Old Habits Die Easy

The basis of subjectivity is the idea that thinking makes it so. You cannot hold that idea as a conscious conviction, because too much evidence contradicts it. But you can still have mental habits formed when you were young enough to believe it. And those habits can seem hard to kill.

There is the habit of arbitrary definition. If thinking makes it so, then words mean what you personally want them to mean, and change meanings as you want. People seem to accept your personal meanings, so it must be okay. But then, why are you so misunderstood? Why do you misconstrue so much that people tell you? You wish for a better means of communication than all these slippery words.

There is the habit of substituting desire for action. If thinking makes it so, then wishing makes it so. Instead of changing habits by repetition, and gaining thinking skill by practice, you concentrate really hard on the desire for skill, and wonder why nothing happens. You end up frustrated because reality refuses to meet your demands. Instead of learning, you intend to learn. Instead of being objective, you intend to be objective. The habit of intending hangs on even when you wish like hell that it would go away.

There is the habit of confusing fact with evaluation. If thinking makes it so, then ideas precede facts. Instead of gathering all the evidence, and then deciding on a verdict, you guess at the verdict first, and look for some evidence to support it. Instead of identifying a fact, and then figuring out what to make of it, you guess at what to make of it, and then tailor the identification to the guess. But you don't really want all your knowledge to be guesswork, so you wish that the habit of guessing would go away.

There is the habit of arguing with reality. If thinking makes it so, then talking makes it so. Winning an argument is mastering reality. Instead of debating to test your grasp of things, you try to grasp things by debating about them. But then you learn slogans instead of facts, so you wish the habit of debating everything would go away.

Is there a way to fulfill this list of wishes? Certainly there is a way that will not work, the subjective way: "Aha! I get it. Objectivity is what works. So I demand objectivity." How would one know that objectivity works without trying it?

Now there's an idea. If you have subjective habits, and they do not make your life better, then why bother with them? Why not let the old habits die from lack of attention, while you are busy forming new habits? If you guess too much, then after you get through guessing, try something else. Try starting over by looking for the facts of the case. Get all the evidence, and then decide on a verdict. Compare the objective verdict to the subjective guess.

In getting rid of old mental habits, the mistake is to pay attention to them and give yourself orders. Pay attention instead to the new methods you can learn from Ayn Rand. Try them out. Use the old methods for backup if you lose your nerve, and then try the new ones again. As you gain skill in methods of thought that work, the old habits become wasted effort.

Subjective mental habits persist only when you think you are stuck with them. As soon as you find that you are not, their death is merciful and swift.

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