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FrankPalmerWhite

How does parental love fit with rational egoism?

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To give the question context I will say that as a 21 year old I am lucky enough to not yet have any children of my own. How does rational egoism view parental love? For example if your child represented everything you held to be immoral (lazy, entitled, etc,) then surely if follows that such a relationship would be unhealthy and should be ended but what if the pull of parental love and the feeling of guilt was too much to end the relationship. The relationship itself makes you unhappy but the idea of ending it makes you even less happy. What do you do?

On a side to this question I wonder if the love I have with my younger brother is healthy according to Rand. As he is too young (11) to have a full set of morals and virtues that make the men and women in my life that I do love on what basis can I say my love for him is true spiritual love? I would go as far as to say that I would even defend his life at the expense of, say, my best friend who I love and admire for his strengths and virtues as in individual man.

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"To give the question context I will say that as a 21 year old I am lucky enough to not yet have any children of my own."

Gee, I didn't realize having or not having kids was a matter of "luck" and not sexual intercourse....

"For example if your child represented everything you held to be immoral (lazy, entitled, etc,) then surely if follows that such a relationship would be unhealthy and should be ended but what if the pull of parental love and the feeling of guilt was too much to end the relationship."

I would wonder why, if one valued work, industriousness, etc., those values weren't instilled into the children. Still, I recognize that the culture has its own poisonous effect in that regard and it's possible that one could have good values but yet fail to raise children who hold similar good values. But you can't legally "end the relationship" if the child is a minor -- it's a moot point. After the child is of legal age, then yes -- one can always kick him or her out and limit or end the relationship. It might just be what the child needs to grow up.

"On a side to this question I wonder if the love I have with my younger brother is healthy according to Rand."

I'm afraid that it's this sort of question that earns Objectivists the smear, "Randroids". You're 21 years old -- you ought to be able to figure out if your perfectly normal familial love for your brother is "healthy" for yourself. If you were having sexual fantasies about him, or obsessively thought about him non-stop for all your waking hours, then I would say it was not healthy. And if your basis for worrying about this is that he is too young to "have a full set of morals and virtues", then on what basis are you going to love your infant children when you are lucky or unlucky enough to have them?

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To give the question context I will say that as a 21 year old I am lucky enough to not yet have any children of my own. How does rational egoism view parental love? For example if your child represented everything you held to be immoral (lazy, entitled, etc,) then surely if follows that such a relationship would be unhealthy and should be ended but what if the pull of parental love and the feeling of guilt was too much to end the relationship. The relationship itself makes you unhappy but the idea of ending it makes you even less happy. What do you do?

If emotions and reason are at odds, you should make the rational choice rather than the one guided by emotion.

what if the pull of parental love and the feeling of guilt was too much to end the relationship

Morality is not just an intellectual exercise. It has to be integrated with one's values, psychology, emotions. If a person lives his entire life with his rational faculty and emotions connected into an integrated whole, then making rational choices won't be an impossible task.

On a side to this question I wonder if the love I have with my younger brother is healthy according to Rand.

Yes. Family (the right kind of family) can be an objective value (something that furthers your life). Then again, the wrong kind of family might not be a value. I'm guessing your family fits into the former category.

As he is too young (11) to have a full set of morals and virtues that make the men and women in my life that I do love on what basis can I say my love for him is true spiritual love?

What do you mean by "spiritual"? Based in values? If yes, then your love is spiritual, it is based in the value you place on your family.

I'm assuming your family has been a positive influence in your life. Why wouldn't you value them then?

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Yes. Family (the right kind of family) can be an objective value (something that furthers your life). Then again, the wrong kind of family might not be a value. I'm guessing your family fits into the former category.

I can make the distinction between the two but what if the pull was the same for the two. I will give a personal example; My relationship with my father is complex, he is confrontational, dictatorial, forces charity upon you and then gets angry and shouts at people when they do not reward his altruism with respect and an exchange of labour or love. He is not without redeeming features that I admire; he works hard, he will engage academically (albeit on strict terms he prescribes), he is dedicated and honest. He is incredibly self sacrificial and altruistic. Yet despite him representing all that which I view as immoral I still love him as much as those in my family who I do admire for their virtues. I cannot quite say if this emotion I feel is born of duty, fear of loss or pity and for all the introspection I have done I cannot rationalise it.

