Why Definitions Matter
The beginning of wisdom is calling things by their proper name. We must expand our vocabulary, and be precise in our speech. To the degree that we align proper language to corresponding phenomena, we align our expression of reality to reality itself.
If we don’t use proper language to express reality, we’re confessing our ignorance and incompetence to speak at best, and making a vain attempt to damn reality at worst.
Defining your terms is required to make any philosophical argument valid.
Not defining terms is precisely what today’s radical left (and right) depend on in order to emotionally manipulate weak-minded people into following evil ideology. When demagogues make empassioned speeches about virtue, truth, justice, inclusion, or despicable perversions of these words which add “social” as a pretense to shroud their malice in a thin cloak of virtue, they never define their terms.
This is why only a few pages into John Galt’s speech, Ayn Rand, who is an honest intellectual, makes an effort to define her terms. She is trying to rationally bring people to a new way of thinking, not trying to emotionally manipulate.
And so we proceed to analyze her definitions of Rationality, Independence, Integrity, and Honesty from pages 932-933:
“Rationality is the recognition of the fact that existence exists, that nothing can alter the truth and nothing can take precedence over that act of perceiving it, which is thinking—that the mind is one’s only judge of values and one’s only guide of action—that reason is an absolute that permits no compromise—that a concession to the irrational invalidates one’s consciousness and turns it from the task of perceiving to the task of faking reality—that the alleged short-cut to knowledge, which is faith, is only a short-circuit destroying the mind—that the acceptance of a mystical invention is a wish for the annihilation of existence and, properly, annihilates one’s consciousness.“
To accept this definition, we must believe that our senses are capable of perceiving a reality which exists independent of our consciousness. If you brush your teeth or eat food, you trust your senses to sustain your consciousness, so you act out a belief in them. Simply stated, existence exists, like it or not.
Senses and thinking can be faulty at times. Experiencing a mirage of a pond in a desert does not create a pond in a desert. Believing that Socialism helps the poor does not prevent Socialism from causing the most damage to the poor.
It is our duty and responsibility as reasoning human beings to try and discern truth from falsehood. We are involuntarily equipped with the means to achieve it. Our means can be broken at times. When they are, we are responsible for mending them.
Conceding to what which you know to be false or irrational is self-destructive.
This is how most domination systems keep people enslaved to them: invoking cognitive dissonance.
Holding conflicting beliefs (Truth is Good; it’s okay to lie sometimes) causes a painful short-circuit in our brains. We know when we’re full of shit. Some go to great lengths to create a mental fog that can prevent oneself from seeing it. Mental fog doesn’t change reality. Using our capacity for reason as a means to escape reality condemns us to being crushed by reality.
Faith is not a short-cut to knowledge.
Rationality enables us to acquire knowledge based on reason, facts, and evidence..
Faith enables us to acquire knowledge based on inspiration, revelation, and authority – absent of concrete evidence.
Faith is precisely the phenomena that Ayn Rand warns against in her writing. She views it as a dangerous subjugation of one’s consciousness to the mystic domination systems of past millennia. If we wish to seek a higher power to imbue ourselves with greater purpose and vitality, faith shouldn’t be the foundation of our belief. Reason should be.
Faith in any given system doesn’t cause the system to operate as intended. Faith in a particular God doesn’t cause that particular God’s odds of existence to increase or decrease. And faith can’t grant any concrete knowledge. “Sudden Revelation” or “Spiritual Experiences” occur within the senses and grant knowledge through the power of our subconscious minds, through precisely the same mechanism that ideas suddenly pop into mind, just in a more profound manner with more emotional weight.
Civilization was not built on faith. It was built with man’s mind, using his capacity to reason, to discern truth from falsehood, good from evil, and right from wrong.