Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
Jason Hunter

The family cannot survive without duty.

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

On 10/13/2018 at 7:50 PM, Jason Hunter said:

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.

Do realize that part of your claim is that irrationality is not always immoral. We could argue about the details of exactly what the effects are, but the whole premise I'm working from is that rationality is moral, irrationality is immoral. I treat those as basic facts. If we don't agree on that much, the very moral foundation we are using is completely different. 

Much of your position so far is a historical one based on correlational rather than causal relationships. To be sure, aspects of irrationality will often coexist with aspects of rationality within a society. This doesn't mean that the irrational aspects contributed to the positive development of that society. Your reasoning is fine about family in general, yet again, you insist that duty is the aspect of family that change society for the better.

Another issue is I think you conflate obligation with duty. Based on what 2046 said, the way Cicero meant duty is more like an obligation. You treat these words as identical. Obligation would be like, for example, if you were raised well by your parents, you owe at least something to them. Their value isn't nothing, and as a matter of justice, when you benefit from someone, you ought to pay them back in some way. Duty is more like *because* they are your parents and for no other reason you owe them something. If you add reasons like they were good parents, or they help get you into a good elementary school when you're going up, or they instilled some of your values like honesty, this would be an obligation. So when I say loyalty, I'm thinking of this. If they treat you well, or do right by you, you should acknowledge it and act in a way that reinforces it. 

On 10/13/2018 at 7:50 PM, Jason Hunter said:

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.

I actually find history to be extremely important. All I've been saying is that you have failed to connect historical evidence to a moral principle. Historical evidence isn't proof, because proof requires additional inferences. Correlation is never sufficient. The same goes for etymological arguments. It is interesting to note that "blood is thicker than water" is a phrase has been around for a long time. Whether it demonstrates anything else depends entirely on how you used induction to conclude that duty to family is critical to the development of civilization.
 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Do realize that part of your claim is that irrationality is not always immoral. We could argue about the details of exactly what the effects are, but the whole premise I'm working from is that rationality is moral, irrationality is immoral. I treat those as basic facts. If we don't agree on that much, the very moral foundation we are using is completely different. 

I'm not claiming rationality is moral or immoral. My argument in this thread is not about morality. It is about whether Objectivist pricinples are compatible with the family as it exists in reality, regardless of what is right or wrong or how one defines what is right or wrong. 

Quote

Much of your position so far is a historical one based on correlational rather than causal relationships. To be sure, aspects of irrationality will often coexist with aspects of rationality within a society. This doesn't mean that the irrational aspects contributed to the positive development of that society. Your reasoning is fine about family in general, yet again, you insist that duty is the aspect of family that change society for the better.

As far as I understand it, practically everything is only a correlational relationship. Statisticians cannot even agree on what constitutes a causal relationship but the bar is very high to determine a causal relationship as a concrete fact. It seems like you're asking the impossible. 

I argue the evidence strongly suggests this is the case to a very high degree based on the way humans behave in reality across different cultures and times. The evidence is enormous. Just take the example I gave you about China. A culture that literally regards sacrifice to your parents as a key virtue stretching back thousands of years? Or Christians who have always taught that it is our duty to have children? 

Or take the evolution of Chivalry (inherently duty based). 

But I don't just rely on history. There is a logical argument at play too. Humans have evolved to protect and sacrifice for their family. It is perfectly natural for our species to evolve this way. How else would we survive without giving and expecting loyalty to one another to our families, communities and countries? 

This is how civilisations and empires are/were built. It was based on the premise that the land and people inside a given area were "us" and outsiders were "them" and one should be loyal to those inside over and above those outside. 

One of the common talking points about Brexit and immigration was the idea that we Brits should "look after our own" first. Trump: America first. You cannot believe this is based on a purely rational argument? (Unless you argue it is rational to be true to human nature and therefore true to a form of tribal loyalty to country). 

Quote

Another issue is I think you conflate obligation with duty. Based on what 2046 said, the way Cicero meant duty is more like an obligation. You treat these words as identical. Obligation would be like, for example, if you were raised well by your parents, you owe at least something to them. Their value isn't nothing, and as a matter of justice, when you benefit from someone, you ought to pay them back in some way. Duty is more like *because* they are your parents and for no other reason you owe them something. If you add reasons like they were good parents, or they help get you into a good elementary school when you're going up, or they instilled some of your values like honesty, this would be an obligation. So when I say loyalty, I'm thinking of this. If they treat you well, or do right by you, you should acknowledge it and act in a way that reinforces it. 

