Free Capitalist

Central Purpose in Life

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In the past few days, Burgess has written a couple of responses in threads, regarding which I sent him a PM, asking for clarification. He suggested that I put my question in a public form, probably because this is could be a subject of interest to others. The first quote was from The Story of Civilization thread:

[H]ow does your interest in history fit into your central (or other highest) purpose in life? [...] If one of your highest purposes in life requires that you know something about every broad period of Western history, then, yes, I would recommend the series -- especially at such a low price.

The second quote was from a discussion over at OO.net about Dr. Binswanger's "BBTC" book, asking if anyone's read it. Burgess replied,

I have read it (years ago) and took some notes. What do you want to know about it?

If you believe that it addresses issues in your central purpose in life (your career, basically), and your CPL is either philosophy or biology, then I would recommend buying it.

If your interest in philosophy is at the level of "philosophy for Rearden" (rather than "philosophy for Ragnar"), then I would not recommend it. Studying other works would be more helpful probably.

In the first quote Burgess seems to be saying that unless history is directly related to what one loves doing most in life, there's no reason in studying history or reading history books. Likewise, his advice in the second quote seems to suggest that reading philosophical books on narrow and somewhat esoteric topics, such as BBTC, is only useful if it fits into the person's CPL. It is about this "CPL" concept that I sent Burgess my PM of request for clarification about.

My question is, then: isn't there a place for general education, for a person who doesn't only have a narrow specialty in a concrete field, but also a wide range of interests and knowledge about the world as a whole? I don't mean things like hobbies, but a serious and devoted non-hobby interests that run parallel to the CPL, but don't directly have much to do with it. For example, Francisco wanted to be a great industrialist, and not a philosopher. Yet he did want to study philosophy in-depth, so that he could philosophically defend his company and his CPL against those who would scorn him. While it's true that his non-industrial, non-business interests still tied into his primary passion, but clearly that link is only ostensible and indirect. Studying management would directly lie on his path toward achieving his CPL; studying electrical engineering -- already getting a bit off, but still much directly in common with the activity of running a business; having a profound understanding of philosophy -- now we're getting into different territory.

So my original question, restated, is: wouldn't Burgess tell the young Francisco to focus on his one CPL, and leave off development of all of his other faculties and interests? In a similar vein to this, didn't the Greeks scorn professionalism, in the Olympic Games for example, and all of their champions were integrated men who did not live and breathe sports, but partook in many other activities and were generally well rounded and integrated people?

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Free Capitalist,

I would agree with Burgess and this is why

First, you must understand the nature of man, your time and resources are limited. You will not be able to accomplish everything in a lifetime that you want. So there must be priorities from one through whatever. What is of the utmost fundamental importance to you.

In the movie "Ayn Rand, A Sense of LIfe" in the special features, there is a part of an interview that was cut, I think it is with Dr. Binswanger, but I am not sure. He is discussing how Ayn Rand loved to play chess and had great passion for it. A very good chess player was playing against Ayn Rand and mentioned that with a little more practice she could be great. She said she would never be great at chess, because it was not part of her "CPL". Why? Because knowing her time was limited she decided to use it on another endeavor.

I understand basic physics, but not as much as Stephen Speicher. I also do not care to ever get to that point. I know that my resources are limited and chose to apply them somewhere else.

A "CPL" has to be tied to your productive work. Eeverything else you have a passion in is secondary and must be chosen as such.

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A central purpose / career is a means to living a happy, fulfilling life, but it is not the ONLY means. A CPL organizes your productive life, but the payoff of life are the things you do as an end in itself.

This last may include romance, friendship, the arts, sports, a hobby, and studying various subjects for pleasure. A happy life includes work AND play.

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Burgess seems to be saying that unless history is directly related to what one loves doing most in life, there's no reason in studying history or reading history books.

No, I was not saying that. Keep the context in which I wrote. The question was, should one buy a 10-volume set of thick books on the history of western civilization? The answer depends on the place of that much history -- which is very hard work to read, assess, and integrate -- in one's hierarchy of values.

