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Jason Hunter

The family cannot survive without duty.

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Hi this is my first post. I've recently read Atlas Shrugged, Why Businessmen need philosophy and The Virtue of Selfishness. I've also read many parts of the lexicon and scanned forums etc. If my understanding of Objectivism is wrong please correct me. I'd like to hear responses to this issue. I am seriously struggling to get past some fundamental problems. 

Salon released an article a few years ago claiming Objectivism is anti-family and the Atlas Society released an article in response which I found to be rather weak. (https://atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/5440-objectivism-is-not-anti-family). I've struggled to find many articles dealing with this issue and Rand herself didn't have a whole lot to say other than criticising duty to family members.

My argument is as follows:

Objectivism is fundamentally anti-family because it rejects the very essence of the family; duty/obligation. By relegating the family to the same plane as any other relationship among individuals (based on the trader principle), the family is effectively eradicated. Once the children reach adulthood, there is no distinction between family and a group of friends. As is often the case with friendship groups, they disperse over time as its members respond to changing conditions in their own lives. As their interests change, friends often lose the values they once held in common and naturally seek different avenues, forming new bonds and new friendship groups. 

Without the traditional special status of family members (whereby blood means automatic obligation), the family is just as vulnerable to this turbulence among friendship groups. Or at the very least, significantly more vulnerable than it currently is. If one were to practice Objectivism, he must measure his relationships to family members in the same way he would with any other individual; purely by the values being traded. 

But this conception of the family flies in the face of the actual family as it exists in reality. In the Atlas response, the writer admits that the "family is a vital institution" and is a "natural part of our propogation as a species" but this natural part also includes the sense of obligation to our family members whether it can be rationally justified or not. 

The writer also deceives the ignorant reader by claiming that the Objectivist stance is merely a rejection of obligation toward extremes, like an "abusive parent". He asks the reader; "is it disdainful to say that this [the family] doesn't imply a blanket, open-ended, out-of-context obligation?". Such intellectual cowardice on display here. The Objectivist stance is not merely a rejection of blanket obligation. It is a rejection of any obligation whatsoever. The writer does not address this most important point. Most conservatives also reject blanket obligation. The limit of that toleration toward negative family members varies among individuals and cannot be defined. (talking about toleration, where is the comment section on that article?)

The crux of the issue is that in typical situations where one would usually cut ties with a friend, one would make an extra effort to stay connected purely because that person is a family member. That extra push is crucial to the survival of the family and by extension the species. 

When considering the Objectivist conception of the family in practice, one struggles to imagine a lasting society. Families would have little reason to stay together. The greatest unifying force is and has always been duty. Moreover, the incentive to have children in the first place would also be greatly diminished by eradicating the duty to pass on the genes or carry on the family name. It is telling that Rand spent little time addressing the family and in her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, the main characters don't have children. Even Rand herself abstained from having children. 

Is it not obvious to Objectivists that human beings have and always will place greater irrational obligation on their most inner circle starting with the family, extending out to the community and the nation state? And that this process of human relationships is deeply interwoven in the process of survival of our species which has evolved over millions of years?

i'll leave you with a quote from Adam Smith;

"We do not love our country merely as part of the great society of mankind - we love it for its own sake. That wisdom which contrived the system of human affections, as well as that of every other part of nature, seems to have judged that the interest of the great society of mankind would be best promoted by directing the principal attention of each individual to that particular portion of it which is most within the sphere of both his abilities and understanding." (The Theory of Modern Sentiments, p.375). 

I am strongly attracted to the Objectivist concept of indivdual rights and I wish I could subscribe to the philosophy in full (no half measures) but the somewhat sobering arguments of conservatism are a real barrier. 

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I'll add something here just to the overall point. The widest point that you hit on is that Randian-style ethics rejects not just "extreme" duties or obligations (whatever that ends up being), but rejects deontology as an entire template or approach to moral reasoning. The entire framing of what our conduct is supposed to be is not in terms of universal rules, duties, commands, obligations.

Nozick, for example, talks about frameworks in terms of "moral pulls" of what behavior should flow from me towards you (pushes are the opposites.) The problem from the point of view of Randian egoism, is that this frames the entire moral enterprise in terms of what "pull" other people have on you (even those who speak in terms of "duties to self"), rather than your life being the source of value. If your life is the standard of value, and individual lives have some ontological primacy, then moral obligation just isn't going to be warranted (at least not primarily) in terms of others. It js a basic difference between two different templates of value-generation: in deontology "how should I conduct myself with regard to other people?" compared to an Aristotelian-Randian agent-centered approach "how do I make this life the best one I can?"

This difference is going to manifest itself in the kinds of norms recommended: the template of duties is going to talk about rules and obligations, and be essentially legislative in nature, perhaps talking about what it owed another person ("blood means automatic obligation") by virtue of whatever is doing the work in the theory (inherent human dignity or respect, neediness, community, etc.) The agent-centered template is going to talk more in terms of goods, capacities, needs that comprise what a good human life is and virtues, character traits, dispositions, principles, and practical strategies one should generally cultivate follow in order to reliably make decisions. 

Asking a question of one template framed in terms of the other template doesn't really make sense does it? I mean asking why don't you follow your automatic duty to an Aristotelian-Randian is like asking a Kantian or Millian why he doesn't cultivate the virtue of prudence. It just doesn't make sense given the deeper structure one is working with.

Also, note that family is and can be a good, as well as other-oriented values in general, under both templates. But it doesn't make sense to question one's integration of that good in particular form according to the opposite framework. In a duty-based framework it doesn't make sense to say "having close family relationships is good for you" anymore than a flourishing approach "you have to uphold your familial obligations." There are no obligations full stop, in this approach. Thus, if you're in a toxic familial situation, you might need to distance yourself for your own good, or if your actions are causing strain or tension, you might need to change course to fix it. Do we not tell people all the time, "I hope she's not still with him, he was so bad for her" or "did you patch things up with your father" or "my birth father is a dirt bag, thank God my mother left him," etc.

Now you say well the Randian framework devalues family connections by "flattening" so to speak, everyone out, but why need this be the case? You didn't really specify why that would have to be. It seems rather opposite, under the template of duty, I have no basis for giving a particular greater weighting or balance to the value of someone as a family member than a stranger. Indeed the typical example of Kant having trouble explaining why I shouldn't lie to save someone dear to me, or Mike Wallace's interview with Rand, when he was utterly shocked when Rand denied that we should love everyone in existence equally. Deontological theorists usually have to twist themselves into pretzels to explain how I can value my family more than just some stranger I've never met. Indeed the Marxists lament that under capitalism I can have a brief interaction with someone only on the basis of trade and never really get to know them, and place greater emphasis on my personal friends and rather than the whole world community.

Part of the whole point of the Randian twist on Aristotle was her introduction of individuality into the mix, value is personal and pluralistic. Only I can give a particular weighting and balance to the generic goods that comprise my well being in terms of my particular situation, context, background, talents, interests. Flourishing for me is not flourishing for you. Only on an agent-centered approach could I really value my family justifiably because they're my mother, father, sister, whatever, as oppose to someone else. 

Edited by 2046

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I am an Objectivist.  I love my family, they are my highest values, as though they are my very life and being.  If I lost them I would lose myself... in that way we are in spirit, inseparable.

I do not flinch at the sky, or look over my shoulder, or worry about Big Brother, God or Gods or my neighbour when I think, feel, and act in relation to my family.  Neither does something intrinsic in the Universe vibrate to impinge upon my will.  The is no Duty anywhere, only free will, and my choice to live as great and flourishing a life as I can, and that means MY values, MY Life, MY family.

