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Struggling with Introspection

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Geoff
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I have been struggling for awhile trying to figure out my emotions and my values and I am just flat out confused. I do not have any Ayn Rand books on hand, so I thought I would post my questions on here to see if anyone has any advice or has experienced what I am going through.

Lately I have been going through a lot of depression which has lead me to reevaluate my values and what makes me happy. I've come to the conclusion that I have been deceiving myself for many years when it comes to figuring out my emotions and whether or not they are in line with my values. I have never really introspected before. I've never sat down and tried to figure out why I feel a certain way. I've just allowed myself to float through life on a sort of whimsical rollercoaster. Where sometimes I am happy and sometimes I am sad, but never stopped to ask why. We'll I am finally over it. I realize that I can never obtain long term happiness if I never stop and evaluate. The problem is that since I've evaded introspection for so long, I am now so confused about the entire process. Lately I have been asking myself what do I feel? and why do I feel it? This has helped me tie my emotions to a value, but I cannot decide if the value is irrational or not. Here is an example.

As I was grocery shopping earlier today, I started talking to the girl at the deli counter and could tell that she was starting to get flirtatious with me. After about a minute or two I left and went on about shopping because A.) I have a girl friend and am not looking to flirt with other women and B.) I'm a wuss . :( Afterward though I couldnt help but feel a feeling of pride and self-esteem. I'm just trying to figure out why I felt this way and if I am right about the way I felt. I would assume that it stems from wanting to be found desirable by other women and that this situation reaffirmed that I am or atleast I am to this girl, but is this right? Should I care if women find me desirable or not? I guess I'm just confused about whether or not a value can be irrational and if so, how would I know? If something makes me happy and isnt destructive to me than is it ok? And how exactly do I know if the happiness that I'm feeling at a moment in time isnt just a whim?

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To address your last point first. What could be 'wrong' with finding that you are attractive to the opposite sex ? It used to be that women were getting all the attention ! We all like being recognized by (and visible to) the opposite sex.

Only thing is, is this what you wish to build your pride upon?

A man's physicality - or woman's for that matter - the arrangement of his features, and so on, is a matter of chance mainly. I wouldn't say "If you got it, flaunt it", but rather if you got it, don't deny it or negate it. Enjoy it for the little it's worth, ultimately. But appearances aren't of your own making.

Turn this around; what happens to that good feeling (that 'self-esteem') when some day a specific girl, or bunch of women, don't even notice you? If that's your source of pride -- disaster.

Handsome is as handsome does, my old man used to tell me. If one extended it to 'as handsome thinks and does' it is very true.

Rational and moral thought, followed with productive effort (I'm sure I needn't be telling you) is going to be where all your self-esteem comes from.

"Floating through life"- "deceiving your self"- "whimsicality"- "evading introspection". Yeah, I knew all that stuff. I'm no psychologist, but it's not surprising that depression results from all this, is it?

The great thing is that you have identified it, and its causes - I think that's a flying start.

In my experience, emotions need a constant check; they are your barometer, as Rand says, of all your thought and action. Trouble is, they are not reliably predictable. Something that you did (or didn't do) a month ago can only impact now - or sometimes one gets an immediate reaction.

Introspection definitely comes with practice; it's hard at first, then becomes second nature.

Apart from already being part way there, Geoff, the really great thing is that you have discovered Objectivism; that's a lifetime supply of self-esteem. To make myself really unpopular here, I'll also mention the dreaded 'B' word. Nathaniel Branden's books are (IMO) required additional reading for an Objectivist. That's up to you.

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Turn this around; what happens to that good feeling (that 'self-esteem') when some day a specific girl, or bunch of women, don't even notice you? If that's your source of pride -- disaster.

Good point.

Thanks for the reply it helped shed some light on my situation. Introspection is definitely difficult, but I'm sure I will get a solid grasp on it in time. Thanks.

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Afterward though I couldnt help but feel a feeling of pride and self-esteem.
If you want to work on your abilities to introspect, think about why this event would cause a feeling of pride. What did you do that you should be proud of? "Be attractive to women" isn't something that you do, but it could be an effect caused by something that you do.
I would assume that it stems from wanting to be found desirable by other women and that this situation reaffirmed that I am or atleast I am to this girl, but is this right? Should I care if women find me desirable or not?
You tell us: why should you care if one or more women find you desirable? Does it matter to you what kind of women they are? This feeling of pride should be rooted in generic attractiveness to generic women; it should, basically, be rooted in their objective recognition of virtue, and should not be the result of irrational adoration. For example, suppose you were really dumb and plug-ugly but you happened to win the lottery and had $10,000,000 (and all the girls know this). What would their adoration mean to you?
I guess I'm just confused about whether or not a value can be irrational and if so, how would I know?
Can a priest be Catholic? You bet! When you identify a value, you should be able to say why it is a value, which means, identify how exactly it advances your life and thus is worth pursuing and keeping.
If something makes me happy and isnt destructive to me than is it ok?
By "isn't destructive", do you mean "doesn't kill you instantly"? For example, the hot chick who sells mortadella may not kill you instantly, but it may turn out that she has a toxic personality which will slowly poison you if you snuggle up to her too closely. What exactly is it that the hot chick does for you that makes you happy? Being happy is not a goal, it is a consequence of achieving goals. So how does the hot chick relate to your goals? And how do do your goals relate to the somewhat frumpy but brilliant chick?
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If you want to work on your abilities to introspect, think about why this event would cause a feeling of pride. What did you do that you should be proud of? "Be attractive to women" isn't something that you do, but it could be an effect caused by something that you do.

