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I am 15 years old and within the last half-year/year I have become very interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy and writings. I have read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem, as well as parts of Rand's nonfiction works via the Ayn Rand Lexicon. (I have not yet read any of Rand's nonfiction works in their entirety, so there may be concepts I have not yet integrated.) As a teenager, I am aware that my mind may not yet be fully rational, although I have worked to hold reason as my absolute to the greatest extent I am able. This brings me to my question: With a decent understanding of Objectivism by the standards of a rookie, but a still-developing mind, how can I encourage: a) reason and rationality in my thinking? b) myself to make the choice to live consciously? c) Virtue in my actions?

Regarding a): Sometimes I feel that I am not thinking clearly or rationally. Am I a victim of Progressivist education? Will I "grow into it" as my brain develops? Is there a sort of internal check-list that can help me to stay rational?

Regarding b): Sometimes I do commit the moral sin of "blanking out" (due to 14 years of irrational living), thankfully not often, and hopefully less and less in the future. How can I ensure I catch any slip into waking unconsciousness and irrationality?

Regarding c): How can I be:

More rational? Same as a)

More independent? As I am not legally an adult and my parents are not Objectivists, it can be hard to be independent. What avenues can I take to achieve whatever independence I can until I am legally an adult?

An individual with more integrity and honesty? Not much of a problem, but it relates to b)

More just? I understand the meaning of justice, but how do I apply this to my everyday life?

More productive? Again, I am relegated to the horrors of public Progressivist education, so I do not consider my schoolwork as productive work (though I take every chance I get to express the views I share with Ms. Rand when an assignment allows it, and I try my best to excel at the work which at its core cannot be tainted by an irrational government-funded school system.) Also, being not able to enter college yet to gain the education needed for a career, or to get a job yet due to child labor restrictions - though as soon as I can I plan to get a job doing construction or some form of labor wherein I can work towards financial independence, and I also plan to study the stock market so that I can begin little by little making investments to also help this end. Low income, non-career work and investing aside, what ways could I create productive achievements for myself before I have the education needed for a career?

Properly prouder? I believe I am worthy to live and to pursue values, how can I ensure I am differentiating between justified self-confidence and possibly unjust overconfidence or even arrogance?

If the experienced Objectivists on this site could offer me some answers and suggestions I would greatly appreciate it.

I also have a few other questions:

I regularly encounter a number of irrational leftists (as well as a number of irrational self-proclaimed GOP Republicans). I can clearly state my moral principles and defend Laissez-Faire capitalism to those willing to listen to such an argument, but the people I encounter do not clearly state their principles, are of the "anti-conceptual mentality", and argue against capitalism with the unstated backdrop of Altruism, pushing practicality to the forefront. (They also rely on a "he said she said" argument of the supposed practicality of socialism, thus not offering real data, but not being open to real data in favor of capitalism.) How can I maneuver a discussion about politics over to clearly stating moral principles, which as Ayn Rand showed, is the death blow to collectivism?

How can I avoid the "Young Objectivist" stereotype, ex. the 18-year-old who is confused and so picks up Atlas Shrugged, but grows out of it? Also, since I am working to adopt Objectivism at a young age, are there any benefits to this which that I might take advantage of?

I would like to delve more into the epistemology of Objectivism, particularly concept formation as well as the DIM Hypothesis. Is Peikoff's DIM a good starting point for this? Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology?

I don't think I should officially declare myself an Objectivist until I can live as a fully rational being. Is this correct?

As you can see, I have a lot I wish to learn. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

asked Mar 20 '13 at 21:13

AYoungObj's gravatar image

AYoungObj
5919

edited Mar 20 '13 at 21:23


For the work of a 15-year-old, I find this question remarkably articulate, rationally alert and inquisitive. The questioner seems already well on his way to a highly productive and fulfiling life if he (she?) continues to pursue his enthusiasm for Objectivism throughout his coming years and decades. I can offer a few specific suggestions as noted below.

  • Remember John Galt's description of "three cardinal values" as well as the basic virtues. Remember especially the value of purpose. At age 15, with no pressure to seek a job immediately (or starve), one's top priority normally should be to gain as much useful education as possible in preparation for life after school, whether high school or college. The question didn't mention current courses, grades, and future plans for elective courses. Construction work and studying the stock market may fit into an overall plan for a defined career path, but I would recommend caution about becoming distracted from school courses and grades that could be even more relevant to potential careers. And don't dwell excessively on Progressivism. Wherever and whenever it exists, observe it, remember it and speak out when appropriate, but continue making your own best effort to do well in the courses and actually learn something useful, especially in preparation for college. Make the most of it.

  • Purpose also means knowing why you want to live up to Objectivist virtues. It means having clear reasons for doing it, not merely seeking to do what others say in order to win their approval and praise, nor pursuing Objectivist studies mainly as a "passing fad of the moment." Remember the questions: Why? What for? (I.e., for what?) Know why the three cardinal values for man's life are so valuable, and why you personally want to gain and/or keep them.

