Character is ... Destiny?


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A story I heard is of a young man going to a Rabbi, who at one stage asks the young man

"What do you want to be when you're older?" He replies: "Oh, I'm entering college to study law, then I want to be a criminal lawyer, and ..." The Rabbi cuts him off: "I didn't ask what you want to DO, what do you want to BE?"

It seems to me the 'being', among Objectivist circles doesn't always get enough play. The 'doing' seems to receive the lion's share of attention while the 'being' is left implied, overlooked. (I've the sense that simply making the implicit (and the given, and the self-evident) explicit, is a large portion of Objectivist endeavor).

In Rand, there are many referents to "conviction" and commitment, and where she addresses 'being' more fully is in her writing on the virtues. But what are virtues for? Indirectly (I think) they are the means of gaining and keeping all one's values. Directly, they are the basis for an individual's composite character, his great value.

But the greatest part of her expounding on the criticality of "being'" (character, convictions, virtues etc.) is of course implicit throughout her novels. Her protagonists are men and women who 'do' according to their character, or lack of. One couldn't imagine Roark doing what Toohey does, and the reverse. Implicitly we the readers understand that their character is the defining element of "Roark" and "Taggart" - etc. Simply, they do what they are, and they are what they do.

Which brings this round to the under-pinning of Romanticist literature and art.

"Man is a being of volitional consciousness".

Once again I think this elegantly lean statement receives more attention on the "doing" aspect. That is - the individual has to perceive, focus and cogitate by choice. He can redirect his thinking, by choice. Or he can simply "switch off". Volitionally.

But the "action" of consciousness is part of a symbiosis -- since there exists simultaneously one's "state" of consciousness.

If you look at her statement again, you see it also and equally means that you volitionally select the content of your consciousness and give it its unique, individual identity.

One chooses one's consciousness, by all that one does. A lot of Objectivists already know this from "man is a being of self-made soul". I knew of it, but for a long time didn't put the pieces together.

Character, then, is destiny, I believe - with one caveat ... that it accompanies action.

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A story I heard is of a young man going to a Rabbi, who at one stage asks the young man

"What do you want to be when you're older?" He replies: "Oh, I'm entering college to study law, then I want to be a criminal lawyer, and ..." The Rabbi cuts him off: "I didn't ask what you want to DO, what do you want to BE?"

It seems to me the 'being', among Objectivist circles doesn't always get enough play. The 'doing' seems to receive the lion's share of attention while the 'being' is left implied, overlooked. (I've the sense that simply making the implicit, (and the given, and the self-evident) explicit, is a large portion of Objectivist endeavor).

In Rand, there are many referents to "conviction" and commitment, and where she addresses 'being' more fully is in her writing on the virtues. But what are virtues for? Indirectly (I think) they are the means of gaining and keeping all one's values. Directly, they are the basis for an individual's composite character, his greatest value.

But the greatest part of her expounding on the criticality of "being'", character, etc., is of course implicit throughout her novels. Her protagonists are men and women who 'do' according to their character (convictions, virtues, etc.) or lack of. One couldn't imagine Roark doing what Toohey does, and the reverse. Implicitly we the readers understand that their character is the defining element of "Roark" and "Taggart" - etc. Simply, they do what they are, and they are what they do.

Which brings it round to the under-pinning of Romanticist literature and art.

"Man is a being of volitional consciousness".

Once again I think this elegantly lean statement receives more attention on the "doing" aspect. That is - the individual has to perceive, focus and cogitate by choice. He can redirect his thinking, by choice. Or he can simply "switch off". Volitionally.

But the "action" of consciousness is part of a symbiosis -- since there exists simultaneously one's "state" of consciousness.

If you look at her statement again, you see it also and equally means that you volitionally select the content of your consciousness and give it its unique, individual identity.

One chooses one's consciousness, by all that one does. A lot of Objectivists already know this from "man is a being of self-made soul". I knew of it, but for a long time didn't put the pieces together.