I see. I do enjoy working out and taking care of my body. Makes sense. ;)

You tell us: why should you care if one or more women find you desirable?

It reaffirms that I am on the right path to obtaining my goal of being healthy and fit when someone who is healthy and fit finds me desirable.

Does it matter to you what kind of women they are?

Yes.

it should, basically, be rooted in their objective recognition of virtue, and should not be the result of irrational adoration.

Ok, I think I got it. There are many features that are simply a matter of luck when it comes to being found attractive or desirable, but there are also things that are within our control such as being in shape, so when a beautiful women who is in great shape finds me desirable it is the recognition of a virtue that we both share in common. Am I on the right track? But then again it might not be and could just be "irrational adoration".

suppose you were really dumb and plug-ugly but you happened to win the lottery and had $10,000,000 (and all the girls know this). What would their adoration mean to you?

We'll if I was really dumb it would mean the world too me, but I am not, so nothing.

By "isn't destructive", do you mean "doesn't kill you instantly"? For example, the hot chick who sells mortadella may not kill you instantly, but it may turn out that she has a toxic personality which will slowly poison you if you snuggle up to her too closely.

Yes I did mean that, but now I realize it is ridiculous.

Being happy is not a goal, it is a consequence of achieving goals.

But isnt the goal of achieving goals to be happy? Otherwise why would I want to acheive goals?

What exactly is it that the hot chick does for you that makes you happy? So how does the hot chick relate to your goals? And how do do your goals relate to the somewhat frumpy but brilliant chick?

Shes hot. She dosen't really. Common values.

Thanks this helped a lot.

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But isnt the goal of achieving goals to be happy? Otherwise why would I want to acheive goals?
No, happiness is the result of achieving goals. So you should first introspect about your goals. Properly, your primary purpose is "existence", and all of your actions should be judged as good or bad by that standard. Now you can't just "exist" as a nothing, to exist means to exist as something, which means you must discover what your nature is. The biggest indication of your nature is the career you are pursuing; there are other things that are relevant to your nature. So for example if you want to pursue a career in weight-lifting, then bench pressing 1000 lbs should make you happy, and writing a book of poetry would make you less happy (if happy at all). OTOH if you wanted to be the next Robert Frost, then you probably would not get much out of bench pressing 1,000 lbs and would get much more out of getting your first book-acceptance. Happiness is determined by your goals, so happiness cannot itself be a goal.
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No, happiness is the result of achieving goals. So you should first introspect about your goals. Properly, your primary purpose is "existence", and all of your actions should be judged as good or bad by that standard. Now you can't just "exist" as a nothing, to exist means to exist as something, which means you must discover what your nature is. The biggest indication of your nature is the career you are pursuing; there are other things that are relevant to your nature. So for example if you want to pursue a career in weight-lifting, then bench pressing 1000 lbs should make you happy, and writing a book of poetry would make you less happy (if happy at all). OTOH if you wanted to be the next Robert Frost, then you probably would not get much out of bench pressing 1,000 lbs and would get much more out of getting your first book-acceptance. Happiness is determined by your goals, so happiness cannot itself be a goal.

But isn't happiness the ultimate purpose in life? It definitely provides you with motivation to live in the sense that it furthers your self-esteem. But I do think I see the distinction you're making; that you pursue goals to further your life, and doing that makes you happy. Pursuing happiness directly without taking into account how your actions affect your life would be counterproductive because it's akin to taking short cuts, and those don't work.

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...you must discover what your nature is. The biggest indication of your nature is the career you are pursuing; there are other things that are relevant to your nature.

There are a couple things here that confuse me, and I haven't quite worked out.

How do I find my nature? Exactly what tells me what I am, what furthers my life, etc.?