Yeah I said before I see no difference between loyalty duty and obligation and that I have been using all three to mean the same thing. 

"if you add reasons" - then they are the reasons. 

You owe nothing to them (according to Objectvism). Your only owe allegiance to your principles and so you only judge your parents based on their values. If you don't like their values, they are not family (blood has no significance) and you certainly don't owe anything to them even though they raised you. 

If you do like their values then yes you may want to voluntarily do something for them. That is not an "obligation", "duty" or "loyalty" and Rand would not use those terms to explain a voluntary action based on judging values. She would only talk about chosen obligations like choosing to promise to do something for them (after judging their values) and therefore being obliged to fulfill that promise and maintain your integrity.

If you are doing the action for them based on anything other than the trader principle, then this is outside the realm of Objectivist philosophy and it is outside this aspect - the realm of pure value trading between people - that loyalty, duty and obligation exists (unless to principles). 

Now some people may call this realm human nature and then justify it by saying that one ought to be true to human nature and therefore it is rational and also in ones self interest. But then this is no different to insisting one is obliged to have children because reproduction is inherent in human nature. 

And I believe this is what Cicero is getting at but I haven't studied him in depth yet so im hesistant to commit to this. Cicero says it is unjust to live as a loner outcast from society because it is inherent in human nature that we are social animals. 

Quote

I actually find history to be extremely important. All I've been saying is that you have failed to connect historical evidence to a moral principle.

That was never my aim. I have no concern with morality here. 

If you haven't read it, I'd recommend checking out The Great Debate by Yuval Levin. It gets right to the heart of the conflict between rationalism and conservatism. 

Edited by Jason Hunter

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Craig24 said:

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.

But what if you choose it because you believe it is your duty? That would then make it irrational according to Objectivism. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
58 minutes ago, Jason Hunter said:

I'm not claiming rationality is moral or immoral.

I'll phrase it differently then, because there is a lot of overlap between the two. Exactly because some amount of duty is irrational, it is incompatible with family. There are other more fundamental aspects of family besides duty, even if duty is common.

58 minutes ago, Jason Hunter said:

As far as I understand it, practically everything is only a correlational relationship.

Yeah, that's not what statistics is for. Statistics is to deal with uncertainty and measure uncertainty. A scientist uses statistics as evidence of a phenomenon, but needs to use further reasoning techniques to induce a new idea rather than to deduce one. So I'm saying you didn't even try to make a causal relationship. We disagree what counts as evidence in the first place, or what makes for sufficient evidence. 

58 minutes ago, Jason Hunter said:

How else would we survive without giving and expecting loyalty to one another to our families, communities and countries? 

This is how civilisations and empires are/were built

This is a huuugggggggeeeeeeeee leap in reasoning. You basically ask how could be otherwise, and stated therefor civilizations were built this way. I'm not asking you to write a book for your case, but I am asking you to have more than one sentence about us/them mentality.

58 minutes ago, Jason Hunter said:

If you don't like their values

sNerd explained how this is not quite accurate. It's not about simply how many values you like that a person holds. I'm not sure where you get this idea that you judge a person based on how you like their values that they hold. You value a person for the value they provide to you. If a person helped raise you, they have literally provided a value to you; they allowed you to develop into an adult. To that extent at least, you owe them something. Because of this, likely they will share some values with you. You might like them more if they share more values with you, but it's considerably more complicated than that. 

Duty, in the sense most of us here are using it, is not even looking at the value the other person provides. You wouldn't need to justify valuing your parents because they helped raise you, you wouldn't even need to think about value. Saying they are your parents would be enough.

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

But what if you choose it because you believe it is your duty? That would then make it irrational according to Objectivism. 

Only if you choose it not because you believe it's a rational value but because you feel obligated by others to choose it. In other words, you let others dictate the choice for you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/12/2018 at 9:41 PM, 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. 

Why does being genetically linked to a group of people somehow create demands on yourself if you don't share the same values as they do or even worse find them to be evil? And if it does, since *all* of humanity is genetically linked when you go back far enough, then everyone would have this "duty" not apply to everyone else in existence through all time? And since *all* life on earth is genetically linked and has a common ancestor this same duty would require you to treat cyanobacteria living 10 miles below ground with the same duty you treat your mother because we are all part of the same "family".  Either genetic "bond" requires "duty" to all members in a class or such duty should not properly exist in reality as it implies something that supersedes and subordinates free will. 

