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Self-Love as a Prime Mover

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SELF-LOVE AS A PRIME MOVER

or

WHY I ROOT FOR THE CAROLINA PANTHERS

I love my life. And I don't just mean life in general, but my life in particular. I love my name, the particulars of my body, my voice, I love the fact that I'm a man, my taste in music, my hometown, my local football team, pretty much everything that makes me distinctly who I am. I would not want to trade my face with anyone, even someone better looking than me. I love my consciousness, and my body's particular physical manifestation in reality.

All of these distinguishing characteristics are morally neutral. It is no more ethical to be male or female, to root for the Panthers or the Redskins, to have green eyes or brown eyes, to be from Greenville, SC or somewhere else. One may ask: On what basis can one value his particular distinguishing characteristics more highly than any other possible combination? There are no absolute standards of judgment in this morally optional realm. My simple answer: Self-love is a prime mover.

I don't need a reason to highly value the distinguishing characteristics that make me an individual. To value life is to value the particular manifestation of one's life in the world. One exists as a unity of mind and body, and one's body exists in a particular form. It is appropriate to highly value your distinguishing physical characteristics, for no other reason than that is who you are.

The experience of sexuality is an expression of this fundamental form of self-love. I love the fact that I am a man, and I would never in a million years want to be a woman. This is not because I think that men are morally superior to women. I love being a man because that is what I am. Man-ness is a central characteristic of my physical existence qua living being. My experience of masculinity is intimately tied up with my experience of living in reality. It is rational and appropriate for me to highly value the physical reality of my gender.

[sexuality and the experience of masculinity or femininity as an expression of self-love is a closely related issue, one which I will discuss at length in a future essay.]

I contend that one may choose to highly value other distinguishing aspects of his existence qua rational animal that are non-volitional, such as his birthplace. I love the fact that I am from Greenville, SC, and I would not want to be from anywhere else. I pull for southern sports teams, allow my southern drawl to manifest itself in my speech, and identify myself as a "redneck" or "southern gentleman" as a form of introduction. This does not mean that I withhold judgment on negative aspects of southern culture, I simply focus on the positive. The southern gentleman is educated, kind, polite, romantic, distinguished, witty, and intelligent. The redneck is hard-working, spontaneous, excitable, tough, and brutally violent when he needs to be. I take pride in identifying these positive aspects of my personality, and unifying them under a moniker that represents my place of birth.

[individualizing oneself though the unification of personality traits into easily perceptible "types" (like redneck) is one method of self-identification and expression. This, too, deserves its own essay at some point in the future.]

I get great pleasure out of rooting for the Carolina Panthers, and I will be a fan for the rest of my life. Anyone who has seen me hoot and hollar at the television on a Monday Night during the fall months can attest to my passion for the sport. I chose the Panthers because they are the closest NFL team to Greenville, SC (thought one could chose a favorite team for a myriad of other reasons). The point is that, though my choice of team is morally optional, I highly value the choice that I have made, and I need no other moral justification beyond my love of self.

This short essay represents a brainstorm of issues I have been thinking about for some time, especially as it relates to Mind-Body integration and sexuality. I welcome any comments that would help me clarify these issues.

--Dan Edge

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While reading this post I was thinking and it lead me to the conclusion that maybe my name (Kane David Bunce) wasn't so bad after all. Furthermore, I agree with your love statements. I love being called a "Kiwi" (a nickname for New Zealanders) because of the good aspects of New Zealand culture. We tend to be polite, respectful, hard working, and inventive.

However, when it comes to national sports teams I tend to support the best, so with the rugby Air New Zealand Cup I tend to support Canterbury rather than my regional side, Auckland. Of course in international competitions I support the New Zealand team.

Edited by DragonMaci

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I liked some of this, it was well worded and interesting..however I have a few things to point out:

"It is appropriate to highly value your distinguishing physical characteristics, for no other reason than that is who you are."

This seems a rather poor "reason' to value any given aspect of yourself. Under this claim, if I am born with no hands I should value the fact my arms end in stumps, just because that is part of who I am. Or I should value being fat and unhealthy, because it is part of who I am. This seems a lot like equating the exisence of an attribule/quality with having a reason to value it, but you cannot ratioanally value something just because it is exists. A value is that which you fight to keep/preserve. What rational reason would you fight to preserve having no hands or staying fat? A rational value is that which one would fight to keep, and which furthers ones life, not anything you "choose" to value.

