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The Metaphysics of Consciousness: The What and the How of Cognition

Harry Binswanger

Presented at: IRM 1998

Date: Jun 28, 1998

In the last chapter of Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Ayn Rand wrote: "In the history of philosophy––with some very rare exceptions––epistemological theories have consisted of attempts to escape one or the other of the two fundamental questions which cannot be escaped . . . What do I know?-and: How do I know it?"

In these three lectures, Dr. Binswanger uses the distinction between the what (the object) and the how (the means) of consciousness as the framework for presenting a causal perspective on awareness. In this context, he explains new ideas he has developed concerning the nature of both the perceptual and conceptual levels. Topics include:

• The primacy of the what over the how.
• The consciousness-brain relationship: how contemporary theories deny self-evident facts.
• The sensation-perception distinction: its full meaning and crucial implications for epistemology.
• The integration of sensations into percepts: the theory of the "monitored efferent."
• Two views of awareness: the agent vs. the spectator.
• Fallibility and volition.
• Introspection: the how becomes a secondary what.
• The Kantian inversion: the how becomes the only what.
• Paralyzing the how: the results of consciousness deprived of differentiation or integration.
• Consciousness, values, and life: why consciousness must be selfish.

These lectures presuppose a generalized familiarity with Leonard Peikoff's Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand


Parts: 3

Handout: none


  • e-Store, 2012 (En) - 287 mins
  • Tape (En)