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What should I devote my intellect to?

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Erizo
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I've recently started reading The Virtue of Selfishness, and I'm trying to figure out what a rational man should devote his intellect to. I can see plenty of negative examples of things he should not devote his mind to, such as religion, or his own destruction. However, I keep getting stuck when I try to think of a positive example. Here's my reasoning:

A rational man should pursue survival as man qua man.

Life as man qua man requires three things:

(1) Biological survival

(2) The ability to reason

(3) The decision to reason

Number (1) is easy in a modern industrial society - our (biological) lives are almost never in danger. The only people who have to worry about this are people with deadly diseases.

Number (2) is a given - all humans have the ability to reason.

Number (3), of course, is what most people are lacking. However, it doesn't seem to require anything - nobody else can stop you from choosing to reason.

So my question is, once I've chosen to reason, what should I reason about? The only answer I've come up with is how to achieve life as man qua man, but it seems that once I decide to reason, I've already achieved it.

Have I mischaracterized life as man qua man? Is there something else it requires?

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Your intelect should be devoted to any productive purpose that you choose, something that enhances your life and makes you happy. If youre looking for a normative study of Rands ethical theory, as in, "how do I apply this to my life?", Tara Smiths book "Ayn Rands Normative Ethics" lays out the seven crucial virtues from Galts speech, and discusses why rationality, honesty, integrity, productiveness, independence, justice, and pride are the practical means for living a "flourishing" life as she puts it. Thats what is meant by man qua man, the flourishing life tha comes by means of virtuous egoism, and principled thinking.

Edit: typo.

Edited by JayR
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Staying alive and doing nothing will not make a person happy. Happiness comes from achieving a purpose. There are a whole lot of rational options: a whole lot of careers. Briefly, one cannot come up with the best career option by thinking in terms of "what is the most rational" or "what is the most productive". Since this is a choice being made for a specific person -- you -- you also need to consider your own specific nature: background, likes/dislikes, and so on. Here is one thread about careers, and here is another

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Staying alive and doing nothing will not make a person happy. Happiness comes from achieving a purpose. There are a whole lot of rational options: a whole lot of careers. Briefly, one cannot come up with the best career option by thinking in terms of "what is the most rational" or "what is the most productive". Since this is a choice being made for a specific person -- you -- you also need to consider your own specific nature: background, likes/dislikes, and so on. Here is one thread about careers, and here is another

Remember - this is an individual philosophy, not a group one...

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Erizo, what would you like to produce that is of greater value to others than your cost to produce it?

How do you get from where you are to the point where you can produce what you like to produce, and sell your products for a profit?

Do you need to learn a trade from someone else? Working as an employee of folk who are in the business you like might be an option.

Can you learn what you need to know without help? Great! Go for it.

The process is one of induction: define your rational long term goals, including personal goals and professional goals, and then connect the dots from where you are today to the realization of those goals. In the process, your goals will need to be in harmony with one another, and form a hierarchy, but don't be dismayed if you can't see the whole road before you start -- none of us can or will, the fact that other volition beings share space with you is incontrovertible. Just make sure that at each major decision point, you move in the right direction, and don't let minor decisions erode your resolution.

Cheers.

- David

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