Atlas Shrugged

by: Ayn Rand

Important Quotations Explained

5
Centuries ago, the man who was—no matter what his errors—the greatest of your philosophers, has stated the formula defining the concept of existence and the rule of all knowledge: A is A. A thing is itself. You have never grasped the meaning of his statement. I am here to complete it: Existence is Identity, Consciousness is Identification.

This passage is part of the radio broadcast delivered by John Galt to the people of America in Part Three, Chapter VII. The man he refers to is the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, whose work had a profound influence on Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. The concept that A is A was put forth in Aristotle’s Law of Identity, where he held that everything that exists has a specific nature and a single identity. A can only be A; it cannot also be B. For Galt (embodying Rand’s philosophy), this means that things exist: they are what they are regardless of the nature of the observer. Even if a person wants A to be something else or believes it should be something else, it is still A. The work of a person’s consciousness is to perceive reality in its objective sense, to identify and recognize it as what it is, not to invent an alternate reality. Galt and the thinkers he represents are rational and perceive the reality that is, while the looters try, through denial, coercion, and manipulation, to assert an alternate reality that cannot be.