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Is geneology a rational pursuit?

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Is there any good reason to want to learn about ancestors you never knew and whose lifetimes didn't overlap with your own? Is it a form of tribalism?

Edited by happiness

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Is geneology a rational pursuit?

It can be, sure. It's the history of how you, as an individual, came to exist.

It only becomes tribalism if you assign significance to the tribal or ethnic background of your ancestors. But, if you are simply interested in who they were as individuals, it's a selfish, individualistic pursuit.

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6 hours ago, happiness said:

Is there any good reason to want to learn about ancestors you never knew and whose lifetimes didn't overlap with your own? Is it a form of tribalism?

You are connected temporally with your ancestors as a leaf is attached to a twig, to branches, of a tree: there was a literal physical connection in the past, of cells passed from parents, of an organism (back farther an egg) passing from mothers.

Your tree literally reaches back millions and millions of years. 

But for who your mother and father were and but for what they did they would not have survived to create you.  But for who they were and what they did, they would not have been capable of helping you to survive childhood.  What you are in large part is by Nature what they are (biologically, genetically) inescapably you have inherited that (not voluntary).  Also in large part, what you are is by Nurture, who you are, what you think, has been formed and shaped by who they are, what they think and feel.  This you can change and if necessary grow out of or if precious, hold on to and nourish.  This is Family, it is a profound part of most people's lives and when you have children of your own you will come to fully understand the completed circle of living it makes.

Your parents likewise are to more or less of a degree, by nature and nurture who they are because of their parents.  Although there are breaks in the chain of nurture - adoptions, or abandonments, ancestor parents being killed but a child surviving to be raised by others in the village or going back further raised by the pack - the vast majority of the effect of nurture is intact. (certainly one could argue that the injection of a State run school system, and babysitting systems such as radio, TV, and computer games, is an interruption in this process of Nurture... it is a very recent phenomenon, and limited in impact of parents are proactive).  This goes backward and on to a multitude of ancestors back to the dawn of life itself.  If any of your ancestors was not up to the task of the struggle for life, if any had made a wrong decision, took a wrong turn, ate the wrong berry, or swam into the wrong stream, and died before begetting your next ancestor, you would not exist.  Every one of your ancestors WAS a survivor, and also of course, so much more (recently in human terms especially).

Considering that all of this, is Fact, all of this which is about who you are, and what is Family: about who you can become, and who will carry part of what you are think and feel, perhaps your sense of humor or your stubborn will to survive, in generations to follow, does it have meaning for you?

Is it rational for you be interested in that which you find meaning?  Is it rational for you to say, "THIS, has meaning for me and my life".

Rationality is a tool for survival.  It can tell you what is moral, how you need to act, in order to live.  Using rationality does not make you happy nor does its mere exercise constitute the whole of the meaning of your life, it makes the attainment of happiness and meaning possible.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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I can think of a couple possible rational reasons to look into it. The first reason is medical. Do you have an elevated risk of certain diseases? Having relatives with a history of certain diseases is often indicative that you are more likely to get it. If we count relatives still alive that maybe you just don't know, they may be better options to look into in case you need a transplant of an organ or tissue that can be given by a living donor. The second reason is if something has gone really wrong in your family, it may be gratifying to be able to go back and figure out exactly when and how things got started, how they got to where they are. Maybe that kind of information could help make some sense out of the seemingly senseless and provide some ideas on how to deal with it. Third is when it comes to legal questions of inheritance in some cases when somebody dies without a will and they don't have obvious next of kin.

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History is interesting sometimes. Perhaps you wonder how you came to exist after so many generations. Maybe you are able to find original historical documents by your ancestors that otherwise you'd never see. For example, an immigrant family member of mine returned to Bohemia for legal property matters in the 20s, so this made me curious about what that part of Europe was going through. I read a Customs document detailing his info. I find my history of coming to be as interesting in some parts, much like how American history has interesting parts. On the other hand, a lot of it is boring.

Curiosity is often plenty rational.

SL, I get that you are talking about the possible value in knowing one's history, but I have major issue with one part:

2 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Although there are breaks in the chain of nurture - adoptions, or abandonments, ancestor parents being killed but a child surviving to be raised by others in the village or going back further raised by the pack - the vast majority of the effect of nurture is intact.