Sometimes I feel that I am not thinking clearly or rationally.
  • When this happens, it means you have become aware of something in your thinking that needs to be considered further and refined or rejected. Examine that evidence more closely to understand where the problem is and what the solution might be. Make a conscious effort to remember that glimmer of concern and, as soon as you have time and energy for it, think about it further to understand whether it's just a clearly demonstrable "false alarm" or something that really does warrant a change in your thinking.
Am I a victim of Progressivist education?
  • Very possibly, but don't let it become an excuse for giving up. And don't overlook opportunities to take initiative yourself to salvage a decent education from a difficult situation.
How can I ensure I catch any slip into waking unconsciousness and irrationality?
  • You just have to watch yourself; be observant; monitor what your mind is doing, and ask if it is rational or not. If you judge that you need to change your mental "policies" in some way, carefully work out what can be changed and why it needs to change, then make the change. Also, "waking unconsciousness" may not be unconditionally bad if you have some free time and an opportunity to rest quietly for awhile, just letting your mind fill itself with whatever concerns may be festering just below the surface of conscious awareness. It can be a good way to get back in touch with yourself (i.e., with your subconscious) from time to time, and perhaps gain new insights into issues that need further consciousness consideration in your life and actions.
What avenues can I take to achieve whatever independence I can until I am legally an adult?
  • Independence is as much a cognitive issue as a material one, if not more so. You seem to be doing an excellent job so far, at age 15, in practicing cognitive independence (thinking for yourself). Material independence comes later unless you suddenly find yourself thrust into the adult world on your own unexpectedly or because of intolerable living conditions at home. (Two centuries ago age, 15 wasn't necessarily too young to take charge after the death of one's parents, for example. Life in the American frontier had to be highly resilient.)
[How to be an] individual with more integrity and honesty?
  • Remember what these virtues mean. To be honest, don't be dishonest; don't misrepresent facts or deceive others; strive to see reality as it is, and act accordingly. Integrity simply means loyalty in action to one's principles. Know what your principles are and why, and follow them.
I understand the meaning of justice, but how do I apply this to my everyday life?
  • Make your best, most honest effort to evaluate others fairly, taking into account all relevant factors that you know of, and seeking out any additional factors that could affect your evaluations. Make your best effort. Conduct "post mortems" on your decisions and their results; revise your understanding of facts and issues as needed. There is a great amount of learning and practice needed to hone most of life's essential skills.
[In] what ways could I create productive achievements for myself before I have the education needed for a career?
  • I would classify getting a good education as a productive achievement for a young student. Don't relegate school to hopeless "Progressivism" if there is anything at all that can be salvaged from it, and be honest about how bad it really is -- or isn't. Also, many areas of the country allow high school students to enroll in college level courses at local community colleges. That might be a way to enhance the quality of your educational experience.
...how can I ensure I am differentiating between justified self-confidence and possibly unjust overconfidence or even arrogance?
  • Practice, along with retrospective self-reviewing.
I can clearly state my moral principles and defend Laissez-Faire capitalism to those willing to listen to such an argument....
  • Excellent! That is exactly what is needed today, and it's a far more valuable skill than you may realize. Keep it up, by all means. Don't worry too much about hardened collectivists. Think about a wider audience, where more rational observers may be quietly lurking and watching. You never know when someone in your audience may be able to benefit, even if your immediate adversary doesn't want to be pursuaded. Over time, you may gradually start to see subtle ways to begin to "get through," at least a little, even to hardened collectivists; but it's tough for a 15-year-old to know everything so young. Again, it takes a lot of practice, along with retrospective self-reviewing. Never stop practicing your discussion skills if you have the time, inclination and opportunity.
I would like to delve more into the epistemology of Objectivism....
  • Great! Go for it -- whatever you find most interesting and most relevant to your long range educational and career goals. I would suggest more of Ayn Rand's own works before attemping OPAR or DIM -- certainly ITOE, also PWNI, VOS, Romantic Manifesto, CUI, FNI, and so on. DIM and OPAR would be good, too, in due course.
I don't think I should officially declare myself an Objectivist until I can live as a fully rational being. Is this correct?
  • In your case, it may be too restrained. You seem to have mastered Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem and The Ayn Rand Lexicon quite well for your age and relatively short duration of exposure to Ayn Rand's ideas. Galt's Speech alone encapsulates the whole philosophy of Objectivism, though leaving considerable room for additional elaboration and explanation which the other works of Ayn Rand and her closest associates provide. If you haven't found anything so far that stumps you or repels you, then you probably already are "an Objectivist." I hope you'll continue your Objectivist studies and applications for a long, happy and productive future -- integrated with your own specific career interests, plans, and educational preparations.

(In fact, the questioner may actually be "too good to be true." Nevertheless, I'm taking the question at face value, as being the true and honest work of an actual 15-year-old. It's a matter of justice not to suggest artful deception without clear evidence of it, but it has also been rare in my experience to encounter someone who is both young enough to be enthusiastic about life's possibilities and intellectually astute enough to understand and appreciate Objectivism's perspective.)

answered Mar 22 '13 at 00:23

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

Excellent answer! Thank you, I'll keep all this in mind into the future. (As a footnote, I am not "too good to be true". I don't really know how I can prove it beyond my word, so that's what I give you.)

And regarding Progressivism, I think I can and will rise above it, it simply is that from the outside, a rational person looks at public education and says that it is immoral, and they are right; from the inside I see that it is immoral and it breeds immense irrationality in any and every student not cognizant enough to realize it (that's a very large percentage).

(Mar 22 '13 at 06:36) AYoungObj AYoungObj's gravatar image

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Asked: Mar 20 '13 at 21:13

Seen: 1,220 times

Last updated: Mar 22 '13 at 06:42