My answer to 1 is that I work out what I enjoy. I don't see any other way to pick my career, except waying my enjoyment of it and whatever material values I can gain from it. But doesn't this make it just hedonism? A special, very very constrained form of hedonism, but ultimately it comes down to doing what I enjoy, for whatever irrational or rational reasons that may be (after all, how can I possibly know that a career in engineering will let me live my life better than one in astrophysics or philosophy, if not for how much I enjoy it?). Is there some system that I can use to figure out exactly what my skills and innate abilities are (math is easier, writing comes without much effort to be good, etc.) and then base all my decisions off of those? What if it turns out that based solely on my skills I should go into a job I don't like at all? Since emotions are not guides to cognition, should I just ignore that since I made my decision based on objective fact rather than my personal preferences? After all, what is a personal preference but a result of some random influences of my childhood before I started working to be fully rational, which make me like sandwiches with pickles more than sandwiches with tomato, or like doing physics problems more than studying other cultures?

This is one of my problems with figuring out what I should do with my life. If every reaction I have to something is completely irrelevant since its just an emotion, than it seems like I'm likely going to end up having 1) a very very hard time selecting the ideal career for me and 2) a decent probability of hating the career I choose, at least for a very long while.

I'm not sure if this exact problem is ever addressed in Rand's writings (I haven't read all of them, but I've read VOS, AS, TF, WTL, Anthem, ITOE, and am currently reading TRM), and I don't remember anything about it in OPAR. All I remember is that emotions are not tools of cognition (and are thus no basis for any decision), and since pleasure and discomfort are merely emotions (not counting actual physical sensations in the definitions of those terms in this context), then my own enjoyment of anything should not play any part in my decision-making, it needs to be totally rational. That doesn't seem to be what Rand means at all, but I don't see how to avoid that without saying that you should do what gives you joy and follow that rationally as a goal (which is simply a restrained form of hedonism).

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My answer to 1 is that I work out what I enjoy.
Continue using reason: why do you enjoy it? Which specific aspects do you enjoy? Are you actually any good at this thing you're doing? I know that I'm good at what I do, because I do what I'm good at. I am able to produce good stuff, which is an objective value. If what I produced was crap, a feeling of "enjoyment" would be irrational.
how can I possibly know that a career in engineering will let me live my life better than one in astrophysics or philosophy, if not for how much I enjoy it?
Do you understand the nature of these alternatives enough to be able to say exactly why you'd enjoy one versus the other? For example, on intellectual grounds you might get more out of astrophysics than engineering, since the product of your mind in astrophysics is more likely to answer profound questions about the nature of the universe. However, as an engineer, you will produce more often; and maybe you're not interested in the highly abstract questions that an astrophysicist attempts to answer. If you can answer these kinds of questions in detail, you will understand something about your nature.
What if it turns out that based solely on my skills I should go into a job I don't like at all?
But there is no test that says "if you score 45 or higher on this test and 30 or higher on that, you should be a dairy farmer". Well, they exist, but they are quite unreliable.
Since emotions are not guides to cognition, should I just ignore that since I made my decision based on objective fact rather than my personal preferences?
Emotions are not tools of cognition. They are however facts which you cannot ignore and should understand. You should try to understand why you have a strong negative emotional reaction to the thought of being a high school English teacher -- it will reveal something about your nature.
then my own enjoyment of anything should not play any part in my decision-making, it needs to be totally rational.
You're accepting the mind-body dichotomy? A rational decision includes the fact that you have a particular emotional reaction, and your task is to analyze what causes that emotion.
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"Emotions are not tools of cognition". That stands as a fundamental principle. However, ignore and stifle emotions at your own cost. While adjusting to this myself over many years, I came to terms with the potential dilemma by perceiving my emotions as 'referrents': Signs, that I realised were not to be nullified or removed, but checked over, observed and understood.

Further, to be utilised as sources of inherent information, and even pleasure, then gradually integrated (as much as possible) with rationality. This is certainly possible - for an O'ist especially - as long as one recognises that it is an ongoing process (not just sporadic) of introspection. Also, it's essential to be able to forgive oneself for occasional lapses!

Be aware, this might not be the recommended Objectivist method; it just seemed to me implicit in Ayn Rand's teaching. I'd like to hear of others' experiences and thinking on this. ??

It may seem at first glance that O'ism is a coldly 'logical' philosophy - and that happiness within it requires so much hard work. Nothing can be farther from the truth, I believe. The short term pleasures (that nanite mentioned) are no more than a very immediate reward during one's celebration of life - and add value to it. In avoiding the emptiness of hedonism, I don't think one should become attracted to joyless asceticism; surely these are false alternatives? But an Objectivist sometimes letting loose and dancing on the table -- hell, yes! Why not.

In living a full life, there are values, and then there is Value.

