a state of noncontradictory joy—a joy without penalty or guilt, a joy that does not clash with any of your values and does not work for your own destruction, not the joy of escaping from your mind, but of using your mind's fullest power, not the joy of faking reality, but of achieving values that are real, not the joy of a drunkard, but of a producer.

Since joy of this kind involves the achievement of values, it demands values (as against whims); a passion to attain goals one is convinced are right (as against uncertainty about goals that are arbitrary); in a word, purpose (as against drifting). The rational man fulfills this requirement. The irrational man does not. Qua irrationalist, what moves him is not the quest for positives, but the avoidance of negatives. In psychological terms, he exhibits not healthy self-assertion, but neurotic defensiveness. In Ayn Rand's words, he exemplifies not "motivation by love," but "motivation by fear."

"Love" in this context means the desire to gain and enjoy a value; "fear" means the desire to escape a disvalue. The distinction pertains to a man's primary motive in a given undertaking. As examples: the man who struggles to create something new in his work (and who may, as part of the process, have to fight many obstacles placed in his path) vs. the man who wants primarily not to get blamed by the boss or fired—the man who seeks a passionate romance with a kindred spirit vs. the man who sleeps with anyone because what he wants is not to be left alone—the man who tends to his health in order to be free to live and act vs. the hypochondriac obsessed with not being sick—the man who turns to Rachmaninoff for melody and inspiration vs. the man who turns to Schonberg in order not to be passé and not to be too awake—the presidential candidate who has something to say in a TV debate, who wants to make a case to the country and win the argument vs. the candidate who wants only not to make any mistakes onscreen and not to lose.

In one sense, both the above types of men are "purposive"; both are "after something." They are not both "purposive" in the moral sense, however, because morality is a means to survival, and the goal of life, as Ayn Rand points out, cannot be attained by the zero-seeking method:

. . . achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. Joy is not "the absence of pain," intelligence is not "the absence of stupidity," light is not "the absence of darkness," an entity is not "the absence of a nonentity." Building is not done by abstaining from demolition; centuries of sitting and waiting in such abstinence will not raise one single girder for you to abstain from demolishing .... Existence is not a negation of negatives. Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation ....

Happiness is not an absence, either; nor is it some guilty pleasures that serve merely to lessen anxiety. It is not what you feel when you stop beating your head against a wall. It is what you feel when you refuse ever to engage in such beating, when you esteem and protect your head as a matter of principle. Happiness, the reward of life, is an aspect of life. It too requires values, not merely avoidance; and, therefore, a functioning mind.

Just as man cannot achieve self-preservation arbitrarily, but only by the method of reason, so he cannot achieve happiness arbitrarily, but only by the same method. The method is the same because self-preservation and happiness are not separate issues. They are one indivisible fact looked at from two aspects: external action and internal consequence; or biological cause and psychological effect; or existence and consciousness.

Dr. Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand", p. 338-339.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kira Saw In Him "What Could Have Been"

Ayn Rand on Kira of "We The Living":

Kira saw in him "what he could have been." Her romance with him is also her desperate fight to "keep them from getting him." As to Leo, his love for her was the best thing in his life. It was all of his higher sentiments and better self. The "man that could have been" understood Kira, saw the superior woman in her, and loved her more than he had ever loved anyone.
Journals of Ayn Rand, David Harriman editor. p. 54-55

Monday, August 15, 2011

Psycho-Epistemology And Art (More)

More on psycho-epistemology and art from Dr. Peikoff:

So far, I have been considering the subject of an art work, or what it presents—the perceptual concretes that convey its view of the world. But there is another essential aspect of art: style, i.e., how the artist presents his subject. "The subject of an art work," writes Ayn Rand, "expresses a view of man's existence, while the style expresses a view of man's consciousness. The subject reveals an artist's metaphysics, the style reveals his psycho-epistemology." An artist's style, for example, may express a state of full focus—of clarity, purpose, precision; or a state of fog—of the opaque, the random, the blurred. In either (and any) case, style, like subject, has philosophical roots and meaning. In Ayn Rand's words, style reveals an artist's implicit view of the mind's "proper method and level of functioning," the level "on which the artist feels most at home." This is another reason why men react to art in profoundly personal terms. Like subject, though from a different aspect, style is experienced by the reader or viewer as a confirmation or denial of his consciousness.