Character, then, is destiny, I believe - with one caveat ... that it accompanies action.

Many good points. I have to come back to this. My sense of people is their character is immutable. The question is nature? or nurture? Part of it the culture we absorb in our pre-rational state, part DNA. One thing that makes me optimistic, there is such a thing as an intelligent sociopath. They never break the law though they really don't give a shit about other people. They don't break the law for the same reason large predators don't prey on humans as a general rule. Because they've been taught by evolution that other humans will gang together and hunt them down and kill them. Improve the law and general intelligence and then we've got something.

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Tony,

 

The "do" versus "be" priority is contextual. It's a false dichotomy if extended to a contextless universal. And it's a dangerous one.

 

I just went through a marvelous book called Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. (I actually went through it twice so far.) She talks about how children can be condemned to an unhappy stressed-out life if emphasis is put on what they are instead of what they do. And she backs this up with research.

 

For example, when you praise a child for being smart, being talented and so on, the child loves the approval. But it sets a bar in his mind, an identity he has to live up to. When he later fails (which we all must do when learning anything--we don't need to learn knowledge or a skill if we never fail at it), he doesn't judge his attempt. He judges his very being. He doesn't say to himself, "I messed that up. Let me try again." He says, "I'm a failure." And he either gives up, becomes so competitive he cheats, becomes resentful and petty and so on.

 

The cure? You praise the child's efforts and successes case by case and avoid generalizing his identity. 

 

Here's a video by Dweck for a taste of her ideas if you don't want to look at the book:

 

 

I do agree that a person should adopt the "be" side when judging himself as one capable of discerning what is good or bad, right or wrong, etc. If the ability to know what truth is becomes a matter of doing instead of being, then anything can become true and all objectivity goes out the window. And that leads to dark places and all kinds of moral equivalencies.

 

But the moral mindset often gets screwed up in Objectivism. When a person judges his own moral behavior, if he swallows the moral perfection poison and believes he is a morally perfect person, he has condemned his life to one of guilt, evasion, being thin-skinned, and so on. Why? Because we all are subject to temptations and seductions. Welcome to the human race. He cannot judge his inherent identity out of existence.

 

It's true that we can have morally perfect actions. But we cannot be morally perfect individuals--at least not without becoming catatonic. Volition comes with ups and downs, even moral ups and downs. We can be a person who can discern moral perfection in actions and choices, but we cannot lobotomize ourselves and make our brains operate differently than they are constructed to operate. And we cannot control all of human nature. To paraphrase a wise saying, human nature to be commanded must be obeyed

 

Here's a perfect example of how this works. When temptation comes, we often have to control our moral behavior with willpower until we develop good inner habits. (And even then, depending on the situation.)

 

But it has been proven that willpower makes the brain consume an enormous amount of calories and it gets tired just like a muscle. See, for instance, The Willpower Instinct: How Self-Control Works, Why It Matters, and What You Can Do to Get More of It by Kelly McGonigal or Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy Baumeister and John Tierney. These books are loaded with references to scientific studies.

 

When there is a moral principle a person holds and it gets sorely tested by a heartbreaking dilemma, or a highly seductive temptation, if the person's willpower is worn out at the moment through intense use (needing rest and high-calorie nourishment), but the situation is there anyway, the person will probably succumb.

 

In a growth mindset, he knows what happened and later corrects himself and cleans up the mess. Maybe he laughs it off. Or devotes himself to more introspection, learning, etc. In a fixed mindset ("I am morally perfect") he feels shame and guilt. And that can lead to much worse things than the slip-up, especially when he interacts with other people.

 

This is a clear example of the "do" versus "be" frames in judging oneself.