My hierarchy is very steep and clearly defined. However, I have learned that unfortunately many people don't seem to have a hierarchy; they operate on range of the moment. Whatever happens to strike their fancy at a particular moment is what they put their time into -- without a plan, without a sense of priorities, and usually with little skill and therefore little profit.

Likewise, his advice in the second quote seems to suggest that reading philosophical books on narrow and somewhat esoteric topics, such as BBTC, is only useful if it fits into the person's CPL.

This question is impossible to answer without knowing the person's hierarchy of values, including his central and other highest purposes in life and how an esoteric book fits into achieving those values.

I am not a cognitive egalitarian. I do not believe that either (1) all books are of equal value to all individuals, or (2) that all books are of value to any particular individual and that range of the moment "interest" should be the guide for deciding whether to invest hundreds of hours into an esoteric book.

The onus of proof is on anyone who claims that studying book x or field y will benefit a certain person more than any other alternative use of his time.

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My question is, then: isn't there a place for general education, for a person who doesn't only have a narrow specialty in a concrete field, but also a wide range of interests and knowledge about the world as a whole?

A place for general education? Of course. The question is how much do you need to accomplish your highest purposes in life?

I don't mean things like hobbies, but a serious and devoted non-hobby interests that run parallel to the CPL, but don't directly have much to do with it.

I infer that you are creating three classes of studies: hobbies (the lowest form), CPL, and "parallel" interests. If that is true, then I infer tentatively that you are denigrating hobbies. A hobby can involve many hours of study. Look at Ayn Rand's hobby of stamp collecting (and classifying). She amassed over 50,000 stamps, according to Charles Sures (Facets of Ayn Rand)!

My second point is that if my CPL is X, but I have a "parallel" interest in field Y, but it does not directly support X -- then where is the integration?

Take an example. If I am fascinated with history it could be my CPL. But if I am also "in parallel" fascinated with chess -- then why not integrate them? History of chess could be my CPL. It would be enormously demanding -- e.g, studying not only the development of the game, but what the game reveals about the cultures that support it and those that don't.

So my original question, restated, is: wouldn't Burgess tell the young Francisco to focus on his one CPL, and leave off development of all of his other faculties and interests?

No. You are presenting a false-dichotomy. It is not CPL versus other interests. It is CPL -- as the core but not whole of one's life -- and other interests ranked hierarchically.

Here is an example. My ultimate purpose in life is happiness. I have three secondary purposes that, when achieved, lead to that: My central purpose in life; my friendships; and my favorite leisure activity ("roving" in two forms, walking/bicycling and reading adventure type stories)

My CPL is to tell success stories from history. But I also have an interest in philosophy. There is no conflict. There are no "parallel" interests. I draw my success stories from the history of philosophy. Integration is really that simple.

Do I have other interests? Of course. For example, one among many, I am intrigued by the archaeology of early man. But I don't spend thousands of hours studying it. Instead I occasionally read books or articles about it, at a layman's level.

If you know what your hierarchy of values is, everything has a place and the problem is only deciding how much time each deserves commensurate with its place in the hierarchy. Buying and intensely studying ten thick volumes of the history of western civilization may or may not be a wise move for, as an example, a fiction writer. The wisdom of doing so depends on that fiction writer's particular goals as a writer. If he wants to write historical novels, then the 10-volume set makes a lot of sense. But if he wants to concentrate on romance in modern settings it might not make a lot of sense.

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[...] didn't the Greeks scorn professionalism, in the Olympic Games for example, and all of their champions were integrated men who did not live and breathe sports, but partook in many other activities and were generally well rounded and integrated people?

Okay, FC, now it's your turn. I offered examples -- both my own and hypothetical -- of purposes and their role in life. You could aid this discussion by offering your own as an example:

- What is your ultimate purpose in life?

- What is your central (productive, career) purpose in life?

- In crow-friendly form, what are your other highest purposes in life?

- What are your hobbies?