Anyone who acted obediently to Duty but in contradiction with their values, their life, their loves, to do anything for the welfare of a family member they "really" would rather not have done would have NO place telling an egoist what family is about.  It surely is NOT duty.

A mother who declares it is a "sacrifice" to forego buying a hat to buy food for her child, is confessing that she values the hat more than the child's welfare, and rather than being praised for her sense of duty (or guilt) she should be condemned for her lack of humanity, her superficiality, and ignorance of the true value of family to flourishing. A mother who loves her child less than a hat clearly has issues.  She should do some soul searching or seek some major therapy... and if she continues to literally love a hat, a HAT, more than her child (after years of what should have been love filled, close, high quality bonding for both her and her child) it would likely be best for them both if she gave up the child for adoption.

True family, true love of any kind requires true egoism and quite the opposite of any belief in some kind of Duty... which in any case, whether supernatural or intrinsic, would purely be an illusion.  

Unfortunately it takes an Egoist, a fully rational, valuing, and feeling Egoist to understand this.

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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Objectivism only rejects the "traditional" definition of family values to the extent that they impose rights violating and/or self interest violating obligations on individuals.

A good example of a family value Oism rejects, and the most common family value in human history, in my evaluation at least, is the moral obligation of a girl to wed according to her father's wishes, and then serve and obey her husband faithfully for the rest of her life. Objectivism rejects this value both in cases when the girl is physically forced into such a marriage, as well as when she is merely psychologically pressured into it. Do you agree or disagree with that position, and why or why not?

As for the family values Objectivism doesn't reject, that would be ALL the mutually beneficial bonds within a family that there are. Every last one of them. You name 'em, Objectivism likes 'em. Only time Objectivism has an issue with "family values" is when something like what I described in the first example happens: someone is sacrificed to further the interests of the dominant member of the family.

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You are attempting to criticize the ethical component of Objectivism because you are saying it is anti-family. However, first you really need to define what constitutes family and why it would be bad to be anti-family. Family is just a genetic fact. Objectivism is not against recognizing the existence of a basic fact like like that. Objectivism also isn't looking to eradicate humanity. We supporters of the philosophy like humanity's potential even I'd say. So Objectivism isn't anti-family in the sense of wanting to end all genetic connections. It takes you a little time to get to it, but it seems what you are really concerned about is Objectivism seeming to reject treating family as a source of some particular unchosen obligations as it is currently treated in human societies. You seem to believe that these unchosen obligations are necessary to the species surviving. Why? You never answer that. You just say basically, "People try harder to keep contact with family." What makes this extra contact effort crucial to the species surviving?

Aside from that argument you needed to make, but didn't, which I thus far consequently can't address, I think a lot of people, Objectivists included, would be able to tell you though that getting a lot of knowledge, shared experiences, and just time in general with somebody increases your investment with them and makes them something of a unique value there versus if it was the same person, but you had little to no history with them. Family, in the way that most people grow up around them in practice today, has that element built into it going for it to make people willing to put more effort into preserving the relationships. This is, however, also possible to do with non-family members too, to just spend a lot of time together until you get a lot of knowledge and shared experiences, so even if one didn't have it with family, it isn't something of a form of connection that is completely lost. For most people though, it is a little harder to get that built up knowledge and experience going all the way back to people sharing in your formative years growing up with people other than relatives. So, there's some unique value in there, something many people would consider to be worth putting a little more effort into preserving. On the other hand, it's also not something anybody would be unable to function without in their lives, that history going back to childhood, especially if we're talking about people who have already had a stable time growing up and are just moving on as adults, not people who are getting bounced around chaotically throughout their childhood.

"Moreover, the incentive to have children in the first place would also be greatly diminished by eradicating the duty to pass on the genes or carry on the family name."
Anybody parenting for that reason, a sense of obligation and a name as opposed to liking children and teaching and stuff like that, is probably going to be a bad parent anyway who is going to raise a kid with a lot of problems. The species is in no way threatened by the loss of bad parents. We're not on the brink of extinction in numbers either to the point that we can't afford to try to be a little more selective in who we have raising kids. I dare say we'd be better off having quality parents only. (Not that I'm advocating here forcefully preventing anybody from raising kids solely due to speculation that their motives will make them harmful to the kids. I'm just talking about speculation, that if people who would have done it only or primarily out of obligation and a name chose not to have kids instead I think this would be a good thing. In practice I think we should still wait until we've got actual evidence of abuse or neglect or imminent threat of such before forcefully taking kids away.)

"Is it not obvious to Objectivists that human beings have and always will place greater irrational obligation on their most inner circle starting with the family, extending out to the community and the nation state?"
Nope, it's not. Don't try to hide behind "it's obvious" as an excuse to not justify a claim as being the case and/or why something is best being a certain way. Actually go on and state your logic and evidence.

There's also the issue that you haven't clarified how any of the logical arguments in Objectivism are incorrect. You've said why you think you would want them to be incorrect, but not why they are incorrect. It's kind of like if you were to say some asteroid's path looks like it's got potential to do major damage and decided to say, "Nuh-uh, the asteroid is wrong," as if that changes anything, as if that made the asteroid cease to exist or move or not be an asteroid or whatever.

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I think you need to demonstrate that in fact voluntary connections (we can call it voluntary family, or chosen family) are necessarily more turbulent than blood family connections. As far as I've observed, this is rarely true. You've taken for granted that blood family is necessarily stable. Your discussion here seems to be premised on the idea that a blood connection is necessarily stable and strong. If anything, you underestimate the stability when you can choose your family. When there is a duty to family if some of them are immoral people, or cool people, or unjust people, or abusive people, you perpetuate harm and suffering, problems arise. 

Chosen family can include children, with just a little creativity. I don't want kids myself, but probably a few of my friends would. In theory, one of these friends could be close enough to consider family, and their children would too. This can also make it so that future blood family are connections you want to maintain out of mutual benefit and selfish value. So I don't understand why you think blood relations are necessarily the most stable. 

You can claim that blood creates an automatic obligation, but it's a further claim to say that with an automatic obligation, it is more stable than a friendship group or chosen family. I'd be willing to discuss this, because I think automatic obligation is what creates turbulence. Any family, blood or otherwise, is only stable to the extent that the individuals want to be together out of mutual value exchange. The "extra effort" to stay connected is created by an obligation to principles, which in this case is obligation to support people that are extremely important to your well-being. 

Edited by Eiuol

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9 hours ago, 2046 said:

Asking a question of one template framed in terms of the other template doesn't really make sense does it? I mean asking why don't you follow your automatic duty to an Aristotelian-Randian is like asking a Kantian or Millian why he doesn't cultivate the virtue of prudence. It just doesn't make sense given the deeper structure one is working with.

I'm not necessarily asking why an Objectivist doesn't follow their automatic duty. I'm claiming that in resisting this automatic duty, an Objectivist is fundamentally anti-family because this duty is the defining characteristic of family. What else separates the family from any other group other than the obligations most people accept are derived from the blood connection? In defining human relationships as exclusively based on the trader principle, Objectvism recognises no difference between family and friends other than the physical connection but this has no value and therefore Objectivists are blind to family. Family (as distinct from 'group of friends') has no meaning to a true Objectivist.

Now whether this duty can be rationally justified is another matter. But my argument is that this duty has always been a fundemantal aspect of the development of the species and the sustainability of the family, generation to generation. 