 

I believe one of the traps in Objectivism is a constant prioritization on a fixed mindset and it is the main reason for the rampant underachievement within the subcommunity. Lots of people who adopt Objectivism become afraid to make mistakes because that jolts their fixed self-image as one of mankind's intellectually privileged and morally privileged. They run from their own failures because, to them, they don't just fail and correct themselves, they become failures when they fail. And that's too painful to contemplate.

 

So I think this is a very good topic for discussion. It's not "be" over "do" (or vice-versa). It's when "be" over "do" is appropriate, and when "do" over "be" is. Wisdom comes in knowing when to prioritize one over the other.

 

Michael

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A story I heard is of a young man going to a Rabbi, who at one stage asks the young man

"What do you want to be when you're older?" He replies: "Oh, I'm entering college to study law, then I want to be a criminal lawyer, and ..." The Rabbi cuts him off: "I didn't ask what you want to DO, what do you want to BE?"

Tony, Michael, some very interesting jump-off points for discussion. I am reminded of a joke that everyone has likely heard:

To be is to do. —Socrates

To do is to be. —Plato

Do-be-do-be-do. —Sinatra

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Character, then, is destiny, I believe - with one caveat ... that it accompanies action.

Many good points. I have to come back to this. My sense of people is their character is immutable. The question is nature? or nurture? Part of it the culture we absorb in our pre-rational state, part DNA. One thing that makes me optimistic, there is such a thing as an intelligent sociopath. They never break the law though they really don't give a shit about other people. They don't break the law for the same reason large predators don't prey on humans as a general rule. Because they've been taught by evolution that other humans will gang together and hunt them down and kill them. Improve the law and general intelligence and then we've got something.

Mike, There must be a large number of people around, like a few I know, nominated "of great character"-- and who unassumingly put their virtue down to outside factors. Like you, they probably took little credit for forming it. But the practice of personal virtues was there and they achieved them unaided, regardless of nature, without knowing any fancy ;) philosophy. (I don't dismiss nurture/culture, but ultimately the effort is and has to be, self-motivated).

If I'd put it in terms of the O'ist virtues (the basic virtue of Rationality, with the sub-virtues of Integrity, Honesty, Independence, Justice) "character", which I view as a composite and the resultant value of the constant practice of these virtues, would be familiar to you.

(You know the one about the law, from Aristotle? "This I've learned from philosophy, that I do without being told what other people do from fear of the Law").

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In a growth mindset, he knows what happened and later corrects himself and cleans up the mess. Maybe he laughs it off. Or devotes himself to more introspection, learning, etc. In a fixed mindset ("I am morally perfect") he feels shame and guilt. And that can lead to much worse things than the slip-up, especially when he interacts with other people.

This is a clear example of the "do" versus "be" frames in judging oneself.

I believe one of the traps in Objectivism is a constant prioritization on a fixed mindset and it is the main reason for the rampant underachievement within the subcommunity. Lots of people who adopt Objectivism become afraid to make mistakes because that jolts their fixed self-image as one of mankind's intellectually privileged and morally privileged. They run from their own failures because, to them, they don't just fail and correct themselves, they become failures when they fail. And that's too painful to contemplate.

So I think this is a very good topic for discussion. It's not "be" over "do" (or vice-versa). It's when "be" over "do" is appropriate, and when "do" over "be" is. Wisdom comes in knowing when to prioritize one over the other.

Michael

Thanks, Michael, and sure my aim (for me, at first) was to right the balance of "be" and "do". There should be no dichotomy, exactly as it is for 'mind-body'. I've known periods they were out of synch, and believe I recognise it in younger Objectivists. With advantage of hindsight, it figures that most youth are long on ideals and short of experience, as I was, which answers to some of this. It's only right and good that they are.

When the "experience" is laid out for one as the plot and characters in powerful novels, rather than one's own doings and observations it can be quite overwhelming to the young idealist. Not that the novels ever lose their inspirational 'bite', but moving on into one's own 'story' and 'character', as soon as possible, is vital. The "fixed mindset" is not just as simple as that, though.

More to be thought about in your post.