Dr. Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand", p. 422.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Psycho-Epistemology And Art

Dr. Leonard Peikoff on art and psycho-epistemology:

An art work does not formulate the metaphysics it represents; it does not (or at least need not) articulate definitions and principles. So art by itself is not enough in this context. But the point is that philosophy is not enough, either. Philosophy by itself cannot satisfy man's need of philosophy. Man requires the union of the two: philosophy and art, the broad identifications and their concrete embodiment. Then, in regard to his fundamental, guiding orientation, he combines the power of mind and of body, i.e., he combines the range of abstract thought with the irresistible immediacy of sense perception.

Ayn Rand summarizes in a definitive formulation:

Art is a concretization of metaphysics. Art brings man's concepts to the perceptual level of his consciousness and allows him to grasp them directly, as if they were percepts.

This is the psycho-epistemological function of art and the reason of its importance in man's life (and the crux of the Objectivist esthetics).

Here again we see man's need of unit-economy. Concepts condense percepts; philosophy, as the science of the broadest integrations, condenses concepts; and art then condenses philosophy—by returning to the perceptual level, this time in a form impregnated with a profound abstract meaning.

There is an obvious analogy here between language and art. Both blend parts (whether perceptual units or philosophical principles) into a whole by similar means: both complete a process of conceptual integration by the use of sensuous elements. Both thereby convert abstractions into the equivalent of concretes. As Miss Rand puts it, both convert abstractions "into specific entities open to man's direct perception. The claim that 'art is a universal language' is not an empty metaphor, it is literally true—in the sense of the psycho-epistemological function performed by art."

("Psycho-epistemology" is an invaluable term of Ayn Rand's, albeit one that pertains more to psychology than to philosophy. "Psycho-epistemology" designates "the study of man's cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious." Epistemology, in essence, studies conscious, volitional processes; a "psycho-epistemological" method or function is one that also involves subconscious, automatized elements.)

By converting abstractions into percepts, art performs another crucial (and inseparable) function. It not only integrates metaphysics, but also objectifies it. This means: it enables man to contemplate his view of the world in the form of an existential object—to contemplate it not as a content of his consciousness, but "out there," as an external fact. Since abstractions as such do not exist, there is no other way to make one's metaphysical abstractions fully real to oneself (or, therefore, fully operative as one's guide). "To acquire the full, persuasive, irresistible power of reality," Miss Rand writes, "man's metaphysical abstractions have to confront him in the form of concretes—i.e., in the form of art."

Dr. Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand", p. 418-419.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Psycho-Epistemology And History

Ayn Rand on psycho-epistemology:

Men's epistemology—or, more precisely, their psycho-epistemology, their method of awareness—is the most fundamental standard by which they can be classified. Few men are consistent in that respect; most men keep switching from one level of awareness to another, according to the circumstances or the issues involved, ranging from moments of full rationality to an almost somnambulistic stupor. But the battle of human history is fought and determined by those who are predominantly consistent, those who, for good or evil, are committed to and motivated by their chosen psycho-epistemology and its corollary view of existence—with echoes responding to them, in support or opposition, in the switching, flickering souls of the others.

A man's method of using his consciousness determines his method of survival. The three contestants are Attila, the Witch Doctor and the Producer—or the man of force, the man of feelings, the man of reason—or the brute, the mystic, the thinker. The rest of mankind calls it expedient to be tossed by the current of events from one of those roles to another, not choosing to identify the fact that those three are the source which determines the current's direction.

Ayn Rand, For The New Intellectual, p. 21.