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What is motivation? And how does it relate to purpose? Ayn Rand wrote: She goes on to describe motivation as: That last question--what is he after?-- implies that understanding a man's purpose is critical to understanding his motivation. But what exactly is the relationship there? Let's say, in general, that a man's purpose is to do productive work, which Rand considered to be man's central, rational purpose in life. And let's also say that a particular man expresses a desire to work on starting a relationship with a particular woman. He tells us that this is what he's after. He's going to ask her out on a date. It's his own application of the abstract productive work to his individual, concrete life. Now we might consider how such a purpose relates to his motivation. Why did he pick this goal, and why does he work toward achieving it? As Rand suggested, is it because of his "basic premises and values"? If so, this man could have any number of different reasons for pursuing a relationship with the woman. Which is why we would need to understand his premises and values before we could really understand why he chose that purpose in the first place. Now, let's suppose we are that man. (Women, feel free to reverse the sexes in the example.) Why are we acting toward achieving this particular purpose? Let's say we think the woman is smart and attractive, a fairly standard reason for asking someone out. But why are we pursuing a smart and attractive woman? What really motivates this action? I'm not sure such a question can be answered by fantasizing, or imagining, a possible future with the woman. For example, we could say that we hope things work out and that she becomes our lover, and that that would make us very happy. But this doesn't explain why we want to pursue a smart and attractive woman in the first place. Furthermore, we would have established no logical basis for assuming that such a woman could possibly make us happy. It seems that we must look at our values for the root of motivation. Perhaps, in this case, we have learned to value relationships by interacting with family members and friends all throughout life. We've learned to value romantic relationships by watching couples in love, and possibly by having a lover in the past. We've learned to value intelligence by personally experiencing and recognizing the benefits of knowledge. And we've learned to identify and value attractiveness by experiencing the physical and emotional responses we have to certain women, as opposed to others. Given our specific and individual set of values, we are now morally impelled to act in pursuit of this particular woman. Our motivation literally springs from our recognition of the fact that she is what we value. And depending on how thoroughly she embodies our own values, our moral need for her will be that much greater. Our initial need, for example, might only be a dinner date to have a chat or kiss her goodnight. But should she turn out to embody our entire moral code, or idea of a perfect woman, our need for her might become so critical to the maintenance of our own happiness that we would protect her with our own life, if necessary. If we accept the idea that motivation is a moral impulsion which springs from the recognition of certain values, then purpose could be understood as the expression of our need for those values. Purpose would be the productive work required in order to satisfy our particular needs for particular values. And if purpose is indeed a function of our value-based needs, it must adjust to the relative importance of our values. If all we know about the woman is that she is smart and attractive, a dinner date would satisfy our need to speak to her and admire her beauty. In this way, our purpose is simple: to gain the values of her intelligence and beauty. But if during the date, we notice that she embodies many more of our important values, such as kindness and affection, our need would increase proportionally. At some point our purpose might become: to gain her emotional and sexual affections. And this purpose would be expressed by the effort we put into achieving that value, such as asking to see her again, buying flowers for her, and inviting her into our house. In this way, purpose depends upon and directly corresponds to our established value system. If the above is correct, then purpose necessarily depends upon motivation. One must first be motivated to act toward the acquisition of some needed value. Then, because man does not act on instinct but by free will, a related purpose must be chosen to help guide his planning of any actions required to gain the needed value.
I am quite confused at this point in my life. I several roads I could possible travel, although two appeal to me more then the others. I am fascinated by so many things in life, and my current belief system tells me I only get one chance to live, and that's it. So I have about 60 years to cover as much as possible. I am currently on the road to pursue a career in neurotechnology. I am quite convinced that this will be a very viable field over the next couple decades. I have seen numerous research that is telling me we will soon have direct human/computer interfaces, and I am very interested in pursuing an electrical engineering/ neuroscience degree. Now here is the other side: I love making music. I admire skill more than anything, and I love seeing myself progress day by day with each practice session. My music teacher is fully convinced if I went to school for music composition I would do incredibaly well. I know I won't make anywhere near as much money as I would creating a neurotechnology company, but my life will be as fufilling, if not more. I can't really decide which would make me more happier, as I am so fascinated by both domains. Our attention is limited and I want to give the domain I pick 100% of my attention. I want to spend all day every day pursuing both domains, but I obviously can't. So tell me, how does an Objectivist pick a career?
According to Heinrich Harrer, friend of the 13th Dalai Lama, and author of Seven Years in Tibet : "Whether it is Lhasa or Rome -- all are united by one wish: to find God and to serve Him." This is true. But ultimately no person, institution or concept is noble or great enough. Only the Holy Individual is worth finding and serving in all His potential nobility and greatness.