No, not really. You are shaped in part by an entire culture: your friends, your teachers, your parents, your school, the books your parents get you, the books you find at a library, etc. Your parents aren't able to have a greater impact on who you are than all the rest of those social and personal factors. A nurturing environment is best as when you are largely independent, both at home and at school. Altogether, very little about values are passed on from parent to child, and by the next generation, virtually none of it is passed on. The vast majority of nurture's effects won't go through your parents to you. It exists as culture, not as a family tree. For sure, families have cultures. The thing is, individual values start from scratch each generation.

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25 minutes ago, epistemologue said:

@StrictlyLogical - is your argument that this is necessarily a value to anyone who cares about rationality and meaning in life, or is your point merely that it's a justifiable optional value?

Closer to the latter.  Family and the reality of it CAN have deep personal meaning and value ... and having meaning and value in one's life is not just OK, it's essential to happiness and the desire to live (really live) and therefore constitutes one of the reasons for the choice to live and the consequent need to act rationally and adopt a morality.  Specifically what provides value and meaning is not so important as the fact that something does, and family can be that something.

Is it "rational" to find meaning in life? 

I don't know that I care whether anyone thinks they have the answer to that question or what that answer could be.  I certainly think it is important and desirable for me to find meaning in life but I do not know that it is subject to my voluntary choice... that's me.

The implicit connotation I wanted to dispel, is that rationality is somehow the end all and be all of life... that life serves rationality like a Kantian duty. No. Rationality is NOT the goal and end of life, as a virtue it serves as the MEANS to life, which is so much more than the means to attain and support it.

Ayn Rand's FAVORITE poem was "IF" by Rudyard Kipling.  I think it its scope and breadth should be kept in mind when considering Rand's ideas.

Is it rational for Rand to love the poem or ask for it to be read at her funeral?

I'm sure I don't care whether anyone thinks they have the answer to that or what they think the answer is... all I can be certain of is that she found it meaningful and knowing it would be read at her funeral was a value to her while she lived and good for her!

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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2 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Ayn Rand's FAVORITE poem was "IF" by Rudyard Kipling.  I think it its scope and breadth should be kept in mind when considering Rand's ideas.

Is it rational for Rand to love the poem or ask for it to be read at her funeral?

I'm sure I care whether anyone thinks they have the answer to that... all I can be certain of is that she found it meaningful and knowing it would be read at her funeral was a value to her while she lived and good for her!

Depends on her reasons. "Liking" something can be for bad or good reasons. Mostly this thread is about what good and rational reasons might one have? I do not see, for example, how your reasons to explore your geneology  were rational (i.e. made sense, were wise, aid your flourishing). I'm just pointing out that your reasons looked a tribalistic. But you're right that geneology can have meaning for rational people.

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6 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Depends on her reasons. "Liking" something can be for bad or good reasons. Mostly this thread is about what good and rational reasons might one have? I do not see, for example, how your reasons to explore your geneology  were rational (i.e. made sense, were wise, aid your flourishing). I'm just pointing out that your reasons looked a tribalistic. But you're right that geneology can have meaning for rational people.

Nothing in my post has anything which can be identified properly with tribalism.

Your conceptual understanding of what I wrote and what tribalism means are lacking.

Please go think about what you said or simply stop saying things which are absurd, erroneous, and insulting.

I'm sure you can find someone here on the forum who is actually interested in what you have to say.  I strongly suggest you find them, and talk to them for a while.

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17 minutes ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Nothing in my post has anything which can be identified properly with tribalism.

Your conceptual understanding of what I wrote and what tribalism means are lacking.

Please go think about what you said or simply stop saying things which are absurd, erroneous, and insulting.

I'm sure you can find someone here on the forum who is actually interested in what you have to say.  I strongly suggest you find them, and talk to them for a while.

According to Merriam Webster apparently the concept "tribe" if DIFFERENT from the concept "family", go figure:

 

Definition of tribalism

  1. 1 :  tribal consciousness and loyalty; especially :  exaltation of the tribe above other groups

  2. 2 :  strong in-group loyalty

Definition of tribe

1a :  a social group comprising numerous families, clans, or generations together with slaves, dependents, or adopted strangersb :  a political division of the Roman people originally representing one of the three original tribes of ancient Romec :  phyle

2 :  a group of persons having a common character, occupation, or interest

3 :  a category of taxonomic classification ranking below a subfamily; also :  a natural group irrespective of taxonomic rank the cat tribe the rose tribe

 

