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Don, I know what you're saying, and I share your fear of rationalism. However, I think you're making a mistake here yourself: not all judgments from principles are rationalistic. Just because I'm not starting with my sex urges as primaries and then trying to inductively decide what the general sort of action should be does not mean I am rationalizing my responses. I'm starting from a principle, that I've verified inductively - sex is the highest value. If that's true, then there's that whole deductive argument I've posted above.

As to your own view, that

"people can get many (legitimate) values from sex and enjoy sex on many different levels and in many different contexts"

I sympathize with that argument, believe it or not. I am not completely discounting your own view either. I have fears, however, that sex with people who are not up to one's standard (of the kind of person he imagined himself having sex with) is going to considerably damage that person's values, and his psychology.

For a drastic (and in your case, unrealistic) example, imagine yourself having a one night stand with some hot looking girl you met the day before. Later you find out she's a slut and completely impossible to respect, on any level. That will cause you some serious damage, that whole experience. Think about that. That's the kind of stuff I'm afraid of, when considering sex under less than perfect circumstances (see, I approach things inductively too).

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Just my thoughts on the subject as a whole, after reading the last couple pages of posts.

On the subject of a "perfect partner": My only worry with the use of this concept is that I've seen "perfect" misconstrued by so many Objectivists in romantic relationships. Especially when you're young, there is so much growth to be done. So if you're in your early 20's (for example), and are looking for a partner, looking for someone who's completely fully, integrated (and in your even remote age group) will probably only lead you to frustration. One should look for a partner that has the right sense of life, a strong attachment to reality, and who is growing (in addition to having optional values you find personally important). Remember, you're growing too. Perfect does not mean unchanging.

Yes, you should only have sex with someone you consider to have a brilliant soul, but realize that that brilliant soul is always growing (if this is a truely good, heroic, person). Saying to someone " I can't love you if you're not perfect or X Y Z" or whatever is damaging to a relationship, and ultimately to your ability to find a partner. Look for someone who complements you, encourages your growth, and whose growth you encourage.

I may be getting muddled down here. Betsy, what are your thoughts? I'd be interested to know.

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"Saying to someone "I can't love you if you're not perfect or X Y Z" or whatever is damaging to a relationship, and ultimately to your ability to find a partner."

I agree.

There's an aphorism that applies in this context: "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good."

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The most important thing to realize here is that there IS no perfect. We are not holding ourselves to some Platonic ideal - there are values, there is a heirarchy, and there is acceptable and not-acceptable, good and bad, better and worse - but no perfect.

Edited by erandror
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True, I agree completely with all of these subsequent posts. However, while that's true, and remembering what you guys said will help a person steer clear of rationalistic approach to relationships, there's also the other side, that Don expressed (and no, I don't want to drag you back into the argument Don :) ). What he said was that, for whatever highest standard you have at the moment, it should be fine to have sex with people who come considerably short of it, though are still respectable and not indecent or ignoble.

In addition to what was said here, it's important to remember the other side of the issue: at whatever stage in life you are now, you will have some high standard for a partner, and that you shouldn't give that up under any circumstances. There are different varieties (and qualities) of people who fit the high standard, some fit it better than others. But if you have intimate relations with a person whom you don't think very highly of, I think it will be an extremely damaging experience.

So, like in most things in life, it's a balance, a mean. Aristotle would like this conversation :)

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Yes, you should definately have standards. I don't know if I could even have an intimate relationship with someone I don't think very highly of. I just wouldn't be attracted to them. As far as a person being imperfect, or rather not totally up to standards, well, if the "imperfection" isn't that great, and the person is obviously growing, I could possibly see some kind of romantic relationship...However, as said previously, this is a hard thing to talk about since there are so many individual variables.

As for perfect, that's a hard thing. A friend of mine belongs to the HBL, and said they've had a convo about that. Something to the effect of the perfect being that which works in reality. I'll have to ask her about that, or maybe one of you know about it.

There's an aphorism that applies in this context: "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good."