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If one can not define a CPL or tries to have multiple CPL's at one time, this can lead to stagnation. Why? Because, if one tries to have multiple CPL's at one time how does one choose which lecture to go to if they are both on the same day and in different areas. One CPL requires that you move to the east coast to further your study while another requires that you stay on the west coast. How does one chose? By prioritizing, which means one must choose a single CPL.

This is not to say that you can not change your CPL or become more specific in your CPL as you gain further knowledge in your CPL. But, one can not have multiple CPL's and gain much from them. One's CPL demands and requires a lot of time and effort, otherwise it would not be a CPL. One's CPL then defines and integrates everything else that flows from it. What hobbies one likes, what books ones going to read, where one should want to live, things one does as a pass-time.

If all these things are not chosen, prioritized and integrated, one can look like they have a CPL, because one is always busy, but truly one does not. This person is always running in multiple ways but never getting anywhere, at least not as much as this person could.

Defining a CPL does not mean one can not have other areas of interest. A CPL will help define where those other areas of interest will be. So that one can achieve happiness and fully enjoy one's life.

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I agree with the post that Ray K wrote.

But, what if the central productive purpose is not determined yet, but the ultimate purpose is the mental state of Atlantis, (clear strong mind, happiness, and serenity), and the ones' passion is learning!? About more than one could ina lifetime!!

~ Carrie ~

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I don't mean to shift this topic off of its intended discussion, but I thought this would be the best place to ask about finding your CPL. I have many interests right now, and all of them seem like they could be what I want to do for the rest of my life. How do I go about choosing the one that will be the best? Burgess Laughlin mentioned a "hierarchy of values", but how did you go about making that? Thanks in advance.

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[...]I thought this would be the best place to ask about finding your CPL. I have many interests right now, and all of them seem like they could be what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Your question is a very good one. Giving examples will help concretize the discussion. What are your topmost "interests"?

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...Buying and intensely studying ten thick volumes of the history of western civilization may or may not be a wise move for, as an example, a fiction writer. The wisdom of doing so depends on that fiction writer's particular goals as a writer. If he wants to write historical novels, then the 10-volume set makes a lot of sense. But if he wants to concentrate on romance in modern settings it might not make a lot of sense.

Since I was the one that asked about the 11 volume set, let me say that I clearly, for one, understood your context. Although I wouldn't discredit someone for reading through a series such as this when it did not tie somehow into their CPL, I would question the usefulness. Unless integrated somehow into one's central purpose, there'd be little hope of even remembering 98% of it anyway. I don't know how many times I have had a temporary fascination with a subject, only to find after its dissipation (and the further passage of time) that I recall little of it.

Note however that I do not consider those a waste of time, even though now they are little more than zero sum excursions. But, that is not known in advance, so immersion in something only to find later that it is not a "life passion" is, what I would consider part of the pursuit of goals and values.

That said, I am using them in the context of my goal as a fiction writer, of science fiction/fantasy.

But, if I was going to write romance in a modern setting, I would definitely be studying the history of sex, romance, mores etc, and I'd read an 11 volume on that as well! B)

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If one can not define a CPL or tries to have multiple CPL's at one time, this can lead to stagnation.

It might -- but it doesn't have to.

I have always been a person who is interested in -- and involved in -- just about everything. When I was trying to choose a career, I tried doing many different things to see what happened. I enjoyed and excelled in everything I tried. Then what?

I decided to be a freelance writer. I could research and write about anything that interested me. On the way to doing that, I took a part-time job working with computers and fell in love with what I could do with this exciting emerging technology that had such a huge variety of applications. I became a freelance computer programmer, systems designer, and project manager.

And I continued to write when I wanted to.

And I read and studied anything that interested me when I wanted to.

And I did many, many other productive activities when I wanted to, most of which had little to do with my career.

I made no effort to integrate them all other than to take my career seriously enough to meet my personal goals and professional committments. After that, I did what I pleased, short-range or long-range, taking into consideration my current interests and goals.

