Sunzi Bingfa

Approaches to studying philosophy

6 posts in this topic

I decided recently to study OPAR for a second time and am considering which method of study is ideal. My current intention is to work through each of the 55 (if memory serves) sections of OPAR one-at-a-time, including in my study of each section relevant works on that topic from other writers.

That process will be very time intensive if I have to dig through dozens of works to sift out each writer's ideas that relate to the section of OPAR I am studying.

What approach worked well in your study of Objectivism? I am particularly interested in how beneficial The Great Books and the Synopticon would be with this kind of study, for those who have experience with The Great Books.

Cheers,

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One approach would be to look at each Chapter in OPAR and find a corresponding idea in the Syntopicon.

You are right that this would be very time consuming so if I were going to take your approach, I think I would decide which chapter in OPAR I thought was most important to me at this time. At the moment, Chapter 9: Happiness would be at the top of my list. The Syntopicon has a chapter on Happiness. I would read the essay about Happiness and than pick an area in the outline that I am most interested in. For me that would be,

3. The argument concerning happiness as a first principle of morality: the conflicting claims of duty and happiness.

4. The pursuit of happiness.

From OPAR.

Happiness is man's--the good man's-- experience of life. The achievement of this experience, writes Ayn Rand, is "the only moral purpose" of one's life."

I would also read or reread the Preface of the Syntopicon: I. The Nature of the Syntopicon because it provides several different approaches on how one can use the Syntopicon properly.

Several years ago, I was thinking about going back to school and took several colleges classes. When I wrote my essays for these classes, I would use the Syntopicon and the Great Books. What I discovered was that my professors either had not read or were not familiar with some of the Great Books. Their typical response was 'You make some good and interesting points.'

I think the approach you are suggesting works well for writing interesting college papers but I don't think the return from the effort that is put into the approach is worth the time. Trying to put each author and his ideas in the proper context is very difficult and time consuming.

Hope this helps.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Steve,

Before going through such an intense effort I would start out with the question of what it is that I intend on gaining? Are you going to become a professional philosopher? If not, what is your main reason for going to such a depth, that Dr. Peikoff already provides very well.

I am not a professional philosopher. I use Objectivism as my guide in life. I know enough about other philosophies and philosohers but I have no intention on reading every work to become an expert as I have many other higher concerns. in other words, what is you intended goal of spending so much time, what gain will you receive in your life?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I decided recently to study OPAR for a second time and am considering which method of study is ideal.

Since you've said your goal is to apply Objectivism to your own life, I recommend starting with your own interests and issues. Are you interested in art, justice, psychology, modern culural trends, or ??? Might Objectivism help you with some particular problems you face in life? Are there areas of Objectivism you are not that sure of?

You can read sections of OPAR or parts of the novels with the goal of getting greater understanding of your issues. You can look up key concepts in Harry Binswanger's Lexicon or on the Objectivism CDROM. You can write "confusion papers" about the concepts you need to understand better. (This was an exercise Ayn Rand gave Dr. Peikoff and that they use at OAC.)

Start with your own interests and issues. That's where the biggest payoff -- for you personally and selfishly -- will be.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Start with your own interests and issues. That's where the biggest payoff -- for you personally and selfishly -- will be.

What a succinct way of framing the decision Betsy. That really is the key question, and a sticky one for me.

I'm going to open a new post to discuss that, since gaining clarity regarding my future plans will only help me to decide what specifically to study and how much effort to expend in each area. Once I've written the new post I'll edit the link into this post.

Steve

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites