The way epistemological physicalism works is by integrating metaphysics into the conceptual level of epistemology, thus using it to metaphysically necessitate the physical experience of sense perceptions that occurs naturally (Figure 4). However, reality is grounded in physicalism, just as in the sciences, and not merely in the materialism of such Kantian groups as the transhumanists. The quantum sciences with their views of particles lose their imposed contradictions when they are philosophically integrated into the perceived reality that can be seen with our naked eyes. The conceptual, theoretical principles play an important role in this integration as well as show humankind the way towards building a better tomorrow and helping us live happier, more enlightened lives. And we start exploring the far-reaching metaphysical principles — our purpose — as we pave the way to them with the exemplary basics — the ethics of epistemological physicalism.
The Objectivist ethics
There is a peculiar inscription above the entrance: “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine” (Atlas Shrugged (2009)). And thus spoke John Galt.
As Rand would agree, we are all born selfish. Since selfishness is the beginning point of life, it should also be the beginning point of philosophy. By selfish, we mean self-interested, with life as the standard of value and as an end in itself. To make this into a purely rational goal is to ignore the emotional nature of human beings. And since it’s important to look at people as wholes, and not merely at what they claim as their ideal, we need to look at who Ayn Rand was.
The biography written by Jennifer Burns shows Rand’s strained and virtually nonexistent relationships with her peers in school, her negative attitude toward her mother and withdrawn admiration of her father, her inclination to cut ties with her family after she moved to the U.S. (pp.58, 326), and her abandonment of friendships with people who influenced her ideas and whom she met in America. The lack of real relationships and the lack of understanding people Rand expressed in her own inner-conflict she called “the conflict of reason versus mysticism” (Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World).
Whenever you read her writings, Rand is mostly writing about her own self and her way of understanding the world, her abstractions trying to dominate her resisting emotions, her misintegrated materialistic/realistic mentality. That was the real conflict she projected onto others, mistaking materialism for mysticism.
Trying to fill this great void, Peikoff properly analyzed relationships (OPAR-Digital, 129f.). Peikoff writes that in order to form the concept of “friendship,” one “must have formed many earlier concepts, including ‘man,’ ‘knowledge,’ and ‘pleasure,'” “several concepts of consciousness, such as ‘value,’ ‘interest,’ ‘affection,'” “esteem,” and “free will.” In my theory of relations that follows, “man” matches with “body,” and the rest are subsumed under “consciousness.”
Theory of relations
Ideally, you go through three stages in life:
First is the stage of pre-perceptual awareness, like that of a primitive person or child. This stage is ruled by physiology — the development of the brain and the heart. At this stage consciousness is implicit (the potential is there), and you are your body.
Second is the stage of conceptual consciousness, like that of a thinker. This stage is ruled by perceptual fields — the mind and the soul are in development. At this stage, relationships are implicit (self-relationship is present), and the person is a self-created concept of “self.”
Third is the stage of interpersonal relationships — the voluntary creation of relationships with others. At stage three, you can relate to other people in your life, and your private and public personas are developing. You are your relationships when you become a whole individual interconnected with others based on what you value. This is the stage of a well-rounded, social individual.
Note that each stage includes, by definition and reference, the previous stages. For most of us, stage three has an indeterminate value (true or false), but since it is the most favorable goal, it is best to prepare oneself to match this postulate: we are our relationships.
What stage are you at?
Intellectuals such as Objectivists are at stage two — the formation of self-identity. This formation can be expressed by conceptual integrations as explained in Rand’s epistemology.
A relationship toward yourself is formed before forming relationships with others. According to the theory of relations, people who disagree or partially agree with the postulate are either on the second stage or between the second and third.
How does consciousness work at the second stage?
Consciousness here means self-consciousness and specifically the epistemological stage of conceptual consciousness. In order to have this self-consciousness, you must form a conception of yourself, your persona or “I.” This is done by the perception of consciousness of other people. But since consciousness is manifested in relationships, the surest way is to perceive the relationships from the outside. This is mainly done in childhood, if there are no abnormalities (such as autism).
When there is the experience of consciousness of others, then your own consciousness takes form, along with the word “consciousness” and the definition of that word. This self-consciousness allows for your relationship to yourself through your body, for consciousness cannot exist without the body (in the narrow sense of the word), and the bodies are accounted in terms of relationships of other people. That is, consciousness is inseparable from the body, but is also surrounded by relationships.
Consciousness is the required formation of the main concept of self, that is, your consciousness, which cannot be formulated without regarding other people. In order to respond to the question at what stage you are in the theory, it is necessary to answer the question: Who are we? If you answer with concepts that are implied by the concept of “body,” then you are at stage one. If you answer with concepts that are implied by the concept of “consciousness,” then you are at stage two. The same is with the “relationships.” The only exceptions are the midway options, if only a conscious relation to one’s body (or bodies of others) or only others’ relationships to you (or without you) are selected. We shall look at how these flesh out in practice next.