Free Capitalist

Central Purpose in Life

57 posts in this topic

Since THE FORUMS is for Ayn Rand fans, a short list of references to Ayn Rand's views on central purpose in life might be of interest. I would recommend the following items in The Ayn Rand Lexicon as a starting point for studying her views. I have selected short passages that I believe are key to the discussion of central purpose in life. Of course, they must be considered in full context. What follows are excerpts from excerpts.

(Italics are in the original texts. I have added bold for emphasis of ideas relevant to this thread.)

1. (a) "Ultimate Value," p. 512, an excerpt from "The Objectivist Ethics," Virtue of Selfishness, p. 7 (hb), p. 17 (pb):

An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means -- and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism's life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.

(B) Ibid., p. 25 (hb), p. 29 (pb):

The maintenance of life and the pursuit of happiness are not two separate issues. To hold one's own life as one's ultimate value, and one's own happiness as one's highest purpose are two aspects of the same achievement.

2. (a) "Purpose," ARL, p. 398, an excerpt from "The Objectivist Ethics," VOS, p. 19 (hb), p. 25 (pb):

The three cardinal values of the Objectivist ethics -- the three values which, together, are the means to and the realization of one's ultimate value, one's own life -- are: Reason, Purpose, Self-Esteem, with their three corresponding virtues: Rationality, Productiveness, Pride."

Productive work is the central purpose of a rational man's life, the central value that integrates and determines the hierarchy of all his other values.

(B) "Playboy's Interview with Ayn Rand," pamphlet, p. 6:

A central purpose serves to integrate all the other concerns of a man's life. It establishes the hierarchy, the relative importance, of his values.

3. (a) "Career," ARL, p. 63, an excerpt from "From My 'Future File'," Ayn Rand Letter, III, 26, 3:

'Productive work' does not mean the blind performance of the motions of some job. It means the conscious, rational pursuit of a productive career.

(B) An excerpt from "Why I Like Stamp Collecting," Minkus Stamp Journal, v. 6 (1971), no. 2, p. 2:

A career requires the ability to sustain a purpose over a long period of time, through many separate steps, choices, decisions, adding up to a steady progression toward a goal.

Following is my summary of what I have come to know about these issues:

My ultimate purpose in life is my own happiness. To get there, I have secondary purposes: my work, my friends, and my leisure (recreational) activities. Central among the secondary purposes is my productive work, which I retain mentally as an abstraction (for unit economy and as a guide), and implement as a progressive series of steps in productive action.

Metaphorically, I think of these issues this way: My life is somewhat like a circus tent. The tent itself is my own happiness, and the tent is held up by three poles. The main one, in the center, is my beloved work, and the other two are my friendships and my favorite leisure activities. Within that tent, held up by those three poles, a myriad of activities and relationships take place.

Together those activities all are my life, but my purposes in life do the work that abstractions always do: They provide both unit-economy in thinking about my life and guidance for taking action.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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. [...]

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.

No, this musician's ultimate purpose in life is happiness. (That is the same for all sane people, so it is a philosophical purpose, that is, a personal one shared by others.) "Ultimate" means at the end of something, in this case the end of his hierarchy of values. If a hierarchy is like a pyramid, then an ultimate purpose is at the apex of all his thousands of purposes.

His central purpose in life -- which is personal to him and not shared by others in general -- is, let's say, "to produce music," as Ayn Rand's was to produce a "presentation of the ideal man" in fiction (and later to explicate the philosophy of the ideal man she had earlier portrayed). (See The Romantic Manifesto, "The Goal of My Writing," third page of the article; and Jeff Britting, Ayn Rand, pp. 87-88 and 91-93.)

The music-producer's career consists of a series of steps: learning to play, with a tutor; playing in a school orchestra; playing for a local youth symphony; playing in a small urban symphony, but full-time; playing in the most demanding and prestigious (and lucrative) orchestra, perhaps in New York; becoming a conductor; becoming a composer. All these are rungs up the ladder of his career, but they are all implementations of his CPL, stated as an abstraction: to produce music.

His CPL is secondary, that is, it supports his ultimate purpose in life. He has other secondary purposes; they too support his UPL, happiness. Probably the two main ones are his romance/friendships and his leisure activities. Perhaps he met his love (or his closest friend, if he has no lover) through music, but he need not have done so. For leisure activities, he might choose anything that allows him to "re-create" himself after hard work in learning and performing new music. Hiking, stamp collecting, and amateur archaeology are examples. He does not deduce them from his CPL, but they must be integrated in the sense that, at the very least, they must not wreck his CPL. Choosing a style of karate that emphasizes breaking boards and bricks with bare hands -- ending in crippled, thick, unresponsive fingers incapable of playing an instrument -- shows misintegration with his CPL.

