The Anatomy of Ideas I
While most of his contemporaries developed essentially normative views of why social organization exists and what is the proper form of government, Vico was a pioneer as he looked at the historical development of societies as a continuum, in contrast with Thomas Hobbes or John Locke’s social contracts. Although the author did not abstain from normative judgement, his focus was on the description of how social life comes to be.
Normative knowledge is that which pertains to how things should be, and not how they are. Positivists believed normative ideas to be essentially subjective and arbitrary, and argue that a scientific view of society should be exclusively descriptive, i.e. focused solely on how things are.
An example that illustrates the power that these ideas hold in Brazilian society is the fact the the “Order and Progress” motto stamped in the nation’s flag is an abbreviated form of Comte’s maxim “Love as a principle and Order as the foundation; Progress as the end”.
Anyone who has ever taken a Sociology class has been introduced to the works of positivist authors such as Auguste Comte (1798 - 1857) and Émile Durkheim (1858 - 1917) - known as pioneers in the field. Many have been exposed to the ideas, commonly accepted in academic circles, that a scientific theory is one that makes predictions that can be falsified, or that statistics are the essential tool of the scientific method. Even those in other fields are probably familiar with the idea that human sciences, and even philosophy, must not take moral concerns into consideration, but remain impartial and look solely at the data, or the structure of language. Those ideas have their origins in, and are at the core of Positivism.
What is new in the positivist view, however, is not the scientific study of society, which had been systematically done before by the likes of Giambattista Vico (1668 - 1744), nor what we now know as the scientific method, which had been put forward by the likes of Isaac Newton (1642 - 1727), but their explicit rejection of mysticism, metaphysics and normative knowledge . Positivists believe that society should be looked at “scientifically”, by which they mean “without views on what it should be”. One does not judge the behaviour of a particle, or tries to establish what is right for a particular mix of substances.
Because of their rejection of both overt mysticism and neo-mysticism disguised as metaphysics, and their explicit focus on reason as Man’s proper means of acquiring knowledge, Positivism is not uncommonly associated with Objectivism. It seems to go both ways: those partial towards Positivism seem to look down on Objectivism as being “nothing new” at best, and a “corrupted, selfish version” of it at worse; while many of those who see the flaws in the positivists’ way of thinking assume those same flaws to be in Objectivism, and often in any form of secular philosophy.
The goal of this Anatomy of Ideas series is to explore the major schools of thought that influence the world, analyzing their Metaphysics, Epistemology, Ethics, Politics and Esthetics under the light of Objectivism. The goal of this first article is to present an objective analysis of the differences and similarities between Objectivism and Positivism in the five fundamental branches of Philosophy so as to make clear whether their differences are superficial, and both are variations of the same theme, or whether they are essentially different ways of thinking. The purpose is to present an alternative way of thinking to those familiar with Positivism - one that, as we will see, has the benefits of secularism and rationality without the flaws of collectivism and altruism - as well as to provide objectivists with knowledge about some of the pitfalls of secular thinking for which they should watch out.
The first challenge is to define Positivism, despite the lack of consensus over the meaning of the word. The first to use the term was the French philosopher Auguste Comte, who believed that supernatural and metaphysical thought were both irrational historical accidents, carried over from earlier stages of the cultural evolution of society - something like an ideological wisdom tooth. According to Comte, the only valid form of knowledge was the scientific, by which he meant “subject to empirical observation”. Comte - who influenced authors like J.S. Mill (1806 - 1873), C.S. Pierce (1839 - 1914) and Karl Marx (1818 - 1883) - believed that society, like the objects studied in Physics and Chemistry, behaved according to absolute laws which could be discovered through empirical investigation, which would make possible for one to create a perfectly functioning society through social engineering.
