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Dan,

I was wondering if you've listened to Dr. Peikoff's Love, Sex, and Romance lecture, where he makes basically the same argument?

Hi Inspector,

Yes, I've actually listened to that lecture in the past few months. I don't recall hearing an argument similar to mine, but he discusses a lot of topics, so maybe it just didn't stand out to me at the time. If you recall, listening to Peikoff's tape inspired the "Demoting" a Relationship Article from last year.

--Dan Edge

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Dan,

I wondered if you have or would make an exception for a person of the opposite sex for whom you felt no attraction or in which there was little to no possibility of a romance; due to vast age differences or their homosexuality, for example.

Howdy,

Yes, there are contexts in which my "Opposite Sex Friendships Rule of Thumb" would not apply. For instance, I am becoming very close to Kelly's parents, and I often hang out with her mother Lynn while Kelly and her Dad are out doing something together. Clearly, I am not concerned with developing a romantic attachment in that case.

As for vast age differences generally, I would think that it would make a significant difference, but I've never had a close friendship with a non-family member who was a lot older than me.

And yes, I have had lesbian friends in the past who I was comfortable getting close to because I knew the sex-thing would never be a factor. As I wrote in the article, the generalizations I present are rules of thumb that need to be properly contextualized in different situations.

Thanks!

--Dan Edge

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Dan's argument has a lot of merit, and I do think it translates well into cases of homosexuality. For instance, I'm gay and I feel just as unsure about having very close friendships with (straight) men as any straight woman here might. Obviously, it's not myself I have to worry about. My experience has been that due to my feminine appearance, most (straight) men either deep down don't believe my sexual orientation or see it as some sort of challenge. Even though the friendship is never going to go any further, the "masculine / feminine" energy is still there, and the fact that it would always remain "unresolved" would be a continual source of tension in the friendship. I feel the same away around lesbians that are exceedingly butch, and with lesbians that are already in relationships. While I have friends of both genders and orientations, my closest friends are straight women.

Edited by Tabitha
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I see that perspective, but Todd also said that during his marriage he has never had a close friendship with another woman he was attracted to. He has had several close male friends during that time. Which begs the question: why is it that all of his close friends over the years have been men? Why haven't any of them been women?

It could be a coincidence, or perhaps he was subconsciously adopting the same policy that you have consciously declared. In the latter case, it is useful to identify it consciously and decide whether he really wants to pursue it.

To be honest, I don't even see how such a policy could be implemented in practice. Suppose that my wife's best friend is an attractive lady whom I really like. Does that mean I deliberately have to avoid her company? When my wife is with her, should I always excuse myself and go to another room? And when my wife asks me why I always seem to avoid her, what do I tell her? "Aw, well, honey, there's nothing wrong with Jennie, it's just that ... um ... she's so hot, you know, and if I keep seeing her I'm not sure how long I can remain faithful to you..." ? Frankly, if I were a woman, this is not the kind of thing I'd like to hear my husband say!

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I don't recall hearing an argument similar to mine, but he discusses a lot of topics, so maybe it just didn't stand out to me at the time.

Oh, my, yes. He actually answers this exact question and in very much the same way you do. I'm sure you'd be amused at another listen, as you are very much on the same page.

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That doesn't justify missing out in a fullfilling and rewarding relationship: as I said in part one, you shouldn't not have a relationshop based on something that might happen.

I'm going to agree with DragonMaci here. This sort of trading potentiality for actuality is, as far as I understand, something frowned upon by objectivist ethics. The following comes from a piece about abortion, but I think it applies here:

"To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable …"[1]

You are trading the actual benefits of a close friend that brings your life value(A value you seem to argue exists explicitly in the women you describe, but whom you avoid because of your stated reasoning), with the potentiality, romantic ruin in your current relationship, a potentiality that can be avoided through rational thought.

You also seem to argue that man is not rational animal, that you could not, despite your best efforts, make the correct decision, that is, not to act in a way that is destructive to a more valuable relationship in a less valuable one.

I'm also confused about your term soulmate.