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Mike, There must be a large number of people around, like a few I know, nominated "of great character"-- and who unassumingly put their virtue down to outside factors. Like you, they probably took little credit for forming it. But the practice of personal virtues was there and they achieved them unaided, regardless of nature, without knowing any fancy ;) philosophy. (I don't dismiss nurture/culture, but ultimately the effort is and has to be, self-motivated).

If I'd put it in terms of the O'ist virtues (the basic virtue of Rationality, with the sub-virtues of Integrity, Honesty, Independence, Justice) "character", which I view as a composite and the resultant value of the constant practice of these virtues, would be familiar to you.

(You know the one about the law, from Aristotle? "This I've learned from philosophy, that I do without being told what other people do from fear of the Law").

Good discussion.

This is from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on Aristotle's Ethics and in Section X he speaks of "10. Three Lives Compared." This addresses the Political Life:

But his complaint about the political life is not simply that it is devoid of philosophical activity. The points he makes against it reveal drawbacks inherent in ethical and political activity. Perhaps the most telling of these defects is that the life of the political leader is in a certain sense unleisurely (1177b4–15). What Aristotle has in mind when he makes this complaint is that ethical activities are remedial: they are needed when something has gone wrong, or threatens to do so. Courage, for example, is exercised in war, and war remedies an evil; it is not something we should wish for.

Aristotle implies that all other political activities have the same feature, although perhaps to a smaller degree. Corrective justice would provide him with further evidence for his thesis—but what of justice in the distribution of goods? Perhaps Aristotle would reply that in existing political communities a virtuous person must accommodate himself to the least bad method of distribution, because, human nature being what it is, a certain amount of injustice must be tolerated.

Good article above...http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/aristotle-ethics/#ThrLivCom

This is the Mayor Daley argument from Chicago. Or, Frank Skeffington played by Spencer Tracey based on the actual Mayor of Boston who legend has it, got re-elected while in jail...lol...

220px-TheLastHurrah.jpg

Skeffington is assumed to represent Boston mayor and Massachusetts governor James Michael Curley. The story is told in the third person, either by a narrator or by Adam Caulfield, the Mayor's nephew. Skeffington is a veteran and adept "machine" politician, and probably corrupt as well. The novel portrays him as a flawed great man with many achievements to his credit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Hurrah << Great movie...

You gotta love a Mayor Curley when you look at Wiki and you see 1St Prison Term - lol:

Curley's first public notoriety came when he was elected to Boston's Board of Aldermen in 1904 while in prison on a fraud conviction. Curley and an associate, Thomas Curley (no relation), took the civil service exams for postmen for two men in their district to help them get the jobs with the federal government.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Michael_Curley#1st_prison_term

A...

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This guy seems to have a good feel for Aristotle in general.

Aristotle’s best answer for how one should live was the concept of eudaimonia. Unfortunately this word has been tough to translate to English, so there are two favored translations I’m aware of. The first is “happiness,” and the second is “human flourishing.” Most other translations I’ve seen are variations on one of these. Personally I might translate this term as “fulfillment,” although that’s not perfectly accurate either. Eudaimonia is a process of living virtuously, not a fixed state of being. It’s not really an emotion like “happiness” suggests. Aristotle came up with this answer because he found that eudaimonia was the only potential goal of life that could be considered an end in itself rather than a means to another end. I think this is the reason that happiness is perhaps the most popular translation because happiness is an end in itself, not a means to anything else.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

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Character, then, is destiny, I believe - with one caveat ... that it accompanies action.

Many good points. I have to come back to this. My sense of people is their character is immutable. The question is nature? or nurture? Part of it the culture we absorb in our pre-rational state, part DNA. One thing that makes me optimistic, there is such a thing as an intelligent sociopath. They never break the law though they really don't give a shit about other people. They don't break the law for the same reason large predators don't prey on humans as a general rule. Because they've been taught by evolution that other humans will gang together and hunt them down and kill them. Improve the law and general intelligence and then we've got something.