Despite still holding a strong influence in the fields of Sociology and the human sciences as whole, Positivism suffered harsh criticism from authors like Max Weber (1864 - 1920) and Georg Simmel (1858 - 1918), quickly losing its claim to the title of sole scientific perspective on society. In the early 20th century, however, positivist ideas resurfaced through the works of the Vienna and Berlin Circles, composed of intellectuals who rejected abstractions without a solid empirical foundation, like those permeating the Hegelian metaphysics popular at the time. Because they made use of the Kantian concepts of pure logic and analytic-synthetic dichotomy in their works, this movement became known as Logical Positivism.
After being the mainstream philosophical school of thought for decades, the foundations of Logical Positivism were attacked by authors like Karl Popper (1902 - 1994) and Thomas Kuhn (1922 - 1996), who argued for a more pragmatic take on science. They shared their predecessors’ Kantian elements, as well as their rejection of what they perceived to be abstractions with no relationship to reality, but saw knowledge primarily as an instrument to action, not as a real way of knowing reality. This last movement, for its critique on Positivism while still retaining many positivist aspects, became known as Post-Positivism.
These three schools of thought have a lot in common, and they all influence society as a whole to a significant extent, and academia to a much larger degree, but Classical Positivism lacks the Kantian influence of its later versions, which means its views on metaphysics and epistemology are significantly different. Because of that, we will deal with the two younger schools in a future article, using the present one for a more in-depth analysis of the differences and similarities between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and August Comte’s Positivism - a philosophy that still is to Brazil, arguably the most economically and politically relevant nation in Latin America, what Communism is to China and Islam to Saudi Arabia .
Metaphysics: A Denial of the Field
In The Course of Positive Philosophy, Comte also divides the theological stage in three periods. The first one is “animism”, in which men attribute a will to natural entities. Animism would then naturally evolve to “polytheism”, a period in which Man believes in multiple deities, instead of shapeless forces. Finally, men would then reach monotheism, in which all the deities are thought to be parts or subsidiary entities - like angels and saints - of a single god.
Leonard Peikoff (1933) defines floating abstractions as concepts with no connection to real existents, that an individual might use, but is unable to define or point at the particulars subsumed by the concept in a consistent manner. Examples of modern floating abstractions include “Social Justice”, “Common Good”, and “National Interests”.
Although they share a common focus on reason and sense perception, it is rather easy to spot a fundamental difference between the objectivist and positivist approaches to metaphysics. Despite their common rejection of the floating abstractions used by many philosophers who came before, Rand argues that Metaphysics is the necessary starting point of philosophical activity, while Comte considers it to be an invalid field of study altogether.
In The Course in Positive Philosophy, Comte develops his “Law of Three Stages”, according to which the sciences, as well as societies as a whole, necessarily go through three stages of knowledge during their historical development. The first stage, according to this law, is the theological, during which people attribute natural phenomena to supernatural causes, such as gods and spiritual forces. With the development of religious thought, Comte argued that the belief in different deities - and therefore, different supernatural causes for the phenomena observed - would naturally evolve into monotheism , which entails not only the belief in a single god but, most importantly, the belief in a single cause that unifies all natural phenomena.
The second stage predicted by the law of three stages is the metaphysical, which would be an intermediate stage between the religious belief in a single unifying principle and the emergence of scientific thought - a stage in which the arbitrary aspect of the religious search for unifying principles is maintained, but it’s supernatural formulation is replaced by a natural, philosophical one. The final, positive stage is the one in which society in general, and science in specific, would cease to look for causes, instead focusing on observing specific empirical relationships between natural phenomena. To Comte, the reason why the metaphysical stage - and metaphysics as a science - exists is Man’s inability to go directly from a belief in the supernatural to an entirely positive view of reality, without a point in which the concrete God is replaced by so-called natural abstract principles, which have no real connection to reality.