Rand argues that their is, ultimately, one person who is the best possible value to you, and you to her. But you imply that their is more than one 'soulmate' for any given person, which would imply a divergence from the Randian ideal. How can a person have more than one ideal match?

---

[1] "A Last Survey," The Ayn Rand Letter, IV, 2, 3.

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I'm going to agree with DragonMaci here. This sort of trading potentiality for actuality is, as far as I understand, something frowned upon by objectivist ethics. The following comes from a piece about abortion, but I think it applies here:

"To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable …"[1]

You are trading the actual benefits of a close friend that brings your life value(A value you seem to argue exists explicitly in the women you describe, but whom you avoid because of your stated reasoning), with the potentiality, romantic ruin in your current relationship, a potentiality that can be avoided through rational thought.

You also seem to argue that man is not rational animal, that you could not, despite your best efforts, make the correct decision, that is, not to act in a way that is destructive to a more valuable relationship in a less valuable one.

That's a very convincing line of reasoning.

The only counter that occurs to me, is that rational is the defining, but not only characteristic of man. He is also an emotional animal and develops emotional responses largely through a process of habituation. So to create the habit of shared positive experiences with someone who has the potential to be a romantic partner, is a sharp toy to play with. As those experiences grow in number and intensity, so too will the feelings of affection toward the "platonic" friend. So being that man qua man is also a creature of self-made soul(in addition to being rational and emotional), creating circumstances or habits that will alter you in such a way as to cause a detriment to your most valued relationship is something we avoid. So not so much fear that we won't be able to do the correct thing, but rather the realization that the "correct thing" can be changed by altering our values.

I liken this to pornography in this respect. It would be easy to justify the fantasy of many naked women as a convenient backup for when your partner is unavailable, but there is some evidence that continued exposure to it can cause a desensitization to the actual act. I do not recall the specifics of the study, but I think the endorphin release of men seeing one naked woman after another, creates a response unrepeatable in a normal sexual act.

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Hello Dr. Radiaki,

Thanks for taking the time to offer feedback. My comments on your post follow.

"To equate a potential with an actual, is vicious; to advocate the sacrifice of the latter to the former, is unspeakable …"[1]

You are trading the actual benefits of a close friend that brings your life value(A value you seem to argue exists explicitly in the women you describe, but whom you avoid because of your stated reasoning), with the potentiality, romantic ruin in your current relationship, a potentiality that can be avoided through rational thought.

I believe you are misapplying the principal you raised. My long-term romantic relationship is clearly an "actual" value. A potential friendship with another woman is a "potential" value. My article argues that, if I pursue the potential value of an intimate opposite-sex friendship, it could damage the actual value that is my primary love relationship. You could counter-argue that pursuing an opposite-sex friendship would not in fact affect my love relationship. But the principle you raised does not disprove my argument -- it supports it.

You also seem to argue that man is not rational animal, that you could not, despite your best efforts, make the correct decision, that is, not to act in a way that is destructive to a more valuable relationship in a less valuable one.

I think I see how one could draw this implication from my argument, but I disagree. Aequalsa pointed at a flaw in your terminology, and I will expand on that. Man is a rational animal, meaning reason is his essential characteristic. But this does not mean that his rational faculty can trump every other aspect of his nature. A man with a broken arm cannot just decide that his arm is healed. He must take into account his body's nature, part of which is that the arm must take weeks to heal. And even then, his arm will only heal properly if he takes certain actions like wearing a cast, being careful not to stress the arm, etc.

Man's consciousness also has a nature, and one cannot just decide to go against it. For instance, emotions are not under one's direct volitional control. One cannot decide which emotional reactions he will have in any given situation. Emotions are responses to automatized value-judgments, and in that respect they are partially, indirectly volitional. But one cannot choose which of his judgments an emotion will respond to. His subconscious makes its own lightning evaluation based on the sum of automatized judgments stored in his mind, and responds accordingly.

For instance, if one is afraid of heights, he cannot just turn that emotion off the first time he is at the top of a rappelling tower. He may learn to ignore his fear, set it aside, or even use it positively for adrenaline, but if one knows he is afraid of heights, he would be a fool not to acknowledge this fact before he climbs up the rappelling tower.