Mike, There must be a large number of people around, like a few I know, nominated "of great character"-- and who unassumingly put their virtue down to outside factors. Like you, they probably took little credit for forming it. But the practice of personal virtues was there and they achieved them unaided, regardless of nature, without knowing any fancy ;) philosophy. (I don't dismiss nurture/culture, but ultimately the effort is and has to be, self-motivated).

If I'd put it in terms of the O'ist virtues (the basic virtue of Rationality, with the sub-virtues of Integrity, Honesty, Independence, Justice) "character", which I view as a composite and the resultant value of the constant practice of these virtues, would be familiar to you.

(You know the one about the law, from Aristotle? "This I've learned from philosophy, that I do without being told what other people do from fear of the Law").

Yes! I'm exceedingly tired tonight and I've had a glass of wine so I won't do a good job with this reply but I don't want another day to pass without giving it a try. Those people of whom you speak, they are the ones I'm thinking of, those whose true inner nature speaks the loudest. They are sensitive to the cultural habits taught in childhood which contradict the part of our inner nature that made us into the strong, enduring, cooperative and rational intelligent species that allow us the possibility to survive and thrive. They are the ones who discard the broken parts, that fix the broken memes before they ultimately destroy us. The true philosophers that don't sit in their ivory towers writing tomes that nobody reads but are the leaders in their groups and persuade others to find a better way, small step by small step. I did not remember the Aristotle quote, but the people I'm thinking of hear their true inner nature, that which evolved necessarily in the exceedingly difficult times of the far distant and lost past that is the reason we still exist. The ability to communicate and cooperate with our fellows, to understand and love our fellow man, to gain more from our interactions and trading with others that allow us to thrive, that makes the future truly unlimited. They respect and follow their inner spirit, what they've learned from the philosophical dreaming, more than any law imposed from without by a culture with unnamed sources and unexplained reasons except conformity.

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Character, then, is destiny, I believe - with one caveat ... that it accompanies action.

Many good points. I have to come back to this. My sense of people is their character is immutable. The question is nature? or nurture? Part of it the culture we absorb in our pre-rational state, part DNA. One thing that makes me optimistic, there is such a thing as an intelligent sociopath. They never break the law though they really don't give a shit about other people. They don't break the law for the same reason large predators don't prey on humans as a general rule. Because they've been taught by evolution that other humans will gang together and hunt them down and kill them. Improve the law and general intelligence and then we've got something.

Mike, There must be a large number of people around, like a few I know, nominated "of great character"-- and who unassumingly put their virtue down to outside factors. Like you, they probably took little credit for forming it. But the practice of personal virtues was there and they achieved them unaided, regardless of nature, without knowing any fancy ;) philosophy. (I don't dismiss nurture/culture, but ultimately the effort is and has to be, self-motivated).

If I'd put it in terms of the O'ist virtues (the basic virtue of Rationality, with the sub-virtues of Integrity, Honesty, Independence, Justice) "character", which I view as a composite and the resultant value of the constant practice of these virtues, would be familiar to you.

(You know the one about the law, from Aristotle? "This I've learned from philosophy, that I do without being told what other people do from fear of the Law").

Yes! I'm exceedingly tired tonight and I've had a glass of wine so I won't do a good job with this reply but I don't want another day to pass without giving it a try. Those people of whom you speak, they are the ones I'm thinking of, those whose true inner nature speaks the loudest. They are sensitive to the cultural habits taught in childhood which contradict the part of our inner nature that made us into the strong, enduring, cooperative and rational intelligent species that allow us the possibility to survive and thrive. They are the ones who discard the broken parts, that fix the broken memes before they ultimately destroy us. The true philosophers that don't sit in their ivory towers writing tomes that nobody reads but are the leaders in their groups and persuade others to find a better way, small step by small step. I did not remember the Aristotle quote, but the people I'm thinking of hear their true inner nature, that which evolved necessarily in the exceedingly difficult times of the far distant and lost past that is the reason we still exist. The ability to communicate and cooperate with our fellows, to understand and love our fellow man, to gain more from our interactions and trading with others that allow us to thrive, that makes the future truly unlimited. They respect and follow their inner spirit, what they've learned from the philosophical dreaming, more than any law imposed from without by a culture with unnamed sources and unexplained reasons except conformity.

You got it! Congrats.

The insight is in the grape...it is an Italian philosophy...

A...

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This guy seems to have a good feel for Aristotle in general.

Aristotle’s best answer for how one should live was the concept of eudaimonia. Unfortunately this word has been tough to translate to English, so there are two favored translations I’m aware of. The first is “happiness,” and the second is “human flourishing.” Most other translations I’ve seen are variations on one of these. Personally I might translate this term as “fulfillment,” although that’s not perfectly accurate either. Eudaimonia is a process of living virtuously, not a fixed state of being. It’s not really an emotion like “happiness” suggests. Aristotle came up with this answer because he found that eudaimonia was the only potential goal of life that could be considered an end in itself rather than a means to another end. I think this is the reason that happiness is perhaps the most popular translation because happiness is an end in itself, not a means to anything else.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

Excellent, excellent. Thriving is the term that applies to both eudaimonia and happiness, which Ayn Rand's definition of true nature of Man, Traders!!!, allows to happen. Win, win, love your fellows who's individual nature's allow them to be experts in the making of the things and understanding of things that you cannot grasp but are necessary for your thriving! And vice versa!

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This guy seems to have a good feel for Aristotle in general.

Aristotle’s best answer for how one should live was the concept of eudaimonia. Unfortunately this word has been tough to translate to English, so there are two favored translations I’m aware of. The first is “happiness,” and the second is “human flourishing.” Most other translations I’ve seen are variations on one of these. Personally I might translate this term as “fulfillment,” although that’s not perfectly accurate either. Eudaimonia is a process of living virtuously, not a fixed state of being. It’s not really an emotion like “happiness” suggests. Aristotle came up with this answer because he found that eudaimonia was the only potential goal of life that could be considered an end in itself rather than a means to another end. I think this is the reason that happiness is perhaps the most popular translation because happiness is an end in itself, not a means to anything else.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

Excellent, excellent. Thriving is the term that applies to both eudaimonia and happiness, which Ayn Rand's definition of true nature of Man, Traders!!!, allows to happen. Win, win, love your fellows who's individual nature's allow them to be experts in the making of the things and understanding of things that you cannot grasp but are necessary for your thriving! And vice versa!

Yes Mikee.

Additionally, as Tony aptly notes, being a young Randian is fraught [sp?] with temptations to conflate the heros/heroines as "real" because they are so "complete" and "perfect."

That way is disastrous on a self esteem level.

Thankfully, I did not fall for that. I saw a lot who did though.

You won't, you get it.

A...

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This guy seems to have a good feel for Aristotle in general.

Aristotle’s best answer for how one should live was the concept of eudaimonia. Unfortunately this word has been tough to translate to English, so there are two favored translations I’m aware of. The first is “happiness,” and the second is “human flourishing.” Most other translations I’ve seen are variations on one of these. Personally I might translate this term as “fulfillment,” although that’s not perfectly accurate either. Eudaimonia is a process of living virtuously, not a fixed state of being. It’s not really an emotion like “happiness” suggests. Aristotle came up with this answer because he found that eudaimonia was the only potential goal of life that could be considered an end in itself rather than a means to another end. I think this is the reason that happiness is perhaps the most popular translation because happiness is an end in itself, not a means to anything else.