Like Positivism, Objectivism also identifies the problem of abstractions without a basis in concrete reality, which Ayn Rand calls “floating abstractions” . Unlike Positivism, however, Objectivism proposes as a solution, not the rejection of metaphysics as a whole, but a metaphysical view that is concise, integrated and open to validation. Rand begins her philosophical analysis with three self-evident axioms, that can be ostensively validated at any given time: the axioms of Existence, Consciousness and Identity.
The first axiom of objectivism is the proposition that “existence exists”, that is, that there is something that exists, as opposed to the mystical claims that reality is an illusion and that nothing really exists. In this context, “existence” is defined as the broadest concept possible, that subsumes every single thing that is real, and therefore is self-evident in-so-far as even someone who wishes to claim that what we experience daily are illusions has to accept that something (the illusion) exists. The second axiom is the proposition that “consciousness exists, and is the faculty of perceiving that which exists” and it is validated by the very act of perceiving the first axiom - after all, if one is able to perceive that existence exists, then it follows that something exists which is able to perceive existence. The third and last primary axiom is the proposition that “an existent is itself”, also referred to as the Law of Identity. The Law of Identity is the realization that everything that exists does so in a specific way, that is, that an entity exists in the way in which it exists - that a thing is itself.
Going in the opposite direction as the positivist critique to metaphysics, Rand postulates a metaphysical theory around broad abstractions grounded on the observation of reality, therefore fundamentally different from the remains of dying theological thinking criticized by Positivism. The difference between Objectivism’s adoption of a simple yet concise metaphysics, and Positivism’s rejection of the field as a whole might seem superficial at first, but as we will see, it has key consequences in the development of the other branches of Philosophy.
August Comte, in his Course of Positive Philosophy, criticizes the idea that the inner processes of consciousness can be reduced to simple physical and chemical phenomena, arguing instead that human psychology has regularities of its own, that must be discovered and validated empirically.
The Aristotelian nature of Objectivism, like that of Positivism, does not include the existence of metaphysical essences that can be passively perceived by Man’s consciousness - an aspect of Aristotle’s work closely related to what Rand calls “intrinsicism”.
Epistemology: Radical Empiricism
The epistemologies of both Objectivism and Positivism seem rather similar at a first glance, after all, both of them argue that the truth is only that which can be inferred based on the observation of reality, and both of them explicitly reject floating abstractions. Despite what superficial criticism of Positivism might lead one to believe, it shares Objectivism’s rejection to materialism and the reducing of every human behaviour to a series of predictable physical and chemical processes . Their similarities, however, stop there.
The rejection of metaphysics by the positivists leaves them with a fundamental epistemological question: if there are no fundamental truths on which Man can base his ideas, what exactly is knowledge and how can one achieve it? Positivism proposes the abandoning of the abstract questions that permeate theological and metaphysical thought, arguing that one should deal only with the identification of concrete, absolute relations between natural events, which include sociological and psychological phenomena.
To Comte, the scientific method consists in the use of subjective imagination to formulate a hypothesis, which must then be validated by observation. The criteria for validating an observation, however, vary in complexity between the different sciences, from the simpler observation of logical structures for Mathematics, to the more complex empirical and historical observation for Sociology (which Comte called Social Physics) and Morality - a complexity that increases gradually as one moves from Mathematics to Astronomy, to Physics, to Chemistry, to Biology, to Sociology, to Morality. To Positivism, this gradient of complexity also functions as a hierarchical structure between the sciences - the phenomena studied by Chemistry, for example, are subject to the laws of Physics, but the opposite is not true.
Objectivism argues that it is impossible to put forward a theory of knowledge without a metaphysical basis, because truths regarded as self-evident are the necessary starting point of philosophical analysis. Denying metaphysics is, therefore, the same as explicitly denying philosophy: one will still have it, as one has fundamental primary ideas (metaphysics) and an integrated totality of ideas (philosophy), yet will be unaware of it’s nature. It is for this reason that, despite openly denying metaphysics, every single version of Positivism has adopted it in a way or another. Classical Positivism adopts - albeit implicitly - a metaphysics that is Aristotelian in nature, according to which there is only a natural world, that Man is able to perceive through the senses and the use of reason. The fact that such a metaphysics was only implied, however, left Positivism open to a quick transition towards Kantian metaphysics, which we shall discuss at length in a later article.