Definition of family

plural

families

  1. 1 :  a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head :  household

  2. 2a :  a group of persons of common ancestry :  clanb :  a people or group of peoples regarded as deriving from a common stock :  race

  3. 3a :  a group of people united by certain convictions or a common affiliation :  fellowshipb :  the staff of a high official (as the President)

  4. 4 :  a group of things related by common characteristics: such asa :  a closely related series of elements or chemical compoundsb :  a group of soils with similar chemical and physical properties (as texture, pH, and mineral content) that comprise a category ranking above the series and below the subgroup in soil classificationc :  a group of related languages descended from a single ancestral language

  5. 5a :  the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children; also :  any of various social units differing from but regarded as equivalent to the traditional family a single-parent familyb :  spouse and children want to spend more time with my family

  6. 6a :  a group of related plants or animals forming a category ranking above a genus and below an order and usually comprising several to many generab in livestock breeding (1) :  the descendants or line of a particular individual especially of some outstanding female (2) :  an identifiable strain within a breed

  7. 7 :  a set of curves or surfaces whose equations differ only in parameters

  8. 8 :  a unit of a crime syndicate (as the Mafia) operating within a geographical area

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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Oh yes and Louie for the record you should state that Objectivism is NOT anti-family, not dismissive of the love, ties, and importance of the family unit and what it can and should be.

Please reassure all readers that Objectivism is not antithetical to Americans who love and protect and stand by their families as their second most valued interest, other than themselves.

Rand was not against families... as far as I know. 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Nothing in my post has anything which can be identified properly with tribalism.

Your conceptual understanding of what I wrote and what tribalism means are lacking.

Please go think about what you said or simply stop saying things which are absurd, erroneous, and insulting.

Settle down. If I misunderstood or you have a way to clarify the part I quoted (how can nurture possibly be passed down from generation to generation?) feel free. I don't think you intended that your idea carry bad implications. I didn't find the family part bad, the only part that is weird to me is that somehow that your geneology is worthwhile because one's ancestors must've been survivors or rational to some extent. One's family, their geneology, can't suggest any of that, precisely because one generation to the next differs wildly. Some family trees can go on for decades as barely at all egoistic.

I mentioned tribalism only because I see the above as an interest of your in-group -because- it's the group you come from. I can understand your post as fine regarding all your immediate relatives, but past that, the only relation ancestors have to you is history. Sometimes your history is interesting as perhaps a cool story of immigration, sometimes it's boring and mundane.

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Oh yes and Louie for the record you should state that Objectivism is NOT anti-family, not dismissive of the love, ties, and importance of the family unit and what it can and should be.

Please reassure all readers that Objectivism is not antithetical to Americans who love and protect and stand by their families as their second most valued interest, other than themselves.

Rand was not against families... as far as I know. 

Where did Eioul ever state in his post the things that you are accusing him of?

All he stated was that family/parental nurturing is not the single greatest determinate in the development of an individual's temperament, personality, interests, social skills, etc.

At least this is how I took what he said.  I know that he is interested in psychology (as am I) and has probably come across (as I have) studies that say much the same thing.

9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

No, not really. You are shaped in part by an entire culture: your friends, your teachers, your parents, your school, the books your parents get you, the books you find at a library, etc. Your parents aren't able to have a greater impact on who you are than all the rest of those social and personal factors. A nurturing environment is best as when you are largely independent, both at home and at school.

This seems a pretty rational post to me.

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I've never taken an interest in my heritage; I've never understood what those distant people have to do with me. But I don't particularly begrudge the folks who do. (The people who take some kind of "pride" in their ancestry are another matter.)

"Family" is a complicated subject. Everyone has a different context for understanding what family is, and what it means, so it's hard to comment on it sensibly in general terms.

I'll say that I've always believed that one's truest family are the people one selects for himself, and yet, now having a child of my own, I must admit that the meaning of "family" has changed for me over the last several years...

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11 hours ago, New Buddha said:

Where did Eioul ever state in his post the things that you are accusing him of?

New Buddha:

 

Let me summarize the wide integration here for you.

I answered a post about whether being interested in ancestry was "rational" by arguing 1. that ancestry was, a part of a wider vision of family, and how that can be very meaningful to life, and with the blinders off you can extend that so much farther than only your parents. and 2. that finding meaning in life need not be justified by rationality, as rationality serves life not the other way around. 