This works for me. I'm in my sixties now and I have had a wonderful, exciting, and productive life so far. Some people are single-tracked and their career is their whole life -- and that is fine too. People are different and there are many different paths to happiness.

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Your question is a very good one. Giving examples will help concretize the discussion. What are your topmost "interests"?

I really enjoy studying the Classics. I probably have no single greater passion than that. However, I do not see myself as the kind of person who could be a professor. I've really enjoyed studying economics, and I'm thinking of something in that area because I think that I would be able to go into a business field and travel to Asia or Europe, two places that I would like to spend a lot of time working in. However, I also enjoy writing, and I enjoy writing scripts for movies that I would like to direct. So, I have lots of divergent interests, and it would be very hard to unify all of them. Thanks.

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One's CPL demands and requires a lot of time and effort, otherwise it would not be a CPL.  One's CPL then defines and integrates everything else that flows from it.  What hobbies one likes, what books ones going to read, where one should want to live, things one does as a pass-time?

Correct me if I am wrong, but are you saying that one's CPL should determine which hobbies one should like, what books one is going to read, where one should want to live, and what things one does as a pass-time.

While a person's career often does affect such things, isn't it more the case that the hobbies he enjoys, the books he likes to read, where he wants to live, and his favorite pass-times should determine his career? As his personal and optional interests change and evolve, shouldn't his career change too?

In this day and age when personal growth doesn't stop with a college degree and people can live long enough to have two or more serious careers, doesn't it make sense that what a person enjoys doing should determine everything else?

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I have many interests right now, and all of them seem like they could be what I want to do for the rest of my life. How do I go about choosing the one that will be the best?

One thing that might help is to get rid of the notion that you have to find the one and only "best" choice. The fact is that there may be dozens of careers in which you would be mentally challenged, productive, and very, very happy. A mind is a multi-purpose faculty suitable for a variety of tasks.

So see what you can do with your most interesting interests and, if you really love doing it, do as much of it as you can. If it doesn't work out or you enjoy it for a while and then outgrow it, move on and see what you can do with your next most interesting interests.

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My understanding of purpose comes from many Objectivist writings, lectures and "The Ayn Rand Lexicon". Right now I will quote totally from "OPAR".

From page 297 of "OPAR", I quote "A productive man is a moral man. In the more intellectually demanding and innovative fields, he is the epitome of morality." So one must be productive which ties one to ones purpose.

From page 297-298 of "OPAR" I quote "Turning now to a different aspect of the present virtue, productiveness is not only a necessary element of the good life, it is the good life's central purpose. In developing this point, I must begin by considering an issue broader than productiveness, the second of the "supreme and ruling values': purpose.

"The need of purpose is inherent in life in every cardinal aspect of human nature; it is inherent in life, in reason, in volition. Life is a process of goal-directed action."

Further down page 298 of "OPAR", "The principle of purpose means conscious goal-directedness in every aspect of one's existence where choice applies. The man of purpose defines explicitly his abstract values and then, in every area, the specific objects he seeks to gain and the means by which to gain them."

Even further down page 298 of "OPAR", "The principle of purpose sanctions deliberate rest or relaxation, but condemns a course of drifting or of inaction. It condemns any form of being moved through one's days by the power of accident, such as a man's falling into a job, an affair, a philosphy, or even a movie theater simply because it or she happens to be there and to look further is too much trouble. The man who drops purpose turns himself into a cipher who evades his own nature, defaults on the responsibility of focus, and abdicates his power of choice. Such a man spends his time on throwing away his life."

From page 299 of "OPAR", "Like any value, purpose itself must be achieved by a specific course of action. If a man is to be purposeful, his goals must be interrelated. This in turn requires that they be integrated to a central purpose."

One last quote from "OPAR" on page 299, "A central purpose is the long-range goal that constitutes the primary claimant on a man's time, energy, and resources. All his other goals, however worthwhile, are secondary and must be integrated to this purpose. The others are to be pursued only when such pursuit complements the primary, rather than detracting from it."

