Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Sign in to follow this  
dan_edge

The Morality of Monogamy

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

The standard of value is life, and "life qua man" does not equal "the best that the best man could achieve," or "life qua John Galt." Living qua man means living the life of a rational being, which means "the life of an independently thinking man." There aren't any milestones to be reached, no necessary levels of achievement, no necessary acheivement of value. A rational man is one who produces, not one who does a certain amount or type of production. A rational man is one who has pride, i.e. a committment to moral ambitiousness, not a man who settles for a certain level of moral worth. A rational man is honest, not one who aspires to simply never tell a lie to others. A rational man pursues values, and while certain values are important to his survival as a rational thinking man, not all of them are. The three identified by Ayn Rand are: Reason, Purpose, and Self-Esteem.

Reason, as his only tool of knowledge--Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve--Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living.

One need not be in a relationship with another human being to attain any of these three values. Reason requires the use of your mind, and the mind is not shared among romantic partners. One's purpose should be one's productive work, not the relationships one has with others. Self-esteem is built from one's own evaluation of one's character, not the fact that one sees some or all of the values one aspires to in another, one need only look at oneself to find the data needed to esteem oneself.

Now we can go on all day about how it is necessary to have a two door garage and a wife and 2.5 children in order to be living "qua man," but only as long as we lose sight of the fact that "means of survival" is the standard of making reason and rationality cardinal needs for a man to live as a rational being. Dependant irrational people need others in there life in order to feel like life is worth living. Rational people need only their mind, body and freedom, i.e. their mind, body, and mind free from others.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dependant irrational people need others in there life in order to feel like life is worth living. Rational people need only their mind, body and freedom, i.e. their mind, body, and mind free from others.

I agree with what cardinal values are but I disagree with the bold ONLY. For example, pleasure is not a luxury but a profound human need. And I did not say that everybody has to fit the same mold when it comes to, for example, how a need for psychological visibility gets to be satisfied in a person (the house and 2.5 children).

Edited by ~Sophia~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The point is in your use of "need." The reason I posted the cardinal values is because they are derived from aiding man's bodily physical survival. Value can not be separated from life, and one sustains one's life qua man by committing oneself to reason, being physically productive, and feeling worthy of physical survival. These are the basic and only needs if "need" is to have a real, rational meaning in terms of aiding man's survival.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The point is in your use of "need." The reason I posted the cardinal values is because they are derived from aiding man's bodily physical survival. Value can not be separated from life, and one sustains one's life qua man by committing oneself to reason, being physically productive, and feeling worthy of physical survival. These are the basic and only needs if "need" is to have a real, rational meaning in terms of aiding man's survival.

They are basic but not ONLY. Human needs are hierarchical and many go beyond the basic requirements of survival.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Arguing about "scarce resources" will never lead to a principled argument for monogamy.

Agreed. As JMeganSnow points out with her "two novels" example, it is a pragmatic argument but it is not a principled one.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Even though Halle Berry is hotter than my lover, I would never want my Kelly to change her appearance to look like Mrs. Berry.
Ok. I understand that, and feel similarly toward my significant. But I don't follow how valuing new friends necessarily means devaluing old friends. Case in point, acknowledging that Halle is hotter doesn't mean that you devalue Kelly's hotness. (She might think otherwise, though :confused: )

I wrote an essay about this also: Self-Love as a Prime Mover. Check it out.
Will do.

As a general rule, long-term monogamy is the way to go.
As a general rule, I agree. But that's a long way from a case that monogamy is the only rational way to go or that monogamy is best for everyone as a universal rule.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
How would you define intimacy in this case? Is it just about physical (or sexual) intimacy, or also about emotional/spiritual intimacy (like sharing very personal things with another person)? There might even be more subcategories of intimacy one can make, I don't know if these two are mutually exclusive.

In this case I am referring to all forms of intimacy, but most especially sexual intimacy.

It seems from your above statement that the measure of intimacy in a relationship is the primary standard you use to evaluate how good it is (well, obviously other things also apply).

Yes.

