Objectivism in life and thought

Atlas University | Reason | Lecture 2: The conceptual faculty

Atlas University | Reason | Lecture 2: The conceptual faculty

By William R Thomas

Reason is a 10-part video lecture series by David Kelley and William R Thomas.

It is the first course published by Atlas University, a new educational venture launched by The Atlas Society. Reason presents the essentials of the Objectivist view of knowledge. It explains why reason is an absolute; why emotions are not tools of cognition, despite their psychological importance; and why mysticism is a cognitive dead-end. It presents Ayn Rand’s innovative theory of concepts and objectivity, including the role of sense-perception, logic, and axioms, as well as the nature of certainty.  The course shows why a rational approach to life is a vital human need.

William R Thomas explains why the capacity to form concepts is the essential feature of reason. He shows how concepts make possible our use of language, how concepts are formed, and they depend on our direct, sensory awareness of reality. He discusses the Objectivist answer to the philosophical problem of abstraction. And he argues that failure to appreciate the nature of concepts contributes to a common human failing, on that Ayn Rand called "the anti-conceptual mentality." 

(Note: This video is best viewed in high-definition (HD).  In the lower right of the video screen the letters HD are displayed in blue to indicate hi-def mode is on. If your computer is older and doesn't support HD, attempting to view the video in HD will cause the audio to seem out of sync with the speaker. In this case, de-select HD by clicking on it so it turns grey.)

Other videos in the "Reason" series:                                                                                                                                                                       

Lecture 1: What is Reason?

Atlas U Conversations: "Appreciating Reason"

Atlas U Conversations: "The Critics of Reason"

Lecture 2: The Conceptual Faculty
Atlas U Conversations: "The Importance of Definitions"

Lecture 3: Volition: The Choice to Think

Lecture 4 : Objective Reality

(The 10-part course is in production. New videos will be posted as they become available.)

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Recommended reading with study questions.


Atlas University offers courses on Objectivism, the philosophy Ayn Rand founded, presented by scholars who are experts in the philosophy. Atlas University is a project of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism in life and thought.





William R Thomas has written on topics in politics, ethics, and epistemology, and has spoken internationally on the theory of individual rights and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. His works include Radical for Capitalism, and, as editor, The Literary Art of Ayn Rand. He is the director of programs for The Atlas Society. Thomas is currently a lecturer in the Department of Economics of the University at Albany.