Looking for wisdom, insight


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Question: Where can I look in Objectivism material, on the specific topics of wisdom, balance, and insight? I've read through ITOE, Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Virtue of Selfishness. In another post, I remember saying that Rand hadn't promoted these points. What else is there that directly addresses these points? I admit that I am frustrated, because I'm not sure where this question goes, but since epistemology is about study of knowledge, I figured a study of knowing ourselves would be under this topic?

I know Dr. Branden worked on self-esteem, disowning the self, etc. topics which I understand on my own, deeply, through life experience. Did he talk about the points I'm mentioning in depth?

While I'm definitely not adverse at all to developing my own philosophy of realistic wisdom, balance, and insight, I'd like to know what Oism says about this as I'd like to learn, discuss, and pursue these topics farther.

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Jenna, one thing that comes to mind is Rand's essay "The Metaphysical vs. the Man-Made." She relates her philosophy to the Serenity Prayer of the 12 Step programs, and she does outline a kind of balance and wisdom in that essay.

I think a lot more of what you are looking for is in Nathaniel Branden's books. In particular, I think you would get some good out of The Disowned Self and (especially) The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem.

Another good place to look is in Leonard Peikoff's lectures Understanding Objectivism and Judging, Feeling and Not Being Moralistic. He covers the issue of balance between reason and the emotions very well in these lectures. They are available online from the Ayn Rand Bookstore.

Perhaps you will be the one to write a spiritually oriented book for Objectivists. These are good source materials to help you along the way.

REB

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Jenna,

There are of course many things. Roger hit it on the head nicely, I think.

As local heretic, I also suggest taking a walk on the wild side and looking at some things outside of the specific area of evolution within which Objectivism lies; in order to put it into a full context, and to get some other ideas. Specifically, a good one is a book by Ken Wilber called The Marriage of Sense and Spirit - I can't recommend this book highly enough.

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Jenna,

Roger made some good suggestions. Leonard Peikoff can be highly variable, from one context to another: Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand is much different in tone, sometimes in substance, from LP's 1976 lectures on Objectivism; apparently the lecture on Judging, Feeling, and Not Being Moralistic is at variance with "Fact and Value."

One type of wisdom was important to the ancients, to Aristotle in particular. The Greek word for it was phronesis, which lacks a standard translation--I've seen it rendered as prudence, practical intelligence, or practical wisdom. Aristotle thought that practical wisdom was an intellectual virtue, and that the moral virtues weren't worth a whole lot without it, because practical wisdom is needed to assess and weigh what's relevant in a particular context and make the choice that fits it best.

There is no notion of practical wisdom in the Objectivist ethics. I'm not completely sure why, although I'm pretty sure that Rand's distrust of "just knowing" played a role. I've been flagging every reference to moral principles in Tara Smith's new book, because she talks about them a lot. I'm trying to figure out what Smithian principles are in Cognitive Science terms--and how they might relate to action. I've also been flagging every passage (there are fewer of these) where Smith seems to be assimilating something like practical wisdom to Rand's conception of rationality.

A good recent book on practical wisdom is The Virtue of Prudence, by Doug Den Uyl. (The writing is rather dry, but I'm sure you've encountered much drier stuff in neuroscience articles.) Den Uyl gives both a historical sketch (how prudence was once a virtue but is now put aside as "non-moral" by most moral philosophers) and an account of how prudence functions. Knowing how to weight competing goals and values, or competing demands on one's time and energy, is what Den Uyl understands practical wisdom to be.

Robert Campbell

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I think I already sensed that about Peikoff-- I can't seem to get a good grasp of Peikoff as a person--- my reactions (which I've noticed) have oscillated between liking one thing and disliking another. I need to figure that out in the sense that I'd like to read what Peikoff did on his own.

Thank you all for your suggestions! I'm not sure if I will spend $80 on Smith's book (I might ask a university or public library if they have it) since I am poor and my priorities for book spending are for my field. It would be interesting to see how Smith tackles wisdom, insight, etc. But I will try to find Peikoff's work, look into Wilbur, etc. I think the non-mystical, non-Buddhist part of Buddhism may apply sometimes, but I'm not positively sure yet-- although I have found some nice advice there.

I think practical wisdom is one aspect of what I'm looking for. My search is for not only a practical wisdom (which is a part), but an integrated, dynamic mini-system called wisdom that is used at the highest levels of conscious thinking/feeling--- I'm not looking for a "Just knowing" concept. I think wisdom is far from "just knowing"--- it has to interact with many other actions (insight, self-rule, conscious awareness, etc.) so I'm looking for practical, intellectual, emotional, perceptival, knowledge-fueled, volitional, realistic, and holistic (and etc.?) all at once. I'm interested in depth and dimensional qualities of wisdom as well as what interacts with it, or what is needed to gain it. Hm. I'll go read some more :)

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Jenna,

No need to plunk down $80 on Smith's book when you've read Rand, and have read, or are going to read, Peikoff, Nathaniel Branden, and other authors. The Nicomachean Ethics might be more of a priority as well... Smith's new book can wait, if you can't find a copy in a library right away.

For Rand, "just knowing" meant "knowing without knowing how you know." Some aspects of wisdom may be conscious and deliberative, without all of them being either of those things.

Robert Campbell

PS. I don't know the particular book by Ken Wilber that Rich recommended (and if I tried to read everything by Wilber, I'm not sure how much time I'd have to read anything else!), but I've found the two of his books that I've read to be well worth the investment.

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Robert-

I like The Marriage of Sense and Spirit because in Wilberian terms it is a brisk, lay kind of read. It addresses the very serious issue of integrating religious thought and modern thought; it spells out what he calls the "dignities and disasters" of each. And, it does the same with postmodernism- very much so. For Objectivist-based folk, I truly believe this is a very illuminating book. Another worthwhile (and very inexpensive) investment is downloading the conversations between Ken Wilber and Nathaniel Branden, available at www.nathanielbranden.com

rde

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