- That physical objects exist.
- That there exists something that perceives these physical objects.
- That the independence of physical objects does not imply complete separation from the perceiver, that there exists some kind of connection between the object and the perceiver of the object.
From these three presupposition we can flesh out the realist position. Realism believes in a physical existence and a sentient perceiver, in other words, matter and consciousness. The belief that the universe is made up primarily of matter and consciousness is known as psychophysical dualism. Most Objectivists reject this dualism, identifying it with the mind-body dichotomy of Plato. Only Harry Binswanger has suggested that Objectivism is consistent with psychophysical dualism:
What's called dualism is the bogey of philosophy. Since Descartes is wrong in regard to the primacy of consciousness, people smear him that anything he ever said is wrong. And one thing that he said was there's a mind and a body. Now that's right….
Dualism is a dangerous term because of its being used for a strawman. But if you mean: Do we believe there are really two existents? Yes! The mind exists and the brain exists—and neither is the other. As I said, shape exists and color exists—and neither is the other. There are many cases of two attributes of the same entity, neither of which can be reduced to the other…. So, yes, I'm a dualist. Or as Leonard [Peikoff] says in OPAR, because the term dualism is not one we have to fight to save and it's so associated with Descartes, the proper word for it is: Objectivism, not dualism. We have our own distinct view here. But if you had to put it in the historical classification, yeah, we're not monists. We believe that both consciousness and matter exist and neither is reducible to the other.
Depiste this rather tepid acknowledgement of dualism, some Objectivists were shocked by Binswanger’s allegiance with so “dangerous” a term. Yet realism implies psychophysical dualism, so that if you are a logically consistent realist, you must, ipso facto, be a psychophysical dualist.
Realism also believes that consciousness is capable of perceiving matter. This is a more difficult proposition to elucidate, particularly for foundationalists like Rand, who wish to provide a veneer of logic for their chief assertions. In the main, there are two groups of theories: (1) direct realism, which posits that we perceive physical objects without mediation, so that physical objects exist precisely as we see them; (2) indirect realism, which posits that we perceive all objects through the medium of ideas, that, in effect, there exists a dualism between physical objects and how they are represented in consciousness. Most theories of realism, including Rand’s, are convoluted attempts to combine direct and indirect realism. They are all involved in what the realist philosopher Arthur Lovejoy called “the revolt against dualism.” None of these confused realists are comfortable admitting that reality is perceived through the medium of ideas, because this insight inevitably stresses the provisional, conjectural nature of knowledge.
So to sum up: the hypothesis of realism, when fleshed out, involves belief in two dualisms:
- Psychophysical dualism (i.e., the belief that matter and consciousness exist).
- Epistemological dualism (i.e., the belief that mind perceives material objects through the veil of ideas—i.e., representationalism).
Is there any reasons for believing that realism, along with these two dualisms, is true? I will turn to this subject in the next post.