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Jason Hunter

The family cannot survive without duty.

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22 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

Your definition translates as.

My definition was in English. You asked a question, I answered. Now your role isn't to "translate" my answer, it's to understand it. Feel free to ask for clarifications, if what I wrote isn't clear enough.

Since you raised the issue of the parent-child relationship, I'm gonna assume you are interested in what I think about it. I think it's a unique relationship, substantively different from other family bonds. The difference is that there's a biological (metaphysical) bond that doesn't exist in adult relationships.

But there still isn't any duty involved. It's still a commitment based relationship: the parents CHOOSE to commit to raising a child. There's no duty to make that commitment, it's fine to not have children.

Quote

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.

I ignored the parent-child relationship for two reasons:

1. because Objectivists raise their children to adulthood, same as everybody else

2. because the parent-child bond in homo sapiens isn't a matter of tradition, it's first and foremost a matter of biology: human children, like most mammal offspring, are helpless without nurture from their parents, and parents are emotionally bound to their children.

So you don't need tradition or "duty" to justify raising your children. It is beyond obvious that the only two rationally selfish courses of action are to either have children and care for them into adulthood, or to not have them at all.

Edited by Nicky

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19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

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.

I know what you mean, a nuclear family defined as only immediate family; Mother, Father and Children. I was wrong to use the term the first time which is probably causing the confusion. My apologies. In England, the nuclear family has a far longer history than the rest of western society. You were expected to move out the house once getting married and having children. It's an interesting area to explore as this location was also the birthplace of the industrial revolution and the leader of modern civilisation. Even though everywhere else had the extended family for most of history, duty was still a central component. The duty to look after the grandparents etc. 

19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

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. 

This is a peculiar line of reasoning. If people subscribed to duty based ethics, their behavior is inevitably going to reflect that. Sounds like you're trying to have your cake and eat it. But why rely on this theoretical premise when we have the whole of history which you seem to be ignoring. (I provide examples at the end). 

19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

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. 

You've already agreed with me that family is "very important" in society in your previous reply. I argue that since duty is inherent in the family, an Objectivist conception of the family is a threat to the survival of the family since it rejects duty. If you dispute that duty is inherent in the family, that's one thing. But to dispute that throughout history some sense of irrational duty to the family (usually including the state or God) has been the norm and that civilisation developed with this core thread is a defenceless position. You could say they all had it wrong. 

I simply argue that this overwhelming evidence of the way in which human beings have always behaved strongly indicates it is an inherent attribute in human nature. Therefore, Objectivists attempting to implement their bizarre conception of the family is doomed to fail. I say bizarre because in one way it is not a conception of the family at all, it is a non-acknowledgement of the family. 

19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

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. 

Of course, that was part of my considerations. But you need to be more specific. It's easy to gain some value off lots of people. But having very good and rational reasons to love your family is an entirely different matter. Or at least to value them very highly based purely on the trader principle. But as the Atlas Society admits, the chances of that happening is low since we don't choose our siblings and parents. Hence my argument that the family would take a serious hit. 

19 hours ago, Eiuol said:

 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. 

I am focusing on Christianity because it is the foundation of western civilisation. 

East Asia has even stronger conceptions of duty to family. Ever wondered why the Chinese are so obedient? Chinese culture is built on Confucianism which considers filial piety as a key virtue. 

"In serving his parents, a filial son reveres them in daily life; he makes them happy while he nourishes them; he takes anxious care of them in sickness; he shows great sorrow over their death that was for him; and he sacrifices to them with solemnity." - Confucius

But back to Christianity and Rome. 

Cicero, one of the most revered figures of the ancient world, wrote a three part treatise "On Duties" 44 years Before Christ and while I haven't read it and only skimmed through it, he seems to be strongly supporting duty to country and family - "Not for us alone are we born; our country, our friends, have a share in us". 

The text was heralded by the Catholic Church and was a moral authority in the middle ages. 

Rome of course played a crucial role in western civilisation. But to dismiss the role of Christianity is to deny reality. Europe was a backward hellhole after the fall of the western Roman Empire. Christianity is deeply ingrained in the development of the west from then onward. It was the uniting force on the continent and established law and order. The cultural influence is huge. I've already written a lot so I won't expand on that unless you insist. 

But the key take away is that duty is deeply ingrained in Christianity (the duty to have children for example) which is deeply ingrained in the development of western civilisation. 

 

 

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4 hours ago, Nicky said:

My definition was in English. You asked a question, I answered. Now your role isn't to "translate" my answer, it's to understand it. Feel free to ask for clarifications, if what I wrote isn't clear enough.

My "role" is to put forward my views on what you said. That's how a debate works. Sometimes questions are involved and other times there are objections to statements. And for the record, I never asked you a question. You objected to my claim that Objectivists don't distinguish between family and friends by putting forward a definition of your own. 

I found your definition to be murky and unclear, like bubble wrapping a hard object. My translation was an attempt to plainly state what you were saying. I assumed you would point out where you disagreed, if you do disagree. 