I think that there are more than enough quotes to show what a central purpose of life is and how it should be integrated with the totality of what is one's life. I do not think it is required to come to a definition of a central purpose in your youth, but to achieve the "best within us", the APEX, the ultimate in your area, career or profession will demand you to choose and define one. Most people do not do this, to that extent and thats why there are very few, Tiger Woods, Henry Fords, Bill Gates and Ayn Rands in the world.

I am not saying that one cannot enjoy their life without a definite "CPL", but the enjoyment can definitely be enhanced if one defines and knows theirs.

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I really enjoy studying the Classics. I probably have no single greater passion than that.

[Throughout, bold added for emphasis.]

"Classics" means to me the texts that have survived from the ancient world and deal with timeless subjects: love, philosophy, and others. Usually "classics" refers to such texts written originally in Latin or Greek.

Have you studied either or both languages so that you can read the Classics in their original languages? Further, what happens to your passion for the Classics when you think about spending thousands of hours studying two "dead" languages? Does your passion diminish -- or do you see the studying of languages as at least acceptable as a means of fulfilling your greatest passion?

However, I do not see myself as the kind of person who could be a professor.

Why do you assume that loving the Classics means being a professor -- only? Are there any companies in the world that publish classics? To answer this question you might look on the title page of each of the Classics you have in your own library.

Further, do museums ever hire people who are experts in Classics? What about libraries? Might a very large library -- perhaps in a university -- want to hire someone who is an expert in Classics and has some training in library arts and sciences?

Might an expert in the Classics develop a career as a freelance writer -- writing for magazines, for example, that specialize in the ancient world?

Specifically, what is it about teaching ("being a professor") that you objectively dislike -- if anything?

All these questions are meant to be avenues toward discovering more about your interests -- and about the opportunities available in the world.

I've really enjoyed studying economics, and [...]

Specifically, any particular branch of economics? What is it about this field that most excites you? Is it the learning or is it some other element?

Have you studied economic history -- especially the history of the economies of the Romans and Greeks, the people who wrote the Classics that you admire?

[...] I'm thinking of something in that area because I think that I would be able to go into a business field and travel to Asia or Europe, two places that I would like to spend a lot of time working in.

I am not sure, but you seem to be saying that your main reason for entering economics, possibly, is so that you could work for a business, and you want to do that so that you can move to Europe and Asia (not at the same time). What all that tells me is that your goal is to get to Europe and Asia and you see business and economics as means to that end.

Why do you want to live in Europe and Asia? Is it possible you could live there without going into business or economics? My point is that you need to be clear about what the goals are and what the means to achieving the goals are.

Note too that there is a difference between a field of study (for example, Classics) and an activity (such as teaching or publishing Classics) and a place to live (such as Tokyo or Athens). Don't confuse or conflate them.

You might be able to do all three at once, but if not then you might have to make some decisions about priorities. Everyone does at one point or another.

However, I also enjoy writing, and I enjoy writing scripts for movies that I would like to direct.

Do you mean "writing" in the big sense (to cover the whole process of conceiving, researching, outlining, further thinking, drafting, editing, and producing a polished draft, followed by critiquing and proofreading) or do you mean "writing" in the narrow sense of composing a draft?

Writing is an activity. Almost everyone who is a professional writes: doctors (for medical journals or letters to the editor or others), lawyers, scientists, Classicists, economists, and others. Be sure to clearly distinguish activities which are peculiar to a field (perhaps as a certain kind of digging is to some archaeologists) and activities which are common to all professions (writing, thinking, interviewing) as part of those professions. A profession is not a single activity but a collection of particular activities that add up to producing some product or service.

So, I have lots of divergent interests, and it would be very hard to unify all of them.

If by "unify" you mean integrate into a hierarchy of values (with some being more important than others), then I don't see why. For example, I can see several possibilities for a central purpose in life. None of them exclude achieving your other interests in some way and at some point in your life.

I should also point out to you that a central purpose in life is a statement of an abstraction, which means it subsumes countless possible concrete applications. There are many ways of applying that abstraction to one's course in life, that is, one's career, one's place of living, and lifestyle. CPL and career are not the same thing. Don't conflate them.