Consider another example: Why would a former alcoholic avoid hanging out in bars? Assuming that he has friends who hang out in bars, that it is a significant part of his social life, he would be "sacrificing" some of his values if he decided not to go any more. If he has decided that he will never drink again, then he has nothing to worry about, right? But he acknowledges that, even though his reason has renounced alcohol use, his emotions may not yet follow suit. While he can overcome his desire to drink through force of will, this can be difficult and uncomfortable. He chooses instead not to put himself in that position. He avoids the bars, and the temptation, altogether.

The case of an opposite-sex friendship is more complex, because an intimate friendship is a potential value (unlike getting drunk). But the same generalization applies: one must acknowledge the nature of his subconscious and how it will react in certain situations.

It is not as though one can simply decide, "I will love Kelly, now and for always," and then one's subconscious will automatically follow suit. Love is the response to a countless number of automatized judgments about another person, all rolled into one emotion. It is one's subconscious, not his volition, that is directly responsible for this emotional response. So what, precisely, is the subconscious responding to? It responds to the values one sees in another person: her intelligence, her body, her sense of humor, her charm, and other things. One's emotional response to a person can become more pronounced over time -- with repeated exposure to the concrete values present in the person. His subconscious also takes his conscious decisions into account in its lighting evaluation of a woman. But one's conscious decisions are not the only factor taken into account. You can't just decide not to respond to the other evaluations.

You can't tell your subconscious, in effect, "I realize that Kate is attractive, funny, intelligent, and compatible with me in a variety of ways. And I realize that I have concretized her value by spending a lot of time with her. But I have decided that Kelly is my life-long love, so I do not want you to respond with any romantic feelings for Kate. You are only allowed to respond with platonic feelings for Kate." The subconscious will not process this sort of command.

While you may not realize it, Dr. Radiaki, this is exactly what you imply by insisting that my article defies man qua rational animal -- that one can give his subconscious explicit instructions about which automatized value-judgments it is allowed to take into consideration. In other words, that one's emotions are under his direct volitional control. But this conclusion ignores the nature of man's consciousness.

I'm also confused about your term soulmate.

Rand argues that their is, ultimately, one person who is the best possible value to you, and you to her. But you imply that their is more than one 'soulmate' for any given person, which would imply a divergence from the Randian ideal. How can a person have more than one ideal match?

Do you have a reference for Rand on this topic? I don't recall Rand taking this position on soulmates. In any case, if she does take the position you ascribe to her, then she was wrong. Saying that there is only one person who is the best possible value to you is like saying there is only one greatest book, only one greatest movie, only one greatest work of art.

What does it even mean in this context to claim that someone is the "best possible value to you"? If you mean that it's the "best possible" because you only meet a limited number of people in life, and that you only have a limited amount of time to spend seeking and nurturing romantic love, and that you try to find the best woman you can to spend the rest of your life with -- then OK, that makes some sense. But that is not the implication of your statement. The implication is that there is only one woman in the universe who is perfect for me, the Ideal Form of Dan's Perfect Woman, and that is the person I must find if I am to have the Perfect Ideal Romantic Relationship. But this is a Platonic, rationalistic view.

I am planning to write an article in the near future on "soulmates," in which I will offer a rational definition of the term. I'm still working it out though, so until then...

Thanks,

--Dan Edge

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DragonMagi,

For some reason, your posts on this topic did not show up on my screen until recently. In any case, I appreciate your criticisms. I dealt with many of your criticisms in the article, and in my other responses on this forum, so I will let it stand at that.

--Dan Edge

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think there is something fundamentally wrong with this article (by Dan).

I would sum up the advice the article gives as:

"Don't develop a level of intimacy in relationships with the sex of your interest beyond a level that might endanger you to fall in love with them, which would endanger your chosen monogamous relationship"

The weird thing is that the actions are taken as the primary here. As if controlling one's emotions through controlling one's actions is a way to maintain a value. This is weird, because emotions are suppose to be in sync with one's values (ideally). If you are in a state when you need to control or suppress or prevent some emotion to maintain a value - I would say there is something weird going on... some sort of internal-contradiction between chosen values and actual values, or something of this sort.

The only way such a rule/principle (see quotes) would be needed is if one wants such level of intimacy (with an opposite-sex friend) in the first place. Otherwise, if one doesn't want it, there is no reason to consider whether or not to choose such an option.

If one finds his/her current relationship the most exciting way to share a certain value, then there would not be a desire to develop intimacy with someone else to share that value in the first place, and then the question at hand would not be raised at all.

So two options here: either one wants to develop intimacy with the "friend" because that is a more exciting way to share one's values, because that person is a better match (in which case - why stay with the current relationship - pursue the person which is more compatible for you, which brings you more happiness), or, second option - one has problems with the current relationship, which reduces the fun that could be gotten from sharing one's values. But even in this case, the option of getting the full possible excitement from the current (best-match) relationship is still a higher value than to get some of such excitement with a "friend" (OK match, but not the best), so emotions would be such that one prefers (emotionally) to invest time correcting the problem than to share one's values with the friend - and there would not be a desire to develop intimacy with the "friend", because it would mean choosing a long-term lesser value over a long-term higher value (the value being satisfaction and excitement from sharing one's values with someone).

So in conclusion, I don't see any case in which it is a good idea to follow a formula of "don't develop high intimacy in opposite-sex friends, even if you want it."

Instead, I would suggest to consider why one wants it, and to decide if it is a sacrifice or not.

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Who wants to be friends with women, I associate women with corsets, ropes and shouting. Why bother girls are boring.
:pimp::) Really, Binni, I can't think of any way within the context of this thread that your post makes sense. I think you will have to link it to someone's point, or some general direction of the thread, for your humor to take off.
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Who wants to be friends with women, I associate women with corsets, ropes and shouting. Why bother girls are boring.

Corsets, ropes, and shouting? What, do you only run into women at BDSM parties or something???

I have to agree though, a lot of women have incredibly boring interests.

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Dan,

I'm struggling with some of the points you've made in this article and subsequent comments. First of all, I have developed close friendships with men without any emotions that would threaten a current relationship. While there may be a sexual attraction at first, I realize that this attraction is based on his similarities to the man I love. It is not hard to avoid acting on that attraction, and it usually doesn't take long to identify the differences between my friend and my boyfriend, and soon my emotions and body respond accordingly. Perhaps, though, the close friendships I have are not what you mean by 'close', and there's a deeper type of friendship I have yet to experience in which this technique wouldn't work.

Secondly, you say you have no trouble being friends with lesbians - I don't understand this, if it is your reaction to the woman that might cause trouble, and not her reaction to you. She may not see you as a sexual object, but this does not prevent your emotions from reacting as if she could be. If the knowledge that she would not reciprocate is enough to quell the emotions you're so worried about, would that not also be the case for a rational, straight woman who realizes that you would choose Kelly over her if there was a conflict, ending your friendship with her? I should think this would especially apply to a woman who is also in a relationship.

Also, I just find it very difficult to find women I can be close to. The last close female friend I had was in grade school, and we drifted apart in high school as I came to value intelligence more and more, while she turned towards emotion. I can't think of any women I know whom I could befriend. Perhaps my close friend's fiance, but I'm finding it hard to get close to her. The idea of a life without new close friendships seems very... lonely, even with my man by my side.

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I would say there is something weird going on... some sort of internal-contradiction between chosen values and actual values

Excellent post Ifat!

This internal contradiction has bothered me for a long time (before this thread even) but I never put my finger on it as well as you did.

Fundamentally, if you have a clear, objective, rational set of values you emotions should "fall in line" effortlessly. The simple fact that you have to "program" your emotions indicates that there is a contradiction between explicit and implicit valuations. It is effortless to not murder people. It is effortless to not steal. It should be effortless to not fall in love with another person if that were truly a disvalue.