Isn't it true that your definition is simply saying that one is defined as family if they pass a certain bar of value gained? And that friend, family, stranger etc are categorised by the level of value you gain from them? I cannot think of another way to interpret it without betraying Objectivist principles. 

You sum up by saying that "once the relationship reaches the stage" (passes the bar for value gained?) to be considered family, then the relationship is considered to be an expectation of a lifetime commitment. 

This is the essence of family you claim. This too is murky. The expectation of a lifetime commitment sounds like loyalty. But it can't be loyalty, according to Objectivism, unless it is loyalty to one's principles. 

Furthermore, if the family is defined as only those people who you expect to commit to for a lifetime, and that this expectation can only come about (and be retracted) via the evaluation of that person's values, then what of the human race who so happen to be divided among households connected by blood and define themselves as family based on this blood connection? 

Your definition does not recognise these groupings. It dramatically reassorts them purely based on values. 

4 hours ago, Nicky said:

Since you raised the issue of the parent-child relationship, I'm gonna assume you are interested in what I think about it. I think it's a unique relationship, substantively different from other family bonds. The difference is that there's a biological (metaphysical) bond that doesn't exist in adult relationships.

I am interested in any objections you have, of course. Hang on, are you saying there is inherent value in biological connection? That would be against Objectivism. 

4 hours ago, Nicky said:

But there still isn't any duty involved. It's still a commitment based relationship: the parents CHOOSE to commit to raising a child. There's no duty to make that commitment, it's fine to not have children.

I ignored the parent-child relationship for two reasons:

1. because Objectivists raise their children to adulthood, same as everybody else

2. because the parent-child bond in homo sapiens isn't a matter of tradition, it's first and foremost a matter of biology: human children, like most mammal offspring, are helpless without nurture from their parents, and parents are emotionally bound to their children. 

I don't agree they are emotionally bound according to Objectivism. They only have a responsibility to raise the child, nothing more nothing less. They have no obligation to love them or feel any emotional attachment. (Naturally of course they do because human nature is counter to Objectivism). 

Regardless of that, you have stressed that parents *choose* to have children; once again focusing on the voluntary aspect of families. In my last reply I said:

"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.

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." 

4 hours ago, Nicky said:

So you don't need tradition or "duty" to justify raising your children. It is beyond obvious that the only two rationally selfish courses of action are to either have children and care for them into adulthood, or to not have them at all.

Why choose to have them in the first place? The highest good is productive work. Raising a child seems utterly pointless and a waste of time and money. 

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On 10/10/2018 at 3:54 PM, Craig24 said:

Duty to your family members. To help them, to be there for them, to give them another chance purely because they are blood (or have spent a long time with the family). This behavior appears to be inherent in humans and central to the family in reality. 

Feel free to read through my replies to others in this thread.. At this point I have thoroughly expanded on my position with several lengthy replies. 

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5 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

In England, the nuclear family has a far longer history than the rest of western society.

No. I said it before. There is no such thing as the nuclear family before the 20th century. Not in England, not in America, not in the entire world. (Or just be a little more specific, so I know exactly what you're talking about, because nuclear family is a pretty vague term in this conversation so far)

5 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

This is a peculiar line of reasoning.

It's not that weird to think that people may claim that something is important, but if we analyze the phenomenon, different factors were at work more so. In other words, even if people might claim that something is important, we might find that some unacknowledged aspect of family is the part that actually mattered for the stability of one's life and even the development of society. 


For example, you're saying that it's interesting that a specific English notion of family correlated with the Industrial Revolution. Okay, fine, maybe there's a causal relation. You still haven't demonstrated that we should think that duty to family is what contributed to this. I would easily argue that there was a substantial shift in the way family functioned during the Industrial Revolution such that duty didn't matter so much anymore. Then people reacted to that, thus the development of stronger gender roles at home, for fear that the rapid development of technology was destroying society and family. It's not called "the gradual development of family for the greater development of society", it was a revolution. 

It's a very simple idea I'm arguing against. It's improper reasoning to say that a common attribute is critical to a concept. The more important attribute, a fundamental attribute, is loyalty rather than duty. I don't say that because it's common, nor do I make a historical argument that people have been doing it for a long time. When just about anyone talks about family in a normative way, they mean some type of loyalty and support to people but not necessarily love. Some may argue that duty is important, but it's not as if we require that somebody adheres to duty to any extent to say "aha! That's a family!" Historical examples are great ways to illustrate an idea and make an idea concrete, but they aren't proof. 

5 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

But as the Atlas Society admits, the chances of that happening is low since we don't choose our siblings and parents.

The first commentary you mentioned says this: "Is it anti-family to say that one should love one’s loveable, ethical, siblings and cousins, and one may ignore and avoid unlikeable or unethical family members?" I think the other quote you mentioned is using a different sense of the word love. But I'm not sure. Besides, it's not like you necessarily need to love a person to care about a person. 

