Help Miranda Barzey Become a Costume Designer!

 Posted by on 10 June 2013 at 10:00 am  Career, Charity
Jun 102013

Y’all might remember my interview with Miranda Barzey last June on “Why Style Matters.” If you enjoyed that — and you’d like to help an ambitious, capable, and awesome young woman in her career ambitions, check out her IndieGoGo campaign: Help Me Become a Costume Designer. She’s raising money for self-directed study, and she’s offering contributors various awesome benefits.

(Paul and I contributed, of course… I don’t ask people to donate money to a cause unless I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is.)

In case you’ve not yet heard it, check out last year’s interview with Miranda:

For more details and links and such, check out the episode’s archive page.

Again, you can find details about her plans and contribute to her IndieGoGo campaign here: Help Me Become a Costume Designer. It has just a few days left… so don’t delay!

More on Central Purpose

 Posted by on 9 July 2012 at 12:00 pm  Career, Children, Ethics, Hobbies, Purpose, Work
Jul 092012

In the June 24th episode of Philosophy in Action Radio, I answered a question on parenting as a central purpose. In my answer, I suggested that Objectivists seem to have misunderstood what Ayn Rand meant by “central purpose.” In part, I suggested that based on Ayn Rand’s comments in “The Objectivist Ethics” in The Virtue of Selfishness:

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. Reason is the source, the precondition of his productive work–pride is the result.

That was her only comment on “central purpose” in her novels or anthologies. It doesn’t seem to imply that a person needs to have a central purpose in the sense of an overriding theme of his life, as many people seem to think.

Shortly after the broadcast, someone pointed out that Ayn Rand discussed “central purpose” briefly in her interview in Playboy. Here’s the relevant passage:

PLAYBOY: Weren’t Hitler and Stalin, to name two tyrants, in control of their own lives, and didn’t they have a clear purpose?

RAND: Certainly not. Observe that both of them ended as literal psychotics. They were men who lacked self-esteem and, therefore, hated all of existence. Their psychology, in effect, is summarized in Atlas Shrugged by the character of James Taggart. The man who has no purpose, but has to act, acts to destroy others. That is not the same thing as a productive or creative purpose.

PLAYBOY: If a person organizes his life around a single, neatly defined purpose, isn’t he in danger of becoming extremely narrow in his horizons?

RAND: Quite the contrary. 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, it saves him from pointless inner conflicts, it permits him to enjoy life on a wide scale and to carry that enjoyment into any area open to his mind; whereas a man without a purpose is lost in chaos. He does not know what his values are. He does not know how to judge. He cannot tell what is or is not important to him, and, therefore, he drifts helplessly at the mercy of any chance stimulus or any whim of the moment. He can enjoy nothing. He spends his life searching for some value which he will never find.

Ayn Rand’s analysis of the life of the man without a purpose is correct: such a life would be terribly disintegrated. However, I’m doubtful that a person must have one single dominant purpose — a theme of his life that trumps all other concerns — in order to live a rational, integrated, and purposeful life. Instead, my thought is that a person’s ultimate integrating purpose is his own life and happiness. Often, that ultimate purpose will be pursued via three to five major values, such as a career, a spouse, children, and a hobby.

Those major values might not be strongly connected to each other. My passion for horse training and skiing has little to do with my love of philosophy. Paul doesn’t join me in those hobbies either, but he’s hugely important to me.

Those major values will come into conflict periodically. A parent, for example, faces constant choices between spending more time at work versus spending more time with his kids. Sometimes, those choices might be painfully difficult, such as during a major crunch time at work.

Even if a person’s career is most important to him, in the grand scheme of his life, that doesn’t mean that his career will always trump his other major values. I could work more hours, for example, but I choose to spend some of that time riding my horses instead. If my horse Lila were injured, my plans for work for that day would be instantly discarded.

A person might forgo certain career opportunities in order to enhance or preserve the other major values. I wouldn’t ever move to New York City — even if doing so would hugely advance my career — because doing so would preclude my pursuit of too many other values. (Hence, I would be miserable in very short order.)

Ultimately, what should matter most to a person is his own life and happiness: that’s the ultimate purpose that properly integrates all his actions. Beyond that, a person needs to cultivate and identify the major values by which he pursues that life and happiness. He needs to know their relative order of importance to him, in the grand scheme of things. He needs to be sensitive to changes in those major values over time.

To go beyond that — to attempt to intertwine all the disparate threads of one’s life into a neat and tidy bow known as a “central purpose” — seems likely to be unhelpful and perhaps even unrealistic for many people. For them, the result of the attempt is not greater clarity or purpose, but only guilt, worry, and sacrifice of values. Obviously, that’s not good.

Ultimately, the goal should not be to force oneself to think and act in terms of a single unifying central purpose of life. The goal should be to live a rational, integrated, and purposeful life — and I see many ways to do that.