If you choose to value something because it IS you are saying that it does not matter about its nature, that judgement is irrelevant, removing any ability for you to make proper judgements about that thing. keep this up, and your ability to form values is at jeopardy...;

Why should you value the Panthers merely due to geographical promixity, as you imply? Whatg reason is that to value something? What makes them better than say a team in some other state? Come on......

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I agree with Prometheus here...

Your method of building self-esteem seems flawed from the way you describe it.

Basically the principle Prometheus identified is that evaluation of everything, including oneself, has to be done by a rational standard (one that leads to a successful life in reality).

It seems to me, from what you are describing, that you get a lot of pleasure from certain things in your life (like enjoying the place where you live). You enjoy it a lot, and don't want to trade it for any other place. Having this enjoyment is a great experience, but hardly a feedback for self-esteem/self love.

Maybe what you're taking pride in, is your ability to derive pleasure from the word, which would be a valid reason.

As for loving one's gender's characteristics: Again, a distinction has to be made between deriving pleasure from living according to one's nature (i.e. loving one's nature because of the pleasure it brings), and integrating one's fundamental, non-volitional nature into one's pride (being proud because of it).

From looking at myself, I wouldn't say that I am proud for being a woman, or that I love myself because I am a woman. It would be silly like saying "I am proud because I have legs".

On the other hand: I love my unique way of experiencing certain emotions that are the way they are because I am a woman, and I find the concept of femininity very appealing, because I can relate to it easily: I suspect that since, for me, femininity is tied to traits like rationality, capacity for joy and other good things, that I somehow integrated those into a concept of "an ideal woman", and this concept projects onto women that exhibit some femininity, ending in an increased aesthetic evaluation of them compared to my aesthetic evaluation of men.

There is a lot to add to this, but I will need to give it more thought.

Essentially, the issue here seems to be different kinds of love - "love/pride" vrs. "love/enjoyment" (enjoying one's life and nature).

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...

A value is that which you fight to keep/preserve. What rational reason would you fight to preserve having no hands or staying fat? A rational value is that which one would fight to keep, and which furthers ones life, not anything you "choose" to value.

If you choose to value something because it IS you are saying that it does not matter about its nature, that judgement is irrelevant, removing any ability for you to make proper judgements about that thing. keep this up, and your ability to form values is at jeopardy...;

Why should you value the Panthers merely due to geographical promixity, as you imply? Whatg reason is that to value something? What makes them better than say a team in some other state? Come on......

Thanks for your response.

The ideas presented in this essay are meant to apply to normal, rational adults. One should not approach philosophy or theoretical psychology from the perspective of fat, unhealthy, handless people. I claim that it is appropriate for one to value his own optional value judgments, assuming that he has chosen among valid rational alternatives. I claim that it is appropriate for one to value the physical manifestation of his "self" in reality (his body), assuming that he is a normal, non-disfigured adult. These are generalizations induced from experience, not commandments or axioms.

What makes the Panthers (objectively) better than any other team in any other state? Nothing at all. That’s my point. There is no universal reason why everyone should root for the Panthers as opposed to any other team. Yet, I act to gain and keep the value that is the Panthers. I root for them to win, pay real money to watch their games, and feel elated when they succeed. Is this irrational whim on my part, or is there a valid reason why I take such selfish pleasure in seeing my team win? Is it irrational whim for me to chose a team due to geographical proximity, or is this a valid choice within the realm of the morally optional? Obviously, I choose the latter answer to both questions. I experience this phenomenon within myself that is shared by many other (rational) sports fanatics. This essay is an attempt to explain the phenomenon in psychological terms.

--Dan Edge

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I agree with Prometheus here...

Your method of building self-esteem seems flawed from the way you describe it.

Basically the principle Prometheus identified is that evaluation of everything, including oneself, has to be done by a rational standard (one that leads to a successful life in reality).