Objectivist epistemology has an Aristotelian basis similar to that of Classical Positivism , but it doesn’t share its rejection of complex abstractions - a rejection that, as we will see, enables the adoption of arbitrary standards for the further branches of philosophy. To Rand, the primary factor in the production of knowledge is the ability to focus, which she calls volition. Volition refers to both the initial choice, by the individual, of focusing his mind, as well as the many subsequent choices about what to focus on and for how long.
Positivism argues that volition exists, and that the human mind does not work entirely in a causal manner, merely reacting to external stimuli, but in a systematic and voluntary way. Consciousness however, is considered to work according to specific, predictable rules, which means that volition, despite being real, does not lead to free will. Objectivism, on the other hand, maintains that believing in the individual’s ability to chose necessarily entails believing in free will, seeing as human choices lead to a myriad of different possible courses of action, which are not predictable before the choice has already been made. Because of that, Objectivism vehemently opposes the mechanist determinism of positivistic philosophy.
When one focuses, one is able to group entities, whose existence one perceives directly through one’s senses, into concepts by a process of abstraction and integration. This process consists of the identification of one or more common qualities between the percepts, the omission of both other qualities and the specific quantities of these common qualities, and the creation of a mental unit that subsumes all the instances of existents with these qualities. A child, for example, is able to perceive that several percepts have a base and a plain surface on top of it, and are useful when it comes to supporting objects placed on top of it. It is, therefore, able to formulate the concept of “table”, that includes any and every object with these qualities that it knows and might come to know.
When an individual has enough concepts in its mind, he is then able to repeat the same process with concepts instead of percepts, identifying essential common characteristics, and omitting specific differences. By doing so, he can now create increasingly complex abstractions without losing the connection between those abstractions and reality itself. One who possesses the concepts of “table”, “chair”, “couch” and “lamp” can now formulate the concept of “furniture”, that includes all movable objects used to make a space suitable for a specific purpose. The concept of “furniture” can then be integrated with the concepts of “realty”, “automobile” and “money”, for example, into the concept of “material good”, and so on.
There are two essential differences between the two epistemologies: the range of human knowledge and the hierarchy of different sciences. While Comte considered directly observable regularities in nature to be the only type of knowledge, Rand argues that it is not only possible, but necessary, to integrate one’s perceptual observations by means of reason. Despite his explicit rejection of materialist reductionism, Comte’s philosophy is still a materialistic one by Objectivist standards, as it ignores Man’s free-will and the full potential of its volitional, rational faculty. In essence, Positivism rejects one of Newton’s four rules of scientific reasoning, which is explicitly adopted by Objectivism, that states that “we are to look upon propositions inferred by general induction from phenomena as accurately or very nearly true, not withstanding any contrary hypothesis that may be imagined, till such time as other phenomena occur, by which they may either be made more accurate, or liable to exceptions”. In other words, knowledge is not merely what we can perceive directly, but everything we can infer based on what is perceived.
Comte’s hierarchy amongst different sciences also radically differs from Objectivism’s view on science. To Positivism, the “more complex” sciences, like Biology and Sociology, are necessarily dependent on the laws of “less complex” sciences, like Mathematics and Astronomy. Despite its internal logic, it is not hard to see how that is an arbitrary hierarchy. On the one had, there might be laws in Chemistry that are unrelated, or even apparently contradictory to those of Physics, and in such cases one cannot assume a primacy of one over the other, but must use proper philosophy to untangle the intellectual mess. On the other hand, some sciences deal with entirely different subjects, and develop laws that are in no way related to each other - the fundamental, deterministic laws of Physics, for example have no place in a science like Economics, that deals with human choice. Objectivism, with its integrated view of knowledge, sees every single science as possibly, but not necessarily open to integration, subject only to epistemology itself and, therefore, also to metaphysics.
