baletindomewen

Difficulties in Understanding Objectivism

19 posts in this topic

Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

I've been reading Ayn Rand for 8 years, and still am not anywhere near close to comprehending her philosophy. There is no reason to be depressed-philosophy is tough!

The best part about Objectivism, however, is that you don't have to be Ayn Rand to be happy. Happiness will come to you as you begin practicing Objectivist ethics-and the more you practice them, the happier you will become.

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Could baletindomewen's post quoted below onwards please be moved to another thread, perhaps under Psychology.

Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

Ayn Rand wrote in a style that made Objectivism compelling and alive in both her non-fiction and fiction. Nobody else could write a monologue like the one in AS. When you say that you agree with and believe in her ideas "so much", you have to differentiate being carried aloft by her words and understanding Objectivism. The fact that Ayn Rand created Objectivism, her novels, and that there are many people who admire her works does not mean her admirers are in full agreement, or devoid of contradictory thinking or behavior. A person who claims to be student of Objectivism is not "intrinsically" more logical, intelligent or rational than any other human being.

Happiness will come to you as you begin practicing Objectivist ethics-and the more you practice them, the happier you will become.

I disagree that practicing Objectivist ethics is the root of happiness for each individual.

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

Try not to be discouraged. I started out the same way, and probably most here did as well. Knowledge requires the integration of a fact with every other fact, and philosophy being the study of the most abstract ideas requires more integrations than any other field. What this means in practice is that learning the proper method of thinking and fully integrating a rational philosophy takes years of study and self-analysis. A couple years after I had started reading Ayn Rand, an Objectivist friend of mine pointed out that while there have been child prodigies in many fields, there has never been one in philosophy. It has nothing to do with intelligence or how rational you are, but rather because it is a study that takes actual life experience to advance. You can’t just memorize a list of principles, even if they ring true to your implicit beliefs, and call that knowledge. That's what is so wrong with modern philosophy, after all. Rational concepts have to be grounded in reality, not just accepted blindly. That takes time and focussed effort.

The point is, you deserve a lot of credit for taking those first steps into Objectivism. Don't beat yourself up if your level of understanding lags behind your passion for the ideas. It's a challenge, it won't come automatically, you'll have to work at it. However it's a fun and rewarding challenge and you have sources like this forum to help you along. :P

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I disagree that practicing Objectivist ethics is the root of happiness for each individual.

I never said it was the root of happiness. I said that practicing virtues will yield happiness. So will having a good group of friends. So will a romantic lover. These are all different routes to happiness-but one cannot arrive at a complete level of happiness without each of the different elements.

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I disagree that practicing Objectivist ethics is the root of happiness for each individual.

I never said it was the root of happiness. I said that practicing virtues will yield happiness. So will having a good group of friends. So will a romantic lover. These are all different routes to happiness-but one cannot arrive at a complete level of happiness without each of the different elements.

I'm glad you've clarified your previous post.

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

Stick with it and you will, but give yourself at least five years (at the minimum) and maybe ten if you are seeking a philosopher-level understanding. I was once in the same totally overwhelmed place you are now, but I really wanted to understand and I eventually felt I had ... eight years later.

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

Also, don't forget to get a copy of Dr. Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism lectures. They are essential to a proper integration of the philosophy.

If you can't afford them now, start saving. :P

Best wishes!

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I agree with what others have said, and I'll add two things. I would hazard to say that none of us have had the good fortune to have grown up within a rational society. We've all grown up in a society that is saturated with altruism and conflicting principles ruling most people, people who implicitly accept and integrate contradictions from their earliest childhood. As a result, we not only must learn what ought to have been taught throughout our lives, but we must constantly go back and clean out all the contradictions we hold implicitly, and upon which we sometimes act without realizing it. While I knew that Miss Rand was right--and felt an enormous elation from the discovery--it has taken most of my life to ferret out false premises, contradictions, etc., that still sometimes pop up. It is much easier now, of course, both to recognize a problem and correcting it.

A bit of advice from Dr. Peikoff helped me tremendously: Remember that you are not one of Aquinas' angels; i.e., you are not by nature perfect. (Short version: Aquinas posited that each angel was its own species and had perfect knowledge.) When you feel frustrated, or that you have failed to understand something before you were able to actually understand it (I should have know that!), remember that you are a man, not one of Aquinas' angels.

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Stick with it and you will, but give yourself at least five years (at the minimum) and maybe ten if you are seeking a philosopher-level understanding. I was once in the same totally overwhelmed place you are now, but I really wanted to understand and I eventually felt I had ... eight years later.