==

There are other points you made in your post that I think are interesting, at least as far as that Cicero quote. I'm not going to respond to that part yet though, because I really want to bring the focus down to *how* you think a little bit of irrational duty to family is important to a stable society and individual life. I know you think duty is necessary for family. I'm looking for a causal explanation, not simply "it's been around for a long time, so I guess it must be working pretty well". 

Edited by Eiuol

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Rather than abusing a book you admittedly haven't read for a purpose contrary to its author, you should actually read the Cicero book. Indeed it might have well been called "The Virtue of Selfishness" and it basically refutes everything you've said.

The idea of a "duty" apart from any personal goal or end, as Craig asks, would be entirely foreign to Cicero. You might be seeing the word "duty" and assuming this is meant the same way Kant, Rawls, or modern deontological ethicists use the term, but this is anachronism. The Latin word "officiis" means "obligations" or norms in the wider sense. To Cicero duty is nothing more than to live according to our nature, and that is to live a life of rationality and virtue. The virtuous development is towards man's natural end or telos which is self-perfection. To say simply that "well duty towards family, for no reason at all, is inherent in our nature" is to beg the question.

The quote you posted out of context was a simple refutation of solipsism and atomism, something believed (in both ontological and ethical forms) by the rival schools of the Academics and Epicureans, and something Rand could just as well agree with as any. We have other-oriented needs and capacities. We are the social animal (Rand says the contractual animal.) Of course, and no one said otherwise. The accusations that man is somehow self-sufficient and can flourish apart from any social community has always been an authoritarian strawman.

Just what forms, and on what conditions, are these social aspects to be sought? The social aspects of man, in the tradition of Cicero, are based on our own perfection of our natures, and sought as goods towards that end. They are goods that are open-ended and essentially cosmopolitan. Or are they to be static, fixed, and provincial? To understand Cicero would indeed disabuse you of much of the paradigm you are in.

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10 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

I simply argue that this overwhelming evidence of the way in which human beings have always behaved strongly indicates it is an inherent attribute in human nature. Therefore, Objectivists attempting to implement their bizarre conception of the family ...

By this token one has to throw out the entire Objectivist Ethical theory, not just the tiny part about family. Truth is that Rand was pretty silent about family so speaking of an Objectivist conception of family is already far-fetched.

 

10 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

I am focusing on Christianity because it is the foundation of western civilisation. 

Not really. Not if you're using 'Western civilization" to mean "modern / industrial civilization as opposed to middle-age European civilization, There is a dangerous meme that our modern world is Judeo-Christian. It's unfounded.

As for family, Christianity is relatively weak in its support for duty toward family. I cannot compare to the typical Eastern civilization, whee entire religions take duty to family as a more fundamental than most other duties and even make it a foundation for their primary scripture. 

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10 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

Duty to your family members. To help them, to be there for them, to give them another chance purely because they are blood (or have spent a long time with the family). This behavior appears to be inherent in humans and central to the family in reality. 

Feel free to read through my replies to others in this thread.. At this point I have thoroughly expanded on my position with several lengthy replies. 

I've read them.  I'm still not convinced that duty to family exists.  Where would it come from?  If it is imposed by a member of the family, which member and what gives him/her the authority to impose it?   

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10 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

They have no obligation to love them or feel any emotional attachment. (Naturally of course they do because human nature is counter to Objectivism). 

...

Why choose to have them in the first place? The highest good is productive work. Raising a child seems utterly pointless and a waste of time and money. 

Objectivism does not say we should not have emotional attachments.  It says we should not let our emotions do our thinking for us and should be aware of where emotions come from.

Your argument about productive work being the highest good could be used to argue against all sorts of things, including romantic love, art, and sports.  Productive work is crucial on more than one level to having a good life, but it is not all there is to a good life.  The highest value is life itself.  The fundamental virtue is rationality.

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16 hours ago, 2046 said:

Rather than abusing a book you admittedly haven't read for a purpose contrary to its author, you should actually read the Cicero book. Indeed it might have well been called "The Virtue of Selfishness" and it basically refutes everything you've said.

The idea of a "duty" apart from any personal goal or end, as Craig asks, would be entirely foreign to Cicero. You might be seeing the word "duty" and assuming this is meant the same way Kant, Rawls, or modern deontological ethicists use the term, but this is anachronism. The Latin word "officiis" means "obligations" or norms in the wider sense. To Cicero duty is nothing more than to live according to our nature, and that is to live a life of rationality and virtue. The virtuous development is towards man's natural end or telos which is self-perfection. To say simply that "well duty towards family, for no reason at all, is inherent in our nature" is to beg the question.

The quote you posted out of context was a simple refutation of solipsism and atomism, something believed (in both ontological and ethical forms) by the rival schools of the Academics and Epicureans, and something Rand could just as well agree with as any. We have other-oriented needs and capacities. We are the social animal (Rand says the contractual animal.) Of course, and no one said otherwise. The accusations that man is somehow self-sufficient and can flourish apart from any social community has always been an authoritarian strawman.

Just what forms, and on what conditions, are these social aspects to be sought? The social aspects of man, in the tradition of Cicero, are based on our own perfection of our natures, and sought as goods towards that end. They are goods that are open-ended and essentially cosmopolitan. Or are they to be static, fixed, and provincial? To understand Cicero would indeed disabuse you of much of the paradigm you are in.