Edited by EC

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'll phrase it differently then, because there is a lot of overlap between the two. Exactly because some amount of duty is irrational, it is incompatible with family. There are other more fundamental aspects of family besides duty, even if duty is common.

But are you making a moral claim here? Irrationality is bad therefore it is incompatible with the family? 

21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I'm not asking you to write a book for your case, but I am asking you to have more than one sentence about us/them mentality.

Okay let's take a modern day example. Football (If you're American I'm talking about soccer). 

Football is by far the most popular sport on the planet, with an estimated fan base of roughly 3 billion. It is adored in practically every culture, race, religion. 

It is an expression of (or an outlet for) our inherent tribal nature. Duty, obligation and loyalty permeate throughout the sport. Players who leave their teams for bigger pay checks are derided as soulless mercenaries whereas one club men like Totti are celebrated for their undying loyalty and devotion. 

Coaches often refuse to manage the rivals of their former teams. "True" fans are described as those that stick by the team through thick and thin, no matter how boring their style of play or how poor their results. Many fans only support the team they do because their father did or because "they grew up supporting them". Those that do jump ship and support better teams are derided as glory supporters. 

I'm not saying I support this behaviour or I think it is rational, or moral. I have a very different view on support in football.

But one cannot deny this overwhelming evidence about human behaviour. Only a fool could think this will ever change without literally re-engineering the brain. 

Perhaps in the future with a possible fusion between AI and the human brain (or replacement of), plus the exciting horizon of bio-engineering, humans will radically change and even change their nature. Even the current method of reproduction could change to "growing" new humans outside the womb - a possible next stage after surrogacy.  

I don't completely rule out a society without the family as it currently exists in reality. 

Objectvists must confront this issue head on and think about what the family would really look like in a truly Objectivist world. 

21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

sNerd explained how this is not quite accurate. It's not about simply how many values you like that a person holds. I'm not sure where you get this idea that you judge a person based on how you like their values that they hold. You value a person for the value they provide to you. If a person helped raise you, they have literally provided a value to you; they allowed you to develop into an adult. To that extent at least, you owe them something. Because of this, likely they will share some values with you. You might like them more if they share more values with you, but it's considerably more complicated than that. 

I think you've hit on an important point here. I said the values you like because Rand describes the relationship as one based on "shared values". If you have no shared values, why would you want to do anything for them unless you made a promise that you would? 

But I have also used the concept in the way you have described by saying "valued gained". Now you say it is considerably more complicated than that but for me I read that as something which is undefinable and very fuzzy. 

If someone helped raise you, you have no obligation to them. Up until the age of 18, you are under the responsibility of the adult because you are not deemed a rational independent human yet. To be obliged to help them in return in adult life would surely be an unchosen obligation. * 

The Atlas society states something similar to your case, that whatever the parent does for you above the obligatory minimum while raising you, you owe in return which rationally justifies you helping your parents in old age as values traded. But i refer to my sentence above * 

And any case, how does one define the obligatory minimum? And how does one define the correct amount of value traded? These are impossible tasks. 

In reality, humans just don't think this way. They usually believe it is their duty to look after their parents as a inherent obligation. 

And also if you share no or little values with your parent, what do you "owe" them? 

21 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Duty, in the sense most of us here are using it, is not even looking at the value the other person provides. You wouldn't need to justify valuing your parents because they helped raise you, you wouldn't even need to think about value. Saying they are your parents would be enough.

Yeah I agree, I'm using it in this sense too, but including a limit. We all agree it is reasonable to leave a family member in extreme cases. But yeah the duty/loyalty/obligation aspect is in a realm separate from any value consideration. 

As a side note, I remember when I first read about Objectivism, I started worrying about all my actions and thoughts and whether they were rational or not. Every now and then I'd type in a random act or desire into google and ask if it was rational according to Objectivism or try to find what Rand thought on the matter. 

