Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology

Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge: Reflections on Objectivist Epistemology


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The philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand (1905–1982) is a cultural phenomenon. Her books have sold more than twenty-eight million copies, and countless individuals speak of her writings as having significantly influenced their lives. Despite her popularity, Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism has received little serious attention from academic philosophers.

Concepts and Their Role in Knowledge offers scholarly analysis of key elements of Ayn Rand’s radically new approach to epistemology. The four essays, by contributors intimately familiar with this area of her work, discuss Rand’s theory of concepts—including its new account of abstraction and essence—and its central role in her epistemology; how that view leads to a distinctive conception of the justification of knowledge; her realist account of perceptual awareness and its role in the acquisition of knowledge; and finally, the implications of that theory for understanding the growth of scientific knowledge. The volume concludes with critical commentary on the essays by distinguished philosophers with differing philosophical viewpoints and the author’s responses to those commentaries.

This is the second book published in Ayn Rand Society Philosophical Studies, which was developed in conjunction with the Ayn Rand Society to offer a fuller scholarly understanding of this highly original and influential thinker. The Ayn Rand Society, an affiliated group of the American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division, seeks to foster scholarly study by philosophers of the philosophical thought and writings of Ayn Rand. 

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780822944249
Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
Publication date: 06/03/2013
Series: AYN Rand Soc Philosophical Stu Series
Edition description: 1
Pages: 312
Sales rank: 1,011,732
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Allan Gotthelf is Anthem Foundation Distinguished Fellow for Research and Teaching in Philosophy at Rutgers University. He is the author of On Ayn Rand and Teleology, First Principles, and Scientific Method in Aristotle’s Biology and coeditor of Philosophical Issues in Aristotle’s Biology and the forthcoming Ayn Rand: A Companion to Her Works and Thought.

James G. Lennox is professor of history and philosophy of science at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Aristotle: On the Parts of Animals I–IVand Aristotle’s Philosophy of Biology: Studies in the Origins of Life Science. Lennox is coeditor of Philosophical Issues in Aristotle’s Biology;Being, Nature, and Life in Aristotle: Essays in Honor of Allan Gotthelf; and Concepts, Theories, and Rationality in the Biological Sciences.

Table of Contents

Preface ix

Part 1 Essays

Ayn Rand's Theory of Concepts: Rethinking Abstraction and Essence Allan Gotthelf 3

Conceptualization and Justification Gregory Salmieri 41

Perceptual Awareness as Presentational Onkar Ghate 85

Concepts, Context, and the Advance of Science James G. Lennox 112

Part 2 Discussion

Concepts and Kinds

Rand on Concepts, Definitions, and the Advance of Science: Comments on Gotthelf and Lennox Paul E. Griffiths 139

Natural Kinds and Rand's Theory of Concepts: Reflections on Griffiths Onkar Ghate 148


Rand on Definitions-One Size Fits All? Comments on Gotthelf Jim Bogen 163

Taking the Measure of a Definition: Response to Bogen Allan Gotthelf 173

Concepts and Theory Change

On Concepts that Change with the Advance of Science: Comments on Lennox Richard M. Burian 185

Conceptual Development versus Conceptual Change: Response to Burian James G. Lennox 201

Perceptual Awareness

In Defense of the Theory of Appearing: Comments on Ghate and Salmieri Pierre Le Morvan 215

Forms of Awareness and "Three-Factor" Theories Gregory Salmieri 226

Direct Perception and Salmieri's "Forms of Awareness" Bill Brewer 242

Keeping Up Appearances: Reflections on the Debate over Perceptual Infallibilism Benjamin Bayer 247

Uniform Abbreviations of Works by Ayn Rand 269

References 271

List of Contributors 283

Index 287

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