The value of philosophy

Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem

I’m not the brightest star in the sky.

I don’t posses much of the of knowledge that well-informed people have.

This is why it’s essential for me (and those in the same boat) to operate with the best philosophy possible.

Why? Because if i can avoid contradictions in my foundation, then even modest knowledge will be in line with knowledge that’s far more advanced (see Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, page 42).

Philosophy lies at the base of knowledge. If you think the world was created by a god that needs to kill unrepentant unbelievers, there’s a good chance you’re going to wind up killing people.

If you believe you attract the good, you may well be blessed in some areas, but also might find you didn’t achieve what you wanted.

Of course everyone would benefit from the right philosophy, since you can have a lot of knowledge and still have a philosophy that has serious flaws eg collectivist anarchism, Marxism or religion.

A philosophy is a framework, a worldview, a guide to action. It should be a practical guide, not a complex of rules that has little bearing to the real world.

A good philosophy isn’t arcane, so it can only be understood by specialists. A good philosophy is general, and can be understood by people with a common level of intelligence.

People need a philosophy that provides a sound framework, that isn’t fixed, and can expand as their knowledge increases.

But in a word filled with information, much of it obscure and wrong, where to find such a philosophy?

Cue Ayn Rand’s philosophy, which she called Objectivism.

Some of her followers believe her system is fixed, and call it Closed Objectivism. Others though, think it’s open to change—when there’s sound reasoning behind it—and call it Open Objectivism.

A philosophy has to be responsive to change, to be committed to the truth, otherwise the philosophy becomes the focus rather than the truth.

So i think of Objectivism as a philosophy of truth—not that it is the whole truth, but that it provides the basis to discover it.

It’s a tool to use in evaluating and uncovering the truth, redefining itself as necessary in line with what’s true.

An invalid concept invalidates every proposition or process of thought in which it is used as a cognitive assertion…

As in all issues pertaining to objectivity, there is no ultimate authority, except reality and the mind of every individual who judges the evidence by the objective method of judgment: logic…

Man is neither infallible nor omniscient.

Excerpts from different sections of
Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology

Floating Abstraction
The way i thought from early on was a slip, slop, slap of what Ayn Rand calls “floating abstractions:” ideas that haven’t been clearly defined, and have only an approximate meaning.

In fact, as a result, i was a classic, or typical, example of a walking floating abstraction.

I don’t pretend to have made a dent in all those years of floating.

Returning to my past, i didn’t understand that you make your work, your work is an investment, whether it’s a job or a business. I didn’t understand the point of ambition: the ambition to improve, advance, excel.

Your work is there to realise yourself, not just make a living. But you also need confidence in yourself (self-esteem) to believe you can achieve something of value. Confidence created by previous achievements, small or large.

Your work is there to do something useful, to feel a sense of pride and self-respect: that you’ve done a good job and done something worthwhile.

Beyond this, you need to use your nous to be able to do your job well and to understand what’s worthwhile and what a good job is.

Going through the motions to get paid is ok for a time, provided the job has value and you still try to do good work. This might be to get through difficult periods, periods of transition and so on, but as a lifetime goal, without investing yourself, there’s not a lot of substance.

That’s not to say your goals shouldn’t change. Your outlook and knowledge change, so of course your goals can change with them.

Also, don’t misunderstand: doing a job well, doing it with thought, really injecting yourself into it, is something you can feel pride and self-respect about.

These three elements, of reason (using your head), purpose and confidence (self-esteem) are the foundations of Ayn Rand’s recipe for personal success (although only a part of her whole philosophy).

First among them is reason. If you can think about things clearly and logically, then everything follows.

Work is an opportunity to give your life purpose, to apply your reason to its best effect.

And the result of work well done, of achieving something worthwhile, is justifiable (not overbearing) pride.

If only i’d understood those three words— reason, purpose, self-esteem—when i was young, i probably wouldn’t have spent so many years falling in pot holes.

Dear reader, if you happen to be a young person unsure of what comes next, of what to do, you’re confused, have no direction, aren’t clear where to go…

OR if you’re older, but have the same problems, you could potentially gain a windfall with Ayn Rand.

There’s no better time—and there may be no other time if you’re older—to take those issues and confront them head on (that is, with your brain firing).

If you get the basics, she’ll infuse you with purpose, with direction, with a sense of what’s open to you and what you can do.

Then strap yourself in, because you get to spend the rest of your life filling in the blanks in whichever way you choose.

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