Is it just a matter of figuring out which choice I view as being of less cost to my happiness because neither is of true value to me. Or am I misunderstanding value here?

EDIT: By rationalise my love I should have said I struggle to integrate my rational conclusion and my emotional pull.

Edited by FrankPalmerWhite

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"gets angry and shouts at people when they do not reward his altruism with respect and an exchange of labour or love".

If true altruism is doing some act with no expectation of recompense, then he's not acting altruistically at all, as he clearly wants his actions to be rewarded and is angry or disappointed when it isn't forthcoming. I would call that being manipulative, not altruistic.

"He is incredibly self sacrificial"

That comes with the turf of being a parent -- don't be too hard on him for that, as I don't know any parent who isn't self-sacrificial to some extent.

"I cannot quite say if this emotion I feel is born of duty, fear of loss or pity and for all the introspection I have done I cannot rationalise it."

That's love for you.....it can't always be rationalized. To love one's father seems perfectly normal and honorable, unless the father is downright abusive. Nor is it unearned -- he loved you for years when you were annoying, immature, needy, demanding, ungrateful -- I could go on. Nor am I being personal -- all children are like that at least some of the time, and sometimes most of the time.

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I can make the distinction between the two but what if the pull was the same for the two. I will give a personal example; My relationship with my father is complex, he is confrontational, dictatorial, forces charity upon you and then gets angry and shouts at people when they do not reward his altruism with respect and an exchange of labour or love. He is not without redeeming features that I admire; he works hard, he will engage academically (albeit on strict terms he prescribes), he is dedicated and honest. He is incredibly self sacrificial and altruistic. Yet despite him representing all that which I view as immoral I still love him as much as those in my family who I do admire for their virtues.

You shouldn't love someone who is immoral and abusive to you the same way you love someone who is moral and kind to you.

The first thing you need to do is recognize the proper source of love: values. Love your father for the things you do admire about him (and be grateful for the help he has given you), but don't love him out of duty. It's fine to love him less, if there is a good reason for it.

You're not committing any kind of sin against either God or family by doing so (even though I'm sure you've been taught all your life that you do, and that you should love everyone in your family equally, irrespective of who they are and what they do to you).

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If true altruism is doing some act with no expectation of recompense, then he's not acting altruistically at all, as he clearly wants his actions to be rewarded and is angry or disappointed when it isn't forthcoming. I would call that being manipulative, not altruistic.

This is true I had not thought of it this way as I have always been told by other family members; "Your father may be difficult but at least he does things for you, other fathers may leave".

You shouldn't love someone who is immoral and abusive to you the same way you love someone who is moral and kind to you.

The first thing you need to do is recognize the proper source of love: values. Love your father for the things you do admire about him (and be grateful for the help he has given you), but don't love him out of duty. It's fine to love him less, if there is a good reason for it.

You're not committing any kind of sin against either God or family by doing so (even though I'm sure you've been taught all your life that you do, and that you should love everyone in your family equally, irrespective of who they are and what they do to you).

The sense of love I feel to my father is not a love based on virtues but it is still there and still strong. It is not anything I would describe as a rational value nor would I describe it as an emotional value, it makes me feel bad, but that does not mean that the pull is not there and not strong. I suppose I can only make the analogy of the drug addict. The hit does not bring them happiness but not to take the hit brings them pain. I suppose now we are leaving the world of the philosophical and entering the psychological?