Ayn Rand's CPL was to portray the ideal man. She mostly wrote novels. However, she might have specialized in screen plays or poetry or short stories. Do you see that the same CPL can be applied in different ways? This shows the function of a CPL: integration and therefore guidance. But one cannot deduce a particular career (which is a ladder reaching toward a goal, not the goal itself). Nor can one deduce where to live generally or one's hobbies or one's friends. Of course, one's choice of a CPL will probably affect those other choices, but the choices are not simple deductions. Those choices, and all choices, must be objective -- that is, based on facts, and fully considering the context of all that we know.

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A central purpose in life, as a statement of purpose, is an abstraction. As such, it can subsume many different particular career applications. A career is a sequence of jobs leading toward that purpose. A career is like a ladder, with each job (working for oneself or for others) as a rung on that ladder. Each job entails many activities (tasks) (such as, for a freelance writer: interviewing sources of information, setting goals and objectives, outlining, writing a draft, editing, proofreading, working with graphic designers, and dealing with printers).

The ladder leads to the CPL but is not the CPL. Some ladders might work as well -- in general -- as others, given the facts of the situation (which includes the nature of the person himself, as well as the social and economic circumstances). Likewise, one can have basically the same career but perform somewhat different jobs -- at different places for different employers, for example. And one can do basically the same job, in one place compared to another, but with a different mix of activities (some lovable and some merely tolerable).

Nevertheless, it is both possible and desirable to find the best CPL implemented in the best career, practiced in the best job, peforming the best activities -- but "best" is contextual. As circumstances and our knowledge change, so might "best."

In summary, while there is no intrinsically best solution, there is always an objectively best solution -- given all that one knows and can do at a particular time and place within the framework of lifetime goals.

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Burgess,

A place for general education? Of course. The question is how much do you need to accomplish your highest purposes in life?
You made a distinction between one's "ultimate purpose in life" (i.e. happiness) and the "secondary purposes" which lead to that, CPL being among them but not exclusively important. Yet from the quote above, one could infer that CPL is the over-arching purpose, amongst these secondary ones, and everything else including one's interests and hobbies ought to be evaluated according to how it fits with CPL. Would it not be proper to approach it like Betsy did, that is start with one's hobbies and other purposes, and acquire a CPL from there?

For example, you ask, "how much [general education] do you need to accomplish your highest purposes in life". Would it not be more proper to reverse things and say, "given a level of general education, what kinds of highest purposes can be derived from it".

That's one point. The second point, again referencing the quote above, is this: what if "general education" does not have anything to do with the CPL, but has directly to do with the "ultimate purpose in life", that is happiness? This is why I brought Greeks into this discussion, in part because you also know about them and their approach. They didn't say, "What is the one thing thing that will define my life"; what they said was, "I will acquire a broad education in development of the mind (school), development of the soul (moral education), and development of the body (physical education). After I have arrived at a place in my life when I am a developed person, then I will seek ways in which to express myself." Well, that was the ideal, anyway, not something that everyone did, or could do -- the ideal being that the most important thing was the development of the person, regardless of his intended profession or aim in life, and once that was achieved, an aim could be chosen (or the first aim among many, again as Betsy said). What do you say to this kind of approach?

PS As you can see, what I'm most interested in is the concept of "general education" and its perceived conflict with the idea of CPL as you propose it. I have my idea of where I'm going of course, I don't live my life bumbling around aimlessly, or on the range of the moment. However, as I said, your idea of "where to go in life" seems so exclusive at the expense of everything else, hence why I'm asking all this. This seems like it could be a really valuable thread, for a lot of people.

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FC, back in post 6, I asked you:

Okay, FC, now it's your turn. I offered examples -- both my own and hypothetical -- of purposes and their role in life. You could aid this discussion by offering your own as an example:

- What is your ultimate purpose in life?

- What is your central (productive, career) purpose in life?

