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oso

Has Objectivism lead you to self-knowledge?

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The biggest problem in my life has been procrastination and a lack of self-discipline. For many years I thought that the source of this problem was a lack of training in self-discipline and that the solution would be additional will power. Despite knowing that procrastination is irrational and destructive in the long term, I've continued to struggle with it. Until recently, whenever I allowed myself to procrastinate I would tell myself that my failures had been a result of personal weakness. That's true to an extent, but it's not useful. What has finally been useful to me is understanding what it is about myself that leads me to choose to procrastinate. I don't know yet, but I think that self-knowledge along with will power and philosophy is what's needed for success.

Since discovering Ayn Rand and Objectivism, I had felt that it would give me the tools I needed to be happy. I think this is true, in the sense that Objectivist morality is valid and practical, but Objectivism doesn't tell you how to become a person able to hold yourself to proper moral standards. Objectivism doesn't tell a damaged person how to heal himself. That's the realm of psychology, not philosophy, but unfortunately for me, it has been a long road from discovering philosophy to realizing the importance of psychology and self-knowledge. 

I'm curious to know, has Objectivism lead you to self-knowledge? Do you think that the errors I've made are easy to make? If so, is there potentially a dearth of discussion of self-knowledge, psychology and childhood experiences within Objectivist literature and communities? These things seem particularly important in regards to the subject of happiness, especially since we live in a world where so few people have had entirely healthy childhoods.

I'm not trying to beg the question, so if you disagree with my premises, I'd be happy to hear about that too.

Edited by oso

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The short answer: Yes. I have undergone a degree of self-discovery since reading the works of Ayn Rand. Before I offer any analysis of your post, I would like to clarify that I am in no way making an analysis of you, psychologically or morally. Objectivism does not tell you what success is by your definition. Only you can answer that. Thinking and acting in the long term is very critical for any worthy achievement, and sometimes the most important achievement you can make, long-term or short, is overcoming the troubles of one's past. Sometimes it's easier to make admissions of our flaws on an anonymous chat-site. I've had to overcome a great deal of damage incurred in earlier stages of my life, sometimes it seemed unbearable. But I always kept in mind that it is my life, and that another stage of that life was mine for the making. And while I would say that I am definitely not living proof that Objectivism turns people from aimless nobodies into highly successful people, I will attest to the change of attitude I've had in my reflection brought on by the new understanding that I was never as broken as I may have thought I was. And the fact is that I made many great improvements in my life through my own reasoning and action long before my discovery of Objectivism. Objectivism simply fit into my search for truth, meaning, and self-identity in a way that my common sense often fell short. My discovery of Objectivism didn't happen until after many years of mistakes, many of which could have been avoided had I made this discovery as a youth. At whatever age you are, whatever stage in your life you now see yourself at, you now have knowledge of a very solid philosophical advantage. Procrastination can be a source of guilt, or a chance to reflect, relax, recover, or think through another future decision. Best of luck in 2016, and always check you premises. 

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7 hours ago, oso said:

The biggest problem in my life has been procrastination and a lack of self-discipline. For many years I thought that the source of this problem was a lack of training in self-discipline and that the solution would be additional will power. Despite knowing that procrastination is irrational and destructive in the long term, I've continued to struggle with it. Until recently, whenever I allowed myself to procrastinate I would tell myself that my failures had been a result of personal weakness. That's true to an extent, but it's not useful. What has finally been useful to me is understanding what it is about myself that leads me to choose to procrastinate. I don't know yet, but I think that self-knowledge along with will power and philosophy is what's needed for success.

Since discovering Ayn Rand and Objectivism, I had felt that it would give me the tools I needed to be happy. I think this is true, in the sense that Objectivist morality is valid and practical, but Objectivism doesn't tell you how to become a person able to hold yourself to proper moral standards.

I don't know whether this comparison will be useful to you or not, but consider the goal of... I don't know, playing some complex piece of music at a concert (perhaps by Rachmaninoff, of whom I believe Ayn Rand was fond). So I give you the sheet music along with a manual which describes a piano, and which shows you how to orient your fingers in order to strike the keys properly, and...