ROUX A. La pensée d'Auguste Comte. Paris: Chiron, 1920. p. 254.
Ethics and Politics: Altruism and Collectivism
If the differences between Positivism and Objectivism in metaphysics and epistemology are considerable, when we move to the realms of Ethics, Politics and Esthetics, the two philosophies become basically antagonistic. While objectivist ethics argues for rational selfishness, positivist ethics is altruistic and collectivistic. While objectivist politics is a continuation of its morality into the context of life in a society, Positivism goes on the opposite direction, basing its individual morality on its political theory. Because of that, we shall deal with both of these branches of philosophy in the same section.
Nowadays, Comte is mainly known for his work in Politics, being considered by many to be the father of Sociology. For him, “Social Physics” should be a separate science from Philosophy or Law, for example, with both Biology and its own method of empirical and historical investigation at its core. In this way, he believed it would be possible to discover absolute natural laws about the relationships between social phenomena - much like the laws of Physics - and that, by studying these relationships, one could build an ideal society. In other words, the proper study of society would consist, for example, of combing through history and finding that the wide acceptance of religious thought is correlated with authoritarian political regimes, and thus establishing that as an empirical, universal truth. Although that particular case might be true, accepting correlation to imply causality would also mean believing that Nicholas Cage appearing in movies leads to people drowning, or that the consumption of cheese leads to death by being tangled in one’s bedsheets.
Despite his belief that the perfect society could be created by the proper application of Social Physics, Comte also believed that the peculiarities of individual behaviour could prove to be a hinderance to this quest. Based on that, he established Morality as the seventh of the positive sciences, that would consist of the study of innate human psychology in the context of making a better society possible. For Positivism, the goal of morality would consist of ensuring “the regulative supremacy of social sympathy over the self-regarding instincts” .
The ethical and political views of Positivism, whose secular altruism would prove to be a great influence to J.S. Mill’s Utilitarianism and C.S. Pierce’s Pragmatism, is similar to its metaphysical views insofar as, while explicitly rejecting the normative scope of analysis, implicitly considers some normative statements to be self-evident. In the case of Ethics and Politics, when choosing to put forward, not a normative philosophical analysis on the Good, but a positive study in Sociology and, subsequently, Morality to achieve “the best society possible”, Comte ends up accepting, without much consideration as to why, the collectivist perspective that society has primacy over the individual, and that altruism is the morally correct attitude.
The ideal positivist society, reflected in the works of Émile Durkheim, is similar to an integrated organism, of which the individual is a part of, and the proper functioning of which - “non-pathological” in Durkheimian language - is an end in itself. Morality, which is subsidiary to Social Physics, consists of framing the individual’s mind so that it adapts to society in an altruistic manner - in other words, it is the science of instilling, in the individual, the willingness to sacrifice himself for the collective good. Nothing could be further from the objectivist perspective.
Ayn Rand puts forth her Ethics, not as a development of Politics, but as the science that studies the correct course of action that an individual should take, with his own life and happiness as the goal. In her analysis, Rand starts by identifying Man as a living being, which, as any living being, must act in a certain way, which is defined by its nature, to remain alive. She then identifies Man’s specific nature which, unlike other animals, is rational and volitional. Because he is a rational animal, Man has the ability to formulate concepts through which he can understand the world, and because he is volitional, he must constantly choose his course of action - unlike other animals, that can rely exclusively on their instincts.
Because he is both rational and volitional, Man needs to formulate concepts to understand his own nature, the nature of the world around him, and the way in which he interacts with the world, thus formulating his values - i.e. that which he seeks to achieve through his actions. On top of that, due to the great complexity of life, he must abstract and integrate that which is common to all actions that result in acquiring value to formulate virtues, which are common principles to all good actions.