- In crow-friendly form, what are your other highest purposes in life?

- What are your hobbies?

If you would answer those questions, first, then I can better try to answer your later questions. I will know where you are coming from, so to speak.

My experience in discussing these issues over the last 15 years or so is that they too easily stray into floating discussions. In particular, I need a better idea of the context in which you and I are speaking. One way to establish that is for you to describe the circumstances in which you are now needing answers to questions about this subject.

In broader terms, over the years I have learned that at some point I must ask myself -- or others -- "How does this hotly debated issue actually affect my life?" The answer, if any, determines a subsequent course of action. (BTW, this is a sure-fire way to squelch rationalisic debates about, for example, "What if 12 green men on Mars ...?")

P. S. -- What do you mean by "general education"?

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It might -- but it doesn't have to.

I have always been a person who is interested in -- and involved in -- just about everything.  When I was trying to choose a career, I tried doing many different things to see what happened.  I enjoyed and excelled in everything I tried.  Then what? 

[snip]

Betsy, I couldn't agree more. In fact, I think that I am a bit offended by the way that CPL is used here: to define one's particular line of work as if it was one's CENTRAL PURPOSE IN LIFE. (cue the wizard of Oz voice)

My central purpose in life is to be the best me I can be. To be the wisest, fittest, happiest, most selfish person I can be. My central purpose in life is not some one singular job: not even if I was the best in the entire world at it. I know I am capable of much more than any one job and I know I would be WASTING my talents if I limited myself to just one career.

I'm going to quote someone we have both enjoyed reading here:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

-Lazarus Long, Time Enough For Love; Robert A. Heinlein

I think, in spirit at least, I can agree with that.

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Philosophy is a guide of abstract ideas to be applied to your life. Choosing a "CPL" is a way to concretize your philosophy of life. The quotes that I gave from above were directly from Objectivist; Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff, and Tara Smith. So if you do not agree with the definitions, so be it. I did not define Central Purpose of Life, I am just giving you my understanding from reading about it, which I agree with.

There are no dogmatic rules or commandments in Objectivism. Objectivism does not tell one what to think, that is up to you. To achieve the "good life" though will require that you define what the "good life" must be, to you. How is one to do this with out knowing what it is they want/purpose?

Happiness or the good cannot be searched out directly, it comes as a secondary consequence of achieving ones values/goals. So until one defines what it is they want in life, they cannot move toward that specific value. How can one choose to be good and lead the good life until one defines the good? Defining what is good for oneself is a beginning of one's "CPL".

My Central Purpose in Life is: To exemplify the best within man through my actions. This is an abstract idea that I can make concrete by making it productive, through a career. To exemplify, is to illustrate or demonstrate, which is what I do through my company/career, Progressive Exercise. I sell the idea of leading the good life/the best within us. I have, through a proper philosophy of life, defined a way to exerise the mind and body to achieve the best and this is what I sell to my clients. I demonstrate how one can workout once a week and maintain body leanness without killing oneself. I logically persuade my clients to see their irrational behavior and help them to begin to think rationally, so that they can achieve the best within them. My clients, that stay long enough, begin to see that Progressive Exercise is more than a Philosophy of Exercise, it is a Philosophy of enhancing ones life.

On another note. Yes, your "CPL" can help you to choose hobbies and I will try to show how, through the following example.

If I had choosen to wipe out disease through my actions as my "CPL". It would have most likely lead me to medicine. To be specific I will even say the specific medical field of neurosurgery. My hands are very important to me accomplishing my goals, so I would not choose rugby as a hobby. I would not be rolling around getting my body beat up and my fingers smashed and risking the totallity of my life, for this hobby. But, if one wants to think that your hobbies have no relation to your happiness or your "CPL", go ahead and think that way. Reality will be the final judge.

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I'd like to go back and say something about the original concretes that started this thread of discussion: the question on what books to buy and read.

In ethics, one question that comes up repeatedly is: how should one spend one's time? A rational person always has more opportunities to do things than he has time to do them.

