Reason as the Leading Motive

Rand on Ontology

Posted by Jerry on December 14, 2005

The more I read and understand Rand’s technical philosophy, the more amazed I am at her unique insight on philosophical issues that, upon hindsight, seem like it should have been intuitive!

Take this for example: from Chris Sciabarra’s book The Russian Radical:

Rand was tackling her response to a very prevalent question among philosophers, theologians, and thinkers alike. Who created the Universe? In other words, what was the First Cause, the cause of the Universe?

Rand argues that this question presumes a contradiction and a vicious circularity. It assumes the something existed that brought existence into existence. It attempts to question “who” or “what” was that, that brought existence into existence, which invariably leads to an infinite regress of causality. The questioner is making an attempt, according to Rand, to stand at an omniscient point looking at and into existence, while being in some way “outside of existence”, which must mean “non-existent” – a position that the questioner has no business being in, and is an impossibility.

In Rand’s view, the questioner regards non-existence as a thing that is metaphysically equal to existence. Rand explains that “nothing” is a concept without validity if it is separated from its relation to “existence”. "Nothing" derives its meaning only in the negation of something. Rand argues that there is no “pure negation”.

Thus, every question that seeks to contemplate the beginning of existence, tries to place the primacy of epistemology (knowledge) over metaphysics (existence) and ontology. To know, there must be a knower.


2 Responses to “Rand on Ontology”

  1. Gazoo said

    This actually makes sense to me; though I couldn’t tell you why.

  2. Ergo Sum said


    It makes such profound sense to me. It’s beautiful.

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