Louie characterizes this post which apparently is too wide for his narrow vision: "your reasons looked a tribalistic" He has pointed at all those who value their generations of family before and after them and essentially called out "j'accuse! Tribalism!".

His equivocation or misconstrual of something meaningful and important and a great value to human life for many people (not necessarily all), namely Family, is insulting, ugly, rationalistic, and small "spirited". Anyone who does not appreciate the value and meaning of family can certainly aim to live in proud solitary isolation, but advocating such as "Objectivist" gives credence to the mainstream media which labels an Objectivists as a Randroid, a Soulless, anti-social, unfeeling psychopath who finds no value in any others, not even his or her family i.e. a worthless squirming waste of a human being, but THAT sort of stereotype should NOT be perpetrated.

Objectivism is NOT antithetical to Family or the idea that Family can have and provide special Meaning in one's life.

"Tribalism" is an ugly insult in this context.

 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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Let us not forget one of the greatest, most virtuous, admirable and heroic characters which has ever been created, namely:

Francisco Domingo Carlos Andres Sebastián d'Anconia

He is one of the men Rand created which exemplify the aspects of the ideal, what a man can and should be.

This man speaks of his ancestors with pride and admiration, of deeds of Sebastián d'Anconia in the 1600s, how he was self-made, would not submit to the oppression of others, and how he built a fortune, legacy, and example to sustain his family and its heirs for generations.  Francisco's stories show Sebastián confidence in the love of his wife and the pride and confidence, a connection, with those who would come after him.

Francisco speaks of the successors of the great Sebastián d'Anconia, how they prided themselves and took it an honor to follow the examples of their ancestor's self-reliance, independence, and discipline. Each was inspired, raised, and wished to live up to his priors.

Francisco stated, not with embarrassment or criticism, but with solemn pride, a meaning too deep for the superficial or the crass, that before any man took over D'Anconia Copper he first had to prove himself worthy of the family name.

 

Ask whether or not Francisco finds meaning in family and why. Ask whether or not Rand portrayed this aspect of Francisco as a flaw or as an admirable passion of honorable solemn meaning.

 

Was Franciso or Rand irrational?  Was Francisco or Rand a tribalist?

 

I suggest anyone who is confused about the issue, re-read ATLAS SHRUGGED, and consider a true hero's sentiments about his family and ancestry.

 

THEN... by all means get back to me. 

 

Edited by StrictlyLogical
Emphasis added

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3 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I answered a post about whether being interested in ancestry was "rational" by arguing 1. that ancestry was, a part of a wider vision of family, and how that can be very meaningful to life, and with the blinders off you can extend that so much farther than only your parents.

You said that a lot of who you are is shaped by your parents, then traced that to their parents, and so on to establish a chain of nurture and taught values since the dawn of man. Thus it would be rational because it shows a long line of rational successes in many cases.

But your premise is false, your blood family has no -special- effect on you or anyone else. As Nicky said, it's fine to value individual members of your ancestors, as individuals. Their being part of your family tree is irrelevant. Their being part of your (past) in-group is irrelevant.

Family to me is more like the chosen variety that Don mentioned. But that's not geneology. Francisco's family, as the D'Anconias, were more chosen than not. He literally had to earn his name and all others before him. For all we know, even non-D'anconia's could become D'Anconias with an honorific or as adopted members.

So, good reasons to explore geneology are: curiosity, medical history, legal reasons, and interest in history. Not anything to do with passing along values, because that barely happens except limited to one living generation.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You said that a lot of who you are is shaped by your parents, then traced that to their parents, and so on to establish a chain of nurture and taught values since the dawn of man. Thus it would be rational because it shows a long line of rational successes in many cases.

But your premise is false, your blood family has no -special- effect on you or anyone else. As Nicky said, it's fine to value individual members of your ancestors, as individuals. Their being part of your family tree is irrelevant. Their being part of your (past) in-group is irrelevant.

Family to me is more like the chosen variety that Don mentioned. But that's not geneology. Francisco's family, as the D'Anconias, were more chosen than not. He literally had to earn his name and all others before him. For all we know, even non-D'anconia's could become D'Anconias with an honorific or as adopted members.

So, good reasons to explore geneology are: curiosity, medical history, legal reasons, and interest in history. Not anything to do with passing along values, because that barely happens except limited to one living generation.