Hi Ifat,

I am not suggesting a method of building self-esteem. Good self-esteem is a prerequisite for valuing specific aspects of self. I am suggesting a way to optimize one's view of self by identifying and integrating individuating aspects of self. By individuating aspects, I mean aspects that are unique to you like your body and optional value judgments.

You're right that my terminology is not exact. It's not accurate for me to say "I am proud of being a man," but I would say "I am proud of the particular man I am." The "I" in that sentence, and "the particular man I am", are statements that represent more than just my philosophical principles and objectively rational judgment. The refer to the totality that is my self. I value my self as a whole, including all of the individuating characteristics, and including those that are morally optional.

This is a weighty subject, and there's a lot more to ponder as you say. I'd be happy to hear more of your thoughts. That goes for everyone else, too!

--Dan Edge

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Love is an emotion. Emotions are automatic responses. Emotions are not primaries, they are a result of the values you hold. Self-love is not a "prime-mover", it is not axiomatic, you certainly do need a reason to love yourself, and each of your characteristics, if you want real self esteem.

The clearest symptom by which one can recognize this type of person, is his total inability to judge himself, his actions, or his work by any sort of standard. The normal pattern of self-appraisal requires a reference to some abstract value or virtue -- e.g., "I am good because I am rational," "I am good because I am honest," even the second-hander's notion of "I am good because people like me." Regardless of whether the value-standards involved are true or false, these examples imply the recognition of an essential moral principle: that one's own value has to be earned.

The amoralist's implicit patter of self-appraisal (which he seldom identifies or admits) is: "I am good because it's me.".

Beyond the age of about three to five (i.e., beyond the perceptual level of mental development), this is not an expression of pride or self-esteem, but of the opposite: of a vacuum -- of a stagnant, arrested mentality confessing its impotence to achieve any personal value or virtue.

(from Selfishness Without a Self)

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Peter,

See my response to Ifat above. I am not suggesting a method of building self-esteem. If you truly think that I'm offering self-love as an metaphysical axiom, then you did not understand the essay.

--Dan Edge

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It is possible that I misunderstood you. For clarity, when you say "I love X about me" - where X is something that is not a moral virtue and is not something you have connected with furhtering your life - what value exactly are you responding to? Is your argument "I love every little detail about me because they make me different from other people"?

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Is your argument "I love every little detail about me because they make me different from other people"?

I would essentially agree with this statement, if considered from a certain perspective. As I wrote in the essay, one exists as an individual in reality, and the psychological experience of one's own individuality is pleasurable. Choosing to focus on and integrate individuating elements of one's body or personality can optimize this pleasure. That's why I take pleasure in identifying myself as a "redneck," because it is an easily perceptible type that unifies many different individuating aspects of my "self" into one unit.

It's very difficult to explain!

As with other complex and abstract topics, it can be a mistake to take a deductive approach to this. What I'm doing here is trying to integrate a series of related phenomena that I have encountered through life experience and introspection. Why do I take such pleasure in being male? Why do I take such pleasure in being a southern gentleman? Why is it that I love my fiancee's smile more than any other smile on the planet? The pleasure I get from experiencing my self as an integrated individual is a non-contradictory joy. If there is an irrational element to this joy, then I do not see it. There's got to be something more here, particularly with regards to sexuality. Why is it, exactly, that I love being a man so much? I experience masculinity as a value, and I act to express this attribute. I get great pleasure from it. Yet, it is no more objectively valuable to be man or a woman. So why is it so important to me to experience myself as a man?

These are the questions that keep me up at night. :) This essay is a stab at a possible solution.

--Dan Edge

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All I can say is that "loving" something detached from actual objective values can't be right, and "because it's me" is no real justification. I do see the value in recognizing one's individuality - no doubt about it. That is why I asked the question above.

On the other hand, you could make yourself incredibly distinct by tatooing your name across your forehead - but I doubt any rational person would choose to. Conversely, having a huge mole on your chin might make you incredibly distinct - but many people would remove it, given a chance. So there are value judgments involved and that is what I think you should introspect about.

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I thought of another way of looking at this issue while I was in the shower this morning. Perhaps I will formalize it some day, and name it the Shower Principle. ;)

Mrocktor has characterized my view as "'loving' something detached from actual objective values." I disagree with this characterization.