Do you think it is just one of these types of intimacy that is essential here, or all of them? Do you think any of the types of intimacy I described are more important in such a relationship, that would make a less intimate (in that respect) relationship less fulfilling, or are they all necessary in different ways?

All forms of intimacy are necessary for a romantic relationship - the stronger the romance the more intimacy is necessary. Sex, as I have said before, is not a primary end-in-itself (as in the "caveman" view of sex), but a response to one's feelings for another. The advantage of a monogamous relationship is that sexual exclusivity (and romantic exclusivity, but I repeat myself) maximizes the amount of sexual/romantic intimacy. It is the most intimate form of relationship and thus is the best possible relationship. It is, therefore the appropriate form of relationship if one has the highest form of desire/romance/love for one's partner (that being what Ayn Rand called "romantic love").

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sex, as I have said before, is not a primary end-in-itself (as in the "caveman" view of sex), but a response to one's feelings for another.

You mean "sexual attraction is a response to values" right? Sex, the act, is about what?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
My point is that what "need" means, it means requirement for survival, at the basic level. Everything above that is gravy.

As a point of fact, need has no connection to survival that you do not create through context. If I am fixing a car, I might need a wrench to accomplish that goal. If my goal is to exist, then I need food, water, and air. If I wish to live my life as man, there may be many other needs. It is used to reference the necessary requirements for the accomplishment of particular goals. It has no innate connection to mammalian physiological requirements.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The context we are talking about is "need" for the life of a rational man. If you want to include in the concept man, a wife, 2.5 kids, a mansion, etc. then go ahead. I won't stop you. Dan Edge is trying to make a universal statement about the nature of man, and describing monogamy as a need, presumably because it aids a man in living his life. My point is that "qua man" does not mean "to the fullest possible extent a man can achieve values" it simply means the life of man committed to reason, who produces no more than he consumes, and regards himself as worthy of consuming his products.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The context we are talking about is "need" for the life of a rational man. If you want to include in the concept man, a wife, 2.5 kids, a mansion, etc. then go ahead. I won't stop you. Dan Edge is trying to make a universal statement about the nature of man, and describing monogamy as a need, presumably because it aids a man in living his life. My point is that "qua man" does not mean "to the fullest possible extent a man can achieve values" it simply means the life of man committed to reason, who produces no more than he consumes, and regards himself as worthy of consuming his products.

I didn't actually identify any requirements of man's life qua man. And I certainly said nothing about a mansion and 2.5 kids. I only suggested that there are probably more then just those needed for survival as your post implied.

Now that you have rephrased it to include "reason, purpose, and self-esteem" as necessary to happiness or living your life qua man. Consider those three you mention broken down into parts.

"Commited to reason"...what other conclusions does one committed to reasom come to about all of the many aspects of life?

I assume you meant to say consumes no more then he produces? Which entails a very deep sense of honesty. Honesty is a virtue derived from reason which I do not think ought to be considered basal in the same way purpose is. Why did you replace purpose in the list, by the way?

To "regard himself as worthy" what actions and understandings are necessary? These generalized values have hosts of implications attached to them which I understand Dan and Sophia to be breaking down into particular parts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You mean "sexual attraction is a response to values" right?

Both, one as a result of the other. The point being that sex is not an end-in-itself value but rather a value only as an act of fulfilling one's feelings for another. And, it should go without saying that the subject I am discussing is a rational man, and thus only rational feelings are considered in this context. What I mean is that sex, apart from the fulfillment of romantic desire, is not a value to a rational man. Sex, as such is not a value; it is a value only in that certain context.

Sex, the act, is about what?

It depends on whether you are a rational man or a caveman. For a rational man it is about the fulfillment of romantic desire. For a caveman it is a pleasurable sensation disconnected from any other value or meaning.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
All forms of intimacy are necessary for a romantic relationship - the stronger the romance the more intimacy is necessary. Sex, as I have said before, is not a primary end-in-itself (as in the "caveman" view of sex), but a response to one's feelings for another. The advantage of a monogamous relationship is that sexual exclusivity (and romantic exclusivity, but I repeat myself) maximizes the amount of sexual/romantic intimacy. It is the most intimate form of relationship and thus is the best possible relationship. It is, therefore the appropriate form of relationship if one has the highest form of desire/romance/love for one's partner (that being what Ayn Rand called "romantic love").

