Toward New Epistemology

Harry Binswanger, one of prominent Objectivist philosophers, in his lecture on Perception thoroughly explains the relationship of perception to sensation and conception. He provides evidence and reasoning to show that we are born perceiving through our field of awareness. Epistemology is the theory of knowledge that answers on questions such as: “What is the nature of knowledge? How do we know? What is the process of acquiring knowledge?” The epistemology developed by Ayn Rand provides some missing links to the classical, Aristotelian worldview.

Our conceptual stage of epistemology is derived from integrating percepts (mental images) into concepts (words with definitions). Sensations then are also derived by conceiving the means of perception. The correct order of epistemological evolution through the stages of Rand’s theory of concepts is:

  1. perception,
  2. conception,
  3. sensation.

In other words, the process begins with focusing, volitionally proceeds to generalizing, and then understanding how we focus with the physical senses. Rand’s theory of concepts is Rand’s genius at the greatest, but her epistemology is still incomplete, if one wishes to integrate it with Aristotle’s philosophy.

Peikoff writes: “Every entity, says Aristotle, is a metaphysical compound made of two elements: form and matter, or structure and stuff. The first is the universalizing factor, the same in every instance of a group, which enables us to bring the instances together under a single concept. The second is the particularizing factor, unique to each instance, which makes each thing an unrepeatable concrete” (OPAR, Ch. 4, “Intrinsicism and Subjectivism as the Two Forms of Rejecting Objectivity”). “The theory is brilliant,” Peikoff adds, “and even valid in many crucial ways.”

However, Peikoff, following Rand, abandoned Aristotle’s “brilliant” theory. And that’s too bad – because one can still find in it a potential for truth. Aristotle metaphysically predicted an actually physical feature of the world that was only discovered in the 19th century. Let me show you what I mean.

When a chair is made, its electromagnetic field as a chair is tabula rasa[1], and thus we can infer that the chair consists only of particles or substance but has no other form. But the more we perceive or use a chair, the more our consciousness interacts with its field, and thus we actively help form its perception as a chair, i.e., its electromagnetic field that becomes inherent in its “chairness.” Adults automatize such interactions, and so their subconsciousness may perform the internalized processes. The mind is one such complex electromagnetic field that we possess, and it allows our field of awareness to grasp objects contained therein, by copying them or imprinting them into our minds, and thus also conceiving of them.

Aristotle and the philosophers in his tradition intuitively grasped these fields and called them essences. Today, we study them scientifically and can see them through electrical coronal discharges (see the photograph below). However, these fields are not the same as concrete objects that exist. These fields are the spatiotemporal forms within and around the existing objects. Also, these fields extend far beyond objects and onto the whole of environments and beyond visible matter and energy. To say that objects are merely atoms is to ignore the fields that connect atoms together (i.e., their binding energy) to make greater composite objects. These essences were metaphysically necessitated by Aristotle.

St. Thomas Aquinas also differentiated existence from essence, substance from form. And although essence refers to matter as a concept would refer to an existent, essence is an actual form, namely, as we have discovered, an electromagnetic field. This field has massless energy that is a whole connecting individual parts of matter also reinforced by interactions of its particles. The essences are spatiotemporal and contextual, and we connect to them with our minds.

Kirlian photo of a key

A Kirlian photograph of a key that has never been used, so it has sharp edges (source:

However, when we arrive at organic matter, the fields become more complex. Now, to differentiate them, we must call them bio-electromagnetic fields. More so, it has been found that such physical fields coexist in our bodies and their magnetic components can be measured (Electromagnetic Fields and Life, sec. 13.2). These complex composite fields are also called auras. Each aura correlates with each of our organs. When we are born, our tabula rasa field influences and is influenced by the physical bio-field of our organs and body, and our consciousness thus volitionally starts to form around our body[2]. We also know about the developed physical bio-electromagnetic fields from experiments and research done at the Institute of HeartMath (see illustration).

illustration of our heart field

An illustration of a physical bio-electromagnetic field generated by our body (source: Newer illustrations that show heart’s bio-field in relation to the body’s are also available.

Although particles compose our senses and are also sensed by our scientific instruments, an object is not merely a collection of particles. And force particles (such as photons) never truly disappear; they never stop existing. The solution to the problem of universals is that an object has an electromagnetic field by means of which we can conceive of its essential characteristics. Our conception of an object is based on our interaction with its field of essence, and conceptually we are not limited by distance or time. This new epistemology is what Aristotle had been missing. And the nature of particles that also compose these fields is what quantum physicists are still trying to understand.

[1] It is similar to how children are born without content in their minds or a fully developed mind. It is called by behaviorist linguists a blank state. This is contested by Chomskyan innatists, but they have no solid neurobiological evidence for their universal grammar theory. The evidence of Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH) – the age by which acquiring a new language is most efficient – can be interpreted quite differently. For example, innatists proudly display the evidence that children have affinities for learning some languages better than others, but this can be interpreted by the existence of each person’s perceptual fields (unique mental structures), developing in a chosen linguistic environment, unless there are abnormal developments and lackluster interactions with environment. In other words, children learn through interaction with their environment mentally/emotionally and physically. Although this interactionism has a dualistic nature, it can be called a monism of “inseparable distinctions,” as coined in Dr. Michael Kosok’s book. And there is also agreement among linguists that interaction is fundamental to learning a language and that the formation of the neurobiological linguistic apparatus (and therefore universal grammar) is meaningless because it cannot be found. Addendum: After all, human minds may not be the same as tabula rasa fields of inorganic objects, as new evidence suggests. However, they can be thought as structures that are empty of content but not of structuring factors. While rats may have embodied the hundredth monkey effect genetically, as in Calhoun’s “Universe 25” experiment, perhaps we are also born “preprogrammed” with the type of our philosophy (our category, involving the structure of our mind), which does not change throughout our lives, as the new CRH implies.

[2] To explain a potential problem here, I need to mention that metaphysically consciousness is not very far from meta-epistemological perception, with epistemological perception that forms around the body, in this case, while consciousness being originally the structure without content (see addendum to the previous note) but with structuring characteristics. The concepts of consciousness and perception are also not exactly distinct, for their referents usually occur together. Yet, technically, in my philosophy, “consciousness” also refers to an integration of level 7, that is of Organ(s) and Aura(s).


One thought on “Toward New Epistemology

  1. The two conceptual “metaphors” given by George Lakoff as criticism of Aristotle’s philosophy in “Philosophy in the Flesh” (1999, Ch. 18), Ideas Are Essences and Essence Is Form, can now be interpreted literally.


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