My comment on Cicero was a minor point. The main point was whether or not Christianity has influenced the development of western civilisation.

I have taken the time to research Cicero's views and read some passages from the book. He's a figure I've been planning to study indepth and based on what I've discovered so far I'm pleased to find arguments I agree with and which support my stance in this thread. It leaves me rather perplexed by your comments. 

You say "to Cicero, duty is nothing more than to live according to our nature". So when he says ""Not for us alone are we born; our country, our friends, have a share in us", does it not stand to reason that serving our country and our friends is staying true to our nature? In other words, it is inherent in us to be loyal to our country, community, family and that this is right and good simply because it is natural.

In The Republic Cicero says:

nature has given to mankind such a compulsion to do good, and such a desire to defend the well-being of the community, that this force prevails over all the temptations of pleasure and ease.”

and

I did not hesitate to brave the wildest storms and almost the very thunderbolts themselves to protect my countrymen, and, by risking my own life, to win peace and security for the rest.  For our country did not give us life and nurture unconditionally, without expecting to receive in return, as it were, some convenience, providing a safe haven for our leisure and a quiet place for our relaxation. No, it reserved the right to appropriate for its own purpose the largest and most numerous portions of our loyalty, ability, and sagacity, leaving to us for our private use only what might be surplus to its needs.” 

If this is not an outright call to duty I don't know what is. (He even calls a loner unjust if he chooses to live isolated from society because our nature as social beings demands us to participate in social life and to contribute to strengthening the union among men). 

And what do you make of Cicero's categorisation of human relationships?

In On Duties he argues that aside from the "tie of common humanity...., there is a nearer relation of race, nation and language which brings men into very close community of feeling." 

And just because we belong to the same city, this warrants a "a still more intimate bond". 

He continues with this closer and closer circles of initimacy right down to the family, using phrases like "we owe chiefly to these" and "bound as we are to them". He even places special significance in the blood connection - "But the union of blood, especially, binds men in mutual kindness and affection." 

All of this supports my position in this thread. (And it's easy to see why Conservatives and the Catholic church celebrate Cicero). Humans have always behaved in a specific way which is counter to Objectivism. 

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Whatever is similar is semantic in nature, and results from you anachronistically imposing a modernist deontological template onto an ancient theorist. The whole concept and function of ethics as impersonal commandments, something that applies universally, and something primarily for social relationships is function of modern ethics. To believe that Cicero is addressing the issues of social connectivity from this point of view is just plain silly.

By contrast, Cicero is concerned with what is the best life a human can live. And for that, he outlines an account of what human beings are, the role of rationality and virtue in pursuit of the good life. No doubt that will include things like friendship (he wrote a whole separate book on it), defending one's city, taking part in politics and the affairs of state, trade in the marketplace, and intimate bonds with a partner, one's children, one's fellow countrymen, and even one's clan, with whom one has closer connections to. Indeed in book 1 he uses the metaphor of concentric circles from one's self in the middle, to spouse and children eminating out to all of humanity. One places closer emphasis on ones family and friends because one is closer to them and thus shares greater connection to them. One respects one's city because one is protected from invaders by it and lives within it, one respects all of humanity because "we are subject to a single law of nature" (ie., not to harm anyone.) Quite similar to Rand and Branden's account of "species solidarity" in "Benevolence versus Altruism."

The sticking point for you seems to be that these are not duties that are derived from an authority, from society, from some "moral pulls" coming from the other person, or from universal maxims, or what you seem to be saying for no particular reason at all. Rather they are goods that come from the requirements of what the good life just is. A life that didn't have good human relationships of all shapes and sizes (including with one's self) would just be deficient in some way. No mystical appeals to the magical properties of "blood" necessary.

 

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20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

No. I said it before. There is no such thing as the nuclear family before the 20th century. Not in England, not in America, not in the entire world. (Or just be a little more specific, so I know exactly what you're talking about, because nuclear family is a pretty vague term in this conversation so far)

My first line defines the nuclear family. England is an exception to the history of nuclear families. 

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's not that weird to think that people may claim that something is important, but if we analyze the phenomenon, different factors were at work more so. In other words, even if people might claim that something is important, we might find that some unacknowledged aspect of family is the part that actually mattered for the stability of one's life and even the development of society. 

It's not hard to see that history is drenched in notions of loyalty/duty to family. (And not just family but community and country). The phrase "blood is thicker than water", still used today, is about 800 years old. All of this

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:


For example, you're saying that it's interesting that a specific English notion of family correlated with the Industrial Revolution. Okay, fine, maybe there's a causal relation. You still haven't demonstrated that we should think that duty to family is what contributed to this. 

Yeah, fair enough, it was a minor point. I thought it was interesting. The reasoning that the historians give is that because you were expected to move out and get your own household once you start a family, this forced these nuclear families to be more entrepreneurial and to seek out opportunities to survive.  

