Betsy Speicher

Reduction: The Tie to Reality

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Reduction: The Tie to Reality by Gary Hull.

Lecture suggested for rating by Bert.

Description from the AynRandBookstore.com (link)

A person who is serious about Objectivism has a passionate desire to be objective and to be good at the skill of thinking. He wants his ideas and values to correspond to reality and does not want to hold any contradictions. Yet one cannot achieve such desires without knowing explicitly what objectivity means and how to attain it.

To be objective, one must understand reduction—the process of tracing an abstraction back to perceptual data—and then make it a mental habit through practice and repetition.

This lecture, given by Dr. Hull, explains the nature of reduction, including its role in making one's knowledge first-handed, and its role in increasing one's understanding of Objectivism.

(Audio CD; 2-CD set; 91 min., with Q & A)

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I found this lecture unclear and confusing and so did two other knowledgeable Objectivists I discussed it with.

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Reduction: The Tie to Reality by Gary Hull lectures on one of the key aspects of objectivity. I had a pretty good understanding of it from OPAR but the lecture helped with some of the concepts. In the lecture Gary Hull mentioned that a surprising amount of people he talked to did not understand it correctly. If you equate reduction with concretizing or essentializing then you should further study reduction. Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand by Leonard Peikoff has a very good section on it so if the idea is completely new to you, I'd recommend starting there. I'm not sure if the lecture is a good starting point. Some of the examples were unfinished and not clear to me. For instance Gary Hull began reducing a higher level conclusion by tracing it back down to reality through its premises. The problem I had was the example he gave didn't make much sense to me and was not traced all the way back to reality. He just said that one would have to finish retracing it to validate the conclusion, but I think it would have been very helpful if he would have done so himself. On the other hand, I did get something from this example. This process was mentioned in OPAR but this lecture helped me realize that the process of reduction is applied to conclusions much like concepts but with slight differences. Truthfully, the parts of the lecture that seemed to help me the most closely resembled passages in OPAR but the process of alternating back in forth between the lecture and OPAR helped me understand some of it better.

Overall the lecture helped me realize the need to reduce not only concepts but conclusions and how one should go about it (again, the example wasn't the clearest, but by having some background with reduction, I still got some useful information from it). It was also helpful in showing some of the problems that reduction solves. The main problem I had with it was a lack of real clear examples such as Leonard Peikoff's reduction of "friends" in OPAR. I read the comment above and see that there may be better sources to further learn about reduction. Its been awhile since I've read ITOE but I know that the majority of my understanding has came from OPAR and this lecture.

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