9 hours ago, 2046 said:

Also, note that family is and can be a good, as well as other-oriented values in general, under both templates. But it doesn't make sense to question one's integration of that good in particular form according to the opposite framework. In a duty-based framework it doesn't make sense to say "having close family relationships is good for you" anymore than a flourishing approach "you have to uphold your familial obligations." There are no obligations full stop, in this approach. Thus, if you're in a toxic familial situation, you might need to distance yourself for your own good, or if your actions are causing strain or tension, you might need to change course to fix it. Do we not tell people all the time, "I hope she's not still with him, he was so bad for her" or "did you patch things up with your father" or "my birth father is a dirt bag, thank God my mother left him," etc.

I understand that Objectivists claim there are no obligations (because they cannot be rationally justified). I am questioning this approach by referring to the behavior of human beings in reality and the long history and development of our species. 

9 hours ago, 2046 said:

Now you say well the Randian framework devalues family connections by "flattening" so to speak, everyone out, but why need this be the case? You didn't really specify why that would have to be. It seems rather opposite, under the template of duty, I have no basis for giving a particular greater weighting or balance to the value of someone as a family member than a stranger. Indeed the typical example of Kant having trouble explaining why I shouldn't lie to save someone dear to me, or Mike Wallace's interview with Rand, when he was utterly shocked when Rand denied that we should love everyone in existence equally. Deontological theorists usually have to twist themselves into pretzels to explain how I can value my family more than just some stranger I've never met. Indeed the Marxists lament that under capitalism I can have a brief interaction with someone only on the basis of trade and never really get to know them, and place greater emphasis on my personal friends and rather than the whole world community.

But when Rand said we shouldn't love everyone equally she meant that because human relationships are based on values, one cannot love a stranger because one is ignorant of their values. However, for those people that one is aware of their values, there is no distinction between family and non-family other than the strength or weakness of the values themselves. This also replies to the first sentence in the above paragraph. By definition, Objectivism flattens family connections by removing any special status or inherent value. 

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9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

I am an Objectivist.  I love my family, they are my highest values, as though they are my very life and being.  If I lost them I would lose myself... in that way we are in spirit, inseparable.

We are in spirit inseparable? This sounds like an inherent value over and above the trader principle? To be an Objectivist, you must concede that you love your family only for the values that they hold and that this could change at any time. If you have children, you would have to explain to them that you cannot say "I'll always love you" like the other parents do to their kids. 

9 hours ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Anyone who acted obediently to Duty but in contradiction with their values, their life, their loves, to do anything for the welfare of a family member they "really" would rather not have done would have NO place telling an egoist what family is about.  It surely is NOT duty. 

You don't have to call it duty but I find it hard to believe that Objectivsts with family really don't place any extra value on their family purely because they are family. Don't you think it is simply unsustainable if your *only* link to your family is merely how much you like or dislike their values?

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8 hours ago, Nicky said:

Objectivism only rejects the "traditional" definition of family values to the extent that they impose rights violating and/or self interest violating obligations on individuals.

A good example of a family value Oism rejects, and the most common family value in human history, in my evaluation at least, is the moral obligation of a girl to wed according to her father's wishes, and then serve and obey her husband faithfully for the rest of her life. Objectivism rejects this value both in cases when the girl is physically forced into such a marriage, as well as when she is merely psychologically pressured into it. Do you agree or disagree with that position, and why or why not?

I agree with the Objectivist position on this. I don't know where the line should be. It is an impossible question as far as I understand. What I'm highlighting is not the why but the what. What is the crucial component of the family that separates it from other groups? What is the component that binds families, allowing them to remain united more than other groups? It is duty. Duty to pass on the genes, duty to be loyal (somewhat) to family members. To go the extra mile for family etc.  

8 hours ago, Nicky said:

As for the family values Objectivism doesn't reject, that would be ALL the mutually beneficial bonds within a family that there are. Every last one of them. You name 'em, Objectivism likes 'em. Only time Objectivism has an issue with "family values" is when something like what I described in the first example happens: someone is sacrificed to further the interests of the dominant member of the family.

But those mutually beneficial bonds are completely inseparable from any bonds one can form with friends. In other words, Objectivists simply don't recognise the family. This is the consequence of rejecting an inherent bond based on blood. 

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9 hours ago, bluecherry said:

You are attempting to criticize the ethical component of Objectivism because you are saying it is anti-family. However, first you really need to define what constitutes family and why it would be bad to be anti-family. Family is just a genetic fact. Objectivism is not against recognizing the existence of a basic fact like like that. Objectivism also isn't looking to eradicate humanity. We supporters of the philosophy like humanity's potential even I'd say. So Objectivism isn't anti-family in the sense of wanting to end all genetic connections. It takes you a little time to get to it, but it seems what you are really concerned about is Objectivism seeming to reject treating family as a source of some particular unchosen obligations as it is currently treated in human societies. You seem to believe that these unchosen obligations are necessary to the species surviving. Why? You never answer that. You just say basically, "People try harder to keep contact with family." What makes this extra contact effort crucial to the species surviving?

Aside from that argument you needed to make, but didn't, which I thus far consequently can't address, I think a lot of people, Objectivists included, would be able to tell you though that getting a lot of knowledge, shared experiences, and just time in general with somebody increases your investment with them and makes them something of a unique value there versus if it was the same person, but you had little to no history with them. Family, in the way that most people grow up around them in practice today, has that element built into it going for it to make people willing to put more effort into preserving the relationships. This is, however, also possible to do with non-family members too, to just spend a lot of time together until you get a lot of knowledge and shared experiences, so even if one didn't have it with family, it isn't something of a form of connection that is completely lost. For most people though, it is a little harder to get that built up knowledge and experience going all the way back to people sharing in your formative years growing up with people other than relatives. So, there's some unique value in there, something many people would consider to be worth putting a little more effort into preserving. On the other hand, it's also not something anybody would be unable to function without in their lives, that history going back to childhood, especially if we're talking about people who have already had a stable time growing up and are just moving on as adults, not people who are getting bounced around chaotically throughout their childhood.

"Moreover, the incentive to have children in the first place would also be greatly diminished by eradicating the duty to pass on the genes or carry on the family name."
Anybody parenting for that reason, a sense of obligation and a name as opposed to liking children and teaching and stuff like that, is probably going to be a bad parent anyway who is going to raise a kid with a lot of problems. The species is in no way threatened by the loss of bad parents. We're not on the brink of extinction in numbers either to the point that we can't afford to try to be a little more selective in who we have raising kids. I dare say we'd be better off having quality parents only. (Not that I'm advocating here forcefully preventing anybody from raising kids solely due to speculation that their motives will make them harmful to the kids. I'm just talking about speculation, that if people who would have done it only or primarily out of obligation and a name chose not to have kids instead I think this would be a good thing. In practice I think we should still wait until we've got actual evidence of abuse or neglect or imminent threat of such before forcefully taking kids away.)

"Is it not obvious to Objectivists that human beings have and always will place greater irrational obligation on their most inner circle starting with the family, extending out to the community and the nation state?"
Nope, it's not. Don't try to hide behind "it's obvious" as an excuse to not justify a claim as being the case and/or why something is best being a certain way. Actually go on and state your logic and evidence.