That's great! Who originally said it? It really expresses the problem with being rationalistic about relationships.

Yay, Aristotle. He rocks hard core. :-D

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"There's an aphorism that applies in this context: "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good." That's great! Who originally said it?"

The first time I heard it, it was attributed to Ronald Reagan, but I have since heard it attributed to at least one person before his time. Can't remember who, though.

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On the subject of a "perfect partner": My only worry with the use of this concept is that I've seen "perfect" misconstrued by so many Objectivists in romantic relationships.

Sad to say, so have I. I occasionally try to introduce a love-starved guy to a woman I think might have romantic possibilities for him, and before he even sends her an e-mail, he brings out THE LIST. She has to be this, and this, and this, and this, and if I can't guarantee that she is, he isn't interested.

I have told more than one guy, "Throw out The List. Instead of focusing on what she should be, see what she IS. If you like her, fine. Get to know her better. If she's not perfect, that's OK too. She might be so darn good it doesn't really matter. Even if you're not romantically interested, she might make a good friend anyway, so get to know her and see what happens."

Afterwards they thank me.

One should look for a partner that has the right sense of life, a strong attachment to reality, and who is growing (in addition to having optional values you find personally important). Remember, you're growing too. Perfect does not mean unchanging.

How true. As you correctly state later, a "brilliant soul is always growing." As someone who has been married for 37 years, I can tell you that things can get pretty dull if you are not always finding NEW things about your partner that delight you and inspire your admiration.

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I just have to say, in response to the last few posts, I am thrilled to see so many people (and so many men, at that) in an Objectivist forum who are not only not completely rationalistic, but not rationalistic about romance. It's really a breath of fresh air for me! Thanks!

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This is a very long topic and I just joined in and saw that at the beginning, there are posts about whether or not a man should try to change a certain trait in a woman or vice versa. If you've finished discussing this, just ignore it, because I haven't had the time to read the whole topic.

In my oppinion, when entering a relationship, nobody should try to change anyone. On the other hand, I find it absurd that some people say that subjects at which the partners disagree should be avoided for the sake of enjoying the relationship. How much enjoyment can there be between people who don't know what the other thinks or feels? Only through conversation can one better know his partner, and if any topic is being purposely avoided, then there can be only tension between the partners. Imagine that the topic in question was sex itself. If a woman did not enjoy sex because of certain things a male does in bed, can their relationship really be enjoyable to her? If they avoid talking about sex, then no!

The same principle will apply to any topic. Not discussing and not learning about the differences of oppinion between partners can only lead to discomfort and probably the ruin of the relationship itself.

When I say discussing, however, I don't mean making an attempt to change the partner, but making an attempt to better know your partner. Say a woman is religious and attends mass and a man is an atheist. If a woman does not know her partner's exact thoughts on her going to the church, what can she possibly expect when she comes home or when she meets him again? She'll probably think he'll yell at her - and ESPECIALLY if the subject of their convictions is being constantly avoided. That is not a kind of relationship I'd like to have.

The best advice about this was given at the beginning of this thread - if you can't live with what you consider the bad traits of your (potential) partner then don't get involved with him. Move on. If you think of changing him or her to suit your wishes, your relationship is already ruined. You could have as well program a computer to give you whatever results you desire and it would've costed you much shorter time to do it. That is, in the end, what you expect of such a partner - to be "tabula rasa" before you came along and to be programmable to your commands.

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Guest Kien
The most important thing to realize here is that there IS no perfect. We are not holding ourselves to some Platonic ideal - there are values, there is a heirarchy, and there is acceptable and not-acceptable, good and bad, better and worse - but no perfect.

I agree that there is no Platonic perfection.

This may not relate to the topic at hand, but I'm interested in if there is"perfection" as an objective concept.

I see hints that there is, from OPAR Ch.8 for example:

"Hence the mystics' unfailing claim that, because of 'practicality' or 'earthly' or 'bodily' considerations, moral perfection is unattainabble. So it is, if 'perfection' is defined by intrinscicist dogmas." (Emphasis mine)

So I see a clue that "perfection" might be attainable as defined by Objectivism.

