Rand opposed Kant’s conception of pure reason. She thought it not the mode of human consciousness, but a faculty appropriate to a robot. Kant’s pure reason, Rand held, was not reason properly defined (1960, 64).
In her estimation, philosophers after Kant accepted his false concept of reason and “while they cried that reason had been invalidated, they did not notice that reason had been pushed of the philosophic scene altogether and that the faculty they were arguing about was not reason. / If you trace the roots of all our current philosophies—Pragmatism, Logical Positivism, . . .—you will find they all grew out of Kant” (ibid).
Human reason, in Rand’s conception of it, is a faculty of consciousness. It is the faculty that “identifies and integrates the material provided by man’s senses” (1961, 20). “Reason integrates man’s perceptions by means of forming abstractions or conceptions, thus raising man’s knowledge from the perceptual level, which he shares with animals, to the conceptual level, which he alone can reach” (1960, 62).
That all these so manifold and such far-reaching expressions originate from a common principle, from that particular spiritual power that puts human beings ahead of animals and has been called reason, . . . is the unanimous opinion of all ages and peoples. And all human beings are well able indeed to recognize expressions of this capacity, and to tell what is rational, what irrational, where reason comes in as opposed to other human capacities and properties, and, finally, what is never to be expected of even the most clever animals on account of their lack of it. Philosophers of all times also speak on the whole in accord with this general knowledge of reason, and in addition emphasize some of its particularly important expressions, such as mastery of the emotions and passions, the capacity to draw inferences and formulate general principles . . . . Nonetheless, all their explanations of the real essence of reason are vacillating, imprecisely defined, vague, without unity and focus, sometimes emphasizing this or that other of its expressions, thus often divergent. . . . . It is most striking that no philosopher has as yet rigorously traced all the manifold expressions of reason to a simple function to be recognized in all of them, on the basis of which they are all to be explained, and that would accordingly constitute the real inner essence of reason. . . . As for how badly, however, Kant confused and falsified the concept of the essence of reason, I have spoken of this in detail in the Appendix.* But whoever takes the trouble to peruse in this respect the mass of philosophical works appearing since Kant will see that, just as entire peoples have to pay for the mistakes of their princes, the errors of great minds spread their deleterious influence over entire generations and even centuries. Indeed it grows and propagates, degenerating in the end into monstrosities. All of which goes back to what Berkeley said: “Few men think; yet all will have opinions.”
Just as the understanding has only one function, immediate cognizance of the relation between cause and effect and perception of the actual world, . . . so reason as well has one function: concept-formation. And on the basis of this single function it is most easy and altogether self-evident how to explain all the phenomena that have been cited as distinguishing human from animal life, and it is to the application or failure of application of that function that absolutely everything points that has anywhere, at any time, been denominated rational or irrational. (1859, 45–46)
*[Kant had it that] cognizance of an object [is] first added on by thought as distinct from perception. I on the other hand say: objects are first of all objects of perception, not of thought, and all cognizance of objects is originally and in itself perception. The latter, however, is in no way mere sensation; but rather, already here, the understanding shows itself to be active. The thought that is an added element in human beings, but not in animals, is a mere abstraction from perception, yields no fundamentally new cognizance, does not posit objects that previously never existed, but merely changes the form of cognizance already won by perception, namely, converts it into abstract cognizance in concepts; perceptibility is lost thereby, but on the other hand, combinations of cognizance become possible that immeasurably broaden its applicability. The material of our thought, by contrast, is nothing other than our perceptions themselves, and not something that, not contained in perception, would first be bought to it by thought. Therefore too, the material for everything that transpires in our thought has to allow of perceptual demonstration . . . . Although this material is indeed multifariously processed and transformed by thought, it must yet be possible to recover it from there and lead thought back to it. (564)
Rand, A. 1960. Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World. In Philosophy: Who Needs It.
——. 1961. The Objectivist Ethics. In The Virtue of Selfishness.
Schopenhauer, A. 1859 . The World as Will and Presentation. (Vol. 1.) R. E. Aquila, translator. 2008. Pearson Longman.
(Edited by Stephen Boydstun on 7/30, 10:31am)