This musician can thus live a full happy life -- not simply as an empiricist's heap of disconnected experiences, but as an objective whole in which all the pieces are integrated hierarchically.

Can he change his mind half-way through his life? Of course. So what? The possibility of doing so doesn't mean we should abandon integration, just as the possibilty of having been certain but knowing now that one was wrong does not mean abandoning any attempt to be certain again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
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:

For recreational activities, what you feel like doing is the main standard.

Recreational activities are those we do for enjoyment -- that's the goal -- and not as a means to any other end. Good recreation is properly an end in itself and one of the main ways of objectively and joyously experiencing the fact that you are an end in yourself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, Burgess. That defines and answers my objection all at once. Without defining UPL, the CPL sounds like it is the UPL. Of course, it is not.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Now, having said that...

What careers are open to those who want to work with philosophy itself?

On second thought, that is a big enough question that I should ask it in its own topic.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
No, this musician's ultimate purpose in life is happiness. (That is the same for all sane people, so it is a philosophical purpose, that is, a personal one shared by others.) "Ultimate" means at the end of something, in this case the end of his hierarchy of values. If a hierarchy is like a pyramid, then an ultimate purpose is at the apex of all his thousands of purposes.

I was being obtuse! Thank you very much for the refresher! Of course, when you say that it is a philosophic purpose, we could also say (and tell me if this is wrong, although I cannot see how it could be otherwise) that it is a moral purpose whose practical application is by means of a CPL.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Of course, when you say that it is a philosophic purpose, we could also say [...] that it is a moral purpose whose practical application is by means of a CPL.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Thoyd, I see several possible issues here. We may need to go back and forth before clarifying the question and then answering it. Here are my first steps:

1. Having an ultimate purpose in life is philosophical in the sense that the idea of doing so applies to all individuals everywhere and at all times. (That is what philosophy is: The science that answers the questions that everyone needs to answer and that are basic to all other inquiries.)

2. One branch of philosophy is ethics, one purpose of which is to develop a morality, that is, a code that guides individuals in living their lives. So, yes, in this sense, having an ultimate purpose of living happily is a moral purpose. (Purpose -- that is, being purposeful in all our actions -- should be one of our three highest philosophical values, which are matters of concern in morality.)

3. Yes, the way to achieve that ultimate purpose is -- while exercising all the values and virtues -- to achieve the lesser purposes that lead up to the ultimate purpose. The key -- that is, central -- secondary purpose is a man's productive purpose. However, a central purpose in life is not the only secondary purpose that leads to happiness. Two others are recreation (leisure, hobbies) and friendships. I am not certain, but I do hold that I could be happy without my favorite leisure activities, but I doubt that I could be happy without anyleisure activity. Likewise, I could be happy without my closest friends, but I doubt I could be happy without any friends.

Happiness is not binary. That is, it is not either fully "on" or fully "off." One can be very happy, moderately happy, or only somewhat happy -- or somewhat unhappy, moderately unhappy, or very unhappy.

P. S. -- In another thread, Stephen Speicher, PRN and others have discussed the issue of whether choosing life is a moral or pre-moral choice. I do not know whether choosing life (which is inextricably tied to happiness) is an issue of morality or whether it is a pre-moral decision. I will leave that issue for now to the participants in the other thread.

Why? Because choosing to be unhappy is inconceivable to me, and I can not see justification for pursuing the issue further, given my limited time and the fact that life is short. I am mostly interested in "philosophy for Rearden." But for those who want to know "philosophy for Ragnar," the issue might be worth wrestling with. That other thread is the place for that discussion.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Burgess, I'm taking my time replying in this thread, in order to 'chew' and further clarify the ideas in my head and to understand where you're coming from both in your posts to me and replies to others. With that said, here's my reply.

First you said,

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.

- What is your ultimate purpose in life?

Happiness! The more I learn, the more concretely real this ultimate purpose becomes for me, not just a floating abstraction but a concrete and almost physical goal that I can grasp and actively pursue.

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

I am in graduate school at the moment, studying Computer Science (after getting a double undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Philosophy). After school I will pursue an advanced computer programming vocation, most likely dealing with computer vision and other related cutting-edge technologies.

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

To become an integrated, well-rounded, moral person. This is where I am coming from, and this purpose right now is so important that it is all-consuming, and almost everything else is practically subsumed under it. I've been so absorbed by this lately that I've even put my CPL on the background, only doing the bare minimum I have to do for school to get good grades and nothing extra. This is true to such an extent that I feel like I have no time or much interest in the CPL at the moment (though when I think about it I still realize that it is what I will still be doing for the rest of my life, just not right now).

- What are your hobbies?