What? You sit down and play the piece flawlessly?

I think that there is much valuable knowledge and insight in Objectivism, without which happiness would be much more difficult to achieve. But no, there is far more to "being happy" than "being an Objectivist." I have heard it said that Ayn Rand occasionally suffered from sadness/depression. I don't know whether that's true, frankly, but if it were true, I would not think less of the philosophy (or its creator) for it.

7 hours ago, oso said:

Objectivism doesn't tell a damaged person how to heal himself. That's the realm of psychology, not philosophy, but unfortunately for me, it has been a long road from discovering philosophy to realizing the importance of psychology and self-knowledge.

I'm curious to know, has Objectivism lead you to self-knowledge?

To me, this is akin to asking whether Objectivism has led me to... knowledge of the stars. Given the fundamentality of philosophy, a proper philosophy (i.e. Objectivism) is invaluable for having the right approach in gaining such knowledge, but for the stars to be known they must be studied. There are no shortcuts. For the self to be known, the self must be studied.

To answer directly, I think that Objectivism has assisted me in an effort to "know thyself" which began before reading Ayn Rand and continues to this day.

7 hours ago, oso said:

Do you think that the errors I've made are easy to make?

I think this is impossible to answer without a far more extensive knowledge of personal context than would be feasible (or appropriate) on this forum. But I think that many people make similar errors, at least.

For myself, I struggle greatly with an explosive anger. I don't know whether it's an error "easy to make," in general, but it certainly is for me! :)

7 hours ago, oso said:

If so, is there potentially a dearth of discussion of self-knowledge, psychology and childhood experiences within Objectivist literature and communities?

I believe that Nathaniel Branden has written a deal on psychology, though I've not personally read much by him. As "Objectivist literature and communities" typically deal with philosophy, and as what we're talking about is psychology, then I'm not entirely certain that there's a greater call for discussion of psychology in such literature and communities. (Though neither do we have to shy away from it, necessarily, just as we may discuss specifics of art or science or etc.)

But what we can say, perhaps, is that a person needs to know more than philosophy alone to be a successful/happy/flourishing human being. Perhaps that, and the importance of psychology specifically, is a point deserving of greater emphasis.

7 hours ago, oso said:

These things seem particularly important in regards to the subject of happiness, especially since we live in a world where so few people have had entirely healthy childhoods.

I agree.

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9 hours ago, oso said:

... , but Objectivism doesn't tell you how to become a person able to hold yourself to proper moral standards. ... That's the realm of psychology, not philosophy, but unfortunately for me, it has been a long road from discovering philosophy to realizing the importance of psychology and self-knowledge.

People have led happy and productive lives for centuries before Rand. Objectivism can set the context, integrate practices, explain why some things are right, and make it all work so much more smoothly, but it will never substitute for the best-practices. And, these best practices for human happiness are ancient. 

A philosopher might put it this way: man is a rational animal; not just rational, but rational animal. Man has not simply ditched all the attributes that continue to be present in dogs and tigers and deer. Man can be transfixed in headlights, or he can act with violent overkill, or he can grab at something like he's starving now without concern for the consequences of tomorrow. That's all part of being a rational animal (perhaps that should be hyphenated "rational-animal").

Formal psychology is a much younger field than philosophy, and much of it has been useless junk or even politically-motivated cynical malevolence about a human need for power and so on. Too much of it seemed to ignore the rational, and dwell on man as if he were just an emotional animal. However, I think that's changed now. There's recently been quite a bit of work on cognition: the process, the flaws etc. One can read most of this work cynically and conclude: rationality is impossible. However, the right conclusion is that one has to work at rationality consciously, and not just by thinking, but also by developing certain habits, avoiding certain practices, tuning oneself to potential flaws and short-cuts in thinking, etc.

There are a fair number of popular books on this. I recommend "Influence" by Cialdini, "What makes your Brain Happy..."  by DiSalvo, and (slightly more theoretical) "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Kahneman. I'm sure there are many similar books out there, but these are ones I've read. Other self-help books -- that focus on specific topics -- can be useful too.

 

Edited by softwareNerd
oso and DonAthos like this

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