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

Great tie-in, Adam. Especially important, that eudaimonia is a "process" [of living virtuously] - dynamic, not a frozen state, but forever flowing. The final standard is reality, requiring reasoning and rational virtues applied there, therefore why there's no greater satisfaction than a day lived as nearly as possible according to 'the real', by honesty, integrity, justice, independence, productivity and pride.

In effect, one does "pursue" happiness - one's choice of where it lies and of actions taken towards it, are not to be obstructed (which was surely Jefferson's intent) - though actually the "pursuit" is to live in and by truth, of which 'eudaimonia' is a fitting (non-static) consequence.

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The fellow who interpreted Aristotlean virtue (Steve Pavlina) concluded:

I am indeed living the best possible life I’m capable of, given what I know right now. When I try to imagine something better, it’s only an increase in my capacity to do the same thing, not a change in the essence of what I’m doing ... I’m certain that more change lies ahead. That is the nature of growth — old goals are constantly in the process of becoming obsolete.

On its face, it's a contradiction in terms ("not a change in the essence" and "more change lies ahead") because he thinks eudaimonia is acquisition of knowledge and prowess. Pavlina is perfectly sanguine to conflate salesmanship, spirituality.and game theory, because that's the cubicle he and his target audience inhabit. The motivational self-help industry always struck me as a clan of second-rate shamans. I used to ghostwrite motivational drivel for a guy in Palo Alto who fought with his wife, worried about money, and rubbed a quartz crystal in the recording studio and New Age conferences, where he preached "visioning" a better life for all.

I also question whether a life of virtue is an end in itself. It sounds pretty dreary, almost Rotarian.

"The young Rand was a vamp, my kind of babe. The Fountainhead had it all. Rape, dynamite, ruthless manipulation of weaker characters like Peter Keating, smashing up priceless museum pieces... Rand the seeker was an immoral anarchist to the very roots of her hair, top and bottom." [COGIGG, p.6]

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The fellow who interpreted Aristotlean virtue (Steve Pavlina) concluded:

I am indeed living the best possible life I’m capable of, given what I know right now. When I try to imagine something better, it’s only an increase in my capacity to do the same thing, not a change in the essence of what I’m doing ... I’m certain that more change lies ahead. That is the nature of growth — old goals are constantly in the process of becoming obsolete.

On its face, it's a contradiction in terms ("not a change in the essence" and "more change lies ahead") because he thinks eudaimonia is acquisition of knowledge and prowess. Pavlina is perfectly sanguine to conflate salesmanship, spirituality.and game theory, because that's the cubicle he and his target audience inhabit. The motivational self-help industry always struck me as a clan of second-rate shamans. I used to ghostwrite motivational drivel for a guy in Palo Alto who fought with his wife, worried about money, and rubbed a quartz crystal in the recording studio and New Age conferences, where he preached "visioning" a better life for all.

I also question whether a life of virtue is an end in itself. It sounds pretty dreary, almost Rotarian.

"The young Rand was a vamp, my kind of babe. The Fountainhead had it all. Rape, dynamite, ruthless manipulation of weaker characters like Peter Keating, smashing up priceless museum pieces... Rand the seeker was an immoral anarchist to the very roots of her hair, top and bottom." [COGIGG, p.6]

Absorbing breadth of input as usual, Wolf. One thing Objectivists will certainly disagree with is that virtue is an end in itself. Damned "dreary", as you say, and most Platonic. Rather, the necessity of virtue is as a means to one's end: values; which support one's life, the absolute value.

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http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

I just now had the thought that Jefferson was not only stating that one's selected path to happiness was not to be obstructed, but also, implicitly, that one's 'happiness' was not to be egregiously 'assisted' in any way, decreed necessary by government. I suppose scholars have already been there.

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I think this is revealing from Rand:

[On the -broadly- two erroneous types of past and present 'Romanticist' literature]

"... one can observe the break up of Romanticism, the contradictions that proceed from a premise held subconsciously. On this level, there emerges a class of writers whose basic premise, in effect, is that man possesses volition *in regard to existence, but not to consciousness*, i.e., in regard to his physical actions, but not in regard to his own character....