When it comes to selecting long term goals and career paths, (this wasn't my strong point back then, either, I'm sorry to say) I don't think anyone can go wrong by following Ayn Rand's own example. When it came to choosing her profession, it's certain she didn't sit down and weigh up the pros and cons, practically and calculatedly. With a mind that would have excelled in almost anything, she took up the riskiest vocation of all-- and wrote. It seems she was driven by a burning desire for the Novel, and for Philosophy. That is her example to us:- follow your passion, as well as your mind. :P

Edited by whYNOT
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Continue using reason: why do you enjoy it? Which specific aspects do you enjoy? Are you actually any good at this thing you're doing? I know that I'm good at what I do, because I do what I'm good at. I am able to produce good stuff, which is an objective value. If what I produced was crap, a feeling of "enjoyment" would be irrational.

What does it matter why I enjoy it? There are things which will further my life, since I have a specific nature and those things have a specific nature. It doesn't matter what I enjoy (for whatever reason my random past experiences make me do so), only what furthers my life. I know what does that according to reason, not emotion, and so I don't really understand why emotions should matter at all (except in emergencies when I do not have time to think in detail).

But there is no test that says "if you score 45 or higher on this test and 30 or higher on that, you should be a dairy farmer". Well, they exist, but they are quite unreliable.

Nevertheless, it seems that I should simply look at what I can do and then look at available activities and match them up based on what makes maximizes the probability I will continue to live and be able to keep doing such activities.

Emotions are not tools of cognition. They are however facts which you cannot ignore and should understand. You should try to understand why you have a strong negative emotional reaction to the thought of being a high school English teacher -- it will reveal something about your nature.You're accepting the mind-body dichotomy? A rational decision includes the fact that you have a particular emotional reaction, and your task is to analyze what causes that emotion.

Why I have a negative emotional reaction to being an English teacher doesn't have anything to do with my nature, it simply has to do with whatever trash my subconscious was programmed with in the past. By that standard, than I would have to simply go with whatever my emotions told me to do, since it reveals something about my nature. My understanding is that you are supposed to look at your what statements and beliefs inform your emotions to make sure you aren't missing something (the emotion has no meaning in itself). Which in the end boils down to follow reason and your emotions aren't important (except in emergencies).

Note: I don't have anything against saying emotions are of no value (I've never really liked them much anyway) but I do want to figure out how, without considering them, you can make decisions about what to do with your life. And more particularly, just what is meant by my "nature", is that just my abilities and intellectual capacities, or does that include emotions (and doesn't that then make it irrational?)?

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It may seem at first glance that O'ism is a coldly 'logical' philosophy - and that happiness within it requires so much hard work. Nothing can be farther from the truth, I believe. The short term pleasures (that nanite mentioned) are no more than a very immediate reward during one's celebration of life - and add value to it. In avoiding the emptiness of hedonism, I don't think one should become attracted to joyless asceticism; surely these are false alternatives? But an Objectivist sometimes letting loose and dancing on the table -- hell, yes! Why not.

...

That is her example to us:- follow your passion, as well as your mind. :P

I don't understand this conception of value that you seem to be using. Values are things you act to gain or keep. The primary value (which all others should serve) is living. So pleasure isn't a value, in that it doesn't aid your life (too much candy for example). Pleasure-giving things offer no value. Nor do emotional "rewards", since all that matters is living. If life is the highest value, which organizes every other possible thing you may value, then what makes you happy, what gives you pleasure, or what makes you feel like dirt doesn't matter, if reason leads you to know that it will further your life.

Is my problem with my definition of life? Life is a process of self-generating and self-sustaining action. So isn't the reason for all my actions ultimately staying alive (without making continued life impossible on principle, of course)? Some have talked about "flourishing" as the meaning of living according to Objectivism, but I don't understand that. That seems to devolve into hedonism. The only highest value which allows all your values be based on solely rational bases is survival, not flourishing. I don't see how it can be otherwise.

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What does it matter why I enjoy it?
Frankly, I don't care what you do with your life. From my perspective, you don't need to use your mind and live life logically. Dogs and cows, and many people, manage to muddle through "happily". If at some time you decide you want to life rationally, then you should use your mind to determine what causes the emotions of happiness and unhappiness in you.
Why I have a negative emotional reaction to being an English teacher doesn't have anything to do with my nature, it simply has to do with whatever trash my subconscious was programmed with in the past.
I see. Most people are actually volition beings and we are not programmed, but if you're really a robot with no control over your programming, then I don't have any suggestions for you, other than to get a regular oil change.
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Frankly, I don't care what you do with your life. From my perspective, you don't need to use your mind and live life logically. Dogs and cows, and many people, manage to muddle through "happily". If at some time you decide you want to life rationally, then you should use your mind to determine what causes the emotions of happiness and unhappiness in you.I see. Most people are actually volition beings and we are not programmed, but if you're really a robot with no control over your programming, then I don't have any suggestions for you, other than to get a regular oil change.