On an aside what if dropping or leaving the person you find immoral was deemed bad by the society you lived in and therefore those who you did value for their virtues (though not 100%, I am yet to find a relationship like that) would act upon the irrationality I find immoral and of no value and leave you. I would probably argue that you would need to deicide what is of greater value to you, your mind and virtues or the current value of others. To make the decision in favour of others would be to commit intellectual suicide but to decide in favour of your mind would leave you alone and that is the scariest thought I could think of. Following this line of thought leads me to many other questions that I feel may take this off topic. So I will stick with the nature of love. :P

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I’m not sure what the difference is in your example outside of voluntary funding. How you describe public or private law enforcement sounds similar. The only real benefit from privatization of the police and courts, at least from the arguments of its supporters, is that it allows multiple competing courts and law enforcement in an attempt to dilute authority as an extra step of checks and balances. But unless I’m reading you wrong you are not suggesting that, you are simply changing the name of who is assigned the power to settle disputes, tries criminal and civil cases, and who enforces the law. Perhaps some clarification?

You might be over thinking this, which is understandable considering the complications that can be values and family multiplied through the non-standard of popular traditions of those subjects. My wife and I have been there so I get it in spades. Ask yourself, do you visit him because you are glad to see him? Do you visit him because “you should?” That kind of question will allow you to reflect upon your values and other people’s place in them.

As an example, I enjoy seeing my parents and get along well with them, even if we do not see “eye-to-eye” on some issues. We still share many values, including the very personal ones of my youth (trips, growing up, good times and bad, etc.) My wife however had real troubles with her parents and moved around the country a ton through a bitter divorce battle (and worse). Long story short she tried to visit again since she thought she “should do it for family” but it was a disaster and soon reason won out. She hasn’t spoken to them since the early 90’s and is happier for it. For your aside question some people do not get how she can ignore her family but so be it. A friend is not a friend if they think you should be miserable out of some duty. Pain is not a virtue.

It’s about your values. When it comes to friends and especially family the stars don’t always align well and you end up with conflicting values but if you study your emotional reactions to people and how they relate to your values you’ll piece together their benefit to your life.

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Are we to presume that the offspring in that first example, the lazy one, is an adult now? If they're still a kid then that is a whole 'nother ball of wax.

Assuming everybody is an adult, I'd say it is important to remember that it isn't an all or nothing issue. One doesn't need to pick between a flawless kid one sees all the time or an awful one that one never sees at all. Though they are an adult that doesn't mean everything is set in stone and it is too late for anything to change. One can still offer advice from time to time to point them in the right direction and offer encouragement for their positive endeavors and not the negative ones. Maybe things can get better still. But, in the mean time, one can limit the frequency of communication to an amount that is manageable without starting to negatively impact one's quality of life through stress and such. What that manageable frequency is will vary from case to case and may require some experimenting to figure out, but it will be heavily influenced by the ratio of good to bad things about that kid. It would have to be pretty darn bad to get to the point where the bad just completely outweighs any possible positives and thus makes any amount of contact bad for your life. Supposing things do get to that point though, it may be painful, but the sooner one gets the severing of ties over with the sooner that one can start the process of recovery.

Family relationships aren't the only case where these things apply. A similar guideline can be applied to just about any relationship with people who are a mixture of some positives and some negatives. If one finds themself though looking at staying with somebody or leaving them as a choice between bad and worse respectively, then that dread of leaving is primarily a fear of change and the unknown I speculate. There may have been good things there before that you want to hold onto, but nothing is accomplished by trying to hang onto something that is already gone. I think one possible way to try to reduce the fear that is stopping one from moving on is, if possible, to try a trial run where one spends a while without that person just to see what it is like. I've had a similar similar experience to this once before unintentionally and found that it was almost surreal at first, but there was a huge relief. It wasn't so bad as I thought it would be and I could handle it. Once you know for sure what it is like without that person it becomes much less scary and simpler to evaluate the options.

As for your emotions toward your younger brother, you love him for what he is. That's a good thing. ;) He's a kid and so he is to be judged as such. He can't be evaluated by the same standards as adults. Trying to evaluate a kid as good or bad by the standards of an adult is about as misguided as trying to judge the taste of a watermelon according to the standards of what peas should taste like. Presumably, by kid standards, he's a pretty good kid. All's well here, no need to worry.

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Frank,

I don't, firstly, believe one should think oneself -"rationalize" oneself -

out of love for family. (Or, conversely, into it.)

Second, rationality should not contain a breach between thought and feeling.

It can, and it does of course, temporarily, but you can resolve the two with

enough introspection.