Too many to list, and I describe some of them in my profile -- sports activities such as swimming, soccer, tennis, etc; non-sport activities like chess and video games too (Tekken 5 or Rome: Total War, anyone?) I suppose that my overarching hobby is reading, which I do whenever I can; my attitude is: a 30-minute ride on a bus is a terrible thing to waste!

The other thing you asked was:

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

This is one of those subjects that will need a lot of "chewing" if I am to define it all by myself without others. Essentially what I mean by this is a holistic development of all important faculties of man:

-- cognitive development: knowing the details of the two most important fields, philosophy and history, as well as being proficient in one or more languages and having good general knowledge of all major branches of science;

-- epistemological development: knowing how to properly think, how to feel, how to integrate and properly balance thinking and emotion

-- moral/psychological development: a development and consistent practice moral virtues, a genuine, rather than assumed, sense of self-confidence, etc

-- physical development: having an interest in physical activities, looking toned, firm, with an upright posture and being no stranger to the physical world, being healthy, etc.

These are all just a rough estimate that I've come up with. Certainly this subject is something that deserves and incredible deal of further development, but I think you get my idea. This is my non-CPL highest purpose that I've mentioned above. It is because of this subject that I brought up the ancients, because they held this as a very important purpose, and because from their example we can see how it worked in real life, rather than try to pull it out of thin air and imagine how, without any real idea of whether it will work, or whether it has ever worked before.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Free Capitalist, I have several comments to offer that might aid this discussion. Consider them grist for the mill.

- What is your ultimate purpose in life?

Happiness! The more I learn, the more concretely real this ultimate purpose becomes for me, not just a floating abstraction but a concrete and almost physical goal that I can grasp and actively pursue.

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

[...] After school I will pursue an advanced computer programming vocation, most likely dealing with computer vision and other related cutting-edge technologies.

So your CPL, as an abstract statement, is "to produce computer programs"? Or, at this early stage, are you more focused? Note that a CPL, as a statement, needs to be broad enough to include decades of particular activities, but not so broad that you can't use it as a guide. It is entirely proper to narrow or broaden the CPL as time passes and you gain more knowledge of yourself and your subject matter.

For example, Ayn Rand's CPL was to portray the ideal man (in writing, as the context always shows), a statement broad enough to allow her to do so in scripts for movies, scripts for stage plays, short stories, and novels. She later modified her CPL to something like this: "to more fully explain and defend the philosophy that an ideal man would have, as I showed in my fiction writing earlier." (My words, not hers, inferred from Jeff Britting's little biography, Ayn Rand, and from other sources I have read about her.)

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

To become an integrated, well-rounded, moral person.

So, you are saying that you have four highest purposes (all leading to your ultimate purpose, happiness):

1. Central purpose in life.

2. Becoming integrated.

3. Becoming well-rounded.

4. Becoming moral.

We have already discussed your central purpose. Now let's consider your other three most important purposes, the ones you couldn't be happy without.

You say you want to be integrated. That is the virtue of integrity, which is covered by morality -- which is item 4. So, we can delete item 2, as it is already subsumed under item 4.

You say you want to become moral. Is that because you are not now moral? Regardless of the answer, doesn't the virtue of pride (moral ambition) already cover this need?

A further problem is this: Being moral is not a purpose in life -- it is the means of life; it is the way you achieve your higher (though secondary) purposes which in turn will lead you to your ultimate purpose, happiness (assuming that social conditions allow it).

So, I see your list of your highest purposes (supporting your ultimate purpose) now shrinking to central purpose in life and being well-rounded.

This is where I am coming from, and this purpose right now is so important that it is all-consuming, and almost everything else is practically subsumed under it.

Okay, but I still don't know what you mean by "well-rounded." Can you define it or at least characterize it, and give an example of or generally describe a "well-rounded" person who also has a passionately held central purpose in life?

Perhaps you are connecting "well-rounded" to "general education." Is the former a product of the latter? You lay out your general education program in the following passage, if I follow you correctly. (I have shortened it to the key points.)

Essentially what I mean by this is a holistic development of all important faculties of man:

-- cognitive development: [...]

-- epistemological development: [...]

-- moral/psychological development: [...]

-- physical development: [...]

This is my non-CPL highest purpose that I've mentioned above.

If by "holistic" you mean "integrated," and if by "development" you mean make yourself better, then haven't you already covered these points by saying you want to be moral (which includes the virtues of integrity and pride, respectively)?

One final comment: I am puzzled by an omission, an item very important to the best of the Classical Greeks, such as Aristotle -- rewarding relationships with others (either as a romantic relationship or a close friendship or both). Is romance/friendship not one of your highest purposes in life, that is, isn't it one of the steps contributing directly to happiness?

Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. This discussion has helped me sharpen my own, very steep, hierarchy of values.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Burgess,

You say you want to be integrated. That is the virtue of integrity, which is covered by morality -- which is item 4. So, we can delete item 2, as it is already subsumed under item 4.
I would have to disagree that "being an integrated person" is the same thing as "having the virtue of integrity". Although I do see a linguistic connection between the two concepts, I think the similarity ends there. The way I see it for now, be an integrated person is to have all of your major faculties qua man interconnected with one another. For example, let's say a man knows and practices proper philosophy and further wants to develop his mental capabilities in philosophic exercises, but yet has a weak stature, drooping shoulders, a pot belly, and absolutely no arm strength. That person, though they may achieve excellence in one aspect of their life, are not an integrated person because they deny and neglect the physical aspect of their being. Vice versa, take a guy who views sports as his life, and let's say he even derives good living from doing sports, fulfilling the CPL criterion. But this guy does not care about anything where thinking is involved, he doesn't enjoy profound music, doesn't attend any meaningful shows or plays (or barring that, doesn't feel that it's necessary to find meaningful and profound movies from an entire century of them being made), etc. He's not an integrated person either, though he excels in the bodily aspect of his being, has got a worthwhile CPL, and may even be quite a moral person. This is the major reason why the Classical Greeks did not encourage professionalism in Olympic Games, and why Dr. Peikoff was quite right in saying that the Greeks would have found modern marathon competitions ridiculous and unworthy of their sanction (since they require so much out of a person as to turn him into a running animal, rather than a man).

That is what I mean by integrated; although like most everything else here it is a rough draft, you probably know what I mean.

You say you want to become moral. Is that because you are not now moral? Regardless of the answer, doesn't the virtue of pride (moral ambition) already cover this need?
I am sure you know better than I that being moral is more than just reading about it, or practicing it instantly after being inspired to do so by the reading. Being moral is a habitual exercize more than anything else, and any isolated proper actions are not enough. So development of morality is almost a life-long process. With that said, I should say that I consider myself well on my way to developing the proper moral habits, and it's really hard for me to imagine that I'd do anything in violation of my moral principles. Still, as I said, being moral is a process, and thus my purpose is to continue practicing moral virtues, and further strengthening my moral habits. For example, let's say I am placed by a criminal into a position of extreme danger, where all of my life, my values, and my dreams will be extinguished forever if the guy moves the knife in his hand just one inch; in such a situation, will I have enough courage to take advantage of an opportunity and immobilize him, or will I collapse inside and do everything he tells me to, as long as he lets me live? I don't know. That's not an answer I can give right now, and is for every man to know for himself. No man can reply affirmatively and confidently to a situation like that before being in one.

A person can read about courage all their life, admire courageous heroes, endure tremendous tumult in their life that requires all of their willpower to stay collected and optimistic, but in that one second of extreme danger collapse into a wretch who will do everything that he is told, if only he will believe he will be left alive. That's the kind of test of virtue that I have not had yet, and although I can confidently tell you that I am very satisfied with who I am right now, only at the end of my life, as Aristotle said, will I be able to know for sure if I was a virtuous man and a happy man.

A further problem is this: Being moral is not a purpose in life -- it is the means of life; it is the way you achieve your higher (though secondary) purposes which in turn will lead you to your ultimate purpose, happiness (assuming that social conditions allow it).
Well, the means can be an end as well, can it not? Being moral is my means to being happy, and therefore being moral is my goal too, just like having and practicing a CPL proper to my interests is only a means to being happy, and thus becomes a goal as well.
Okay, but I still don't know what you mean by "well-rounded." Can you define it or at least characterize it, and give an example of or generally describe a "well-rounded" person who also has a passionately held central purpose in life?
Sure. Since classical history is on my mind lately, I'll give you an example that I already mentioned earlier in this thread: Socrates. He was one of the greatest philosophers in history, and at the same time served in wars and endured the hardships of military life as much as any regular soldier. Now that I think about it, it seems clear that "well-rounded" is a complement to "integrated": the latter means that a person's faculties are all working together as one, and the former means that he has developed many different faculties. So for example, the "integrated" part of Socrates was the fact that all his talk about moral virtue and courage in the realm of philosophy actually spilled over into his own practice of this virtue during war and having to stand up to great psychological traumas, possibly injuries, deaths of his friends, etc. And the "well-rounded" part of Socrates would be if he was quite impressive in war, at the same time as being very impressive in peace. So for example, if he led a detachment of his soldiers in a daring manoeuver that secured a major advantage in the battle, that would be an example of a proper development of the other side of his character (I don't know if was actually anything other than just a regular soldier, so I'm talking hypothetically here). Then, let's say, he was impressive in war as a soldier and a leader, impressive in peace as a philosopher and a thinker, and then he also had good skill in playing music and producing beautiful melodies. This is (possibly a hypothetical) example of what I imagine a well-rounded person like: someone who has developed many, possibly unrelated, faculties which concern many different aspects of human life. As a counter example, if someone has great proficiency with a sword, a great proficiency with a bow, etc, that does not count as him being a well-rounded person because the different well-developed faculties are all essentially similar and do not concern many different aspects of human life, merely one (war). These proficiencies may count as him being a well-rounded soldier, but not well-rounded as such. Do you see what I mean?
Perhaps you are connecting "well-rounded" to "general education." Is the former a product of the latter?

