Independence Day

One virtue my parents helped me to cultivate was the virtue of independence.  I'm not sure they did it consciously, but looking at both my brother and myself, I see that same streak of questioning authority, the status quo, or societal norms.  Whether they did it consciously or not, the end result was the same - my mind was self-made.

But I didn't truly appreciate the virtue of independence until the day I finished reading Atlas Shrugged.  Atlas ShruggedThat is truly my Independence Day moment.  That is when I fully realized that my knowledge, my decisions, and my life are fully in my power.  That is when I realized that I shouldn't believe anything anybody else says just because they said it.  That is when I realized that I should actively validate all new knowledge through observation and reason.  That is when I realized I can be - I should be - I am a self-made man.

If only it were that simple to state it and let it be true.  Unfortunately, I have struggled to verify that my knowledge truly is independent.  And by independent, I mean my knowledge is not dependent on someone else's say-so.  Even in areas where I am no expert, I must verify the statements of facts by "experts" with my own first-hand thinking.  Sometimes (many times) the experts are right.  Sometimes they are not.  The only way I can make my knowledge independent of some expert's word is by thinking and observing.  When I don't, I usually end up learning the hard way... by having reality smack me in the face.  I had to dabble with Libertarians to realize how unprincipled they were.  I accepted much of the Ayn Rand nay-sayers at the Atlas Society before discovering the fallacies in their arguments.

I would hazard to guess that the biggest reason individuals fail at achieving independence is that they were not taught how to think inductively.  When they cannot look at the world around them and discover.  They are not taught how to critically examine multiple, sometimes conflicting theories.  From politics to nutrition, independent thought is absolutely essential for successful living, yet very difficult for many people to achieve.


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  2. I wanted to change my wording so I deleted the first draft. :)

    "my knowledge, my decisions, and my life are fully in my power"

    You mean that on every level from the general to the specific? I'll leave it open ended for now.

  3. Short answer - yes.

    Long answer - read Atlas Shrugged ;)

  4. So everything you know, you know purely through reason? Is there anything that can't be know through reason? More open ended questions.

    On a more specific question -- let's assume there were two masters of the rational as you describe. Would they agree on everything? And if not, what would account for their differences of opinion? Wait . . . that sounds pretty open ended still. :)

  5. Reason is the basis for gaining all knowledge. However, there is no guarantee that errors are not introduced or that people accept things as true without using reason. Irrationality can lead to all sorts of beliefs which lack sufficient grounding in observation and reality (or plainly contradict other things they know).

    Not quite sure what you mean by "two masters of the rational". Let's say, for sake of argument, there are two professors of logic. Would they agree on everything? Probably not, but even though they understand and apply logic in similar ways, it is possible for one of them to make a mistake or introduce logical errors, in spite of their expertise. But the better both of them are at thinking rationally, the closer their conclusions will become because they perceive the same world.

  6. What I meant was someone who was 100% rational. An ubermensch of Reason. Or two of them really. I'm guessing if there were two people who were complete masters of Reason that you wouldn't think they'd disagree on anything -- that at that level you'd reach a sort of epistemological singularity?

    I'm not intending any of this to be a debate, just an attempt to tease more out of you.