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's a very simple idea I'm arguing against. It's improper reasoning to say that a common attribute is critical to a concept. The more important attribute, a fundamental attribute, is loyalty rather than duty. I don't say that because it's common, nor do I make a historical argument that people have been doing it for a long time. When just about anyone talks about family in a normative way, they mean some type of loyalty and support to people but not necessarily love. Some may argue that duty is important, but it's not as if we require that somebody adheres to duty to any extent to say "aha! That's a family!" Historical examples are great ways to illustrate an idea and make an idea concrete, but they aren't proof. 

I see no difference between loyalty, duty and obligation. I have been using all three to mean the same thing. According to Objectivism, loyalty is only rational if it is to principles. And we are talking about loyalty to people. 

Interesting comment there about history. It sheds light on an important divide between conservatives and rationalists which is best illustrated in the debates between Edmund Burke and Thomas Paine. Rationalists don't place much, if any, value on history. For them, it doesn't matter how long humans have been doing something a certain way. All of that weight of evidence in the real world is irrelevant if it doesn't conform to reason (or their reasoning). 

I'm not sure what proof you're after. The reason loyalty to family (and community, country) is so common is precisely because of its effectiveness for survival and growth. We have evolved to behave that way. Those that didn't behave that way died out. And phrases like blood is thicker than water are expressions of that wisdom over many generations. But this opens up a whole other can of worms...

20 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I really want to bring the focus down to *how* you think a little bit of irrational duty to family is important to a stable society and individual life. I know you think duty is necessary for family. I'm looking for a causal explanation, not simply "it's been around for a long time, so I guess it must be working pretty well". 

A little bit of irrational duty to family is important to a stable society because family is important to a stable society and duty is important to family.

So why is duty important to family? I don't know what more I can give on that. I've explained that without duty there is no distinction between family and non-family and the desire to have children is severely reduced. Civilisation arose out of these loyalties toward circles (family, community, country). These circles formed the basic structures of society that allowed for law, order and stability.

I'll have to think about how to express myself in a better way.

(regarding "important to a stable individual life"  - that is a separate argument).

Finally, I don't completely rule out the idea that society can't survive without the family (although I'm very doubtful). My main focus is that family needs duty and Objectivists should accept that their philosophy is counter to the family. 

Aren't you at all concerned by Rand's avoidance of the family in her life and work? I don't know how any Objectivist can't find this extremely concerning. Pretty much everything she said and did points toward a rejection of the family. 

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23 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

My "role" is to put forward my views on what you said. That's how a debate works.

My mistake. I didn't realize we were having a debate. I'm not looking for a debate. I thought you were here to learn about Objectivism, and trying to clear up a perceived inconsistency.

I would never participate in a debate against an anti-Objectivist. It's a silly exercise, and a total waste of time.

By the way, please go back and re-read your very first paragraph in this thread...because, if your true purpose here is to debate Objectivists, that paragraph is a total lie.

Edited by Nicky

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Jason Hunter writes: "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."

Atlas Society article: https://atlassociety.org/commentary/commentary-blog/5440-objectivism-is-not-anti-family

I agree that the Atlas Society article is weak, but the reasons for this go deep.

Taken at face value, the author of this article is simply asserting the basic tenet of egoism - the extent your family members provide value to you is the extent to which you maintain a relationship with them. There's no argument here, of course your choices dealing with family should be like anything else in life, based on your own rational self-interest.

And to be fair, they are not espousing the most shallow of conceptions of self-interest, this isn't merely about some material gain or non-material advantage like social status, it goes deeper than merely some actual advantage conferred to you. There is an element here, as in Rand, of the love of virtue, as something beautiful and valuable for its own sake. And so it's in your interests to maintain relationships with such virtuous people even in the absence of any specific or material advantage they bring to the table. Virtuous people are worth keeping a relationship with for the sake of their virtue alone.

To some this seems like a strong position - coming from the perspective of self-interest, we've covered relationships based on specific advantages to you, and we've even covered a more non-specific or spiritual kind of self-interest when it comes to the appreciation of virtue.

So where does this criticism of weakness come from? Is there some value, some aspect of self-interest, which goes even deeper than this? If so, I'd like to know what it is. After all, I'm out to maximize my own self-interest, I don't want to be missing out on it!

The answer to this is yes. There is something deeper, and there is far more value at stake than what we've discussed so far.

Family in general, and let's take marriage in particular, provides something deeply satisfying to life. There's a sense of the relationship being meaningful, that it's right, that it's somehow meant to be this way. It's a feeling deeper than happiness - marriage, like having children, may not confer any particular greater sense of "happiness" in any shallow sense of day to day hardships and pleasures - but it feels real, it feels true, like you're doing what you're meant to be doing, and it confers a sense of self-esteem that goes along with being on the right track in life, and accomplishing something meaningful.

This is a feeling that comes from a very deep thought about human nature, and what it means to be human, about what we even are as people, and what is good for such human beings.