[...]

If by "holistic" you mean "integrated," and if by "development" you mean make yourself better, then haven't you already covered these points by saying you want to be moral (which includes the virtues of integrity and pride, respectively)?

Well, general education as I envision it is not a life-long activity. It is only something suitable for a child, in order to teach him how to develop all of his major faculties, and help him in becoming an integrated, well-rounded, etc, man. It is a means to an end.
One final comment: I am puzzled by an omission, an item very important to the best of the Classical Greeks, such as Aristotle -- rewarding relationships with others...
That's a great point. I omitted this point because I wasn't thinking of this in exactly the same terms as you were. Relationships with other people are very important to me, but I just thought that they are something that naturally arises out of living, and I just didn't think of it in terms of being an actual goal to pursue explicitly. So yes, rewarding relationships are a major value to me, and a major goal too, if thought about in the right context. So I guess you are right, and could add that as well to my list, as number 5.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

NOTE:

I have split off the entire discussion with RobertF into its own thread, owing to the fact that there were two essentially unrelated discussions proceeding at the same time, and engaged in by unrelated participants. Furthermore, the issues RobertF brought up were not entirely related to the subject of one's Central Purpose in Life, but more about "work" and "recreation", and the meaning these concepts entail. This split-off thread can be found here:

http://forums.4aynrandfans.com/index.php?showtopic=1160

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Incidentally, how long did it take you to formulate your CPL, Burgess?

Once I decided that I wanted a suitably formulated central purpose in life, the process took only a few weeks. But keep in mind that I was about 43 at that time. I had lots of experiences to draw on -- including, once I recovered the memory of it, a partly implicit CPL that I had in my years 18-25, and the roots of that went back into childhood.

At 25, I made the mistake of abandoning my just barely defined CPL because I thought it was "impractical." For the next 18 years, I had no CPL explicitly defined. The lack of integration was becoming obvious. Then I realized the need for a central (core productive) purpose in life -- as well as peripheral purposes, such as friends and leisure. ("Peripheral" here does not mean unimportant.)

The process of forming a CPL is simple in outline, but may be difficult for some individuals for various reasons (such as poor introspection skills; repression; or a narrow range of experiences).

The main steps are:

- Introspect.

- Note which kinds of productive activities you like most -- independent of their earning power.

- Decide which one kind you love or like best.

- Decide whether adopting it as your CPL -- in the full meaning of that idea -- is objective, that is, is a logical conclusion drawn from the facts of who you are and the world in which you live.

- Begin formulating your CPL as an active statement that is (1) abstract enough to cover a lifetime (unless you change it) and to cover a range of particular situations, and (2) is ambitious enough to keep you challenged but still have it be achievable.

- Refine your statement of your CPL as you learn more about yourself and about the possibilities open to you.

Example CPLs are:

- To tell success stories from history.

- To teach music.

- To thoroughly understand and present Ayn Rand's philosophy, Objectivism.

- To portray the ideal man, in fiction.

- To build businesses (e.g., as an entrpreneur).

- To garden.

- To construct buildings (e.g., as a carpenter).

- To understand chimpanzees, at all levels, as man's supposedly closest relatives.

For a given CPL, a variety of careers might be possible. A CPL (such as "to tell success stories from history") is not a career; a career (such as teaching history to progressively more and more sophisticated students) is not a job; and a job (such as teaching Late Roman history at Harvard for one year) is not a specific activity (such as doing research prior to teaching a seminar on Romano-Brits defending England from attacks by Anglo-Saxons).

Questions about the process of formulating a CPL?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I'm not sure if this is the right topic to reply about my personal CPL (or at least as far as I've come), however I will try to expand on my current situation.

I would say that before I started studying Objectivism I hadn't really considered much of anything about this issue, and that was only about 8-9 months ago. I mean, I knew what I found interesting to study in school, but I did not really have a clue what I wanted to do with that information in my further life. Over the last months I've been putting a lot more thought into this issue, and I think I have a clearer idea of what I want to achieve in my life.

The main problem (if you can call this a problem; it's more a problem of luxury) for me is that there are so many things I am very good at that it's difficult to choose which one I would enjoy best in the long term. I don't really have experience in real jobs related to my fields of interest so at this point it's difficult to judge whether I will actually enjoy the work if I had to do it every day.