But if being exclusive to someone allows you to achieve the greatest heights of intimacy, and you need all sorts of intimacy for a romantic relationship, then how do you combine that with, say, having a best friend (whom you share everything with that happens in your life). I think that a very friendship would definitely be very intimate, so wouldn't that also be a bad idea to pursue?

I know your position on having sex with someone else when you're in a relationship, and I think your objection to that mainly revolves around the loss of intimacy that is derived from having sex with more than one person (well, and the dishonesty if you lie about it, obviously). But wouldn't you be able to make the exact same argument against sharing very intimate and personal details of your life with your best friend, and spending a significant amount of time with them? Sure, you're not sleeping with them, but in a different way it does conflict with your (emotional? not sure what to call this) exclusivity towards your romantic partner.

If that (being non-sexually intimate with your friends) is allowed without necessarily devaluing your relationship, then there has to be a difference between sexual intimacy and other forms of intimacy that makes it impossible to properly practice one with multiple people, and that makes it possible to share the other with multiple people. If you have to concede that, however, you end up in the weird position that the non-sexual part of the relationship is apparently less valuable than the sexual part, which seems very unsatisfactory to me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But if being exclusive to someone allows you to achieve the greatest heights of intimacy, and you need all sorts of intimacy for a romantic relationship, then how do you combine that with, say, having a best friend (whom you share everything with that happens in your life). I think that a very friendship would definitely be very intimate, so wouldn't that also be a bad idea to pursue?

What I can tell you is this: a friendship, even a best friendship, is not quite the same after one of the friends finds love/gets married.

If that (being non-sexually intimate with your friends) is allowed without necessarily devaluing your relationship, then there has to be a difference between sexual intimacy and other forms of intimacy that makes it impossible to properly practice one with multiple people, and that makes it possible to share the other with multiple people.

I suppose so. I might even go as far as to say that the word intimacy may refer to entirely different things in a romatic/sexual context versus otherwise.

If you have to concede that, however, you end up in the weird position that the non-sexual part of the relationship is apparently less valuable than the sexual part, which seems very unsatisfactory to me.

That is neither weird nor unsatisfactory to me. Romance and sex are very, very important. And considering that in my view, a rational man's romance cannot be separated from the "non-sexual part" of the relationship, then there is in fact no conflict. (i.e. it's not like he has sex on the one hand, and her character and values on the other - that is precisely the idea that I reject)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
What I can tell you is this: a friendship, even a best friendship, is not quite the same after one of the friends finds love/gets married.

And if this would not happen; if both people involved in the best friendship kept it exactly the same afterwards, that would by extension say something (negative) about the way they approach their romantic relationship? (i.e. that it's not the best one they could have, otherwise it would be a higher priority and their friendship would become less important as a result?)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
And if this would not happen; if both people involved in the best friendship kept it exactly the same afterwards, that would by extension say something (negative) about the way they approach their romantic relationship? (i.e. that it's not the best one they could have, otherwise it would be a higher priority and their friendship would become less important as a result?)

Many times, yes. Mind you, you're asking a pretty general question so I have to give a pretty general answer.

This is, by the way, conventional wisdom about romance and friendship.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why did you replace purpose in the list, by the way?
Because a rational man's purpose is his productive work, or sustaining his life. And yes, I meant consumes no more than he produces. Of course there are a whole slew of virtues that are required for achieving these three main values, but it is a different matter to then say that one is not being reasonable by being non-monogamous, or that one is not being purposeful, or that one has no self esteem because one doesn't have a mirror. Edited by IAmMetaphysical

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello All,

A lot of the discussion from yesterday revolved around the question of whether or not psychological visibility is, in fact, a need. This is not an contentious issue in my eyes. Branden explained it better than I ever could, so I won't make the attempt here. Anyone who has a serious interest in romantic love psychology should read The Psychology of Self-Esteem. This book is a prerequisite for any more advanced discussion of these topics. It is the OPAR of psychology. I don't know how to recommend it further.