Actually, Rand and Peikoff both discuss your subconscious being programmed by your conscious thoughts, so "programmed" is the correct word choice. My point is that my subconscious is programmed by whatever experiences and thoughts I had in the past, and since I haven't always been perfectly rational (like most people) my emotions do not seem to be any meaningful guide to my "nature".

When I said "what does it matter why I enjoy it?" I wasn't defending my enjoyment (which seems to be your interpretation based on your response). My point was "what is the importance of my emotions at all?" I mean the only reason my emotions might be valuable is because they make me recheck my thinking, but other than that it seems like they wouldn't be valuable in any way. I am defending reason, not unthinking. I simply am looking for what Objectivists mean by my "nature" and how I am supposed to understand it. And the after-effects of garbage I thought in my past doesn't seem to be a proper basis for determining my nature.

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I think there is some confusion as to what emotions are for in some people's minds. Emotions are not tools of cognition -- that means that you cannot go by your emotions regarding whether or not something is of value to you, you have to do that cognitively by weighing the alternatives to man's life as the standard. However, emotions do tell you what your value responses are -- you will feel happy if your positive value premises meet with fact that support them, and you will feel sad if your negative value premises meet with the facts that support them. But your value premises are not automatically geared towards your survival, that's something you have to decide cognitively using reason. Introspection, at least in part regarding emotions, is figuring out your value premises behind that emotions. Let's say you feel happy that a hot woman is looking you over and flirting with you; why are you feeling that emotional pleasure? Is it that you got yourself in shape and that effort is being recognized? Then there might be some value to that response -- as in feedback for your efforts. But if it is just a surface feeling because some girl is looking you over and you don't know anything about her, then do you want non-contextual sex, does that turn you on? It is only by introspection that you can answer these questions as to your own motivation and your response (positive or negative).

The emotional mechanism is like a computer in a sense -- you have certain accepted value premises, and your emotions respond to inputs along the lines of your value premises. We don't have direct control over what emotions we feel; but we do have control over our value premises. So check your premises when it comes to emotional responses. Primarily go by the facts of the situation you are evaluating, and keep in mind that your emotions are a means by which you experience your value premises.

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I think there is some confusion as to what emotions are for in some people's minds. Emotions are not tools of cognition -- that means that you cannot go by your emotions regarding whether or not something is of value to you, you have to do that cognitively by weighing the alternatives to man's life as the standard. However, emotions do tell you what your value responses are -- you will feel happy if your positive value premises meet with fact that support them, and you will feel sad if your negative value premises meet with the facts that support them. But your value premises are not automatically geared towards your survival, that's something you have to decide cognitively using reason. Introspection, at least in part regarding emotions, is figuring out your value premises behind that emotions. Let's say you feel happy that a hot woman is looking you over and flirting with you; why are you feeling that emotional pleasure? Is it that you got yourself in shape and that effort is being recognized? Then there might be some value to that response -- as in feedback for your efforts. But if it is just a surface feeling because some girl is looking you over and you don't know anything about her, then do you want non-contextual sex, does that turn you on? It is only by introspection that you can answer these questions as to your own motivation and your response (positive or negative).

See this is what I am talking about. But my question is oriented around two points:

1) Do you need to really look at what my value premises are now? If I can decide on what my values should be, why not just go by those and let my emotions take care of themselves (it seems like they'll change eventually in accordance with your new values). If I wanted to know my value premises that my emotions are based on, I see how my emotions would be useful in that sense. But are those really important when it comes to deciding how to act?

2) What exactly is my guide to what will service my life? Its not my emotions or sensations of pleasure or pain. But while Objectivism clearly says you should behave in a way that reason dictates will aid in your survival (or whatever definition of life they use, which I'm not clear on), it doesn't seem as though, for example, expressing her vision of the ideal man really served Rand's survival as much as say being an engineer or a doctor would have (since she probably would have made much more money and thus had better health care and lived longer). I understand once I pick a central purpose then everything else will be organized around that. But picking a central purpose does not seem to be a pragmatic matter at all, it just seems to be about whatever you will enjoy, not what will enable you to live longest. As another example Laughlin Burgess' discussion of it in this blog post (in the comments). He disucsses what you love to do or what you find interesting, supposedly as a guide to picking a CPL. It seems, invariably, that no matter how one tries to figure out their CPL, it has to come down to on some level what they enjoy (since its just about how much money you will make and how high a quality of health care you can afford, Rand wouldn't be a novelist and Burgess wouldn't be a historian/philosopher). So that is my question, how do I pick a CPL if not in reference to what I enjoy (at least in part)? And doesn't that just make it an irrational selection, since it isn't based purely on your capacity to survive with that CPL?

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It seems, invariably, that no matter how one tries to figure out their CPL, it has to come down to on some level what they enjoy (since its just about how much money you will make and how high a quality of health care you can afford, Rand wouldn't be a novelist and Burgess wouldn't be a historian/philosopher). So that is my question, how do I pick a CPL if not in reference to what I enjoy (at least in part)? And doesn't that just make it an irrational selection, since it isn't based purely on your capacity to survive with that CPL?