I couldn't agree more. I came to Objectivism in my mid-20s, back while I was teaching in Slovakia. I was living in a former Communist country that still had all the cultural trappings, but not the formal politics, of a totalitarian society, so Ayn Rand's fiction hit me even harder than if I had been living in the US. Nevertheless, it took me a good decade to really integrate the ideas of Objectivism.

I had to LIVE my life every day, going through triumphs and setbacks, all the while studying Miss Rand's ideas to become the man I am today. Without Objectivism, I would not have made the choices that have contributed to my own long term happiness. The journey is first and foremost personal AND selfish. At 41 years old, I am just beginning!

I think you have chosen an excellent place to meet people who are living their ideals every day, in every small and large way imaginable. We come from many walks of life with many goals. A long term goal I had at age 30 was to spend at least a month in Australia when I turned 40. Not only did I attain that goal, it was easily the most satisfying trip I have ever taken. Those are big words coming from someone who has lived abroad on numerous occasions and traveled extensively overseas during the past two decades.

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Now I'm depressed.
No need to be, you're obviously pretty intelligent from your posts so far.
I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly
But you should realize something -- being able to communicate something has no bearing on how much you understood it or not. As for making sense, don't worry, it will come with time.

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I sympathize with your frustration; I remember experiencing a similar feeling within the first few years after reading Ayn Rand’s work for the first time.

It has been about 8 years since I first read Atlas. Miss Rand's philosophy has guided me toward a genuinely happier and more satisfying life. I compare the influence of her ideas to the effect of compound interest on principle; the early gains are tiny compared to the result after each gain is successively compounded.

I spent the first several years striving to gain a deeper understating of Objectivism and to identify and remove the unwarranted conclusions and subconscious influences that I had developed over many years. I believe it was specifically that process of careful, deliberate introspection, with the consequent identification and gradual elimination of the unearned guilt and the unreasonable (non-reality based) expectations I accepted for myself that facilitated entering the intermediate stage of discovering for the first time what my passions in life really are. (I still remember being asked years ago by a woman I was dating what my passions in life were and having no answer. That’s not to say I’m 100% clear regarding my passions today, but the change is clear and significant.)

Now I devote much of my thinking and time to the process of learning and truly grasping what it means to be a passionate valuer, both the causes and effects, along with continuing to identify my hierarchy of values.

I hope you persevere with your study of Objectivism and take a patient approach that will see your personal spiritual profits grow with time.

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I am a Philosophy major at Cal Poly State University. For my Ethics class we're required to write a microtheme on the intrinsic moral community. I've been trying to research ... Objectivism and having a hard time, despite my obsessive devotion to Rand's works. I'm just going back to school after having been away from it for a few years so I'm terribly out of practice when it comes to papers and arguments lol. From what research I have done so far, and the little bit I've been exploring on this forum, I've seen mentions of objectivism not agreeing with the idea of intrinsic value, which is throwing me off as I've never picked that up before.
Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

You've actually made a good impression on this Forum, in my opinion, and I would be willing to bet (figuratively speaking) that you will in the end "hang in there," get your assignment done, finish your Ethics class and the rest of the courses needed for your degree. You've apparently been deeply affected by Ayn Rand's writings and ideas already and have chosen to major in philosophy for definite reasons. Any "depression" that you might feel from time to time along the way will probably be short lived, and Objectivism itself will save you -- i.e., whatever aspects of Ayn Rand's fiction and/or nonfiction writings have been most deeply motivating you so far will continue to do so. (I know that this is never automatic or guaranteed, of course.)

On the topic of philosophy as a value, the following passage has always stuck in my own mind, with considerable motivational significance for me. It did not motivate me to switch to philosophy as a career, but it sure helped to keep me interested in studying Objectivism in my spare time.

The task of philosophy requires the total best of a mind's capacity; the responsibility is commensurate. Most men are unable to form a comprehensive view of life: some, because their ability is devoted to other professions; a great many, because they lack the ability. But all need that view and, consciously or subconsciously, directly or indirectly, they accept what philosophy offers them.

The integration of factual data, the maintenance of a full context, the discovery of principles, the establishment of causal connections and thus the implementation of a long-range vision—these are some of the tasks required of a philosopher in every branch of his profession....

Anything really worthwile in life is likely to require a lot of work. We see that over and over again in the heroes of Ayn Rand's fiction. Just be sure you are following a career path that you truly want to do and can enjoy doing as the hard work begins to pay off.

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

I'll tell you what will help clear the confusion. When overwhelmed, shift your focus to the essentials. Always come back to the use of reason, and it's application to reality. That is the essence of Objectivism. Make reality your "God", and reason you "bible" for dealing with it. The details can wait their turn. You simply cannot get stuck into the details as you seem to be doing, without starting from the essentials.