From the point of view of a child, his parents are his first true 'value'. I write

'value' because of course, it is not a rational, objectively-selected value. A father and a mother

are a metaphysical "given" to him, like his first breath of air, and all the

following breaths. Parents supply their own value in him towards his nurture.

Gradually, as recognition grows, they assume greater identity to him.

Further down the line, and for a long time after, the youngster, then the adult

will make value-judgments about his parents which become increasingly rational.

Until some day he can see them as individuals in their own right (with virtues and faults).

But does that first 'value' ever completely disappear? I don't think it has to,

and why should it? except in the most aberrational and rare circumstances.

Don't 'over-think' it, as Dan advises. Give it time.

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All very helpful answers. The level of introspection needed is made even harder when I live in a society (Britain) where it is a bad economic choice to leave home, the environment is very emotionally charged. Maybe I am now realising that my potential happiness is of more value then economic security which I have not even earned.

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You might be over thinking this, which is understandable considering the complications that can be values and family multiplied through the non-standard of popular traditions of those subjects. My wife and I have been there so I get it in spades. Ask yourself, do you visit him because you are glad to see him? Do you visit him because “you should?” That kind of question will allow you to reflect upon your values and other people’s place in them.

As an example, I enjoy seeing my parents and get along well with them, even if we do not see “eye-to-eye” on some issues. We still share many values, including the very personal ones of my youth (trips, growing up, good times and bad, etc.) My wife however had real troubles with her parents and moved around the country a ton through a bitter divorce battle (and worse). Long story short she tried to visit again since she thought she “should do it for family” but it was a disaster and soon reason won out. She hasn’t spoken to them since the early 90’s and is happier for it. For your aside question some people do not get how she can ignore her family but so be it. A friend is not a friend if they think you should be miserable out of some duty. Pain is not a virtue.

It’s about your values. When it comes to friends and especially family the stars don’t always align well and you end up with conflicting values but if you study your emotional reactions to people and how they relate to your values you’ll piece together their benefit to your life.

Requoted since I botched somthing in copy/paste and added another post from a previous thread.

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This is true I had not thought of it this way as I have always been told by other family members; "Your father may be difficult but at least he does things for you, other fathers may leave".

The sense of love I feel to my father is not a love based on virtues but it is still there and still strong. It is not anything I would describe as a rational value nor would I describe it as an emotional value, it makes me feel bad, but that does not mean that the pull is not there and not strong. I suppose I can only make the analogy of the drug addict. The hit does not bring them happiness but not to take the hit brings them pain. I suppose now we are leaving the world of the philosophical and entering the psychological?

Yeah, but the moral and the psychological are connected. Emotions stem from moral premises (beliefs you hold or held). However, a person can change his premises a lot easier than he can his psychology, emotions, and patterns of behavior.

If you are raised with faulty premises, the effects will linger. Reconsidering your premises, and finding ways to apply them consistently, is a way to change that. It's not easy though (the second part, I mean, of applying newfound rational premises consistently). The field of psychiatry should be dedicated to developing proven methods for doing that. Unfortunately, it rarely is. If you're interested, I think there are still some well informed members around to point you in the right direction, when it comes to self-help materials or even therapy (cognitive behavioral therapy, not the "let's sit on a couch and talk about our daily adventures" kind). Unfortunately I'm not one of them.

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On a side to this question I wonder if the love I have with my younger brother ...
I think there is a sense in which close family is just that: not friends, but just close family. As we grow up, we might develop friendships with them, or they might remain just close family. One may find that one clicks with one brother and not the other. One may become a friend, while the other might just remain "family". A third brother may irritate you enough that you avoid him as much as you can... perhaps your relationship simply allows you to maintain peace at family gatherings.