It sounds like you are having a pure reason versus emotion dichotomy going on here. Your emotions tell you what your value premises are, so trying to make a life-long decision as to what to do with your productive life without taking your emotions into account would be rationalism. There is no principle by which you can decide you ought to be and engineer versus and artist versus a tech writer versus whatever. So long as the Life-long goal is for man's life as the standard, then any legitimate career fits the bill. But what you are going to do with your life ought to be intensely rewarding to you on the emotional level. So, it is not an issue of reason versus emotions, but rather within the range of rational and possible careers for you, what do you most enjoy doing? The reason part is to insure you are acting on the premise of man's life as the standard, the emotional part is to insure that you will enjoy doing it for twenty or thirty years happily.

The pursuit of happiness is very important to a volitional consciousness, because you have to want to live and you have to want to be alive and you have to want to go to work every day. Dragging yourself through a career that is emotionally unsatisfying is to turn your own mind and motivations against you qua volitional being. Happiness is crucially important, not just being a biobot that reasons out what career to go into because you have a certain skill set that is in demand. In some cases, you may not be able to figure out how to have a career that really pleases you because you can't figure out how to earn a living on what you enjoy doing; but overall, you should not stick with a career that is killing your motivation to live.

Flourishing, in Objectivism, means really, really enjoying being alive and going to work every day on something you love doing. It can be a difficult assignment to find that kind of a career, but that is what you ought to strive for because your own happiness is very crucial to your motivation to live your own life. Trust me on this, but you can have jobs that you hate, but the point of rational motivation is not to stay with those any longer than you have to.

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It sounds like you are having a pure reason versus emotion dichotomy going on here. Your emotions tell you what your value premises are, so trying to make a life-long decision as to what to do with your productive life without taking your emotions into account would be rationalism. There is no principle by which you can decide you ought to be and engineer versus and artist versus a tech writer versus whatever. So long as the Life-long goal is for man's life as the standard, then any legitimate career fits the bill. But what you are going to do with your life ought to be intensely rewarding to you on the emotional level. So, it is not an issue of reason versus emotions, but rather within the range of rational and possible careers for you, what do you most enjoy doing? The reason part is to insure you are acting on the premise of man's life as the standard, the emotional part is to insure that you will enjoy doing it for twenty or thirty years happily.

The pursuit of happiness is very important to a volitional consciousness, because you have to want to live and you have to want to be alive and you have to want to go to work every day. Dragging yourself through a career that is emotionally unsatisfying is to turn your own mind and motivations against you qua volitional being. Happiness is crucially important, not just being a biobot that reasons out what career to go into because you have a certain skill set that is in demand. In some cases, you may not be able to figure out how to have a career that really pleases you because you can't figure out how to earn a living on what you enjoy doing; but overall, you should not stick with a career that is killing your motivation to live.

Flourishing, in Objectivism, means really, really enjoying being alive and going to work every day on something you love doing. It can be a difficult assignment to find that kind of a career, but that is what you ought to strive for because your own happiness is very crucial to your motivation to live your own life. Trust me on this, but you can have jobs that you hate, but the point of rational motivation is not to stay with those any longer than you have to.

See that was my point, it comes down to, eventually, making a choice based on emotions rather than rational assessment of options (without emotion). It makes sense to me that this should be the case, since I may not be able to control or alter (to any significant extent, or at least only very very slowly) certain predilections which formed for whatever reason based on my biology and my youth (and possibly other unknown reasons, various experiences, my beliefs and ideas, etc.). My main point in all this was saying that when Objectivism says that you should be rational, it isn't talking about starting from scratch and basically starting from square one emotionally, but taking the things which you enjoy (which are going to ultimately come down to "because I enjoy them", which basically means for unknown, non-rational reasons) and using those as a starting point. The need to examine why you enjoy certain things (and more importantly, should you) is a tool for weeding out "bad" desires which don't help you. But what desires you do have (like what foods taste good to me, or what type of work I enjoy actually doing) aren't things that I sat down and decided based on a rational assessment of pros and cons, and relating the benefits to survival, and whatnot. They are going to be whatever was left after the myriad of influences of my environment when I was young, combined with my subsequent decisions (which were strongly influenced by the desires caused by childhood and earlier experiences).

I wanted to grasp how you are supposed to go about selecting a CPL rationally from among a number of plausible options, when it really doesn't make sense and seems to be impossible. I liked your explanation of why flourishing and my own enjoyment are important. The idea that they give you the motivation to live and work is one which I generally discount as irrational (life is better innately than nothingness, so how could you rationally not want to live?). But given the nature of human beings, if we take no pleasure in what we are doing, we will likely stop doing it. And regardless of how irrational it may be, if life gives us no meaningful pleasures than it doesn't seem much better than no longer existing I suppose. Thank you for your post. Now to figure out what I really want to do (I have interests, but they are widely varied and even the strongest span so many disciplines I won't be able to do everything I want in them). Thanks again.