(This philosophy was a great help in dealing with emergencies in my aviation career. It could have saved a Peruvian airliner from plunging into the ocean. So focused on non essentials were they, that they ignored the most basic rules of flight.)

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

Though maybe not to the extent you do, I've had similar thoughts recently. It's encouraging to know that 1) You or I aren't the only ones to experience this and 2) that it might even be normal to experience it and with time can overcome it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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Now I'm depressed. I discovered Atlas Shrugged almost two years ago, and I've read just about everything else Rand has ever written since then. I agree with and believe in her ideas so much...her works totally turned my life around (even up through high school I was just as bad a looter as the rest of them out there)...but I can't understand how they make so much sense in my head, yet I obviously don't understand it all if I can't communicate it properly, let alone make sense of what everyone else says in response to what I say.

Though maybe not to the extent you do, I've had similar thoughts recently. It's encouraging to know that 1) You or I aren't the only ones to experience this and 2) that it might even be normal to experience it and with time can overcome it.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Two years is not nearly enough time to absorb all the subtleties and details. Ayn Rand's philosophy was clear to her when she first started out, too, but it took a lifetime to work it all out. All human knowledge is like this. You may have a clear understanding and a valid base of knowledge, but there is always more to explore, discover and learn. This isn't something to "overcome"; it's a normal process of growth and part of the excitement. As you experience that and realize it's nature, you learn to be more aware of what you know and what you don't, and where you need more work for those parts you are most interested in. Part of it is learning how to think about different kinds of issues, how to approach them, and how people have gone wrong in the past. Problems of philosophy have been thought about for thousands of years; you can't expect to grasp that whole context in two years.

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Don't be discouraged!

Objectivism is hard because it's not only a hierarchy of knowledge, like so many subjects, but a different method of thought. And it's not only a different method of thought, but a different method of feeling.

It took me 18 years (ages 15 to 33) from the time when I first read Anthem to the time when I understood measurement omission. It wasn't until I said "Aha!" to the theory of concepts and shifted my method of thought that I accepted the philosophy as valid. At that point I began to think I might someday be an Objectivist.

Perhaps it took me so long because I was unusually suspicious after having rejected the conception of reality that I was raised with, but I was angry, and determined not to be fooled again. Many people I've met seem to have had an easier time.

Objectivism is not learned like other subjects, by only grasping and integration. If it is only superimposed over personal contradictions in the way that other subjects may be (the way an excellent engineer may be religious), then a person may talk Objectivism without living Objectivism.

Integration is required not only of the rest of your knowledge, but of your thinking and feeling. To learn Objectivism, you must also bring your method of thinking and feeling into line with reality using introspection. That, and not only learning the Objectivist body of knowledge, is what took me so long.

But that doesn't mean I've "arrived." Learning Objectivism never stops.

Every step taken brings greater happiness and efficacy, but sometimes unpleasant personal contradictions must be resolved first. Unfortunately, psychology is not yet a science, so each of us who wants to do this must do it without help, alone. But it can be done.

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Don't ever be depressed about not having yet understood something. I used to beat myself up for what I didn't know, and felt embarrassed. But that's a completely wrong premise. ignorance DOES NOT make you immoral, or a bad person.

I think you should be very proud of your will to understand and your desire for truth.

Trust me, that, and your love of Life is what will keep you going...

You have got the world at your fingertips now that you are (will be) armed with the most powerful, Rational and integrated Philosophy in History! And now all you need to do is learn it!

I agree it is overwhelming in the first little while, but stick with it and don't overwhelm yourself. DON'T put any kind of pressure on yourself. Talk to people, ask questions, read, ask questions, write out your thoughts, ask questions!! :P

You've got a wonderful, bright future ahead of you! You've got an amazing Philosophy, a great network of Benevolent people to talk with, a will to understand and your youth.

~Carrie~*

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Don't ever be depressed about not having yet understood something. I used to beat myself up for what I didn't know, and felt embarrassed. But that's a completely wrong premise. ignorance DOES NOT make you immoral, or a bad person.

I think you should be very proud of your will to understand and your desire for truth.

Yes. From time to time, it is worth stressing that those who've chosen to check their premises and honestly understand the nature of fundamental ideas - how they relate to cultures and especially, to one's own life and thinking - are rare indeed in today's world. It's a rarity that comes from difficulty, and an honesty to question fundamental ideas even if they conflict with a majority of what a culture believes. Everybody with a sincere desire and effort to understand Objectivism should be proud of that effort. Such understanding is not linear and has pitfalls - even Ayn Rand herself, genius as she was, did not arrive at Objectivism in some kind of flash, but through decades of relentless thought. Of course, it's easier for the rest of us given that she did show the way, but it's still a difficult process.

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