Objectivism considers the life of the individual to be the root of all values; happiness as the emotional state that comes from living fully as a rational being; and rationality, i.e. the volitional use of one’s rational faculty, as the root of all virtues. Stealing, for example, is not considered wrong because it damages others, but because of its long term damage on the very person who does the stealing. A thief chooses to forfeit his independence when he chooses to live by means of someone else’s production, while he could produce his own value, by his own effort in a safe and self-sufficient way. He also chooses to engage with another person by means of value, therefore incurring in the risk of suffering violence himself, while giving up all the values that could come from trading with that individual. That is what Ayn Rand calls “rational selfishness”.
In the opposite direction of Positivism, Objectivism has rational, selfish morality as the foundation for its political structure. Instead of adapting the human psyche to a model of society, Rand adapts individual ethics to a social context, focusing on how an individual might have his rational faculty cancelled. The answer she arrives at is that only physical violence, or the threat of it, can completely undermine one’s rational faculty, and that is what she bases her concept of rights on.
Rights, to Objectivism, are moral sanctions in a social context, that is, that which an individual should be able to do, not merely as an isolated individual, but as a member of society. The fundamental right of an individual is the right to his own life, which does not mean the right to the values needed to sustain his life - which are often the fruits of the life and labour of others - but the right to not have his own life threatened with physical violence by someone else. From this right spans the rights to Liberty, Property and the Pursuit of Happiness, which are specific instances of the right to Life - more specifically, the right to not have one's actions restricted by physical violence, to not have the result of one's actions taken away through physical violence, and to not have one's ultimate choice of purpose restricted by physical violence, respectively.
The metaphysical and epistemological differences between Comte’s Positivism and Rand’s Objectivism can be made clear by a brief analysis of both, but in neither of these realms are their differences as radical as in Ethics and Politics. Positivism sets out to discover natural social laws from a combination of biology and empirical historical analysis so that, from this political theory, it can then establish morality as the proper way of adapting the individual to society. Objectivism has the metaphysical nature of the human being qua rational, individual animal as its starting point, and sets out to discover general principles of action that promote the life and happiness of the individual. From that, it establishes a political theory aiming at a moral society, in which the individual can exert its full potential.
There is, however, one more branch that merits analysis: Esthetics. How do the differences we have seen so far manifest themselves in the realm of Esthetics? Are the esthetic differences between the two philosophies more or less radical than the ones we have seen so far?
“Spiritual”, in this context, is entirely devoid of any religious or supernatural connotations, meaning only the inner emotional aspects of human life.
“Here are my rules: what can be done with one substance must never be done with another. No two materials are alike. No two sites on earth are alike. No two buildings have the same purpose. The purpose, the site, the material determine the shape. Nothing can be reasonable or beautiful unless it's made by one central idea, and the idea sets every detail. A building is alive, like a man. Its integrity is to follow its own truth, its one single theme, and to serve its own single purpose. A man doesn't borrow pieces of his body. A building doesn't borrow hunks of its soul. Its maker gives it the soul and every wall, window and stairway to express it.” - Howard Roark in The Fountainhead - p.18
Esthetics: Secular Classicism
There isn’t an explicit treaty on positivist esthetics seeing as, much like Metaphysics, Esthetics is considered by positivists to be an invalid field of study - a remnant of the metaphysical stage in the evolution of knowledge, and a repository of subjective opinions and floating abstractions. However, as with metaphysics, Positivism also adopts esthetic values implicitly.
To understand positivist esthetics, one needs to set aside The Course in Positive Philosophy and focus on one of Comte’s creations in the System of Positive Polity: the “Religion of Humanity”. The author believed that, even once humanity had overcome the theological and metaphysical stages, there would still be a need for establishing an intellectual basis for human spirituality in a positive manner, without making use of the supernatural or the metaphysical. Rand also considered the spiritual dimension of Man as an essential aspect of his existence, and dedicates a great part of her esthetic theory to it. Their similarities, however, end there.