There's also the issue that you haven't clarified how any of the logical arguments in Objectivism are incorrect. You've said why you think you would want them to be incorrect, but not why they are incorrect. It's kind of like if you were to say some asteroid's path looks like it's got potential to do major damage and decided to say, "Nuh-uh, the asteroid is wrong," as if that changes anything, as if that made the asteroid cease to exist or move or not be an asteroid or whatever.

 

It won't let me quote each individual paragraph when i press enter so i'll just reply to the whole thing. 

YOUR FIRST PARAGRAPH

I understand that Objectvists recongise the genetic fact of family. My quarrel is that Objectivists attach no meaning to this fact. 

Regarding the survival of the species, I quoted the Objectivist from the article that admits the family is a vital social institution. Would you agree? The 19th century is often hailed as a time of great progress and peace due to capitalism and while this is true it is also worth noting that this was also a time with a very strong family unit. Stable families make for stable societies (stable progression, not stagnant). The breakdown of the family since the mid 20th century due to the welfare state has had all sorts of negative consequences including sharply rising crime rates. This impact has been extensively covered by conservative writers like Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. 

In a similar way, Objectivism threatens to breakdown the family.  A society that embraces Objecvtisim and truly stuck to its principles would see not only an increase in the dispersal of families in current existence (since families would have less reason to stick together) but also dramatically reducing the incentive to create families at all. 

(The entire species would be under threat only if the whole species embraced Objectivism but what is most likely is the society that embraces Objectivism would die out or be overwhelmed by a rival society with a strong family unit and acceptance of duty to family, community and nation).

YOUR SECOND PARAGRAPH

You seem to make a serious error. The claim that Objectivists can place value in a human relationship purely based on the long history of that relationship is false. The length of a relationship is of absolutely no relevance to an Objectivist, only the values of the person. 

I had considered this too, hoping it could be a way around this family issue, as you have tried to do. I had hoped that since most familial relationships have a long history - such is the time it takes to grow from a baby to an adult - this would act as the "glue" to hold families together. But the response to this is two fold.

Firstly, as stated, the Objectivist cannot apply value to this or consider it a "unique" value as you describe it. 

Secondly, the history argument is not strong enough on its own without blood derived duty attached to it. After all, how common is it for old school friends who grew up together to lose contact? Very common indeed. 

Don't get me wrong though. I agree that the history argument holds weight and is a part of human nature. I certainly feel an extra urge to reconnect with old school friends purely because of that shared history. I am merely saying an Objectivist cannot appeal to this and still be an Objectivist. 

YOUR THIRD PARAGRAPH

You dismiss the claim that the incentive to have children would be reduced without the obligation to pass on the genes by denouncing the morality of such a stance. But the question of whether it would or would not reduce the incentive to have children is not a moral question. 

I would be surprised if you would deny that the sense of duty in having children is by far the largest reason for why humans have done and still do have children. If you were to ask a random stranger why they had children, you may get responses like "carrying on the family name" "it's what we're supposed to do" "we're wired that way" "to carry on the family tradition" "to pass on the business and keep it in the family" etc. It all revolves around an appeal to continuity from generation to generation. 

Hence, it is clear that in rejecting this duty, as Rand did, that desire to have children would be reduced dramatically for the society as a whole.

YOUR FOURTH PARAGRAPH

My evidence is the whole of history. The explanation is the Adam Smith quote in my original post. 

YOUR FIFTH PARAGRAPH

I have explained that Objectivism's conception of the family (or lack of) is counter to how humans actually behave. Whether one can rationally justify this behaviour is a separate issue. But what use is rational justification if it leads to death? 

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9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I think you need to demonstrate that in fact voluntary connections (we can call it voluntary family, or chosen family) are necessarily more turbulent than blood family connections. As far as I've observed, this is rarely true. You've taken for granted that blood family is necessarily stable. Your discussion here seems to be premised on the idea that a blood connection is necessarily stable and strong. If anything, you underestimate the stability when you can choose your family. When there is a duty to family if some of them are immoral people, or cool people, or unjust people, or abusive people, you perpetuate harm and suffering, problems arise. 

Chosen family can include children, with just a little creativity. I don't want kids myself, but probably a few of my friends would. In theory, one of these friends could be close enough to consider family, and their children would too. This can also make it so that future blood family are connections you want to maintain out of mutual benefit and selfish value. So I don't understand why you think blood relations are necessarily the most stable. 

You can claim that blood creates an automatic obligation, but it's a further claim to say that with an automatic obligation, it is more stable than a friendship group or chosen family. I'd be willing to discuss this, because I think automatic obligation is what creates turbulence. Any family, blood or otherwise, is only stable to the extent that the individuals want to be together out of mutual value exchange. The "extra effort" to stay connected is created by an obligation to principles, which in this case is obligation to support people that are extremely important to your well-being. 

I see what you're saying. You're equating turbulence with the actual relationships among the family members themselves. I am equating turbulence with the movement of members in and out of groups. So with family, the group is more stable than a friendship group in the sense that the members remain members more often than in friendship groups, where members are more likely to leave or the group disperses completely. Because humans are wired in such a way as to create "circles" of human relationships so to speak, with family as the inner most stable circle, friends as the next then acquaintances, community, city, nation, the stability of these circles leads to stable societies as a whole with low crime rates etc. This is the conservative argument anyway, as far as I understand it.

You seem to be saying that the negative aspect caused by dealing with family members you are obliged to deal with outweighs any positive aspect of families that stick together. But i agree there is a line where you should leave a toxic relationship even if it is family. The point is that societies where the family has broken down has led to very negative consequences for society. The impact of the welfare state on the family and the consequences make for a powerful argument in support of this. 

The "extra effort" you speak of is still not as powerful as the extra effort derived from blood duty as is shown by the fact that families generally stick together more often than friendship groups. 

 

Edited by Jason Hunter

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2 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

I understand that Objectivists claim there are no obligations (because they cannot be rationally justified). I am questioning this approach by referring to the behavior of human beings in reality and the long history and development of our species. 

But when Rand said we shouldn't love everyone equally she meant that because human relationships are based on values, one cannot love a stranger because one is ignorant of their values. However, for those people that one is aware of their values, there is no distinction between family and non-family other than the strength or weakness of the values themselves. This also replies to the first sentence in the above paragraph. By definition, Objectivism flattens family connections by removing any special status or inherent value. 

But this behavior existed before the paradigm of duty ethics was developed. Ancient ethics, as developed in Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, among others all take the agent-centered approach, so rather we could quiz you: why is your duty-based approach necessary to explain this behavior? Surely you can't just point to the mere existence of this behavior because we consider familial and social connections as constituent goods of a morally good human life. Justifying the template of duty is going to be the whole point, otherwise you are begging the question. Just saying "but families exist and they're inherently duty based, ergo duty is justified" is going to be circular. Once you separate the templates, you have to then see that since family can be a good in both templates, the question shifts to what justifies the template.

 

On your "flattening," it doesn't follow that since shared values are the basis of connectivity to other people, that everyone has the same connectivity, as your comment ignores giving a particular weighting or balance to those connections. Indeed, under the Randian paradigm, this is the central task of ethics, to integrate all the goods and virtues into a coherent whole of life. Thus, we are not "locked in" to a flat or static form of social connectivity, nor do we have to either accept or reject the status quo of a given familial or societal connection. That is going to depend on the individual and their context and what weighting or balance makes sense for that individual's life. The "one size fits all" static connection approach meshes much more with a duty-based framework.