Think of it in these terms: human beings are a sexually reproducing species. This entire system of values - the masculine man and feminine woman having a relationship and children - it's obviously a very deep and important part of human nature. As a human being you're an animal - a member of a sexually reproducing species - and your body, your innate pleasures, everything about your metaphysical nature has been built according to this deeply fundamental characteristic of sex (maybe nothing is more fundamental to your nature except life).

For men and women to reach the highest potentiality of their existence, to fulfill all of their innate desires and natural pleasures consistently and to the fullest extent, they seek complementary romantic relationships with the opposite sex, and procreation. When they achieve these things, when they get married or have a baby, they reportedly experience the greatest joys of their life. This is widely attested to throughout history and across all human cultures. Nearly all human beings and other animals seek opposite sex relationships based on their biological sex. These behaviors are accounted for by the physical and psychological desires and complementarity innate to human beings and other animals by virtue of their sexual nature, and the rational decisions they make to achieve those values. (Hermaphroditic and other biological edge cases are accounted for by genetic disorders. The remainder of the edge cases are accounted for by psychological disorders and irrational choices with respect to the highest achievement of one's values. The psychological disorder of homosexuality was at one time very well studied before the field of psychology was disrupted by force and intimidation from pro-homosexual groups. This story is well accounted for in Objectivist Ron Pisaturo's book Power and Beauty, if you're interested in looking into it.)

There are occasionally some accidents in nature, but the fact that every single living thing alive now or ever is the product of reproduction, throughout the entire history of life on Earth, goes to show that this is a principle deeply embedded in all living things, and in human nature in particular.

What I'm trying to communicate here is that there is a metaphysical truth about human nature - something that cannot be changed and must be accepted. This truth is that human beings come in two flavors: male and female, and that they are designed as independent parts of a married whole; alone they are incomplete and together they complete each other, and that this combination is still yet incomplete, and is consummated and thus even further completed through procreation.

This complementarity, this completeness, is not merely physical completeness or psychological completeness - it's all of the above and more, it is by design, by one's metaphysically given nature.

Family is an end in itself. Seeking the completion of family is a good that is in your own self-interest, and separation from family is thereby a lacking which goes against your self-interest.

It's not a free-for-all trade of values, even spiritual values like the appreciation of virtue in itself. The value of the relationship doesn't depend primarily on these things, and so the obligation to family - guided by your own self-interest - is not contingent on such things.

What emerges from this basic metaphysical truth is a duty to your family - much like the duty to appreciate a man's virtues, or your obligation to fulfill your side of a contract. It's a categorical commitment, not a contingent one. Any violation of a contract is an injustice, any rejection of a man's virtue is an injustice. These are not "if I feel like it" case by case issues, these are black an white matters of justice and morality, of right and wrong.

Does this mean you must carry out some straw-man Kantian duty and confer material benefits, or honor, or respect, or any other such advantage to someone who hasn't earned it? Of course not. But it does mean that you have a binding obligation to your family and that your values and your self-interest are inextricably tied up in these bonds.

You can't get everything that life has to offer, you can't experience the deepest and most satisfying sense of meaning and true happiness, without the irreplaceable relationships you have with your family.

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18 hours ago, Nicky said:

My mistake. I didn't realize we were having a debate. I'm not looking for a debate. I thought you were here to learn about Objectivism, and trying to clear up a perceived inconsistency.

I would never participate in a debate against an anti-Objectivist. It's a silly exercise, and a total waste of time.

By the way, please go back and re-read your very first paragraph in this thread...because, if your true purpose here is to debate Objectivists, that paragraph is a total lie.

Everything I said was genuine. I'm at a crossroads grappling with the conflict between Objectivism and Conservatism. 

Objectivism is appealing partly because it provides certainty in a confusing world (much like religion). So much of it makes sense and sounds good. As much as I crave that certainty in my own worldview (so I can spread my views with confidence and conviction), there are fundamental issues I cannot ignore. 

I started this thread because I struggled to find much discussion on this crucial topic. I wanted to challenge Objectivists with the argument I had formulated. It is an argument which I believe is a logical conclusion from Objectivist principles.

The title of the thread is a declaration, not a question. I then proceed - "my argument is as follows:". As the thread has gone on, I have become more and more convinced by my original argument not only from formulating my own responses but also from the weakness of the replies. 

I can only conclude Objectivists are in denial on this topic. 

The fact that you would never debate an anti-Objectivist is alarming. Debate serves a wonderful purpose and you are at a loss by evading it. 

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Jason Hunter,

So in your esteem not only are human beings duty-bound to ensure the survival of family, there is a duty to engage in debate about this and presumably other subjects?

Just how do 'weak replies' to any particular position serve as evidence for any other particular position?

Edited by dream_weaver

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3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

And to be fair, they are not espousing the most shallow of conceptions of self-interest, this isn't merely about some material gain or non-material advantage like social status, it goes deeper than merely some actual advantage conferred to you. There is an element here, as in Rand, of the love of virtue, as something beautiful and valuable for its own sake. And so it's in your interests to maintain relationships with such virtuous people even in the absence of any specific or material advantage they bring to the table. Virtuous people are worth keeping a relationship with for the sake of their virtue alone.