Further more, from The Letters of AR: The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged Years (1945-1959); in answering one of her fans:

"As to Roark, in relation to the kind of love for others which you described, it is the whole point of Roark and of my philosophy that he was not concerned with other men. Yes, his goal was perfection, but not the perfection of the world or of others; only the perfection of that which lay within his power--of himself and his work...(emphasis mine). Roark did better than to love men-- he respected them. He granted to each of them the same right which he did not let them infringe in him-- the right of an independent entity whose fate, life and perfection are in his own hands, not anyone else's and certainly not Roark's"

So, if "perfection" is an achievable goal (and here's my question) then What is "perfection" as defined by Objectivism, specifically as it relates to 1) a person and 2) his work?

Anyone?

Kien

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The most important thing to realize here is that there IS no perfect. We are not holding ourselves to some Platonic ideal - there are values, there is a heirarchy, and there is acceptable and not-acceptable, good and bad, better and worse - but no perfect.

I disagree. Perfection is not something that we just strive for, never to be reached. Nor is it something to be abandoned as an unachievable goal. Perfection is achievable for man. In fact, as Ayn Rand notes in The Objectivist Ethics (p. 29), the virtue of pride reflects the fact that nothing less than achieving moral perfection is required to earn the right to hold oneself as one's highest value. Perfection is not a Platonic ideal when held to standards that reflect achievable human goals and values.

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I'm interested in if there is "perfection" as an objective concept.

I see hints that there is, from OPAR Ch.8 for example:

"Hence the mystics' unfailing claim that, because of 'practicality' or 'earthly' or 'bodily' considerations, moral perfection is unattainabble. So it is, if 'perfection' is defined by intrinscicist dogmas." (Emphasis mine)

So I see a clue that "perfection" might be attainable as defined by Objectivism.

"Perfection" means absolute adherence or correspondence to a standard of value.

Perfection is possible, but it's a contextual issue.

If you take a 10-word spelling test, and you spell all ten words correctly, then you have executed the test flawlessly; perfectly.

If a person is declared to be in "perfect health," it means that every part of his body is working as it should. It does not mean that he is invincible to disease, or that he might not occassionally battle dandruff, and certainly not that he's automatically going to live forever without a single speck of effort. (It also doesn't mean that he can't raise his level of fitness still higher if he does put in the effort.)

If one claims that a thing is perfect -- or imperfect -- one needs to know the standard against which it's being evaluated. You cannot claim something is "imperfect" by reference to an irrational or impossible standard.

One often hears the charge of imperfection raised against the human mind: Because our minds aren't omniscient or infallible, our perception is "imperfect" and thus cannot be trusted. Such charges disregard the mind's specific identity, and hold it to a mystical standard.

In order to determine the standard of perfection for a given thing, one must look at its nature and its specific identity.

Ayn Rand defined moral perfection -- i.e., perfection as it applies to a human being -- as unbreached rationality. "Not the degree of your intelligence, but the full and relentless use of your mind, not the extent of your knowledge, but the acceptance of reason as an absolute." (Atlas Shrugged)

Is perfection of this kind possible? Not only possible, but necessary -- if life is one's standard of value.

What does all this have to do with the issue of finding the "perfect partner" in love?

People often hold irrational and impossible standards when it comes to potential dates and mates.

I too have known people with a "list" -- sometimes one which exists in hardcopy on their person at all times. Often, the list is so detailed that the odds of finding one person in an entire lifetime with all of the specific traits listed on it, back and front, would be like winning the lottery -- and let's not forget that this person also has to be available and interested in you!

I've heard many intelligent, single guys meet a woman, talk to her for two minutes, only to walk away and explain that they didn't ask her for her phone number because although they liked her just fine, they couldn't quite envision her as their "top value." And one should settle for nothing less, right?

(I don't know about you, but no one I'd known for a mere 120 seconds could possibly be my top value.)