There are two things that stand out among the subjects I love to study: the first is my actual major, which is basically the study of life (but then at the cellular and molecular level) and how that knowledge can be used to produce things that are beneficial to humans. A big plus that this line of work has is that it pays very well (besides the fact that I greatly enjoy the whole subject, and from what I can tell the work involved in putting the theory into practice in order to produce things with this knowledge).

However, I understand what you are saying about choosing the one thing you love doing most, regardless of whether it pays well, to be your CPL.

I would say that the second thing, which I love even more than the first, is to be a great teacher. I know from personal experience explaining things to friends, family and classmates that I am very good at this. I cannot think of any things that are more rewarding than this (at least when considering productive work), and I would say that is a good indication that this is my CPL. Even though I can explain things at many different levels of skill, so to speak, I think I would enjoy teaching young children best.

There's a tremendous amount of enjoyment to be obtained from showing such a child how to learn to use their minds to understand everything they might wish to learn later on in their life. To be able to show someone the pleasure of using their mind competently and to its fullest extent are one of the most wonderful and most rewarding things I can think of.

Now, the main issue is that I do not think I could have two CPLs at the same time. Central purpose implies that there is only one of it, and even though one may change their CPL I do not think you can have two at the same time. My rough outline for the coming years is that I will work in industry for a while (say, around ten to fifteen years I am thinking) and improve the skills I will need to succesfully work towards my CPL in the mean time.

One advantage of doing it this way is that I can more easily obtain other things I value in my life, and I can use the greater income to put aside some money to help me in the future. One option I am considering is starting my own school somewhere, and it would help a lot to have some of your own money to invest for that instead of relying solely on other investors. I think in this way my first career would serve my actual CPL, although perhaps less directly than actually teaching all those years.

The main disadvantage I see is that I would not be doing what I love the most during that time, and I am not at all sure what sort of effect that would have. Perhaps anyone could offer some personal insights into this situation? As far as I can tell it is not so easy to work at a less than ideal job for such a long period of time, and if the probablity of coming to resent my work is likely then I would not want to do it that way.

To be clear on that; I would of course not be doing something I hate, but I wonder if doing the suboptimal type of work for so long creates problems for most people?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The main reason I didn't yet go further than Starting a career is because it's too far away.

Of course, there is no need to look years ahead in a to-do list. The purpose of such a list is to keep track of particular actions you know you will need to do. Usually that means over the next year or so at the most.

Even in a career plan document or a document that provides an overview of all your highest values, you don't need to specify every detail for the rest of your life. The level of detail should be commensurate with the distance in the future. A would-be doctor, now studying biology for an undergraduate degree, would focus his plan and to-do list on short-term activities, but keep in mind -- or briefly sketch on his plan (not his To-Do list) -- the major steps that he expects to follow, simply as a way for him to retain context at a glance (if he needs to do so).

The major steps for such a person, beyond his biology studies right now, would be as simple as:

- Medical School

- Internship (and so forth -- I don't know all the terms).

- Clinical studies (if that is his special interest).

- Research institution management (or whatever direction he is heading towards).

That is all he needs as a sketch of his career -- that is, his progressive ladder of jobs. Detail is commensurate with distance in the future, in general. His CPL might be something like "to promote medical research." A CPL that is that broad will allow him to make changes as opportunities arise and as he learns more about his interests. Regardless of the particular career path he follows he will still be pursuing the same CPL -- or he can change his CPL.

I do know what I would like to do later, but I think I still need to determine what exactly will be my CPL.

I do not understand. Are you saying you know what kind of activities or jobs or career you want, but you haven't formulated an abstraction (a CPL) to cover all the particulars?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I do not understand. Are you saying you know what kind of activities or jobs or career you want, but you haven't formulated an abstraction (a CPL) to cover all the particulars?

Well, I would say that the most accurate way to describe it is that I have a certain direction right now in which my career will be heading, but I do not know whether that actually serves my CPL (which is at the moment not yet fully formed).

In the past I was taking this very much one day at a time. So when I did start to consider my future more I was actually not at all sure why I had taken the path I had taken.

I think that perhaps the best indication that my current direction is not my CPL is that I can't really imagine myself doing this for the rest of my life. For the other thing I mentioned (teaching) I can. I haven't had time to consider this very much, yet, but it does seem to indicate what my CPL is. At least, if a CPL is something that spans your entire life, then that would disqualify anything that you only want to do for a limited amount of years, I think...

It is also correct to say that I have not yet formulated it as an abstraction, although my last two posts here do seem to come suspiciously close to doing so. :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think that perhaps the best indication that my current direction is not my CPL is that I can't really imagine myself doing this for the rest of my life. For the other thing I mentioned (teaching) I can. I haven't had time to consider this very much, yet, but it does seem to indicate what my CPL is. At least, if a CPL is something that spans your entire life, then that would disqualify anything that you only want to do for a limited amount of years, I think...

