Values Clarification #4

So let's recap. I started off my first post in this series considering how I lacked an answer to the question "What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?" Next I considered some concrete things that I value and grouped them into categories. Next I considered some stuff Ayn Rand said about what the ruling values of your life should be, especially reason and purpose.

I think what Ayn Rand says makes sense. You need a purpose to be motivated to do anything – at least a tentative, working purpose. Seneca has a quote on this: "When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind." And you need reason to figure out how to achieve your purpose. You also need to think you're capable of accomplishing your purpose, which is where I guess self-esteem comes in.

So let's say Rand is right. Her view might describe the things one should hold as the most important thing in life, and maybe I should aspire to that, but I don't think it's actually an answer to "What’s ultimately the most important thing in life to you?" Because that question is asking what is the most important thing, not what you think should be the most important thing. And it also presumes that you do have a most important value already, but on reflection, I think that may actually be unrealistic. Maybe most people's values – including mine – are sort of a muddle of different things without a clear hierarchy. If that's true, and you recognize that, then you can proceed to think about what you want your values to be and how to proceed going about accomplishing that.

If you want reason to be an important value, then it makes sense to try to get better at reason. That's a project with a lot of potential aspects, but some might include working on logic or learning about fallacies and the like. So there are specific steps you can take. Figuring out how to make purpose an important value seems a lot harder. Purpose seems more like one of those things that people either have or don't. I think it's still just basically some ideas, but I'm not sure what a step-by-step guide for figuring out one's purpose and incorporating it into one's life looks like. I actually arrived at the issue of lack of purpose starting from an exercise that was designed to help clarify my values, so I sort of went in a circle, which is disappointing. But at this point, I could probably proceed to the other questions I was going to consider from How to Think Like a Roman Emperor and see whether or not they're helpful. A project for next time!