Question on Compulsory Military Service

 Posted by on 3 May 2012 at 8:00 am  Career, Government, Military
May 032012

Fabian Bollinger, a Swiss supporter of Philosophy in Action, recently e-mailed me the following inquiry about pursuing a military career when a draft is in force:

As I’ve probably mentioned a million times before, Switzerland has compulsory military service, and I’m about to do mine (July through April). I am confident that you agree that compulsory service is a bad thing. (It’s particularly vile, in that if you can’t do military service, you have to pay compensation; this while they continually have to find new tasks for our military to do because they’ve already maxed out on the actual training they’re willing to do. In other words, there’s not even a semblance of an excuse of national security necessity, but they insist they’re entitled to your slave labor regardless.)

Now if I can withstand the first couple of weeks (and that’s a serious if), there’s the possibility of “continuing”, that is pursuing a higher rank. This seems quite attractive for a number of reasons: higher pay, more prestige, more brains required and exercised, more responsibility, etc. What attracts me particularly is that this way, instead of mindlessly accepting orders from above and be talked to, I actually get to set the tone and respectfulness of conversation myself, and I get to say so when I have a better idea, etc.

Are those valid reasons to choose this path in your opinion? (Once again, assuming I still want anything to with the military after the first couple of weeks.) Or am I sanctioning a system of slave labor by voluntarily putting myself in a position where I’m giving out orders to coerced recruits? Or am I overthinking this a little..?

I had to think on the question for a little while, as the answer didn’t seem obvious to me. Here’s what I wrote in reply a few days later:

You’re right that I think that compulsory military service is abhorrent, particularly when it’s not even required for national security. Now for the meaty question:

I don’t think that it’s morally wrong to pursue a career — or part of a career or advancement — in a military system that involves the draft. Military work is a valid type of work: it’s not like being a mob boss. The fact that people are drafted is not your moral responsibility in the slightest, so long as you oppose it. It’s something that’s forced on you and everyone else.

So I’d only say that it would be immoral (1) if you’re obliged to speak or write in favor of the draft against your will — or if you do that willingly or (2) if you relish the prospect of making the lives of draftees particularly miserable, knowing that they can’t do anything about it.

The second clearly wouldn’t be any kind of problem for you — that would be very psychologically twisted. And it doesn’t sound like the first would be issue either. So… go for it!

I hope that’s helpful!

I’d be interested in any thoughts on this matter, particularly from people with experience in the military, particularly in countries with a draft.

(FYI: Normally, I don’t answer e-mail questions of this kind… except from people who are regular contributors to Philosophy in Action. Even for regular contributors, I can’t make any guarantees, but I will do my best!)

Feb 162012

In Sunday’s Philosophy in Action Webcast, I discussed liking but not loving your career. The question was:

What should I do if I have a good job but not burning professional ambition? I have a good job that pays well. I perform my job well to the best of my ability. But I don’t feel about it the same way that Howard Roark felt about the field of architecture in The Fountainhead or that Dagny felt about the railroad business in Atlas Shrugged. I don’t hate my job – I do enjoy the work and the people I work with. But it’s not my burning passion. On a scale of 1-to-10, my paying job (and the overall field) is a 7, but I also have various non-paying outside hobbies and activities that are more of a 8 or 9 for me. Should I try to cultivate a strong passion for my paying job? Or look for a different line of work? Or ramp up my pursuit of various hobbies and outside activities that give me greater satisfaction on the side?

My answer, in brief:

A person’s work should serve his life, and sometimes that means choosing the one career that you’re wildly passionate about, and sometimes that means choosing a career that you enjoy, but that enables you to pursue other values.

Here’s the video of my full answer:

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Kevin Spacey: Mere Desire Versus Burning Ambition

 Posted by on 12 January 2012 at 8:00 am  Career, Ethics, Work
Jan 122012

Kevin Spacey on mere desire versus burning ambition:

“I very often watch a lot of young people meander around, without any idea about why they’re doing what they’re doing. To want, and to be ambitious, and to what to be successful, is not enough. That’s just desire. To know what you want, to understand why you’re doing it, to dedicate every breath in your body to achieve — if you feel you have something to give, if you feel that your particular talent is worth developing, is worth caring for — then there’s nothing you can’t achieve.”

Video: The Morality of Selling Your Body

 Posted by on 5 October 2011 at 1:00 pm  Career, Ethics, Videocast, Work
Oct 052011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed the morality of selling your body. The question was:

Is it moral to sell your body? Selling our bodies or certain parts of them are perfectly acceptable in our society, such as being an egg or sperm donor, being a pregnancy surrogate, or selling hair. But others are condemned, such as prostitution or selling organs. Where should the line be drawn? When is it moral to sell a part of oneself — and why?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

I’ve posted the videos for Sunday’s two other questions to YouTube: Using the Do Not Call Registry and Genetic Influences on Thinking.

Video: Regretting Time Spent at Work

 Posted by on 30 September 2011 at 1:00 pm  Career, Ethics, Life, Videocast, Work
Sep 302011

In Sunday’s Rationally Selfish Webcast, I discussed regretting time spent at work. The question was:

At death, should a person regret all the years spent at work? I often hear the saying, “No one ever laid on their death bed wishing they had spent more time in the office.” What should a person think of that — and of the fact that so many people agree with it — in light of the virtue of productiveness?

Here’s the video of my answer:

If you enjoy the video, please “like” it on YouTube and share it with friends in e-mail and social media! Also, all my webcast and other videos can be found on my YouTube channel.

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