I can see from your various posts, that you are very articulate and you do a lot of thinking. You are thus raising very interesting issues.

Should a CPL apply to the rest of one's life? I will tell you my views below. However, keep in mind that others, who are happy and goal-oriented people, may disagree.

My view is that the ideal CPL is one that is designed so appropriately that fulfilling it will continue to be varied, exciting, and challenging even over a whole lifetime. I cannot imagine Howard Roark saying, after completing the Wynand Building, "Well, I've done the most I can do in my field, so I will look into geology."

However, there are at least two conditions in which it would be entirely appropriate to switch from one CPL to another -- say, from "promoting medical research" to a CPL such as "to enter politics to provide a pro-capitalist voice."

In the first situation I have in mind, a man might discover, at the pinancle of his career under one CPL, that an even deeper love (and therefore CPL) is open to him, a possibility he had not even considered before. This switch might mean starting over again, even as a student at the age of 55, but he wouldn't care because of his love for his new CPL.

The second situation is that a man might knowingly choose a CPL that can be completed in half a lifetime. An example might be "to master Objectivism so well that I can teach it in an essentialized, fully integrated manner (such as a book)." Once he has done that, he might pursue some other interest that always fascinated him but wasn't at the top of the list earlier -- for example, writing fiction. He might choose that second CPL even realizing that at his advanced age, he might not make enough progress to fully succeed. Why would he do it then? Because he loves both (1) the process of acquiring the new skills and (2) the content (whatever themes he picks for his stories).

Keeping the second situation in mind, I would recommend this approach: If you fully want to do two seemingly divergent CPLs, then try very hard to find a "mega-CPL" that unites them. "Promoting the life of good people" would be a CPL that would subsume both the medical research fascination and the politics fascination. Remember that a CPL is an abstraction, at some level, that subsumes many particular activities. How wide that abstraction should be depends on many factors. There is no Platonic prescription for the CPL.

Here is another issue: In defining a CPL, be wary of false dichotomies. If my CPL were "to thoroughly explain chimpanzees' relationship to man," that doesn't mean that I can't also spend time on other activities, such as studying piano or mathematics.

Also be alert for CPL combinations. Once a young man told me that he was drawn -- as an impossible dilemma -- between the study of foreign langages and the study of science. He overlooked the obvious possibility of being a translator or similar function. I met another man who was fascinated with railroads (he owned hundreds of books and a model train platform), but he was also immensely drawn by the precision of accounting. He finally got the right idea: He looked for accounting jobs with railroad companies. He was in heaven.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't really have experience in real jobs related to my fields of interest so at this point it's difficult to judge whether I will actually enjoy the work if I had to do it every day.

There are two things that stand out among the subjects I love to study: the first is my actual major, which is basically the study of life (but then at the cellular and molecular level) and how that knowledge can be used to produce things that are beneficial to humans....

I would say that the second thing, which I love even more than the first, is to be a great teacher. I know from personal experience explaining things to friends, family and classmates that I am very good at this. I cannot think of any things that are more rewarding than this (at least when considering productive work), and I would say that is a good indication that this is my CPL. Even though I can explain things at many different levels of skill, so to speak, I think I would enjoy teaching young children best.

I would suggest that you first concentrate on exploring aspects of what you think you love most -- teaching. Try to identify, clearly and explicitly, exactly what is it about the process of teaching that you enjoy. The more you can understand about your own psychology, especially in terms of motivation, and the more aware you are of your own psycho-epistemology, especially as it relates to the process of teaching, the better you can make both short- and long-range plans. Is it the process of teaching itself you love the most, almost irrespective of the subject matter and the student, or is teaching children essential to your joy and purpose? Will you be satisified for long by teaching the limited level of abstractions that children can grasp, or will you long for dealing with much broader-ranging concepts? Would teaching the subject matter that is your second love, cellular and molecular biology, be a better integration of what you value? These sort of questions, and, hopefully, many more that you can pose to yourself, require some detailed understanding of your psychology and psycho-epistemology to best answer.

And, as you note yourself, you have little experience working in these areas, so more actual experience will give you some feedback to better make decisions. Some people are fortunate enough to know at an early age exactly what they want to pursue for life, and their main issue becomes the means by which they can best achieve their goals. Others may need to try out a number of things before they can settle into a definite plan. In either case, the more you are in touch with and the better you understand your motivations, and the more insight and ability you glean in identifying and forming your thinking processes and methods, the better equipped you will be to make these decisions.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would suggest that you first concentrate on exploring aspects of what you think you love most [...] the better equipped you will be to make these decisions.