 

 

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6 minutes ago, 2046 said:

But this behavior existed before the paradigm of duty ethics was developed. Ancient ethics, as developed in Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and the Stoics, among others all take the agent-centered approach, so rather we could quiz you: why is your duty-based approach necessary to explain this behavior? Surely you can't just point to the mere existence of this behavior because we consider familial and social connections as constituent goods of a morally good human life. Justifying the template of duty is going to be the whole point, otherwise you are begging the question. Just saying "but families exist and they're inherently duty based, ergo duty is justified" is going to be circular. Once you separate the templates, you have to then see that since family can be a good in both templates, the question shifts to what justifies the template.

Exactly, the behavior has always existed which reinforces my concern that humans are simply wired to behave this way and attempting to drastically change that is futile. I can't explain it at the moment. Possibly I never will be able to. I don't claim that duty is necessarily justified. I am uneasy about the argument that whatever is good for the species as a whole is justified. Jordan Peterson appeals to this type of reasoning. I am deeply attracted to the individualistic philosophy. 

But I am just concerned about what is applicable in reality. Intellectuals have a long history of coming up with theories about human nature and the world and after putting it into practice it has very negative consequences. Since duty does appear to be inherent in family, the Objectivist conception of human relationships is incompatible with family and is therefore anti-family and doomed to fail. 

I think it would just lead to hypocritical Objectivists who do in fact place extra value on their family members due to blood or Objectivists actually sticking to the proper principles and therefore destroying the family and consequently society as it is a vital social institution. But i doubt the latter would ever happen unless it was a very small society because most humans will never subscribe to such a conception of human relationships. 

6 minutes ago, 2046 said:

 

On your "flattening," it doesn't follow that since shared values are the basis of connectivity to other people, that everyone has the same connectivity, as your comment ignores giving a particular weighting or balance to those connections. Indeed, under the Randian paradigm, this is the central task of ethics, to integrate all the goods and virtues into a coherent whole of life. Thus, we are not "locked in" to a flat or static form of social connectivity, nor do we have to either accept or reject the status quo of a given familial or societal connection. That is going to depend on the individual and their context and what weighting or balance makes sense for that individual's life. The "one size fits all" static connection approach meshes much more with a duty-based framework.

 

 

I agree that it doesn't lead to the same connectivity. I argued that there is no distinction between family and non-family members other than the strength or weakness of the values of those members. So there would of course be a wide variance in relationships depending on the values. But it would also mean the destruction of the family since duty/obligation is required as the driving force for unity. 

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39 minutes ago, Jason Hunter said:

Exactly, the behavior has always existed which reinforces my concern that humans are simply wired to behave this way and attempting to drastically change that is futile. I can't explain it at the moment. Possibly I never will be able to. I don't claim that duty is necessarily justified. I am uneasy about the argument that whatever is good for the species as a whole is justified. Jordan Peterson appeals to this type of reasoning. I am deeply attracted to the individualistic philosophy. 

But I am just concerned about what is applicable in reality. Intellectuals have a long history of coming up with theories about human nature and the world and after putting it into practice it has very negative consequences. Since duty does appear to be inherent in family, the Objectivist conception of human relationships is incompatible with family and is therefore anti-family and doomed to fail. 

I think it would just lead to hypocritical Objectivists who do in fact place extra value on their family members due to blood or Objectivists actually sticking to the proper principles and therefore destroying the family and consequently society as it is a vital social institution. But i doubt the latter would ever happen unless it was a very small society because most humans will never subscribe to such a conception of human relationships. 

I agree that it doesn't lead to the same connectivity. I argued that there is no distinction between family and non-family members other than the strength or weakness of the values of those members. So there would of course be a wide variance in relationships depending on the values. But it would also mean the destruction of the family since duty/obligation is required as the driving force for unity. 

Well then it seems like you've defined family as something like "that institution which is based on blood and duty," thus you've already assumed one of the ethical templates without arguing for it. That was my point in trying to sketch out the idea of the templates for you, so that you can see that you've started the game from already inside one, you're never going to to reason yourself into the other from there.

Rather than seeing it as inherently duty-laden from the get-go, I may suggest seeing it as a human good, a good which does not exist in a static, pre-set form, but only exists when maintained in particular, individualized form according to a person's virtuous development, can greatly contribute to the well being of individual person. A good that while being open-ended, individualized, and weighted, can thus fulfill deeply social and familial capacities within the human network of needs.

"Of the two qualities
which chiefly inspire regard and affection—that a thing is your own and that it is your only
one
—neither can exist in such a state as [the one proposed by Plato where private property and the family are abolished.]” (Aristotle, Politics 1262b21-24).

Edited by 2046

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41 minutes ago, 2046 said:

Well then it seems like you've defined family as something like "that institution which is based on blood and duty," thus you've already assumed one of the ethical templates without arguing for it. That was my point in trying to sketch out the idea of the templates for you, so that you can see that you've started the game from already inside one, you're never going to to reason yourself into the other from there.

Rather than seeing it as inherently duty-laden from the get-go, I may suggest seeing it as a human good, a good which does not exist in a static, pre-set form, but only exists when maintained in particular, individualized form according to a person's virtuous development, can greatly contribute to the well being of individual person. A good that while being open-ended, individualized, and weighted, can thus fulfill deeply social and familial capacities within the human network of needs.

"Of the two qualities
which chiefly inspire regard and affection—that a thing is your own and that it is your only
one
—neither can exist in such a state as [the one proposed by Plato where private property and the family are abolished.]” (Aristotle, Politics 1262b21-24).The definition of the family as the institution which is based on blood and duty is a given is it not? 

I am not sure I fully understand your definition but i don't see how it describes the family as distinct from non-family groups? 

The reason I am defining the family as inherently duty laden is because the evidence points so strongly in that direction. 

In pracitcally every age and society we can observe the same thing: Indivudals have greater loyalty toward family members than they do to non-family members. We find this to be the case among different peoples with remarkable consistency. 

How could this be the case unless blood gives family an automatic special status? This is also supported by the multitude of sayings passed down the ages like "blood is thicker than water", "family first" etc. 

Since Objectivism rejects this special status, one must accept that Objectivism is anti-family.

The next stage to consider is whether a society can flourish or even survive without the family. I am very doubtful but I don't completely rule it out. 

Youve got to admit it's odd that Rand avoided the family in her work if it wasn't a problematic issue. She avoided the reproductive organs too, unless it was about sex.

She talks about non conscious organisms like animals and cells as having their own life as the highest value and survival as the sole purpose but she ignores the reproductive nature of animals and cells. Cells particularly are literally designed to reproduce. That is their purpose. 

There are some animals and insects that intentionally bring on their death in the name of reproduction. A certain male spider, after impregnating the female, helps to impale itself on the female's pincer so that the female can eat it to gain the needed energy. 

Rand doesn't have much to say on the duty to reproduce, or have I missed it in some of her work?

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4 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

The breakdown of the family since the mid 20th century

The breakdown of what specifically about families? 

I think you would find that the only thing we would reject around here is the notion of a traditional (blood) family being crucial to either a flourishing society or flourishing individual. We would certainly support notions of family based on meeting certain standards of virtue that even friends must meet. Blood family can be part of this, because of proximity and duration of relationships. The bond, however, would be based on the virtue of the family members. 

I understand that you are saying that you can add a layer of duty to the concept the family that you can't add on to other relationship concepts. The issue I have is the assumption that this entails stability. There are plenty of stories where duty to family destroys families or creates extreme turmoil. Part of the Objectivist argument against duty is that duty is anti-individual and therefore immoral, so we would expect that families based on duty aren't the kinds of families that flourish best. 
 