Louie:

 

The straw men, equivocations, misrepresentations of "blood" and "in-group", and general weak argument of your last post necessitate I respond with nothing further to you, other than "I'm not buying it".  Feel free to continue the conversation with and try to convince someone else.

Honestly, please argue with or against, agree with or disagree with the rest of the world at your hearts content. I don't care what you think or say.  I'm sorry I'm done...  I will agree to a polite non confrontational ignorance of you and your activity if you agree to do the same.

That said, I expect that you will NOT misconstrue or mischaracterize what I say or mean in any of my posts in future, and I will continue to extend the same courtesy to you.

 

 

 

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My own curiosity on this did not start with my own ancestry, but about the ancestry of humans in general, and curiosity about race and impacts of nature vs. nurture. Reading about Haplogroups got me curious about my own personal genetic profile. This goes centuries beyond what the OP was probably thinking about: where were my ancestors 10,000 years ago? Were they part of the second human migration out of Africa, and which sub-migration? Just curiosity, though  do like the fact that everyone is African in some sense, and that the myth of Adam and Eve has an element of truth.

When it came to my more immediate ancestors, I was uninterested most of my life, and have never been close to extended family either. Only recently did curiosity got the better of me. and I found out the little I could from living relatives. To me, it is mildly interesting to know a snippet or two: the profession of my Great Grandfather, something about the way he grew up, and similar facts about other family members. There;s really no story to be told, though one can always weave whole cloth from a few facts. I could spin a fact-based family mythology: I come from a family where an ancestor found himself as the eldest son in an orphaned family at 14 and he went to work and figured out how to take care of a large brood of siblings. It would be mythology, because it appears to assert "this is who he was...and thus this is who we were", when both are pretty shaky, based off the few facts that are remembered and passed on. 

An Indian with a lastname  that signifies a long line of village chiefs can tell you that he gets his confidence from his long line of warrior leaders; but, another, with the lastname from an "untouchable" class can spin his own myth: how his dad was a professor of agriculture who refused to be held by by societies expectations and has bred children who will defy expectations again. Even a child of a jailed criminal can spin a family myth: "I get my balls and my devil-can-care attitude from my dad, even if I chose to be an honest person." I don't grudge anyone their mythology, as long as the tail does not wag the dog: as long as you do what you ought to be doing, and spin a mythology to motivate you on occasion, I see no harm in it.

The positive approach boils down to this: select certain good things from what you know of your ancestors; then, ask yourself "if they had those virtues, what excuse do I have not to?" The choice here is your own: you choose what is a virtue and what you want to follow.

Needless to say on this forum, there can be irrational approaches too.

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Its threads like these that convince me that rationalism has become nothing more than a secular religion. That fact alone makes rationalism a scary thing and is why I find it necessary to critique it. 

Edited by Dustin86

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And before somebody gets on my case about it, Rand was not always a rationalist. The Little Street was clearly not a rationalist work. Rationalism was a bandwagon that Rand got onto later in her life.

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23 minutes ago, Dustin86 said:

Its threads like these that convince me that rationalism has become nothing more than a secular religion.

Which post(s) are you referring to? I mean, it is good to wonder how or if something makes sense.

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The original post, if you will.

I truly don't mean to knock Happiness, but I find this thread to be quite strange. Most people are interested in their ancestry and don't go around worrying whether this is "tribal" or "irrational".

I don't have a problem with Reason, but Reason's "fan club" is often all-too-similar to God's "fan club". 

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2 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

The original post, if you will.

I truly don't mean to knock Happiness, but I find this thread to be quite strange. Most people are interested in their ancestry and don't go around worrying whether this is "tribal" or "irrational".

I don't have a problem with Reason, but Reason's "fan club" is often all-too-similar to God's "fan club". 

Yes, nothings says "religion" quite like someone asking a question. That's what religions are known for. Open conversations, and everything open to being questioned. Ya silly, green, living under a bridge goose.

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9 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

I truly don't mean to knock Happiness, but I find this thread to be quite strange. Most people are interested in their ancestry and don't go around worrying whether this is "tribal" or "irrational".

Lots of people don't ask questions and go on doing something just because it seems normal and feels right. When in fact ancestry qua ancestry is rather meaningless to a person who is individualistiic; what counts are individuals. Any philosophical inquiry involves asking for reasons.

Reason's fan club is a weird way to put it, at least because many people have explained numerous times to you how reason here isn't the Platonic/Kantian/a priori kind.

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