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The claims of Objectivism seem to be falsifiable, which is good - it means they are rational claims that don't rely on faith. I'm curious to know what observations or discoveries would falsify Objectivism. As an example, if we were to discover that life wasn't an end in itself, that it is in fact a means to some other end, this would seem to disprove a core tenet of Objectivism and thus disprove the philosophy as a whole. Are there any other potential discoveries or facts of reality that would disprove Objectivism?

asked Oct 15 '13 at 12:32

gk1's gravatar image


Objectivism, like any philosophy, comprises a vast number of individual propositions, any one of which is subject to refutation by pointing to any errors in reasoning and/or evidence that may be found. Objectivism is also a very hierarchical philosophy, in which refutation of a higher-level proposition would not necessarily imply invalidity of all the lower-level propositions. The most fundamental propositions in Objectivism concern the basic metaphysical axioms, which are expressed as follows in Galt's Speech and excerpted in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Axioms":

Existence exists—and the act of grasping that statement implies two corollary axioms: that something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of perceiving that which exists.

[. . .]

“You cannot prove that you exist or that you’re conscious,” they chatter, blanking out the fact that proof presupposes existence, consciousness and a complex chain of knowledge: the existence of something to know, of a consciousness able to know it, and of a knowledge that has learned to distinguish between such concepts as the proved and the unproved.

When a savage who has not learned to speak declares that existence must be proved, he is asking you to prove it by means of non-existence—when he declares that your consciousness must be proved, he is asking you to prove it by means of unconsciousness—he is asking you to step into a void outside of existence and consciousness to give him proof of both—he is asking you to become a zero gaining knowledge about a zero.

The only way to "refute" the metaphysical axioms of Objectivism would be to replace them entirely by a philosophy of mysticism-altruism-collectivism, which actually would not be a disproof at all but a complete alternative -- and a very self-destructive one if existence really does exist, but one that countless dreamers throughout history have nevertheless imagined. (Logic itself cannot stand up if existence doesn't exist and if existents aren't what they are, since non-contradictory identification depends on the law of identity.)

It should be noted that the term "falsifiability" has been used by some philosophers in a somewhat more specific sense than merely disproof, invalidity, or refutation. For more on that usage, refer to "Falsifiability" in Wikipedia.

It should also be noted that the view of life as an "end in itself" is not a first-level abstraction known by direct observation, but an inductive generalization from empirical observations and lower-level abstractions. It also has a somewhat more limited meaning than the question seems to assume, since countless plants and animals are, indeed, man's means to man's life. As at least one science museum prominently notes in its food-chain exhibits, "Life eats life." This does not mean that lower life exists for the purpose of feeding higher life. It is specifically man who is not a sacrificial animal for other men to dispose of for their own ends, and the basis for that principle is man's basic nature and the requirements of man's life qua man.

answered Oct 15 '13 at 21:57

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

Would a refutation of some objectivist public policy aim to discredit the whole philosophy. My research into gun control seems to suggest it works for some situations and not for others, and that other factors play a far larger role in gun crime rates. Would the fact that gun control works empirically in some situations disproves everything?

(Oct 16 '13 at 22:13) TheBucket TheBucket's gravatar image

Thank you for your reply. You're right - I was considering life in general as an end, not man's life in particular. This is probably related to the trouble I'm having understanding the justification for the proposition that life is an end in itself. I think I'll ask for clarification on this point in another question.

(Oct 17 '13 at 00:06) gk1 gk1's gravatar image

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Asked: Oct 15 '13 at 12:32

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Last updated: Oct 17 '13 at 00:06