4 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

So with family, the group is more stable than a friendship group in the sense that the members remain members more often than in friendship groups, where members are more likely to leave or the group disperses completely.

You need to keep in mind that blood family isn't the only kind of family. I think you also neglect the importance of considering stability in terms of attaining happiness and quality of life. It might be easier to say you have duty to family and be done with it. The harder thing would be to say keeping family in your life depends on their virtue and goodness, which is something like conditional love. 

4 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

Since duty does appear to be inherent in family

I don't think so. I mean, as harsh as it is, there have been cultures that left their babies out to die if the baby didn't conform to the standards they expected. These are cultures that might put the city-state above individuals and certainly above family. If the Spartans throw a baby off a cliff, that doesn't sound very oriented towards family duty. Agememnon, in the Iliad, sacrificed his daughter so that his ships could sail to Troy. Literally killed her. He did it to please the gods and to put Greek society above his family. Whatever you might call this, duty to family was not the standard here.

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41 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

The breakdown of what specifically about families? 

I think you would find that the only thing we would reject around here is the notion of a traditional (blood) family being crucial to either a flourishing society or flourishing individual. We would certainly support notions of family based on meeting certain standards of virtue that even friends must meet. Blood family can be part of this, because of proximity and duration of relationships. The bond, however, would be based on the virtue of the family members. 

Childbirth out of wedlock and single parent households have skyrocketed over the past few decades since the introduction of the welfare state. The claim that the traditional nuclear family is a vital social institution to a healthy society has ample evidence to back it up. Single parent households are far more likely to raise children with behavioral problems, criminal behavior, poor performance in school, early pregnancies etc. The knock on effect reverberates throughout society. I'm sure you can imagine the number of different ways children brought up like this affect other people in society. The 19th century was an incredibly stable time in the UK and US and it was also arguably the heyday of the traditional nuclear family. 

Those notions of family you speak of aren't notions of family at all. They are just notions of human relationships in general. Much like there are no women's rights or gay rights, only individual rights. There are no family relationships as distinct from non-family relationships, just human relationships. 

How would you define the family as distinct from non-family? You cannot use blood as this has no meaning to an Objectivist in human relationships. If you cannot come up with an answer that provides family relationships with a definition unique only to families, you surely must concede Objectivism is essentially anti-family because it does not recognise it as distinct from non-family. 

41 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

I don't think so. I mean, as harsh as it is, there have been cultures that left their babies out to die if the baby didn't conform to the standards they expected. These are cultures that might put the city-state above individuals and certainly above family. If the Spartans throw a baby off a cliff, that doesn't sound very oriented towards family duty. Agememnon, in the Iliad, sacrificed his daughter so that his ships could sail to Troy. Literally killed her. He did it to please the gods and to put Greek society above his family. Whatever you might call this, duty to family was not the standard here.

This objection is the most surprising for me. I am confident if Rand were here today she would agree that duty/obligation has been a central tenet in family life throughout history, only she would argue that they all had it wrong because they had the wrong premises. She makes similar declarations about other things that basically all past generations got wrong. You've used some extreme examples there but all of them would have felt the duty to have children and to protect them and sacrifice themselves for them. Of course, in special circumstances previous societies believed everyone was expendable for a greater good. But special irrational loyalty to the family (with limits) has always been the norm. 

I am curious why Objectivists would even want to have children. It is a massive investment and a huge drain on your time and resources. The highest good is living a productive life. Why take all that time away from being productive to raise children? Rand certainly agreed. And these are children who you cannot have any attachment to in a genetic sense. So it would be like raising an adopted baby. 

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9 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

But those mutually beneficial bonds are completely inseparable from any bonds one can form with friends. In other words, Objectivists simply don't recognise the family. This is the consequence of rejecting an inherent bond based on blood. 

While it is true that Objectivism is a rational belief system, and therefor doesn't assign any magical qualities to "blood", that doesn't mean Objectivists (and secular people in general, this isn't really an Objectivist position) don't differentiate between friendship and family.

Secular people do form bonds that they expect to last for a lifetime...which is what the essence of "family" is, and what differentiates it from a mere friendship.

That is how families start: two non blood relatives become friends and lovers, and then, eventually, their friendship and love deepens into a bond they commit to for a lifetime. Even heterosexual, same sex friends, once their relationship reaches a stage where they expect to have that bond for the rest of their lives, start referring to their relationship as family, the kids start calling them uncle/aunt XYZ, etc., etc. And legitimately so, because that is the essence of family: the expectation of a lifetime commitment. 

Only difference between the rigid, religiously prescribed (that's what conservatives mean by "traditional") view of family and the secular view is that secular people don't look at blood, and other arbitrary rules to define the concept...they look at the nature of the relationship as the essential attribute.

P.S. By "lifetime commitment" I simply mean that one commits not to break that bond without sufficient justification. A deep enough betrayal of shared values IS justification to sever a family bond. One cannot commit to stand by someone fundamentally different than the person they used to know. But they do commit to not break that bond just because a nice job opened up in Tokyo.

I would argue that a family defined this way is far more likely to provide comfort and fulfillment, than one where people stay together out of a sense of duty.

Quote

I agree with the Objectivist position on this.

What would be more illuminating is why you agree. Because this position doesn't follow from your premise that there are traditionally defined duties one must fulfill, to have a family.

This is what the traditional definition prescribes, in most cultures through history. So what exactly is the problem with a girl fulfilling her duty, as prescribed by the traditions that define her family, irrespective of her rights or self interest?

And sure, after the Enlightenment, the "right to the pursuit of happiness" became a thing, so young people who weren't born into extremely religious families started being able to date around and choose their own spouses. But that's a very recent development, and a very radical break from a long established tradition of imposed marriages. The majority of conservatives may think that it is congruent with their religion, but is it really? Would the main character in their favorite book really be okay with it?

So why allow it? Why not go with the tried and tested tradition of arranged marriages?

Edited by Nicky

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The nuclear family is an American invention during the 1950s. Very often, family includes much more than the mother, father, and their kids (with extended family visiting once in a while). Living conditions were close quarters 200 years ago, including those who weren't blood relatives but people you choose to consider family. The nuclear family couldn't exist until technology and the economy grew to the levels after WW2. Besides, nuclear family is not synonymous with duty to family. It could include it, but it doesn't have to. 

Anyway, I don't dispute the potential value of a family, my dispute is to say that duty really matters either historically or morally. Sometimes there has been duty, sometimes there hasn't been. 

2 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

Single parent households are far more likely to raise children with behavioral problems, criminal behavior, poor performance in school, early pregnancies etc

Let's take the single-parent household example. You're right, growing up with exactly one parent correlates with various issues of development. On the other hand, there's nothing that says the parent must be a blood parent. For children, the issue is if they only have one adult figure. If there are family friends, extended family, school (if the kids are old enough), the community around them. If a child has consistent adults around them who are parent figures, this is fine. So, yes, family in general is very important. This doesn't demonstrate that duty is important to the concept family, or the genetic component of family important to its value. 

2 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

This objection is the most surprising for me.

You were making a historical argument that duty is inherent to family. So I was presenting contrary historical evidence. I think that historically, most concepts of family have been duty-based, but it isn't hard to find examples that put the city-state or nation first. They aren't special cases so much as they are different conceptions of family than you are talking about. But suppose that you demonstrated that my two examples really are duty-based family ethics. The Spartans never became a dominant force compared to the Athenians, and even though the Iliad is fiction, many bad things occurred for the Greeks in the story exactly because people sometimes held irrational loyalty to their family. 

