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STUDY GROUP - What is a central purpose in life(CPL)?

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This is to understand most important decision each one of us ought to take. Material includes following blog


Timing of Study-Group coincides with what would have been 72nd birthday of the blog writer Burgess Laughlin. Its a tribute to someone who has impacted me deeply, and also many more people.

Like any study-group, you can summarize, outline or chew(analyze and synthesize comprehensively). As a secondary objective, related subjects may be discussed.

Looking forward to have meaningful discussion.

Study-Group starts on 4th of July, and will run for 1 week.

Edited by RohinGupta
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Summary: Burgess in this blog gives examples of various individuals pursuing Central Purpose of life (CPL) - Howard Roark, Ayn Rand, and himself. He then shares various essential attributes of this Ethical formulation(statement of action, abstract, personal, probably able to generate income). Contrasting these attributes from other attributes that appear similar but are actually different(one's profession or job or role, philosophical virtue like integrity). Finally, from this information Burgess arrives at the criteria for formulating central purpose of life.

The criteria should be derived from facts of activity that is to be the central purpose, facts additionally including the outlook of self towards that activity, and also nature of social environment in which activity will be performed. It should be broad[abstract] enough to subsume variety of jobs, careers, and even activities outside career like hobbies. Primary focus of CPL is on action, and secondary focus on "being" or the role / profession requiring the activity. The CPL should be ambitious enough to make one stretch, but still offer probability of success.

(Chewing to be posted on Wednesday / Thursday).

Edited by RohinGupta
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Chewing: The example individuals range from Architect pursuing primarily material values (though it involves spiritual qualities, but the emphasis is more on concepts that involve material side). A fiction writer who later pursues non-fiction, and a non-fiction writer. With these examples ranging from primarily material product to primarily spiritual product, we get good idea of what all CPL can subsume. And this understanding enables us to discover attributes which we can extract for this virtue, guide to action that is.

Attributes include a) “statement of action” like building or writing. Profession name like architect or writer acts as a means to quickly identify the action in implicit terms. b.) Abstract nature shows fundamental, long range nature of this virtue. Pole of tent symbolizes it, showing how some things like relationships and leisure are related to but not part of CPL. c.) Personal nature means that even though abstract, CPL includes many actions which only few or one individual can take. And this means that the virtue derives from thought, skills, desires, willingness, cultural and physical environment of the individual. For e.g. little point in pursuing engineering CPL if building corresponding scientific base itself requires lifetime. Either move to corresponding science or applied science stream, or some other more feasible engineering stream. Initial emotional response towards corresponding activity being the starting point, and later response involving more abstract statement. d.) Probability of earning income from CPL being the final attribute. Carpenter, architect, and some fiction-writers being those having income from CPL. And other CPLs like writing poetry requiring a light day job, but maybe not applicable for critic of poetry.

Foils, that is attributes which look similar, but are actually not subsumed by CPL are also discussed. These include a.) “statement of being” is not CPL. Its just a shorthand to refer to “what has to be done” or statement of action. Full causal activity indicating productivity described abstractly(like designing buildings) , is the essential identification of CPL, and not the profession like Architect (which is the statement of being, a role that is). This section also identifies b.) career as only the partial attribute of CPL. Career consisting of various jobs, and jobs consisting of various tasks. [So CPL can also include tasks outside jobs and career, like activism and hobbies. This SGO for me.]. The section also distinguishes CPL from virtues of c.) Ethical code. While virtues are universal, which everyone can apply, CPL is very personal. For e.g. Rationality, Honesty and Integrity are virtues, but telling success stories in fiction and non-fiction are CPLs. Also even person like Kant, who betrayed objective ethics, had valid (though destructive) CPL of creating philosophical foundations of Anti-Aristotelian system.

The blog ends with criteria for formulating CPL. CPL being a tool for deciding specific set of action, the criteria is tool for identifying CPL. It includes the following:

(Some information is very personal here, and has therefore been omitted from final draft. So please message me if you want to see it. I will decide on case to case basis, whether to share or not, and how much to share.)

a.)    Objective: Drawn from i.) facts of self, ii.) nature of activity, iii.) and the world we live in.

For me having these SGOs as part of my CPL for example, it will involve that i)<omitted> Plus ii) <omitted> iii.) In this world, intellectual activism is not given much importance, so it would be very hard to get required audience. But the fact that rational intellectuals are relatively less gives me sufficient areas to choose from.

I started with more abstract area like Epistemology for Induction in physics study-group, then moved to Ethical area in Ayn Rand study-group. And finally to iPhone one, which unlike first two has primarily social and economic aspects.


b.)    Broad: Subsumes variety of jobs, activities, circumstances, and even careers.

So it involves this and iPhone study-group,

<omitted>, sometimes reviewing books in office magazine, <omitted>.

The learnings I get from SGO are also applied using the same methodology to explain bugs, requirements, or customer issue. Plus to present my innovation better. And many a times in social media forums like facebook, Quora, and Twitter.


c.)     Active: That is it can include few or many actions. You can expand to include decades or shrink to include few hours, and timespans in between. Plus it also includes quotations and stories as part of CPL,that can motivate you when stretched.

For e.g., long term I will use CPL to include my career decisions, and even life decisions. <omitted>, understanding and separating rational and irrational elements in religion (part of my CPL).

Medium term I will focus on Study-group,


Plus references like “Productive people of mind and action are prime movers (Ayn Rand)”, “Philosophy is a matter of life and death”, “Decisions I take determines destiny I take”, and “Honesty requires actively looking out for facts and values (rather than being moved by feelings)”. These quotations will serve to motivate me when I am stretched. Enabling me to connect day to day activities to larger purpose of life.

Stories including Atlas Shrugged and movies like Shawshank Redemption.

d.)    Ambitious: Activities of CPL can make major change in society. For Ayn Rand, Steve Jobs, and Howard Roark it was certainly true. And considering that we are studying his blog using tools he invented, this is certainly true for Burgess.

Also, considering that my long term goals can change <omitted>, and how people view religion and philosophy, I think my CPL for <omitted> is quite ambitious. Further, <omitted>. Plus <omitted>, these targets are certainly ambitious.

e.)    Feasible: Only real satisfaction comes if CPL is achieved. Learning gives only partial satisfaction. So one should evaluate his skills and goals, along with means before committing to CPL.


I think epistemological and ethical framework is there to <omitted>. Only problem is that educational system is promoting completely opposite philosophy. Positive is that psychological tools like FRC (Face it, replace it, connect) have improved to change entrenched thinking. But still, given the widespread counter-culture, the shift may not be radical but gradual, as in Renaissance.

(One alternative can be to build on top of 7 Habits – Critical evaluation).

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Conclusion: To be in control of one's life, both present and future, one needs to be able to make rational decisions. While ethics provide good criteria for the same, Central Purpose of Life is needed to make day to day decisions along with life altering ones. This blog has definitely given me clarity of thought and action. Looking forward to have better life as a result of this activity.

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