The ten-volume history of civilization will take many hours of reading if it's to be understood thoroughly. It's probably also full of footnotes, and these tend to slow one's progress even more, if one focuses enough on each note to properly understand and integrate it. I'm guessing this would take at least 1000 hours. It's not possible to make this kind of investment of time on that many things. Therefore, I'd say this kind of thorough reading is only appropriate if the subject matter directly relates to one's career.

But what about semi-recreational reading? Here, I'm thinking about somebody who enjoys reading history, much as another person might read a novel or go to a movie. I myself do this a lot - in particular, I enjoy reading and learning about history, even though it has nothing directly to do with my career.

Such reading, however, requires that different standards be applied to the book. It has to be relatively easier to read. Extensive footnotes and documenting of sources are not so important (since one probably won't have the time to check them anyway). It cannot rely too much on specialized knowledge that only a historian would have. But it still has to be accurate and well written.

Another use of such a book by a more casual reader might be as a sort of reference. Maybe I'm interested in knowing some specifics about a particular period or event. For this, a good index is essential, and it's also important to have a book in which the different chapters or sections can be read separately.

....

As for Binswanger's The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts, I did buy and read that book some years ago. I didn't put in the kind of intense study of it that would be appropriate if I were a biologist or philosopher (and so I didn't get as much out of it), but I did learn a lot, and am glad I read it. (In particular, it does a good job of "chewing" the question of what it means for something to be alive. How does the goal directed behavior of a plant, whose leaves reach for the sunlight, compare to the behavior of a machine like a thermostat, that might be said to seek a goal? What are the fundamental differences between a complex machine like a car or computer, and a living entity? And there's an excellent appendix on the relation of concepts to reality - why exactly can a concept not be an arbitrary collection of concretes.)

Again, reading this book was a sort of recreation for me. It's a different sort of recreation than people would normally think of, but what it comes down to is that I read it because I thought I'd learn something interesting. And enjoy doing so.

My thought is that doing this kind of reading is good, since it leads to more knowledge. It's especially valuable if one tries to integrate together one's knowledge of different fields. But, since it doesn't directly further one's career, I also think it's important to not do too much reading of this kind. (If I spent all of my time "reading for fun", even though it's serious reading, I think those years would not add up to anything. I would have enjoyed myself doing the reading and learning, but would not have accomplished anything with the knowledge.)

One thing that having a central purpose gives you is a standard by which to judge different potential activities. How do I spend my time today? If I have no central unifying purpose, goal or theme in life, how would I decide that? I think that simply reading what I felt like would amount to hedonism. For recreational activities, there does not need to be such a high standard: even for a man with a strong central purpose, there are more recreational options, but recreation is never an appropriate activity to organize one's life around.

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- What is your ultimate purpose in life?

- What is your central (productive, career) purpose in life?

- In crow-friendly form, what are your other highest purposes in life?

- What are your hobbies?

I hope I'm not being obtuse, but I am trying to get a handle on the distinction between an ultimate purpose and a central purpose. Let me give an example to see if I have this right. I kept it simple for illustration.

Let's say a musician starts off by playing cello in an orchestra, eventually becomes a conductor, and then a composer, and then maybe later a sound engineer. Now each of these steps we could call a central purpose (at least at the time they were pursued), and we could call music his ultimate purpose in life.

Or, as a real-life example like this. Pavarotti sang and that was his central purpose. Now he is teaching singing (I guess being past the age) and that is his central purpose. But at the end of his life, we would say the singing was his ultimate purpose.

These are simple but what about this? What if someone (still a purposeful person) pursued bull-riding, then marketing, and then ended up as an actor? I know what his central purposes were, but what is the ultimate purpose? I see people writing their CPL's as "being the best that I can be", but that's a pep talk, not a central purpose or even an ultimate purpose. It still leaves open the question: "and what is that?" It is not a guide to any particular concrete action as I see, because there is no particular object.

Does not an ultimate purpose have to be in some concrete form? And if so, how does it differ from a CPL?

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