I can't think of a society that turned out well that emphasized duty to your blood family. 

2 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

How would you define the family as distinct from non-family?

Just read the Wikipedia page, especially the description of the Latin word familia. 

Edited by Eiuol

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"Regarding the survival of the species, I quoted the Objectivist from the article that admits the family is a vital social institution. Would you agree?"
Maybe once upon a time? Now, not really. I think we'd be fine treating genetic relations as nothing special beyond a medical context and even when it comes to something like adoption where one is raised in a stable, but not genetics-based environment, I think everybody would manage fine as adults even if they didn't go out of their way to maintain contact with people they lived with growing up. This isn't to say that anybody necessarily must go out of their way NOT to maintain contact though if the people they grew up with weren't bad people.

"The claim that Objectivists can place value in a human relationship purely based on the long history of that relationship is false. The length of a relationship is of absolutely no relevance to an Objectivist, only the values of the person. "
There's the person themselves, but there's also the person's relation to you. Time alone isn't necessarily going to create any value and it DEFINITELY wouldn't trump them being a really shitty person if they were in fact a shitty person, but given enough time together people tend to get to know each other fairly well, have shared knowledge and experiences, get to understand each other in ways that maybe you couldn't get with somebody you just met, especially when we're talking about somebody who knew you all throughout the time you were growing up, something unique that nobody could quite get meeting somebody as an adult. That's not a crucial value to anybody's life to have those kinds of relations to other people maintained, but it's also not nothing. I think plenty of people would find that worth preserving as long as those people from their childhood were decent, though not everybody would find it worthwhile, especially depending on the specific people and life circumstances involved.

"After all, how common is it for old school friends who grew up together to lose contact? Very common indeed. "
The interwebs has gone a long way to change that lately. Aside from that though, school friends also don't have the same degree of contact involved as people you actually live with, especially all the way from the time you're a baby.

"Stable families make for stable societies (stable progression, not stagnant)."
What's your basis for this claim? Especially what's your basis for it needing to be possibly genetics-based families and that the ties need to last throughout ones entire life and come with obligations one wouldn't take on were it not for a simple commandment of having to do it just because? I'm not sure how government thievery programs necessarily undercut family anyway. (Not that Objectivism supports such programs regardless.) I don't see there being some huge societal crisis we're in in regard to family right now even either. I think we're pretty laughably far from the notion of family obligations and the necessity to stay close to one's family dying out.

"I would be surprised if you would deny that the sense of duty in having children is by far the largest reason for why humans have done and still do have children. If you were to ask a random stranger why they had children, you may get responses like 'carrying on the family name' 'it's what we're supposed to do' 'we're wired that way' 'to carry on the family tradition' 'to pass on the business and keep it in the family' etc. It all revolves around an appeal to continuity from generation to generation. "
And notice how screwed up people and the world are? (Although, still, as much as I believe there's WAAAAAAY too many people having kids solely or at least mostly for these reasons, even I doubt that's anywhere near the majority of people's top reasons and otherwise they wouldn't be doing it.) I'm saying, now and in my previous post, we'd be better off having children raised by people who were NOT doing it primarily for that reason. Might we get less people put on earth this way? I'm sure that's the case, at least initially. However, 1) humans are very far from threatened to go extinct any time soon. 2) If we WERE threatened to go extinct from low population, I think just not wanting the species to die out and wanting there to be more people to interact with and do things and create values in the world would drive more people to produce and/or raise more humans who otherwise would not have. I think that motive of valuing humanity and what humanity has to offer oneself is a much better, more benevolent and less troublesome motive still than an unfounded, "You just have to, period".

"My evidence is the whole of history. The explanation is the Adam Smith quote in my original post. "
Still not cutting it. You need to get into specifics. The Adam Smith quote just says people have cause to pay more attention and put more investment in things which they are more immediately and strongly impacted by basically. I don't think I would dispute that. That's a long way though from saying what you said, ". . . human beings have and always will place greater irrational obligation on their most inner circle starting with the family, extending out to the community and the nation state."

"I have explained that Objectivism's conception of the family (or lack of) is counter to how humans actually behave. Whether one can rationally justify this behaviour is a separate issue. But what use is rational justification if it leads to death? "
How humans actually behave isn't necessarily how humans SHOULD behave. Slavery was and to this day in some places is a thing, but that doesn't make slavery right/best/proper for human beings. You have yet to show that the loss of family treated as a source of causeless duty would result in such death and rationality is crucial to living, to NOT dying anyway.

Edited by bluecherry
Hit the submit button on accident before I was done.

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14 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

To be an Objectivist, you must concede that you love your family only for the values that they hold ...

It is really  "for their value to you" and often "for the values you share" and not the broader, more generic "for the values they hold".

Of course their values do make a difference. Check out the exmuslim reddit for many examples or lousy parents who deserve being lied to, and worse. 

Also, the actual relationship matters: siblings may be different from cousins, because you typically have many more share experiences (losses and gains of value) with siblings. However, and cousin who was really close would trump a sibling you did not know existed... such a person is a stranger, for whom one probably has a lot of curiosity interest but might decide not to have any relationship with whatsoever. 

And, parents/children are different from siblings. They're people who created you, or people you created: that counts for a lot.

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On 10/8/2018 at 7:30 PM, Jason Hunter said:

Objectivism is fundamentally anti-family because it rejects the very essence of the family; duty/obligation

Duty to whom?  To do what?  I'm confused.  Ayn Rand defines duty as: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.

 

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On 10/9/2018 at 11:19 PM, Nicky said:

While it is true that Objectivism is a rational belief system, and therefor doesn't assign any magical qualities to "blood", that doesn't mean Objectivists (and secular people in general, this isn't really an Objectivist position) don't differentiate between friendship and family.

Secular people do form bonds that they expect to last for a lifetime...which is what the essence of "family" is, and what differentiates it from a mere friendship.

That is how families start: two non blood relatives become friends and lovers, and then, eventually, their friendship and love deepens into a bond they commit to for a lifetime. Even heterosexual, same sex friends, once their relationship reaches a stage where they expect to have that bond for the rest of their lives, start referring to their relationship as family, the kids start calling them uncle/aunt XYZ, etc., etc. And legitimately so, because that is the essence of family: the expectation of a lifetime commitment. 

Only difference between the rigid, religiously prescribed (that's what conservatives mean by "traditional") view of family and the secular view is that secular people don't look at blood, and other arbitrary rules to define the concept...they look at the nature of the relationship as the essential attribute.

P.S. By "lifetime commitment" I simply mean that one commits not to break that bond without sufficient justification. A deep enough betrayal of shared values IS justification to sever a family bond. One cannot commit to stand by someone fundamentally different than the person they used to know. But they do commit to not break that bond just because a nice job opened up in Tokyo.

I would argue that a family defined this way is far more likely to provide comfort and fulfillment, than one where people stay together out of a sense of duty.

What would be more illuminating is why you agree. Because this position doesn't follow from your premise that there are traditionally defined duties one must fulfill, to have a family.

This is what the traditional definition prescribes, in most cultures through history. So what exactly is the problem with a girl fulfilling her duty, as prescribed by the traditions that define her family, irrespective of her rights or self interest?