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My main point in all this was saying that when Objectivism says that you should be rational, it isn't talking about starting from scratch and basically starting from square one emotionally, but taking the things which you enjoy (which are going to ultimately come down to "because I enjoy them", which basically means for unknown, non-rational reasons) and using those as a starting point.

You don't have any understanding of emotions, because they are not unknown urges nor are they unknowable in principle. No, it doesn't come down to whim of the fact that you feel something so go for it. One's emotions are based upon one's value judgments, and so long as one's value judgments are rational (based upon man's life as the standard) then going by one's value premises is optional within the range of what is legitimate via reason and reason alone.

In other words, having a career of being an enforcer for the Mafia is not within the range of legitimate values, so if you enjoy breaking people's legs you are one sick puppy. Being a Mafia hit man is not a legitimate career choice no matter how much you enjoy doing that sort of thing. But within the range of productive and rational careers, it is fine and advisable to go by what makes you happy.

Now, as a volitional being you don't have to make the decision that way, you can choose to be rationalistic and not take your values into account. I mean, it's your life and if you don't want to be happy it's no skin off my nose. But being rational doesn't mean make explicit calculations for everything that you do. You are not a robot that can do that anyhow. So enjoy your values or be miserable -- it doesn't matter to me which way you choose to go with your life. I'm aiming for happiness from a rational, non-hedonistic, perspective.

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You don't have any understanding of emotions, because they are not unknown urges nor are they unknowable in principle. No, it doesn't come down to whim of the fact that you feel something so go for it. One's emotions are based upon one's value judgments, and so long as one's value judgments are rational (based upon man's life as the standard) then going by one's value premises is optional within the range of what is legitimate via reason and reason alone.

In other words, having a career of being an enforcer for the Mafia is not within the range of legitimate values, so if you enjoy breaking people's legs you are one sick puppy. Being a Mafia hit man is not a legitimate career choice no matter how much you enjoy doing that sort of thing. But within the range of productive and rational careers, it is fine and advisable to go by what makes you happy.

Now, as a volitional being you don't have to make the decision that way, you can choose to be rationalistic and not take your values into account. I mean, it's your life and if you don't want to be happy it's no skin off my nose. But being rational doesn't mean make explicit calculations for everything that you do. You are not a robot that can do that anyhow. So enjoy your values or be miserable -- it doesn't matter to me which way you choose to go with your life. I'm aiming for happiness from a rational, non-hedonistic, perspective.

In the range of possibly rational choices, you are advocating then just picking whichever you enjoy most. But what you enjoy is a result of your value judgments. But, and here's my point, how do you determine what you should value? And I don't mean "you should value food", or something like that. I mean, should I want to eat more kiwi's or apples? Should I play game X or game Y? You are saying that you should pick what you enjoy most. But why pick one seemingly rational option over another? How can I even tell if my "value premises" are rational, based on man's life as my ultimate value? My point is that selecting one possible value over another possible value (since I've taken from the above that you don't think you can pick actually work down to the level of "what game" or "what fruit" on a rational"istic" basis) is a result of a whim basically (whatever makes you feel best). That doesn't make it bad, but it does mean it isn't rational in the abstract sense of the word.

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In the range of possibly rational choices, you are advocating then just picking whichever you enjoy most. But what you enjoy is a result of your value judgments. But, and here's my point, how do you determine what you should value?

Your value premises stem from your accepted philosophy, and in Objectivism that which is a value is that which furthers your own individual life by man's life as the standard. In other words, if it keeps you alive or motivates you to be happy, then it is a value so long as that which you are pursuing actually adds to your life. That's the general principle. But the only way you can discover what your value premises are is to introspect and find out why some things make you happy and why some things make you sad. Then you have to gage those premises against man's life as the standard and change them if necessary.

As an example, let's say you were very sad that a particular girl wouldn't talk to you after you declared your love for her, and you tried many times to get through to her. After a while, you have to realize she isn't interested, and since love is reciprocal, then she isn't of value to you after that because she wouldn't respond in kind. She obviously doesn't consider you to be of value to her, and thinking along those lines your emotions will change to a kind of indifference towards her. This is checking your value premises, and not just going by emotions. In other words, what are the facts regarding her that led you to fall in love with her, and where you mistaken in thinking that way in the first place? Does she actually have qualities that make her that high of a value to you? It is questions like these asked introspectively that can lead to one's emotions changing over time.