This idea that we have to rationally process every single thing in our brain is incredibly stressful to keep up. Have you ever had a similar experience? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It is impossible to prove a causal relationship using statistics alone.  A proof of a causal relationship must include an explanation of how the causal relationship works. If a statistical correlation is used as evidence, it must be accompanied by consideration of whether there can be other explanations for the correlation. This does not mean that it is impossible to prove a causal relationship, just that statistics alone doesn't cut it.

History is full of wars.  This does not mean that wars are necessary or conducive to human survival.

Hormones and the actions they prompt people to have played a very important role in the evolution and survival of the human genus and the modern human species.  We should not completely ignore them in making choices.  But our rational conclusions should overrule any hormonal promptings that we can see are irrational.

Are you saying that Objectivism is a type of rationalism?  How do you define rationalism?

If a person chooses to participate in a team sport, he or she accepts an obligation to act accordingly and to make the success of the team an important purpose.  A professional athlete is providing a service for pay.  It can be rational and moral for an athlete or fan to change teams, regardless of how many billion people disapprove.  But it can also be rational, moral, and consistent with Objectivism to build a relationship with a team, as either a member or a fan, that makes one reluctant to change teams.

The mysticism-altruism-collectivism axis of ideas has historically dominated most people's philosophy, whether explicit or implicit, and has therefore played a very important role in their thinking, and thus in their actions.  We can achieve a great deal of change by re-engineering people's philosophy, without any re-engineering of the brain whatsoever.

One of the things we must decide rationally is how much time and effort to spend analyzing any given decision.  How much time and effort should I spend deciding which item to order from a restaurant menu? 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

But are you making a moral claim here? Irrationality is bad therefore it is incompatible with the family? 

If something incorporates duty, it will work against the interest of any individuals involved. That doesn't mean any amount of duty will immediately destroy and ruin lives, but its effect is negative. That is, duty is not a stabilizing force. From this information, I conclude that it is immoral to include duty with family. 

6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

But one cannot deny this overwhelming evidence about human behaviour. Only a fool could think this will ever change without literally re-engineering the brain. 

Nothing about the brain is inherently tribal. It's not programmed into your brain any more than language. We can discuss why it's common, but it isn't an inevitable result of the human mind. Your dispute then is really over the idea that man is rational by nature. Your position is more like "yeah, it is better to be rational, but the masses are all irrational, and that's how it always will be". 

6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

If you have no shared values, why would you want to do anything for them unless you made a promise that you would? 

Shared values are part of it. I mean, if someone provides value to you, there's usually something in common. What really counts is if they provide value, or provided value in the past. As a matter of justice, it's important to provide at least something to the other person, because you are gaining value from someone. If you gain something good and positive, it's in your interest to do something for the other person. Often, improving their life improve yours as well. When it comes to blood family, probably none of them would share as many values as you would with your best friend. But to the extent that they are decent people, and you spent so much time with them just out of convenience, you're bound to share something in common. Maybe you share a common work ethic. It's not very hard to find something in common, if your blood family actually has decent people in it. 

This is true even in cases where you didn't choose to get a value from them. For example, you might get into a really bad accident and need a blood transfusion. Suppose the only person who could do that is someone you just met. So they give you transfusion, which you can consent to because you were unconscious. When you wake up, would you refuse to even say thank you? "I didn't ask for the transfusion, why does it matter to you?" I don't mean you should commit the rest of your life to their desires because they saved your life, but appreciation is good, and you have reason to get to know them further. 

No one asked to be born. But we can be grateful for the opportunities our parents gave us, or bought us books when we were growing up, fed you, give you a place to sleep, or took you to the doctor. Certainly, you gain value from them if they do this for you. They might also cause you pain, or be out by physically abusive, which is not valuable in any sense. Presumably, you like your life, so if your parents had any role in this, it would be silly and even irrational to act as if you owe nothing at all. If your parents were never there, and all they did was give you a place to sleep and food to eat, you probably don't owe them much of anything. Maybe even nothing. The point is, you have to figure it out. There is no steady rule to use to decide these things.

Absolutely, how do we define obligatory minimums? How do we know we've traded to a fair and proper degree? These are difficult tasks. They don't need to be impossible, unless you want to quantify specific numbers. That won't happen. It doesn't need to happen. This is why ethics is a complicated science. Maybe on the outside Objectivism looks to you like a philosophy of pure and cold rational calculation of rational self-interest. Yes, it is completely about rationality, but rational thought is about reflection and consideration of everything around you. A consideration of reality. It's not about running an algorithm and a set of rules. It's not about being a ninja where at every moment, you have intense focus, thinking on overdrive every moment. Even if you were a ninja, you couldn't do this. Good habit is also very important, gradually developed over time. 