Yes, I understood this to be the Objectivist position. Rand makes it clear in The Virtue of Selfishness:

"In spritual issues - (by 'spiritual' i mean: 'pertaining to man's consciousness') - the currency of exchange is different, but the principle is the same. Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man's character."

3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

Family in general, and let's take marriage in particular, provides something deeply satisfying to life. There's a sense of the relationship being meaningful, that it's right, that it's somehow meant to be this way. It's a feeling deeper than happiness - marriage, like having children, may not confer any particular greater sense of "happiness" in any shallow sense of day to day hardships and pleasures - but it feels real, it feels true, like you're doing what you're meant to be doing, and it confers a sense of self-esteem that goes along with being on the right track in life, and accomplishing something meaningful.

This is a feeling that comes from a very deep thought about human nature, and what it means to be human, about what we even are as people, and what is good for such human beings.

Think of it in these terms: human beings are a sexually reproducing species. This entire system of values - the masculine man and feminine woman having a relationship and children - it's obviously a very deep and important part of human nature. As a human being you're an animal - a member of a sexually reproducing species - and your body, your innate pleasures, everything about your metaphysical nature has been built according to this deeply fundamental characteristic of sex (maybe nothing is more fundamental to your nature except life).

I agree with your sentiments here. Human beings want to have children, generally speaking, because they believe it is what they are meant to do, that it is part of their purpose, an obligation to fulfill. 

3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

What I'm trying to communicate here is that there is a metaphysical truth about human nature - something that cannot be changed and must be accepted. This truth is that human beings come in two flavors: male and female, and that they are designed as independent parts of a married whole; alone they are incomplete and together they complete each other, and that this combination is still yet incomplete, and is consummated and thus even further completed through procreation.

 

3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

Family is an end in itself. Seeking the completion of family is a good that is in your own self-interest, and separation from family is thereby a lacking which goes against your self-interest.

It is a good that is in your own self-interest because it is in your own self-interest to be true to human nature, right? And procreating is an inherent aspect of human nature. This is your argument? 

If so then it stands to reason that all women, whether they want to or not, have a duty to have children because it is just a part of human nature. This is exactly the type of duty I argue is required for the family but it is incompatible with Objectivism. 

 

3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

It's not a free-for-all trade of values, even spiritual values like the appreciation of virtue in itself. The value of the relationship doesn't depend primarily on these things, and so the obligation to family - guided by your own self-interest - is not contingent on such things.

 

3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

What emerges from this basic metaphysical truth is a duty to your family - much like the duty to appreciate a man's virtues, or your obligation to fulfill your side of a contract. It's a categorical commitment, not a contingent one. Any violation of a contract is an injustice, any rejection of a man's virtue is an injustice. These are not "if I feel like it" case by case issues, these are black an white matters of justice and morality, of right and wrong.

There is no such thing as duty to family. Only duty to principles, according to Objectivism. 

3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

But it does mean that you have a binding obligation to your family and that your values and your self-interest are inextricably tied up in these bonds.

If it is a binding obligation, then it is not based on the trader principle. 

I agree with a lot of what you have said except the links to Objectivism. Rand explicity rejected the obligation to have children. Unless I am mistaken she has been quoted as saying she does not believe women are obliged to have children. 

The argument that it is rational to have children because it is a part of human nature and therefore in your self interest is no different to stating it is your duty to have children as a universal law. What about women like Rand, who wanted to focus on productive work instead of having children. Are you going to tell her what her own self-interest is? 

If I'm not hitting on your argument, please clarify for me. 

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42 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

Jason Hunter,

So in your esteem not only are human beings duty-bound to ensure the survival of family, there is a duty to engage in debate about this and presumably other subjects?

Just how do 'weak replies' to any particular position serve as evidence for any other particular position?

Not quite. I am saying the survival of the family relies on a belief in duty. 

I have never claimed a duty to debate. Do as you wish. 

Since I am talking to a community of self-proclaimed Objectivists and their arguments aren't convincing, it has reinforced my belief that there is no "way out" of this issue, that I wasn't missing something obvious. 

However, I believe my arguments alone are sufficient. The funny thing is I'm pretty sure Rand would be on my side on this. The founder of the philosophy evaded the family, ignored or attacked it in her work and didn't have children herself because she wanted to focus her time on being productive. (No one has replied to this point so far).

All of this points to a fundamental incompatibility between the family and Objectivism and upon further inspection it turns out to be the case. 

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19 minutes ago, Jason Hunter said:

Since I am talking to a community of self-proclaimed Objectivists

Did you read this in the guidelines?

This website facilitates trade among those interested in Objectivism. The primary -- but not only -- form of trade will be information about Objectivism and discussion about its applications. Agreement with Objectivism is not required for participation. Anyone interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy may join.

I'm having difficulty parsing your assertion of self-proclaimed Objectivists from those having an interest it the subject, especially when agreement with Objectivism is not a prerequisite for participation.

