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Ayn Rand's personal comments, after reviewing J. H. Randall's book Aristotle, broadcast in 1963:

This is the end of my review of professor Randall's book as it appeared in The Objectivist Newsletter. And I would like to add a few words of my own on the subject of Aristotle. I want to make it clear that I am now speaking for myself and not for professor Randall or his book.

Not to leave with you the impression that Aristotle's ethics or politics are his greatest achievement, I want to stress very emphatically that Aristotle's greatest achievement lies in the field of epistemology.

As you know, Aristotle is the father of the science of logic. You have heard any number of denunciations of Aristotelian logic—they call it formal logic—by modern philosophers. You have heard various alleged thinkers attempt to construct non-Aristotelian, so-called multi-valued logics. And yet if you study any of it, you will observe that all of them rest by implication on Aristotle's laws of logic, that these laws of logic are the axioms of any discussion, any form of language, any knowledge, and any reason among men. Nothing can be done in the field of human consciousness without relying explicitly or implicitly on the laws of logic as they were formulated by Aristotle.

Now to be exact, you must remember that Aristotle did not give the formal formulations of the laws of logic specifically—he formulated the law of contradiction, and even then, indirectly, in one passage of his writing—but the whole of his work is in effect based on the observation of the laws of logic which he formulated. And I am speaking now of more than merely his work the Organon, which presents his view of logic. I am speaking of the more fundamental, more important fact of introducing that one concept into human thinking, of identifying the one concept on which all reason and all knowledge depend, namely, the law of identity.

It was a later scholar or scholars who gave the algebraic formula of “A is A” to the law of identity. Aristotle did not formulate it in that particular manner, but he is the first philosopher who identified the law of identity and established human knowledge and reason from then on.

When I say “established,” I mean the following: Observe every anti-Aristotelian, every mystical, school of thought in any philosopher since the time of Aristotle up to the present, and you will observe that, directly or indirectly, and usually quite implicitly, the philosophers rest their ”attack on reason“ on their attack against the law of identity. It is the law of identity that every irrationalist is attempting to attack, to destroy, and to eliminate from human thinking. And it can't be done. The law of identity is an axiom which has to be used by its opponents in the very act of denying it.

But if you want to untangle the complex, incredible, fantastic attacks on human reason, I will leave you with this clue. See in how many different ways the mystery of these attacks consists only of one fundamental issue: the attempt to negate the law of identity. And when you realize that, you will realize clearly the immortal, incomparable greatness of Aristotle and of his achievement.

Goodbye ladies and gentlemen, and good premises.

{TP: Transcribed May 28, 2007}

«Ayn Rand delivered this talk on the Columbia University campus radio station in 1963.»

[She reads her published review of John Herman Randall's book Aristotle (22 minutes), and offers additional comments on Aristotle's greatness (5 minutes).]

 

 

 

 

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