Psycho-Epistemology II

Ayn Rand defined psycho-epistemology as “the study of man’s cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious.”

In these lectures extending material presented in “Psycho-Epistemology I”, Dr. Binswanger introduces and defines a new sub-discipline: applied psycho-epistemology.

Topics include:

  • The goal of applied psycho-epistemology
  • Psycho-epistemology as one’s automatized “mental software”
  • Mental filing as link formation
  • Factors affecting information retrieval
  • Definition as the process that organizes your knowledge by essentials
  • How to concretize properly

Psycho-Epistemology I

Ayn Rand defined psycho-epistemology as “the study of man’s cognitive processes from the aspect of the interaction between the conscious mind and the automatic functions of the subconscious.”

In these illuminating lectures on this new science, Harry Binswanger presents Ayn Rand’s revolutionary theories and offers his own penetrating observations on the role of the subconscious in thinking and on the specific operations by which one “programs” one’s subconscious.

Topics include:

  • The conscious mind as the manager of the subconscious
  • “Filing” and “retrieving” data
  • What is and what is not directly volitional
  • A new view of creativity

Concepts and Propositions

Ayn Rand’s theory of concepts is revolutionary in the field of philosophy and it forms the backbone of the Objectivist theory of knowledge. In this course, given at Objectivist Summer Conference 2017 (OCON), Harry Binswanger lays out the intricacies of Rand’s theory and offers his own elaborations. He also examines the important bond between concepts in thought and propositions in language. The course draws on material from his recent book, How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation, and it builds on Binswanger’s OCON 2016 course, The Foundations of Knowledge.

The course addresses such questions as:

  • How are increasingly abstract concepts formed?
  • What is a hierarchy and why is it important?
  • What is the relation between cognition and grammar?
  • What does the way humans think imply about how we should act?

Understanding Objectivism

This course, originally given by Leonard Peikoff in 1983, is addressed to those who are sympathetic to Ayn Rand’s philosophy, but who experience difficulty in completely digesting it and integrating its principles into their lives. Peikoff argues that to properly understand Objectivism, and philosophy more generally, one needs the right method for understanding philosophical ideas and keeping them tied to reality.

Using a combination of theory, demonstrations and exercises, Peikoff explains the essentials of a proper method, including: the need for concretization; the value (and misuse) of definitions; the importance of reducing abstract ideas to the perceptual level; the need to establish an idea’s context and understand the logical hierarchy of ideas. These processes are used to help reach a deeper and more grounded understanding of several key ideas in Objectivism, including: life as the standard of value, the virtue of honesty, the validation of individual rights, and the evil of the initiation of physical force.

For decades, students of Objectivism have found this course to be particularly helpful in improving their own thinking methodology and their understanding of Objectivism. The course includes periodic homework assignments. In order to get the most out of the course, complete each assignment before progressing to the next lesson.

Disclaimer: Although Dr. Peikoff granted permission for the creation of this course in a new format, he has not reviewed or approved any of its content.

Moral Virtue

This course is an in-depth treatment of three important issues in Ayn Rand’s moral philosophy:

  • Justice: What is Rand’s view of justice? How does it differ from conventional views, such as retributive and utilitarian justice? What did Rand mean by “moral sanction,” and why did she place such emphasis on it?
  • Force: What does it mean to initiate physical force, and why is this act evil? Why do so many people believe that you can achieve the good by initiating force? Why does Rand reject all such views?
  • Independence: What is Rand’s account of independence? How is it grounded in the fundamental principles of Objectivism? In today’s world, can anyone really be independent?

These lessons consist of recorded lectures that Leonard Peikoff gave in 1989, based on the thinking he did for his book Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, published in 1991.

The section on independence is of particular interest because Peikoff discusses at length his earlier, mistaken account of this Objectivist virtue, drawing an important methodological lesson for understanding philosophical principles.

Disclaimer: Although Dr. Peikoff granted permission for the creation of this course in a new format, he has not reviewed or approved any of its content. The videos are accompanied by other supplementary materials that were not part of the original course.