6 hours ago, Jason Hunter said:

In reality, humans just don't think this way. They usually believe it is their duty to look after their parents as a inherent obligation. 

Some people might not reflect on their family or the meaning of family. Still, in general, people are plenty capable of reflecting on what's around them and making a decision. It takes time to develop tribalistic patterns of thought. Confucian philosophers even had to instill values of filial piety.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 10/14/2018 at 5:26 PM, Jason Hunter said:

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

That's right.

Human nature is the standard from which we define self-interest, because "is" implies "ought". Rand identifies life as the most defining characteristic of human nature, and so life is the ultimate standard of value. I've argued here that sex is also a deeply defining characteristic of human nature, and so is also a major standard of value.

Whether my arguments are "compatible with Objectivism" or not is up for debate. I think that the logic I've just given follows the basic Objectivist meta-ethics, and is in that sense compatible. And yet Objectivist meta-ethics is a hairy subject, there is quite a lot of literature dancing around trying to avoid any categorical commitments while hanging on to the basic logic of "is implies ought". I think these arguments fail.

(ask 10 Objectivists and you will get 10 different answers - see Moen's paper, https://reasonpapers.com/pdf/342/rp_342_9.pdf and David Kelley's response for some of the disparate approaches to Objectivist meta-ethics).

That being said, the metaphysical and ethical arguments I've made here are not found in Objectivist literature, and indeed you will almost universally find arguments against duty (with some minor exceptions).

Objectivism is very light on metaphysics. Almost none of the central issues of that foundational branch of philosophy are really dealt with at all. And as mentioned, and I think as a consequence of the gaping holes in metaphysics, Objectivist ethics and meta-ethics is a mess.

Objectivism as a philosophy is incomplete, and in places, inconsistent, and we need to start from the foundational roots of metaphysics in order to fix the problems with the philosophy.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, intrinsicist said:

That being said, the metaphysical and ethical arguments I've made here are not found in Objectivist literature, and indeed you will almost universally find arguments against duty (with some minor exceptions).

It is worth noting that there isn't just one sense of the word duty. We can talk about it in a teleological sense, or we can talk about it in a deontological sense. As was mentioned earlier about Cicero, duty could be about pre-existing commitments to human nature, which we all ought to be committed to regardless of our preferences and desires. This commitment doesn't need to be justified more than the fact that you are human. And we could then talk about duty to family in the sense that moral obligations will follow directly from the good they give you (or fail to give you). 

A deontological sense of the word is different, where the rule itself defines human nature rather than human nature defining the rule. Your obligations wouldn't fall from value offered to you, but what exists before any value is offered.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

@Eiuol I'm not sure where you are getting your ideas. That all sounds very mixed up.

1. "duty could be about pre-existing commitments to human nature, which we all ought to be committed to regardless of our preferences and desires. This commitment doesn't need to be justified more than the fact that you are human."

This is what is meant by duty in general, this is the deontological justification for ethics.

2. "we could then talk about duty to family in the sense that moral obligations will follow directly from the good they give you (or fail to give you)."

This is not what is meant by "duty", but rather it's opposite, this is a value calculation.

3. "the rule itself defines human nature rather than human nature defining the rule"

What is this referencing? I've never heard of such a thing.

4. "Your obligations wouldn't fall from value offered to you, but what exists before any value is offered."

... like human nature, as in point #1?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

1. You and I disagree a lot about what counts as deontological or teleological. Often, I think what people mean by duty varies. But also that many people mean emphasis on the concept being an imperative such that "no matter what" you owe something to another person. So if you agree with the way I explained what duty can and should be, then the only disagreement here is about word choice. My emphasis is on the older way of thinking about these things, pre-Kant and pre-Scholastic.

2. Yes, it is a calculation, but the calculation is in determining if in fact the sense of duty even applies.  It's not that the calculation itself determines what you owe to somebody, but you need to calculate in order to figure out if that person qualifies as deserving some value in return. No value exists with your family until they offer some value, so that's why your obligation to family shouldn't be "pre-existing".

3. Sorry, it's something I thought of. 

4. Well, that's referring to social interactions. This would be the sense of duty I oppose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×