For many people, "imperfection" is an avoidance mechanism. A kind of rationalization for inaction. Ultimately, it's not really about having standards, but expectations.

This is the issue of the Platonic ideal: If you decide in advance what are to be the traits and characteristics of your perfect mate, and then set out to find him or her, you are bound to be disappointed -- and you'll likely pass up a lot of great candidates along the way.

Back in my days of foolish youth, I too had my "list." I still do, only today it's highly essentialized; it deals only with fundamental character traits. In virtually every other area -- specific requirements for looks, personality, age, interests . . . well, let's just say I've enjoyed becoming much more open to persuasion in an awful lot of areas. :)

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The most important thing to realize here is that there IS no perfect. We are not holding ourselves to some Platonic ideal - there are values, there is a heirarchy, and there is acceptable and not-acceptable, good and bad, better and worse - but no perfect.

I also disagree with this. There is a standard of perfection--specifically, moral perfection--which can, and should, be applied to human action. Moral perfection does not mean that nobody ever makes mistakes. That kind of omniscience is what would be demanded by what Eran called the "Platonic ideal" conception of "perfection." But that conception sets up a false alternative that rules out honest error, which in no way detracts from a person's moral character.

If you acknowledge volition, I think you have to reach the conclusion that moral perfection is possible. If it is possible for a man to make a (morally) right decision in any particular case, then why wouldn't it be possible for him to do so in each (all) of them? The idea that "nobody's perfect," which has been reinforced by Christianity ("Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," etc.), ultimately implies some sort of determinism.

I liked the way Kelly put it in her post: the problem isn't looking for perfection in a romantic partner, but that "perfection" is misconstrued--usually taken out of context, or given a rationalistic meaning that is not derived from observation of reality (such as demanding omniscience).

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I liked the way Kelly put it in her post: the problem isn't looking for perfection in a romantic partner, but that "perfection" is misconstrued--usually taken out of context, or given a rationalistic meaning that is not derived from observation of reality (such as demanding omniscience).

If you demand omniscience in a partner, you sure as hell better not be cheating on him/her!

(Note to self: hell is a mythical place, and hence is not sure; remember to use a different phrase next time.)

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I'd like to add my $0.02 to the topic of perfection, the "list", and standards. I've known a number of people who had such high criteria for a partner that they were doomed to forever be alone. Why? Simply because anyone *that* good would not be interested.

If you're a morbidly obese, bald, and short man who has a monotone voice and passive-aggressive personality, Dagny won't be interested in you.

Context. Either work to improve yourself, or reset your irrationally high standard accordingly.

Which raises another point I like to make, especially regarding young people. I think a young man had better explore himself, know himself, and develop into what he wants to be before even getting into a serious relationship, much less having sex and trying to rationalize what is an appropriate standard. (I think it's the same for young women, but different in some ways, or maybe for different reasons.)

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But it should be re-emphasized after a page of saying that one's standards shouldn't be "too high," that none of this should be taken to mean that one shouldn't have very high standards in romance. (After all, isn't that what great romance is really all about?) Just not non-objective standards.

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I believe there is perfection in several areas, including moral perfection. However, in looking for a partner you are not merely looking for moral perfection - you are trying to meet a complex array of values, some more important than others.

A woman can meet your demands in all essential ways, but you don't have to hold her to a mystical ideal, or even a very specific personal ideal that includes the non-essentials (hair color, profession, etc.).

I think the word perfect needs to be defined very carefuly. What IS a perfect partner? Does it mean he never makes mistakes? Of course not. Does it mean he has perfect health, perfect looks, perfect job? I'd say not. So the word perfect in this case comes down to a list of virtues and characteristics that are necessary and some that are optional, and perfect will be a range.

However, the word perfect does not, as I understand it, mean a range of choices. It means the one. The one ideal... and that is a Platonic notion.

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I think a young man had better explore himself, know himself, and develop into what he wants to be before even getting into a serious relationship, much less having sex and trying to rationalize what is an appropriate standard.  (I think it's the same for young women, but different in some ways, or maybe for different reasons.)