It is possible to make a simple analysis of positivist esthetics by focusing on two specific aspects of the Religion of Humanity: the positivist trinity and the maintenance and recycling of classical esthetics. The positivist trinity consists in the adoration, not of deities, but of three aspects of existence: the Earth and the natural elements that make it up; the Cosmos, defined as the outer space, its stars and planets, and the way it is organized; and Humanity, defined as the sum of all human beings and their achievements in the past, all the human beings currently alive, and the potential of all human beings yet to exist. In this way, positivist esthetics is characterized by the idea that the natural world and of the collective aspect of humanity, as things greater that Man, are the sources of human spirituality.
In addition to the trinity, one can also spot the maintenance of classical esthetics by Positivism both in its theory, in the exultation of the maintenance and constant improvement of the Order, and its practice, by looking to the positivist temples built in France and Brazil. The temples, in accordance to positivist principles, maintain several classical architectural features, such as pillars and triangular porches - now useless to the building’s structure - and the predominant use of the colour white, even without the use of marble.
For Objectivism, art is a selective recreation of reality, that portrays the artists judgements on the most primordial facts of reality, such as the nature of existence, the nature of Man, and the way in which those two things interact. Because it deals with selective recreations, Esthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals, not with what is right or true, which are the objects of ethics and epistemology, respectively, but with what is important - that which is worthy of being reproduced.
Rand defined her own art as “Romantic Realism”, because it aimed at portraying existence such as it can and should be, choosing the heroic actions of rational, selfish individuals as that which is important. With that in mind, it is easy to realize how the Religion of Humanity’s adoration of the collective is entirely incompatible with the esthetics of Objectivism - the adoration of Nature, on the other hand, is a slightly more complex matter. Both Objectivism and Positivism see beauty in nature, but Objectivism does so in an anthropocentric context, in which nature, although strong, can be subdued by the rational man in a heroic act. Positivist esthetics, on the other hand, treats Nature as something superior to Man - although as something equal to Humanity, which is part of the same natural trinity - and worthy of adoration; a secular version of the very medieval esthetics criticized by Rand for its portrayal of Man as weak and bound to suffer.
The recycling of the classical style of architecture in positivist buildings illustrates in an even clearer way the abyss between the two philosophies. Rand's The Fountainhead portrays a young architect named Howard Roark, that drops out of college and ends up running into several obstacles in his professional life precisely for his condemnation of the recycling of anachronistic stylings in construction. To Roark, who perfectly embodies objectivist esthetic values, every building is unique and must take into consideration every single relevant factor to its construction, like the place on which it will be built and the material it will be built out of - form follows function. It doesn’t make sense, then, to copy the porches and pillars of ancient Greece in modern buildings using materials like concrete and steel.
It is rather surprising how two philosophical systems that set out to do the same thing - to provide people with a rational view of Man and the world - can turn out to be so antagonistic to each other. One proposes a denial of metaphysics as a whole while the other sees it as the inescapable starting point of philosophy. One argues for the abandonment of more abstract integrations for the sake of more pragmatic knowledge while the other shows that the most pragmatic thing one can do is to integrate all of their knowledge. One puts society first and speculates on how to adapt the individual to the collective while the other choses the dignity of the individual as the starting point for the creation of a just and free society. One recycles classical esthetic values and portrays the individual as small facing a great mysterious universe while the other focuses on his ability to dominate this same universe.
As different as the first iteration of Positivism might be to Objectivism, however, it's defense of the validity of the senses, and its rejection of anything other than the natural world means it is still far closer to it than its newer versions. In the next part of The Anatomy of Ideas, we will look at Neopositivism - how it mixes Comte's ideas with those of Immanuel Kant (1724 - 1804), and how it became the hegemonic way of thinking in modern academia.