The contradictions...are obvious. They lead to a total breach between action and characterization, leaving the action unmotivated, and the character unintelligible. The reader is left to feel "These people couldn't do these things!"

[Many "action movies" today, ha]

[...]

On the other side of the same dichotomy, there are Romanticists whose basic premise is that man possesses volition *in regard to consciousness, but not to existence*, i.e., in regard to his own character and choice of values, but not in the regard of achieving his goals in the physical world".

[Other movies with fine, upright characters ... who fail.]

(The Romantic Manifesto 108-109)

Being and doing then, inseparable.

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http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

I just now had the thought that Jefferson was not only stating that one's selected path to happiness was not to be obstructed, but also, implicitly, that one's 'happiness' was not to be egregiously 'assisted' in any way, decreed necessary by government. I suppose scholars have already been there.

If he lived in these times he might have meant that. There's not too much implicit that's not actually bluntly explicit in the Declaration. It was an in your face document. The only person on OL who might be able to support your proposition is George H, Smith. You and I today, however, are free to find that message. It's a logical extrapolation.

--Brant

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http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

I just now had the thought that Jefferson was not only stating that one's selected path to happiness was not to be obstructed, but also, implicitly, that one's 'happiness' was not to be egregiously 'assisted' in any way, decreed necessary by government. I suppose scholars have already been there.

If he lived in these times he might have meant that. There's not too much implicit that's not actually bluntly explicit in the Declaration. It was an in your face document. The only person on OL who might be able to support your proposition is George H, Smith. You and I today, however, are free to find that message. It's a logical extrapolation.

--Brant

Yes, perhaps a bridge too far, being attracted to the idea doesn't make it true of Jefferson's thinking or intention.

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http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2005/06/the-meaning-of-life-how-shall-we-live/

I am verging on certain that this is what we mean, and Jefferson meant, by the "pursuit of happiness."

A...

I just now had the thought that Jefferson was not only stating that one's selected path to happiness was not to be obstructed, but also, implicitly, that one's 'happiness' was not to be egregiously 'assisted' in any way, decreed necessary by government. I suppose scholars have already been there.

If he lived in these times he might have meant that. There's not too much implicit that's not actually bluntly explicit in the Declaration. It was an in your face document. The only person on OL who might be able to support your proposition is George H, Smith. You and I today, however, are free to find that message. It's a logical extrapolation.

--Brant

Yes, perhaps a bridge too far, being attracted to the idea doesn't make it true of Jefferson's thinking or intention.

His intention was to make a document that could be used this way if national circumstances changed in particulars not common to his day. That's the nature of principles vs applications. In that sense searching for original intent respecting those isn't important. Just read the document. Use it as you will. Jefferson's brain was Jefferson's brain. We can note, for instance, a cultural-intellectual divide. Culturally he was a slave owner. In that sense he was trapped by his time and circumstances and not entirely innocent. There are also questions of his personal courage. His conduct as President. It's all interesting. If everything is added up, however, he did come through and gets a gold star. We are entitled to take his intellectual part apart from the total and consider it as such so it works for our own contemporary use--and give him, oh, two gold stars and a memorial in Washington.

I do wonder about him and Sally.

--Brant

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Yes, perhaps a bridge too far, being attracted to the idea doesn't make it true of Jefferson's thinking or intention.

His intention was to make a document that could be used this way if national circumstances changed in particulars not common to his day. That's the nature of principles vs applications.

--Brant

True! A man of principle (and character). In government, particulars are for bureaucrats to handle.

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Appropriately, Rand: "When men abandon principles (i.e. their conceptual faculty) two of the major results are, individually, the inability to project the future; socially, the impossibility of communication".

(Which Peter quoted the other day).

Jefferson could envisage a future time and other contexts, so he could "project the future" -- therefore, a conceptualist.

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