 

Edited by dream_weaver

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3 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

Debate serves a wonderful purpose 

 

Does it? You've been debating away for a week or so now, and you're yet to learn a single thing. How could you? You refuse to pay attention to what anyone says, you're too wrapped up in your "debate".

 

Edited by Nicky

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On 10/13/2018 at 10:42 AM, softwareNerd said:

By this token one has to throw out the entire Objectivist Ethical theory, not just the tiny part about family. Truth is that Rand was pretty silent about family so speaking of an Objectivist conception of family is already far-fetched.

 

Not really. Not if you're using 'Western civilization" to mean "modern / industrial civilization as opposed to middle-age European civilization, There is a dangerous meme that our modern world is Judeo-Christian. It's unfounded.

As for family, Christianity is relatively weak in its support for duty toward family. I cannot compare to the typical Eastern civilization, whee entire religions take duty to family as a more fundamental than most other duties and even make it a foundation for their primary scripture. 

I'm not sure if all my text is appearing on your screen (no sarcasm here) but for your first point, if you carried on reading, my next sentence said  "I say bizarre because in one way it is not a conception of the family at all, it is a non-acknowledgement of the family. "

Have a scan of this https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Role_of_Christianity_in_civilization#Industrial_Revolution

On your third point, again my next sentence was this: 

East Asia has even stronger conceptions of duty to family. Ever wondered why the Chinese are so obedient? Chinese culture is built on Confucianism which considers filial piety as a key virtue. 

"In serving his parents, a filial son reveres them in daily life; he makes them happy while he nourishes them; he takes anxious care of them in sickness; he shows great sorrow over their death that was for him; and he sacrifices to them with solemnity." - Confucius

(Maybe you were just picking random sentences and not reading much else. I don't blame you! I wrote a lot)

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28 minutes ago, dream_weaver said:

 

Did you read this in the guidelines?

This website facilitates trade among those interested in Objectivism. The primary -- but not only -- form of trade will be information about Objectivism and discussion about its applications. Agreement with Objectivism is not required for participation. Anyone interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy may join.

I'm having difficulty parsing your assertion of self-proclaimed Objectivists from those having an interest it the subject, especially when agreement with Objectivism is not a prerequisite for participation.

 

I was hesitant in making that claim. Perhaps that was rash. 

The point is I assume this is a good place to challenge the philosophy and get replies from those who subscribe to it or are knowledgeable on it. 

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33 minutes ago, Nicky said:

 

Does it? You've been debating away for a week or so now, and you're yet to learn a single thing. How could you? You refuse to pay attention to what anyone says, you're too wrapped up in your "debate".

 

Listen, I like debating. You don't. That's fine. You appear to have taken personal offence to the fact that I challenged your points after you challenged mine. And then you started telling me what my "role" was like some sort of authoritarian. I am here to discuss and debate. I don't want to get personal. 

I have paid very close attention to what you have said. Mocking me for being too wrapped up in "debate" when I've actually gone ahead and specifically addressed your comments is ridiculous. You ignored my reply and now you're attacking me. 

You declared you won't debate "anti-Objectivists" and you imply I'm the one too wrapped up in my own worldview. 

You have no idea what I've learnt. 

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On 10/13/2018 at 1:09 PM, Doug Morris said:

Objectivism does not say we should not have emotional attachments.  It says we should not let our emotions do our thinking for us and should be aware of where emotions come from.

Your argument about productive work being the highest good could be used to argue against all sorts of things, including romantic love, art, and sports.  Productive work is crucial on more than one level to having a good life, but it is not all there is to a good life.  The highest value is life itself.  The fundamental virtue is rationality.

Having a child is very different though. It is in a separate category in terms of commitment and time/resources spent. Having a child is a minimum 18 year commitment. Once you make the decision you can't go back. It means looking after a human that is heavily dependent on you. 100 percent dependent for the first few years. It is a massive drain on your time and money. And as an Objectivist you would have to be fully committed to the responsibility of raising the child.  

Arts and Sports are mere hobbies (unless you make money out of them but then that would be productive work). 

You can leave a Romantic love at any time and they're not dependent on you like a child is. Although I agree that there could be a conflict there. Maybe Rand defines love as the second highest good? How far down the list would raising a child be?

Either way, productive work is a critical aspect of life according to Objectivism and there probably isn't a larger commitment that would pull you away from that than starting a family. 

Which leaves one to wonder, what is the point in having a child? And specifically, is the reason strong enough to justify such a huge commitment from an Objectivist perspective? 

(Regarding your first point. I never claimed Objectivists say you cannot have emotional attachments. Just that you are not obliged to have any emotional attachments to your children, only the responsibility to raise them). 

Edited by Jason Hunter

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1 hour ago, Jason Hunter said:

Having a child is very different though. It is in a separate category in terms of commitment and time/resources spent. Having a child is a minimum 18 year commitment.

But is that really a duty?  It wasn't god, people or nature that imposed this responsibility on the parents.   There are options: abstinence, safe sex, abortion, adoption.  If you choose to bypass all four, you're choosing to be a parent.

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