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If focus is a precondition of knowledge, then by what means does an individual grasp how to focus in the first place or the fact that they are even capable of such an exercise? Although I can observe my ability to raise or lower my level of awareness and understand the process as analogous to the idea discussed in OPAR of focusing one's vision, I have no idea what precisely allows it to happen and the same can be said for vision. In other words, if a person cannot rely on the knowledge that they are capable of making a choice(to focus or not) to make a choice, then how do they discover that it is a possibility? The analogy that I use when thinking about this question is one of imagining a person that needs to use an elevator but who has no knowledge of how to get it to move nor any knowledge that there are even buttons or switches that will make it possible so the person just stands there oblivious to the potential the elevator offers. If I apply this analogy to the conceptual level of awareness of human beings, I wonder what it is that will ensure that an individual ever progresses past the sensory-perceptual level of development at all? Of what is mental effort comprised?

asked Jun 30 '13 at 03:35

dc32's gravatar image

dc32
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edited Jun 30 '13 at 12:59

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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Focus is the starting point, it is what enables you "to focus". We don't know how to explain focus given our current understanding of science, which just means that either we haven't discovered some new type of force (like gravity) or we haven't discovered a peculiar combination of objects and known forces that enables focus. So the answer to your question is "we don't know".

(Jul 01 '13 at 00:10) Bop Bop's gravatar image

If focus is a precondition of knowledge, then by what means does an individual grasp how to focus in the first place or the fact that they are even capable of such an exercise?

Mental focusing is something that is directly volitional. One does not need to know how to do it before one can simply do it, with or without comprehending the significance of what one is doing. There is additional explanation of focusing in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Focus." There is also an excellent discussion of exactly this point (learning to focus) in Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, Expanded Second Edition, in the Appendix, section titled, "Abstraction as Measurement-Omission," subsection titled, "Abstraction as Volitional -- If abstraction is volitional, how do we learn to do it?" What is learned conceptually (after one has already reached a state of focus and has begun to conceptualize) is the meaning of focusing, the dependence of conceptual cognition on focusing, the various other steps involved in conceptual cognition, and the dependence of one's whole life on conceptual cognition (i.e., reason as man's basic means of survival).

I wonder what it is that will ensure that an individual ever progresses past the sensory-perceptual level of development at all?

It isn't assured, and some individuals don't progress past the sensory-perceptual level -- or, more commonly, many remain on a concrete-bound, sensory-perceptual level when their lives would be far more efficacious if they were to advance to the conceptual level more consistently. What tends to motivate a person to strive for the conceptual level at all is the fact that his life depends on it. He will experience that dependence even if he does not recognize or appreciate it conceptually.

Of what is mental effort comprised?

The mental effort in focusing is described in the Objectivist references already cited (and elsewhere in other Objectivist references). The ITOE2 subsection is particularly detailed and illuminating. If the questioner is relying primarily on the OPAR discussion without having read any other references, the cautionary note offered by Dr. Peikoff in his Preface to OPAR should be heeded:

... the text can be understood by the general reader, although an individual will have an easier time if he first reads Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology.

answered Jul 01 '13 at 00:28

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
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Asked: Jun 30 '13 at 03:35

Seen: 740 times

Last updated: Jul 01 '13 at 00:28