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The Foundations of Knowledge

Harry Binswanger

Presented at: OCON 2016

Date: Jul 01, 2016

What is knowledge? What does it depend upon? What are the means of acquiring it? In answering these questions, this course covers the essentials of metaphysics and epistemology from an Objectivist perspective, drawing on the material in Dr. Binswanger’s recent book, How We Know: Epistemology on an Objectivist Foundation.

  1. Knowledge and Reality 
    Ayn Rand’s definition of “knowledge”; the fundamentals of all fundamentals: the axioms of existence and consciousness; the primacy of existence; the irreducibility of consciousness; consciousness and life: a biological perspective on consciousness.

  2. Perception as the Base and Standard of Knowledge
    Perception as axiomatic; perception, not sensations, as the given; J. J. Gibson’s direct realism; perception as an ongoing achievement.

  3. Perception Defended
    The three basic attacks on perception, and the answer to each; Representationalism: public enemy #1; the proper understanding of appearance vs. reality.

  4. Concept-formation (Part I) 
    What concepts are; the historical problem of “universals” and Ayn Rand’s solution to it; Realism vs. Nominalism: the false alternative dominating the history of philosophy; Ayn Rand’s new theory of abstraction; similarity and its metaphysical base: quantitative variation; “measurement-omission” explained; the “Conceptual Common Denominator” and its crucial role in concept-formation.

  5. Concept-formation (Part II) 
    The “some but any” principle and the fatal consequences of its denial; integration and the role of words; the principle of unit-economy (“the crow epistemology”) and its ramifications in every field of human endeavor. The biological perspective on concepts.

  6. Course Q&A


Parts: 6

Handout: none


  • Campus, 2017 (En) - 339 mins
  • YouTube, 2020 (En) - 59 mins - Lesson 1 - Defending Perception
  • YouTube, 2020 (En) - 44 mins - Lesson 2 - Knowledge and Reality
  • YouTube, 2020 (En) - 60 mins - Lesson 3 - Perception as the Base and Standard of Knowledge
  • YouTube, 2020 (En) - 59 mins - Lesson 4 - Concept Formation (part 1)
  • YouTube, 2020 (En) - 59 mins - Lesson 5 - Concept Formation (part 2)
  • YouTube, 2020 (En) - 59 mins - Lesson 6 - Question Period