So, do you think that Dagny at 15 and Francisco at 16 were wrong to get sexually involved?

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So, do you think that Dagny at 15 and Francisco at 16 were wrong to get sexually involved?

It is not clear to me why you ask this question, in this way.

My statement regarded young people who are foolish to chase after sex in lieue of proper romance prior to getting certain things straight--basic things like "who am I?" and "what do I value?"

Your question appears to be an attempt to offer me a (false) alternative: either state that I oppose something that Ayn Rand wrote, or else retract my statement.

It has been years since I last read Atlas Shrugged, and I do not recall the details of Dagny's and Francisco's earliest sexual encounter, even their ages at the time. I certainly did not say anything regarding their relationship, much less my judgement of it.

In your characterization, Betsy, is it correct to say that Francisco had not explored himself, did not know himself, and had not developed into what he wanted to be? In your opinion, was he chasing sex in lieue of proper romance for bogus reasons (e.g. peer pressure and attempting to fake self-esteem), and was he putting the cart before the horse?

If so, perhaps it is you who oppose Ayn Rand's ideas, eh?

If not, then please retract your question.

A question in a context such as this which begins with "So, do you think..." implies that you're describing what you believe I meant, or a logical application of a principle you believe I asserted. If this is not true, then your question is not appropriate.

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I think a young man had better explore himself, know himself, and develop into what he wants to be before even getting into a serious relationship, much less having sex and trying to rationalize what is an appropriate standard.  (I think it's the same for young women, but different in some ways, or maybe for different reasons.)

So, do you think that Dagny at 15 and Francisco at 16 were wrong to get sexually involved?

It is not clear to me why you ask this question, in this way.

My statement regarded young people who are foolish to chase after sex in lieue of proper romance prior to getting certain things straight--basic things like "who am I?" and "what do I value?"

Your question appears to be an attempt to offer me a (false) alternative: either state that I oppose something that Ayn Rand wrote, or else retract my statement.

I was asking you whether two very young teenagers, like Dagny and Francisco, are wrong to get sexually involved.

It has been years since I last read Atlas Shrugged, and I do not recall the details of Dagny's and Francisco's earliest sexual encounter, even their ages at the time.  I certainly did not say anything regarding their relationship, much less my judgement of it.
That's why I asked. Dagny was 15 and Francisco was 16.

In your characterization, Betsy, is it correct to say that Francisco had not explored himself, did not know himself, and had not developed into what he wanted to be?

Not yet. He had just finished his first year of college. Dagny was still in high school and working at an entry-level summer job.

In your opinion, was he chasing sex in lieue of proper romance for bogus reasons (e.g. peer pressure and attempting to fake self-esteem), and was he putting the cart before the horse?
Obviously not, so is it OK, in your opinion, for young teenagers to become sexually active IF they genuinely value their partner and are motivated by first-hand, honest, positive goals?

If so, perhaps it is you who oppose Ayn Rand's ideas, eh?

:P Where did THAT come from?

If not, then please retract your question.

A question in a context such as this which begins with "So, do you think..." implies that you're describing what you believe I meant, or a logical application of a principle you believe I asserted.  If this is not true, then your question is not appropriate.

It is quite appropriate to ask someone to clarify his own statements. You wrote something which could be taken as a condemnation of teenage sexual activity. Before I make any assumptions as to what you mean, I think the fair thing to do is ask you what you mean.

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Those interested in the meaning of the concept of "perfect" and its connection to philosophy would most likely greatly benefit by reading Harry Binswanger's essay "The Possible Dream", in The Objectivist Forum, Feb. and April 1981.

As a teaser, here is how HB defines the term:

"The actual meaning of 'perfection' is: flawlessly complete satisfaction of a standard of value." (Feb. '81, p.3)

Personally, I found this essay to be one of the more thought-provoking in the whole Objectivist body of literature -- and that's saying a lot.

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