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Writings based on Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand

Ayn Rand's most popular novels are Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, which present her philosophy, Objectivism, in vivid characterizations.

  Metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, esthetics, and  politics are the five main branches of philosophy that she identifies. Utilizing her methodology, one can be rational about all aspects of life. These essays present my understanding of Objectivism.

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This is Your Mind

Independence Day Special 2005

Copyright Issues Statement

Independence Day Special 2011:

 Jesus or Ayn Rand?

Don't Blame Wall Street

Governments and Individual Rights

Anarcho-Capitalism rebuttal

Doctors and Individual Rights

Internet Freedom VS On-line Piracy

Laws Must be Specific to Preserve Freedom

To Students of Objectivism

Kant as Founder of Modern Art

Thinking in Terms of Principles

The Purpose of Art

On Objectivity -- The Method of Thought

Applications of Philosophy

Happiness by a Proper Standard

Morality and War

Induction and Anarchism

Immigration and Applied Egoism

Independence Day 2012:

  Losing the Battle

On Civil Society

Batman and Justice

Paul Ryan and Objectivism

Philosophy in the Workplace

Articulating Freedom

The Argument for Freedom

Psycho-epistemology

Black Friday Special, The Morality of Profit

Intellectual Property Rights

How The Internet Works

Carnegie Museum of Art and Natural History

The Morality of Copyrights and Patents

Justice

Freedom of Speech -- a Sacred Right

Objective Value

Teleological Measurements

Induction

Causality

Cognition

Ayn Rand as a Moral Hero

Moral Integrity

On Dualism

Protest NSA Spying

The Objectivist Trilogy

The DIM Hypothesis

Tolerance and DIM

Individual Rights

How We Know

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No Purpose in a Pea: Aristotle’s Final Causation

by Thomas M. Miovas, Jr.

07/14/2011

In Aristotle’s works, he came up with four causes that he meant to apply universally to all things attempting to find the one causative principle that would unite all instances of causation. These are efficient cause, material cause, formal cause, and final cause. Modern physics has all but taken over efficient causation (one thing acting on another and the second thing acting in return, billiard ball style); but most of the other forms of causation talked about by Aristotle have all but been forgotten aside from philosophy students. Material cause is known (it is wood, so we can make houses out of it), it’s just not known in modern times as material cause. Formal cause (what it is that makes it what it is) is just not used, because there isn’t anything in an entity that makes it what it is, it is what it is and there isn’t any special cause making it be what it is, it just is.  In a way, formal cause can be considered for man, as in his ideals make him what he is, but that is not used in modern times either, at least not explicitly. But there is one of his causes that ought to be used more often, and that is for conscious beings aiming for some future goal or purpose and striving to reach it, and that is final cause. Final cause is the projection of an end that is aimed at guiding one into accomplishing that projected task to completion. Aristotle phrased it as doing something “for the sake of”; such as going to the grocery store for the sake of picking up some lunch meat for lunch tomorrow.

However, Aristotle seemed to have an ambiguity about final cause, attributing such a cause to the growth of plants. He states that the final cause of an acorn is the oak tree it will become.  Similarly, for any growing living entity, one can say that Aristotle would say that final cause was involved. So, if we take a pea, and plant it in the ground, and water it, and it becomes a pea plant with more peas, Aristotle would claim that the pea grew for the sake of becoming a pea plant and providing more peas. One can see where final cause would be involved in the projection of the planting and the projection of it becoming a pea plant, say for a farmer. But in such a case, the pea growing to provide food is the final cause of the farmer, but not of the pea.  Since an acorn or a pea has no ability to project the future (having no consciousness), it is difficult to ascertain how final causation can be involved for living entities that have no ability to project a future. There is no purpose in a pea. It is a pea, and grows the way it does, due to the fact that it is a pea, and under the right conditions will grow into a pea plant. It is not something the pea is aiming at, though Aristotle would say that the pea grows for the sake of becoming an adult pea plant. But, since there is no purpose in nature (aside from conscious beings who can project the future), and not enough of a similarity between a man going to a grocery store and an acorn growing into an oak tree and a pea growing into an adult pea plant, I think Aristotle was mistaken in his assessment of what he was trying to say when he used the phrase “for the sake of.”

There is no purpose in a pea, and no purpose in nature. Raw nature without a consciousness simply is, and acts the way it does due to the fact that it is what it is. There is no future projection in a plant growing, or in anything else happening aside from those living entities which can project the future with their consciousness.

 

Also see my take on the issue of causality in general:

http://appliedphilosophyonline.com/causality_in_observation_identity_given.htm

 

 

 

 

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Proud to be an Objectivist -- one who follows Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism: I've earned it.