IAmMetaphysical wrote: "My point is that "qua man" does not mean "to the fullest possible extent a man can achieve values" it simply means the life of man committed to reason, who produces no more than he consumes, and regards himself as worthy of consuming his products."

I disagree. It is not an optional value judgment to live a mediocre life vs. an exceptional life. To live qua man does mean to flourish "to the fullest possible extent a man can achieve values." To the extent one does not live to the limit of his potential, he is in the process of dying, not living. One emphatically should live life qua John Galt. Rand did not present that character as a Form of the Good, floating around in an unattainable, fictional dimension. Galt is her ideal man and moral standard.

That said, most of my essays have to do with optimizing one's happiness in life. Having time to pursue romantic love assumes one is already fulfilling his basic needs for survival. For a normal, rational adult, monogamous romantic love is an attainable value. And one would not be living up to his potential qua man if he ignored such an important value.

--Dan Edge

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
It is not an optional value judgment to live a mediocre life vs. an exceptional life.

My point is not that it is ok to be "mediocre" only to point out that there is a base to living qua man and then there are a lot of optional values to be had from there. You are trying to say that if a man doesn't gain a certain value, then he isn't being a man, but a man is one who gains the three more general values which stem directly from his life. We can't separate value from life, and life here does mean physical survival, as it means existence and man can not exist without his body. The reason qua man is added and that it doesn't mean "survival at any price" is because man has a set nature determining how he is able to survive physically, which is by the use of his mind. You live qua man by using your mind to produce the values your body needs. Your mind also needs value or nourishment so in order to use it properly it does have certain psychological needs, such as self esteem. You gain self esteem by attainign values as such, by recognizing your ability to attain values, not by viewing another person and having sex with them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You gain self esteem by attainign values as such, by recognizing your ability to attain values, not by viewing another person and having sex with them.

Meta, i have noticed that you have not included art among man's needs (qua man). Do you believe man needs art? This is the question that will help you understand why a rational man does actually need romance and sex.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
You gain self esteem by attainign values as such, by recognizing your ability to attain values, not by viewing another person and having sex with them.

strawman.

Edited by ~Sophia~

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Dan,

Thank you for posting this, since this is a topic I have been struggling with recently as well.

If two lovers preserve sexual exclusivity, then their sex life becomes an even more intimate part of their private world. It is something shared with one individual, and no other. One automatizes the symbolic value that he places on sex, which adds even more to the emotional sum he experiences with his lover.

This was the main problem I saw with your argument and looking over the thread I think others have pointed it out too.

Essentially you are creating the feeling of additional value by limiting the market to one. Like if I enjoy my mustang and I refused to drive any other car for the rest of my life, I will obviously feel more value for my mustang (even though the value of it has not changed).

This is in line with the economic statement: "The value of a scarce resource is not in experiencing it but in possessing it."

Now sleeping with Dagny would be amazing, but refusing to sleep with both Dagny and Dominique does not make your relationship with Dagny more valuable. It still seems to me that sleeping with Dagny, Dominique, and Kira at the same time would be the way to go. The psychological condition of the female population right now makes it difficult to meet even one partner that will share your values, but in the Objectivist world of the future I wouldn't see any moral problem with being polyamorous (at least based on your argument).

I think there is actually a good moral argument for monogomy for partners that value rational children, and a child is only a value if he is rational. I certainly wouldn't want any kids of mine growing up outside of a two parent system.

Edited by badkarma556

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Jennifer, Inspector, and BadKarma,

Since I wrote this essay 6 years ago, I have always though that my defense of sexual exclusivity was the weakest part. You can see when reading that it's almost an afterthought, tacked on to the end. I do think there is a connection between the private world concept (also introduced in Psych of Self Esteem) and the value of maintaining sexual exclusivity, but I'm not entirely clear on it. More work to do!

Thanks for the feedback.

--Dan Edge

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.

×