It is the view of causality at the foundation of Objectivism that has captured my imagination and my thoughts for the last two decades: What a thing is determines what it does. I think this notion of causality, presented by Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden (with roots in Aristotle’s writings), is the single most important, and possibly least understood, concept to come out of Objectivism. It is the concept at the base of the Objectivist understanding of the nature of existence, of human nature, of moral behaviour, and of politics.
Objectivism can be considered a system of thought based on and shaped by the identity-to-action view of causation. This is why I now consider myself an Objectivist again even if I might disagree with some aspects of what Ayn Rand called Objectivism. Once Ayn Rand defined Objectivism as being based on objective reality, independent of anyone’s beliefs or wishes, and rooted it in identity-to-action causation, she made Objectivism an open system within the limits of these principles. Everything else follows. Even Ayn Rand’s beliefs or wishes cannot hold domain over the Objectivist interpretation of reality without self-contradiction. Her view of Objectivism and of the world must be held accountable to the basic principles she defined. If new information comes to light, if valid new integrations are made, if contradictions are found, then Rand’s original view of Objectivism may need to be adjusted.
My comment: I disagree with Paul's labeling of Randian causation as "identity-to-action." As Rand pointed out when she tied her view of causality to Aristotle's (as against Hume's action-action model), causality is the relation between an entity and its actions. Yes, it is the identity of the entity that determines what it will do, but it is the entity that is the cause of what it does.
Since these are (probably) just two ways of saying the same thing (since an entity is its identity, and to cause is to determine), I don't want to quibble too much about this. But it's important to underscore that it is not free-floating identity, but the identity of entities that is involved in causation -- which is why I like Rand's simpler formulation of entity-action causality.
I emphatically disagree with Dragonfly's assessment of the importance or value of the Law of Causality. (He is welcome to dispute this and to clarify his own view.) I think there is a lot we can do, as philosophers of science wielding Rand's metaphysical insights as a kind of "veto power" over invalid models of physical and psychological reality. As a relevant example, indeterministic models of physics (or psychology) that claim some actions are not caused but just happen, must be false.
My own way of drawing from this insight, which I came to independently from Paul a number of years ago, is in regard to the problems of mind-body and free will-determinism. I delivered a paper to the Objectivist Center's Advanced Seminar in 2003, in which I argued that because consciousness and matter are attributes of entities, it is nonsense to speak of the "causal efficacy" of consciousness, since attributes do not cause actions. It is the conscious (and material) entity, the human being, that causes human action.
If we do not firmly and explicitly acknowledge this, we are in danger of falling into Cartesian dualism, which views mind and body as two entities ("substances" in Cartesian lingo) that coexist in the same human being and "somehow" interact with one another. To be sure, there is interaction in human beings, but it is between the parts of human beings, all of which behave as entities, and all of which are material and some of which are also conscious. Thus, traditional Interactionism makes no more sense than to speak of red and blue colliding, when what you really mean is that a red car and a blue car collided.
Introspection is our privileged access to what is going on in our brains, and the form in which we directly grasp that activity is certainly in terms of memories, thoughts, feelings, etc., and not neurons or chemical and electrical processes. But this does not mean that we are not really directly aware of our physical brain processes -- any more than the form of our perception of an apple's red color means that we are not really directly aware of the physical processes taking place when an apple reflects certain wavelengths of light and absorbs others.
This is where Paul's comments about identity and causality help clarify what I am saying. The identity of a thing, its attributes, are its powers to do certain things -- and when the entity engages in certain actions that bring those powers/attributes into play, we are often aware of those actions in the form of the attributes themselves. Redness is a good example of what I mean for perception. A mental image or a thought or a memory is a good example of what I mean for introspection.
I'll close here and invite comments. But I just want to reiterate that I think Paul has touched on a vital issue in the status of Objectivism as a live, on-the-table philosophy -- and not a "done deal." We may have to rename it, since the Keepers of the Flame insist that major changes cannot be part of Objectivism. But we certainly know the vision Rand had to start with: man as a heroic being, with reason as his absolute and happiness as his moral ideal. Whether you call the new, improved system Objectivism or Randianism or Something Else, if Rand's core vision is still intact when the dust settles, we will have made a net gain for mankind, even if the Loyalist organizations crumble to dust in the process.