And sure, after the Enlightenment, the "right to the pursuit of happiness" became a thing, so young people who weren't born into extremely religious families started being able to date around and choose their own spouses. But that's a very recent development, and a very radical break from a long established tradition of imposed marriages. The majority of conservatives may think that it is congruent with their religion, but is it really? Would the main character in their favorite book really be okay with it?

So why allow it? Why not go with the tried and tested tradition of arranged marriages?

Your definition translates as:

All human relationships are based on the trader principle and those relationships that have the greatest beneficial trade are defined as family. If the value gained decreases by X then the relationship is defined as friend. If it decreases further then it is merely an acquaintance. Finally, zero value gained is a stranger or an enemy.

This completely ignores the fact that in reality one is born into families with parents and siblings they have no choice over. And this is the true starting point of the family because we must all be born into one before we can create one voluntarily. But this is of no relevance to an Objectivist. You ignored it yourself, choosing the voluntary starting point.

According to Objectivism, those members you happen to grow up with must be judged exclusively on their values. If they do not pass the bar (share enough core values etc), they are not family.

This is like a dagger through the heart of the family. It essentially demands the breakup of millions of families because “it would be a rare coincidence if we could truly love each member of our family for who they are. The likelihood of being born surrounded entirely by people with whom we share core values is not very high.” (The Atlas Society). 

From the moment you are born the family is not recognised, until you have decided that their values warrant such a description. You merely awake inside the home of strangers who might as well have adopted you. Strangers who have committed to raising you but not necessarily loving you, for love relies on value evaluation.

If the value of the job in Tokyo outweighs the value of the person, the decision is a simple one irrespective of the extent to which the other person values you. This means that your "commitment not to break a bond" is merely a commitment to choose what you value most.

It is true that non-blood members can enter the inner circle of the family, whether it be an adopted child, a step parent or a family friend. But in doing so they enter the realm of irrational loyalty (with limits). That is the difference between family and non-family. A difference which is automatically derived from blood. This is just the way human beings behave. 

Regarding arranged marriages, it crosses my personal limit. I do think the wisdom and advice of parents has value regarding a son or daughter's spouse and one should be brought up to place value in that advice, I think ultimately the choice must be with the daughter. I support a large dose of individual freedom but societal pressures and constraints have strong arguments. 

The right to pursue happiness is the result of the long evolving tradition of English law. 

Edited by Jason Hunter

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On 10/9/2018 at 11:22 PM, Eiuol said:

The nuclear family is an American invention during the 1950s. Very often, family includes much more than the mother, father, and their kids (with extended family visiting once in a while). Living conditions were close quarters 200 years ago, including those who weren't blood relatives but people you choose to consider family. The nuclear family couldn't exist until technology and the economy grew to the levels after WW2. Besides, nuclear family is not synonymous with duty to family. It could include it, but it doesn't have to. 

Interesting. I didn't realise it was so recent for America. It is thought to have been the norm in England for hundreds of years and possibly helps explain why the industrial revolution happened here, among other reasons. 

On 10/9/2018 at 11:22 PM, Eiuol said:

Anyway, I don't dispute the potential value of a family, my dispute is to say that duty really matters either historically or morally. Sometimes there has been duty, sometimes there hasn't been. 

See the quote after next.

On 10/9/2018 at 11:22 PM, Eiuol said:

Let's take the single-parent household example. You're right, growing up with exactly one parent correlates with various issues of development. On the other hand, there's nothing that says the parent must be a blood parent. For children, the issue is if they only have one adult figure. If there are family friends, extended family, school (if the kids are old enough), the community around them. If a child has consistent adults around them who are parent figures, this is fine. So, yes, family in general is very important. This doesn't demonstrate that duty is important to the concept family, or the genetic component of family important to its value. 

I agree. Blood is not the inherent factor in family. It is the irrational loyalty that is derived from it. This irrational loyalty (or duty) can be attained by non-blood members like adopted babies or long term family friends, partly because history has an inherent value for most people. (who doesn't get sentimental about old memories with friends who have completely different values today?). 

I'm glad we agree family is very important but you dismiss Objectivism's threat to the family by rejecting the claim that duty is important to the concept of family. In the previous quote you claimed it doesn't really matter historically or morally. 

On 10/9/2018 at 11:22 PM, Eiuol said:

You were making a historical argument that duty is inherent to family. So I was presenting contrary historical evidence. I think that historically, most concepts of family have been duty-based, but it isn't hard to find examples that put the city-state or nation first.

Yet here you agree that "historically, most concepts of family have been duty based". (And this is hardly a groundbreaking observation, most would agree). This already is strong evidence to place doubt in the mind of the Objectivist that non-duty based family is applicable in reality. But further, the exceptions you raise are examples that put the city-state or nation first. But it doesn't matter. I am not claiming absolute loyalty to the family. I only argue that the family requires some level of irrational duty/loyalty/obligation.    

On 10/9/2018 at 11:22 PM, Eiuol said:

I can't think of a society that turned out well that emphasized duty to your blood family. 

This is quite an outrageous claim and in contradiction to your previous comment. The family has been central to Christian civilisation with a very large dose of duty. 

I think Objectivists need to face up to the fact the family is incompatible with the philosophy and to focus on imagining how a society could run without it. With developments in bio-engineering, I don't discount the possibility of a radically different future for new humans entering the world. 

I don't think Rand not having children was a personal preference. It was the logical conclusion of her philosophy that values productive work as the highest good. She completely ignored the family in her own life and in her work. This should be huge alarm bells for students of Objectivism. I am focusing my energy on the topics she ignored/evaded. 

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6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

I didn't realise it was so recent for America.

No, I mean to say that there's no such thing as nuclear family until post-war Western society. Anything before then is something else, even if it might resemble the nuclear family of the 20th century. I think you're using the term and you don't know what it means, or trying to use a historically nuanced version of the concept I'm not familiar with.

6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

Yet here you agree that "historically, most concepts of family have been duty based".

Whether something is important to a concept is different than saying many concepts of family have included duty. At least, that's what I mean to say. Historically people may have thought that duty is important, even if the causal patterns of culture did not in fact have anything to do with duty. For instance, I would say that the development of the nuclear family was in any important way importantly connected to concepts of duty. People just insert duty into the concept after the fact because it's traditional, familiar, easier, etc. 

6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

I only argue that the family requires some level of irrational duty/loyalty/obligation.    

You haven't presented evidence. You presented evidence about families in general, but didn't explicitly or successfully lind that to requiring duty in a way that benefits society, individuals, or anything for that matter. I mean, I don't think I need to go over with you all the reasons that Rand argued that duty is bad, so all I want to know is how the bad parts about duty go away when we start to talk about it in the context of family. 

I'm not sure either that you understand the Objectivist position of the way people should be valued. You're not completely wrong, although I think you miss out on the way that accidental circumstances on -your- end can contribute to all sorts of reasons to value someone else. I think you also miss how although even of the people who put some amount of duty into family may also have very good and rational reasons to value those people anyway. 

6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

The family has been central to Christian civilisation with a very large dose of duty. 

See, then we have to go into a discussion of whether Christian values are more good than not. There is some good to be found, but I don't say that the good is found in Christian notions of family Your overall argument appears to be that some altruism is necessary for a healthy society, so it follows that some duty to family is necessary for healthy society. I would argue that it's not Christian values at all that helped build Western society, but Roman values that preceded the Christian era of Rome. 

So, yes, I don't think any of us would disagree that our notion of family is incompatible with Christian values. The more you talk about duty to family, the more I think you're actually trying to talk about Christian families specifically. 

Edited by Eiuol
fixed a grammar typo

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