So, what is the nature of "close family", as opposed to friendship? You have classmates with whom you are not friends, but a fellow traveler; the same with colleagues at work. Siblings close in age share so many past experiences. It's likely that you share a whole lot of concrete values: the dog you had, the granny you loved, mom's apple pie, dad's corny jokes. You also shared numerous dislikes: a particular aunt, dad's temper, etc. Being fellow-travelers for years, you will sometimes give them a hand just for that reason. In the typical positive case of siblings, they also know each other well. They may not like what they see, but they see... because they were too close for things to be hidden. They know both faults and virtues. Even if they are not your friend, they provide a sense of visibility that nobody but a close friend can give you. One cannot put on a facade like one might do to an acquaintance. You may not like many choices a brother has made, but you still understand how he got there, and see him as a person.

As long as one does not feel some false sense of loyalty that is materially impinging on your values, I would not feel any concern at a sibling relationship.

Parent are a slightly different category. Apart from the closeness of family, these are people who made your very existence possible.

Edited by softwareNerd

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All very helpful answers. The level of introspection needed is made even harder when I live in a society (Britain) where it is a bad economic choice to leave home, the environment is very emotionally charged. Maybe I am now realising that my potential happiness is of more value then economic security which I have not even earned.

Tricky, I know. I consider myself fortunate to have lived in a time when you could

leave the nest, and begin life on your own terms, at about 20.

To keep the walls from closing in on you, within your family structure, is going to

take a lot of perspective, or objectivity. Also, a necessity for setting your own

boundaries - and those of other members of family - quietly asserting yourself, in

other words.

In itself, a valuable experience for later life.

Otherwise, a sort of inverted Stockholm Syndrome can set in, by which one might

loathe one's confinement and one's 'jailers'.

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"He is incredibly self sacrificial"

That comes with the turf of being a parent -- don't be too hard on him for that, as I don't know any parent who isn't self-sacrificial to some extent.

A sacrifice is: giving up something of greater value for something of lesser or no value. So, properly understood, most parents do NOT sacrifice for their children, they value them.

If a parent thinks that it is a sacrifice to help his child with his homework instead of going to the movies, then he doesn't value his child very much.

Most parents wouldn't give this situation a second thought, nor would they prefer a Ferrari over a child's needed operation. Most parents understand this and agree with it. The ones who don't, the ones who tell their children that they are sacrificing for them are sending a terrible message. The ones who actually feel that a movie is more valuable than their child are despicable self-esteem destroying tyrants.

Obviously, Objectivist parents do NOT sacrifice for their children, nor anybody else.

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A sacrifice is: giving up something of greater value for something of lesser or no value. So, properly understood, most parents do NOT sacrifice for their children, they value them.

Yes I realise now he is not altruistic but manipulative, I doubt it is a conscious decision but he is manipulative none the less.

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"A sacrifice is: giving up something of greater value for something of lesser or no value. So, properly understood, most parents do NOT sacrifice for their children, they value them."

Are you a parent, Marc? I'm guessing not.....because though what you say is broadly true, I can't think of any parents who don't self-sacrifice to some degree. In healthy families, these constitute fairly minor matters. In unhealthy families, these sacrifices might be quite large and are based on the hope of better outcomes, as remote and as unlikely as that hope might be. Parental love is an incredibly strong force that defies strict rationality. A more profitable line of inquiry might be, what are the boundaries between unhealthy sacrificial love and that which is grounded in hope?

" I live in a society (Britain) where it is a bad economic choice to leave home, the environment is very emotionally charged."

Why is it a "bad economic choice" for you to leave home? What is your education, background, skill level? You are 21 -- what, exactly, is keeping you from being productive and self-reliant? If your educational background does not afford you with the means to provide for yourself, what is keeping you from doing something different, something that might be of more economic use?

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I'm somewhat uncomfortable with most definitions of pure alturism. Normally pure alturism is ascribed to something like...

" Pure altruism consists of sacrificing something for someone other than the self (e.g. sacrificing time, energy or possessions) with no expectation of any compensation or benefits, either direct, or indirect (for instance from recognition of the giving)"

This is an impractical definition as every action one takes has a reaction, such as the opportunity to learn something from the action taken. I expect that I will learn or experience something when I taken an action. Therefore pure alturism of this sort could never exist as I have an expectation of a benefit.

I believe a more close to the mark definition for the concept of pure alturism is that it should note the distinction between expectation of benefits with the concept of the action being taken for the sake of the benefits.

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