It sounds like a good idea to do that. I'm still in school for around 2 more years so I have some time to decide before I get to choose a real job. I'll have to do a lot of introspection, then, in order to figure out which aspects of teaching appeal most to me. It may not be an easy task but it certainly is a rewarding one when you finally do understand your own motivations better.

Thanks for the insightful advice, it's very useful :blink:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The more you can understand about your own psychology, especially in terms of motivation, and the more aware you are of your own psycho-epistemology, especially as it relates to the process of teaching, the better you can make both short- and long-range plans.

Could you explain in some more detail what you mean with the italicized part? Do you mean with awareness of your psycho-epistemology how I approach this whole process in my thinking? Like what methods I use in this area to come to the conclusions I can draw? I'm not sure if I understand what this means.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Keeping the second situation in mind, I would recommend this approach: If you fully want to do two seemingly divergent CPLs, then try very hard to find a "mega-CPL" that unites them. "Promoting the life of good people" would be a CPL that would subsume both the medical research fascination and the politics fascination. Remember that a CPL is an abstraction, at some level, that subsumes many particular activities. How wide that abstraction should be depends on many factors. There is no Platonic prescription for the CPL.
Isn't there a danger of selecting a CPL that's too abstract, such that it's useless as a guide to action? "Promoting the life of good people" can be accomplished in so many different ways (besides medical research and politics, one could become a venture capitalist, personal coach, editorialist, etc.) - could it lead one to dilute one's efforts to the point of ineffectualness?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Isn't there a danger of selecting a CPL that's too abstract, such that it's useless as a guide to action?

Yes, or too narrow. However, a CPL too abstract for one person in some circumstances may not be too abstract for another person in other circumstances. In a very primitive society, for example, a very broad CPL might be more appropriate because there are fewer opportunities to specialize. As I said before, a CPL must be objective, that is, based on the facts of who you are and the society in which you live.

My purpose was to show an example of two beloved CPLs that might be integrated by another CPL. What would you suggest as better examples?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The more you can understand about your own psychology, especially in terms of motivation, and the more aware you are of your own psycho-epistemology, especially as it relates to the process of teaching, the better you can make both short- and long-range plans.

Could you explain in some more detail what you mean with the italicized part? Do you mean with awareness of your psycho-epistemology how I approach this whole process in my thinking? Like what methods I use in this area to come to the conclusions I can draw? I'm not sure if I understand what this means.

When some people first approach learning a difficult subject, they like to understand the broadest principles first, and use that wide perspective to make sense of the detailed areas of which the subject is comprised. Other's reverse the process, reaching the broader principles only after detailed study of the concrete. These two examples are meant to illustrate two fundamentally different psycho-epistemological approaches, and teaching certain types of subjects to a certain level of student might emphsize or require one approach or the other. The point being, the more intimately you understand your own psycho-epistemology the better you will be able to judge if teaching a subject in a certain way, to a student of a certain kind, will be in your benefit, or not.

In fact, do entire schools approach their methoiogy to be one way or another, and does the level of the student demand one approach or another? Depending on your own psycho-epistemology you might find one approach more attractive than the other.

These are just one aspect of your own psycho-epistemology to consider; there are many other components and how they relate to aspects of your career can make the difference between joy and boredom.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm, that makes a lot of sense. Thank you, I will think on that over the next period of time. I am very busy at the moment but it may be a good idea to take a summer job related to teaching, or perhaps assist with some type of practical at my university. That would give me some more real experience to base my decisions on, and I can weigh different levels of teaching to see which appeals to me best, and why (that's probably the most important part).

I do have some personal experience in one on one situations where I have tried to explain different subjects to people I know, which generally went quite well. I still need to discover, though, if explaining things to people I do not have a personal connection with is as fulfilling as helping someone I care about grasp something difficult. The outcome of that experiment could help me determine if I would enjoy teaching in a more personal manner (say, 1 person or 1 child at a time) best, or if I would enjoy teaching a bigger group of people at the same time. Both of these situations have very different dynamics and I think that it is very possible to love one of them and detest the other, or vice versa.

It's certainly exciting to consider all the things I can learn in this field, though!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, or too narrow. However, a CPL too abstract for one person in some circumstances may not be too abstract for another person in other circumstances. In a very primitive society, for example, a very broad CPL might be more appropriate because there are fewer opportunities to specialize. As I said before, a CPL must be objective, that is, based on the facts of who you are and the society in which you live.

My purpose was to show an example of two beloved CPLs that might be integrated by another CPL. What would you suggest as better examples?

There's nothing wrong with the example - it just sparked the question in my mind.

The keys are context and objectivity. Any example could potentially be made "bad" by changing the context, or could be good for one person and bad for another because individual contexts vary so widely.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites