Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Identity and Causality

I think I may have struck upon a very important implication of the laws of identity and causality. As I was reading The Russian Radical, I realized how brilliantly insightful Rand's exposition of metaphysics was. She tackled some of the very complicated questions of philosophy. With clarity and luminence, Rand unraveled some of the mistakes, false dichotomies, and inaccurate premises of traditional philosophers. Here is an example of Rand's razor sharp intellect at work. In The Russian Radical, Rand argued that the concept of causality does not refer to our observation of disembodied actions and reactions, but rather to the relationship between entities and their actions. Rand emphazised the axiom of existence and the axiom of identity. According to her, to exist is to have identity, i.e. that something exists is the same thing as that something exists. Hence, causality is the relationship between the identity or nature of an entity and its necessary actions. These, she called efficacious actions. Self-evidently inherent in human identity is the concept of volition. The law of causality says that the nature of the action will and does depend on the nature of the entity. Thus, causality as applicable to humans is the relationship between our inherent nature (the fact that we have volition) and hence we can choose or will not choose. Rand was once asked the question that how can one define the concept of fragility that is inherent in glass without involving another object in relation to glass (concrete, for example) to demonstrate the relational nature of that concept? Wouldn't this be violating the law of identity that requires all entities to be particulars and finite? Rand's argument in response was that characterizing the question this way was an example of the false dichotomy created by traditional philosophy. Rand emphasized the nature and structure of an entity as inseperable in grasping its identity. Once the identity has been established, the consequential action and expression can be determined. According to Rand, "identity implies causality". It is in the inherent nature, structure, and character of glass that gives rise the concept of fragility -- fragility is the action implied by the nature and identity of glass. The potential of glass to act in a particular way, i.e. be fragile, is inherent in its structure, composition, and its physical and chemical properties. Those are the very things that also describe the identity of glass. Hence, there is no dichotomy, according to Rand. Fragility does not require a relational understanding with another entity like concrete. "To be is to be something. And to be something is to act accordingly" Now, the implications of that law to human life is only now becoming increasingly apparent to me. To be a human, one must grasp what it means to be human. In other words, what is the identity of human beings? Once our identity is grasped and understood, we realize that we humans, unlike inanimate objects, have inherent in our identities the capacity to act according to our fundamental natures or against our natures. Inanimate and instinctive entities like plants and dogs do not have volition as a constituent of their identities. That means those entities can only and simply act consistent to their nature, without any choice in the matter. Humans have the faculty to choose. Hence, that creates the entire moral implication for the kind of choices we make. This is where our identities and our nature can guide and help us in assessing moral choices. That presumes however, that we have correctly identified who we are. The most fundamental differentia of human beings as from other entities is our faculty of reason. Thus, humans are primarily rational beings -- we have the capacity and the tools to reason that is only unique to us as entities. Hence, living according to our identities would be living in accordance with reason. Reason is the faculty of perception and integration in a consistent, coherent, and non-contradictory fashion. Integrity is the insistence of recognizing reality using reason. I can only now see the entire and full scope of the philosophy of Reason in being the moral and practical way of living. It's a wonderful sight!


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