-----------------

Man's life is the standard of value. When one says he "values" a thing, he means that he will act to gain and preserve that thing for the benefit of his life. I propose a thought experiment: let us analyze some broad, over-arching values that an individual man has, and then break them down into more individualized parts. Then I will question whether he is justified in loving the parts. In this way I will further anchor the concept of self-love and individuation to objective values.

Take the example of a normal, rational man who, in good Objectivist fashion, values his life. He values his particular life, here on earth. This does not imply that every aspect of his life is positive. He abstracts away the negative elements and focuses on the positive values in life. One could say that he values his life in general.

Assuming the man is a generally good person, one could say that he values his self (his self being the sum of his physical and mental existence). He acts to preserve his mind and body, because both are necessary for his life. He values these elements of self in general. This does not imply that every particular aspect of his mind and body are positive. He may have a congenital heart defect, or some leftover psychological problems from his childhood, or maybe he has not fully integrated some aspects of his philosophy into his life. But in general he is a good person, with a good mind, and a good body. He focuses on the positive elements of his particular mind and his particular body, and he values these elements of his self in general.

Now, let us break it down further. The man values his body, as a general rule. He values his particular body, because of course it is his particular body that supports his life. Now let's suppose the man is a painter. He loves using his hands to create beauty on canvas. The man could rationally claim that he values a particular aspect of his body: his hands. This does not imply that every aspect of his hands are perfect. Maybe he has some scarring on his fingers from a bloody fight in his past. Maybe he is starting to develop arthritis, and has to take Advil to dull the pain sometimes. But he abstracts away these negative elements, and focuses on the positive. He values his hand in general. And he values his hands in particular.

This man loves his hands (love being the emotional response to values). He likes to look at them and watch himself using them as a creative force. He has chosen to focus on this particular value because of the way he views its integration with other positive elements of his life, like his painting. He understands the curves, strengths, and capabilities of his hands to a far greater degree than most people. Though his hands have scarring and occasional pain, he values his own hands much more highly than anyone else's. This man loves his particular hands, despite their accidental flaws.

Let us suppose that this man is not a philosopher or a psychologist, and (like a true ignoramous) he has not read my "Mind-Body Integration" paper. A skeptic may challenge him, asking, "Why do you love your hands so much? They are scarred and you have arthritis. You freely admit that other people have hands that are objectively superior to yours. Yet you claim to love your hands more than anyone else's. Why is that?"

The man answers, "Because these are my hands. I love them because they're mine."

To which the skeptic replies, "You need to introspect further. Just because they are your hands does not justify your love for them. As Ayn Rand said, ‘The amoralist's implicit patter of self-appraisal (which he seldom identifies or admits) is: “I am good because it's me.”’ You’re not an amoralist, are you?”

The man says, “No, I am a painter, not a philosopher. There are many different aspects of my self that I love, that bring me a non-contradictory form of joy, but I do not question them. I have not integrated these introspections into a general theory that justifies the value of focusing on particular, individuating aspects of self. If I were going to form such a theory, then I would note some instances of this ‘individuating’ form of self-love, and write an essay attempting to integrate these phenomena. Perhaps I would call it ‘Self-Love as a Prime Mover,’ because I would have first identified the theory by noting my love for individual aspects of self. On the surface it would have seemed that I needed no further justification for my love of self than the fact that I love life, and I experience life as a particular self. As it would turn out, this is true, and I don’t need any further justification; but it takes a mass of integrations to fully understand why this is so. But I am a painter, not a philosopher. All I can tell you is that I value these hands because they are mine.”

--Dan Edge

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Dan,

I'm happy to see that you get it, though perhaps only implicitly in some ways. Your painter has every reason to love his hands (you connected them beautifully to his life affirmation). That does not mean he loves his scars, or the arthitis though (except as a part of the unit "hands", that is).

In other words, if he had a way to do away with those disvalues he would probably choose to. How would you morally evaluate him if, given a way to remove all his scarring, he refused - because that would make his hands "less distinct"? (and lets assume, just to make it a clean example, that the scars do not come from some memorable event and that they don't compromise his ability to paint at all).

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