The important thing about emotions and reason is to go by the facts, not just your emotions, and find out why you are having that emotion with regard to those facts. Do the facts as you know them support such an emotional reaction -- are those facts for your life or against your life? So it is a combination of knowing the facts and gaging them against man's life as the standard, and then introspecting to find out what your emotional reaction is based upon.

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As an example, let's say you were very sad that a particular girl wouldn't talk to you after you declared your love for her, and you tried many times to get through to her. After a while, you have to realize she isn't interested, and since love is reciprocal, then she isn't of value to you after that because she wouldn't respond in kind. She obviously doesn't consider you to be of value to her, and thinking along those lines your emotions will change to a kind of indifference towards her. This is checking your value premises, and not just going by emotions. In other words, what are the facts regarding her that led you to fall in love with her, and where you mistaken in thinking that way in the first place? Does she actually have qualities that make her that high of a value to you? It is questions like these asked introspectively that can lead to one's emotions changing over time.

Well your example makes sense as far as it goes. But my question is more about (in the context of your example) why I should want one girl over another. Why should I like one body shape more than another, or why should a sense of humor be really important as opposed to being very serious-minded, etc.? Because it seems pretty hard to relate those sorts of things back to "man's life as the standard" except in a way that simply says "because it is more attractive to me" or "because I want to be able to laugh a lot with my partner as opposed to always being so serious." And those are about emotional reactions to those qualities, what I enjoy about them, but if I kept asking "why do I enjoy them" I would likely get stuck, or have to come up with a rationalistic answer like "laughing reduces stress, thereby improving my health and allowing me to live longer." I don't think anyone, including Rand, argues that you should think of things in terms like that, because it seems whole categories of experience and personality types will then be deemed irrational and bad, or the way people try to relate their answers in a oblique way to man's life as the standard end up being rationalizations rather than rational. Am I wrong on that point, is that exactly how you are supposed to think about everything?

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I don't think anyone, including Rand, argues that you should think of things in terms like that, because it seems whole categories of experience and personality types will then be deemed irrational and bad, or the way people try to relate their answers in a oblique way to man's life as the standard end up being rationalizations rather than rational. Am I wrong on that point, is that exactly how you are supposed to think about everything?

I think you are struggling with the idea of optional values. They are called optional because you can make a choice within a range and still be moral by man's life as the standard. Within a certain body type, for example, you can be attracted to certain people due to their physique, but I don't know that you can be super specific with the measurements. Likewise when it comes to careers, there is a range of things you can do that will be fulfilling and rational at the same time, but I don't know that you can pick a specific one and only that one within that range, aside from what you would love to do. But like my example previously about being in love, you have to gage it against the specifics of what the facts are, and whether they are for your life or against your life. For the big decisions, you have to think about it a lot, because a career last for twenty years or so; but for more everyday decisions, you don't have to put that much thought into it. Do you want chicken soup or a hamburger for dinner? Both are good for you, but you can base it on what you want to eat at that time, and not do an explicit calculation as to calories and nutritional value and such, unless you are specializing in that field; in which case you might choose the chicken soup over the hamburger.

So, it does not come down to whim, but rather a choice within a range of things that are good for you; and choice is a fundamental, since man has a volitional consciousness. Once you have narrowed it down to things that are good for you factually and by man's life as the standard, then make a choice -- that's all there is to that. Basing that choice on what you like, so long as the other conditions are met, is being rational.

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I think, nanite, you are viewing your philosophy as an academic theory. If Objectivism isn't - first and foremost - a code for me (and you) to LIVE by, then it has not much use outside of the ivory towers.

Ayn Rand set up a structure; she did a mammoth task, and even she said in her later years :- "I do have a complete philosophical system, but the elaboration of a system is a job that no philosopher can finish in his lifetime. There is an awful lot of work yet to be done." [Ancier interview, 1976]

She, and O'ism can't fill in all the blanks or join all the dots. For instance, Individualism. It becomes clear that one's individuality is contained in that Value. One is still a human being, with all the likes, dislikes, characteristics, foibles etc. that you started with - the only difference for an O'ist being that those personal elements become more consistently rational, and even may disappear -----eventually.

I sense that your approach is coolly logical, ( your dismissiveness of all-important emotions springs to mind), with pragmatism implicit in what you write.

To speak of Man's survival, and what supports it is one thing - but can you imagine YOUR survival as being in the least divorced from "flourishing"? One, without the other, would be no life.

I get the idea, also, that you are 'spoiled for choice', a little.

Now that's something else I can sincerely relate to. It might be an intelligent, young man's curse. Too many girls, too many career options .... too much time. This is a tricky one - and the answer can only lie in you, but I strongly suggest that you don't let this slide into ennui, and a hedonistic habit.

Been there......! and making a 'wrong' decision - one that you can correct later, hopefully - is perhaps far better than never making a choice. Find your own passions, and apply Reason. :dough:

Edited by whYNOT
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