This is at the root of the provocation I made in my first reply to Dan's article. An integrated individual need not fear that his emotions will contradict his values. I also think that it is more honest to deal with the emotions and their causes than to cut yourself off from a huge part of life to avoid finding out something about yourself that may contradict your explicit values (oh no, maybe my wife/husband/partner is not "enough" for me? Is he/she "not good enough"? Am I a terrible person? etc).

Edited by mrocktor
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This is weird, because emotions are suppose to be in sync with one's values (ideally). If you are in a state when you need to control or suppress or prevent some emotion to maintain a value - I would say there is something weird going on... some sort of internal-contradiction between chosen values and actual values, or something of this sort.

The only way such a rule/principle (see quotes) would be needed is if one wants such level of intimacy (with an opposite-sex friend) in the first place. Otherwise, if one doesn't want it, there is no reason to consider whether or not to choose such an option.

Emotions are not under our direct volitional control. Conscious vs. subconscious integration for someone who was not raised in a fully rational family and society (which is most of us) is a process.

One way of controlling your emotions IS exactly through the control of your actions. The more you invest into something the more you will value it. That maybe a job, hobby, or a person. It also works the other way arround - you don't want certain feelings - don't invest in them.

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I think another implicit assumption for those people here who balk at this concept is that you're single people who are picturing your single life. Married life is different. You generally spend your spare time with your spouse. At least, with the kind of deep, loving relationship that Dan's argument assumes. All of your friendships will change and can't have the same level of time commitment.

You guys keep framing it as some kind of massive sacrifice, but I think that's at least partly due to thinking within the context of your, single, life.

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One way of controlling your emotions IS exactly through the control of your actions. The more you invest into something the more you will value it. That maybe a job, hobby, or a person. It also works the other way arround - you don't want certain feelings - don't invest in them.

Right! For a fairly easy test of this fact, climb a difficult mountain say a 14er(thats over 14,000 for all of the unfortunate people not familiar with the rocky mountains :lol: ) Enjoy the view. Then on another day drive to the top of a similar sized mountain with a road to the top and try to compare the sensation. The value of the view is strongly tied to the effort invested. Emotions are not primary. The automatic reaction is created by a process of association.

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I think another implicit assumption for those people here who balk at this concept is that you're single people who are picturing your single life. Married life is different. You generally spend your spare time with your spouse. At least, with the kind of deep, loving relationship that Dan's argument assumes. All of your friendships will change and can't have the same level of time commitment.

That's a good point, although one should note that the amount of time spent together is not the only way to measure the intensity of a friendship. For example, I haven't seen my two best friends (one a man, the other a lady) since December, but they still are my two best friends, even though I have seen many other folks I'm on good terms with several times since then. And if it were to continue like this for years, I would still say very unequivocally that those two are my best friends, even though I hardly ever see them--because it is them that I esteem the most.

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Excellent post Ifat!

This internal contradiction has bothered me for a long time (before this thread even) but I never put my finger on it as well as you did.

Fundamentally, if you have a clear, objective, rational set of values you emotions should "fall in line" effortlessly. The simple fact that you have to "program" your emotions indicates that there is a contradiction between explicit and implicit valuations. It is effortless to not murder people. It is effortless to not steal. It should be effortless to not fall in love with another person if that were truly a disvalue.

Thanks. Your examples make the idea even clearer.

Emotions are not under our direct volitional control. Conscious vs. subconscious integration for someone who was not raised in a fully rational family and society (which is most of us) is a process.

Right. Like mrocktor said: " if you have a clear, objective, rational set of values you emotions should "fall in line" effortlessly". So first of all, do you agree that Dan's essay can only be used to give advice to those whose emotions are NOT in line with their set of values, and not to those whose emotions are in line?

One way of controlling your emotions IS exactly through the control of your actions. The more you invest into something the more you will value it.

I disagree. My own experience shows that the more I do something unpleasant - the more I hate it. No amount of time spent into it can make me love it. Investing time into something can bring me pleasure if I like that thing - and more pleasure the more time I invest - but it does not make me love it more.

That maybe a job, hobby, or a person. It also works the other way around - you don't want certain feelings - don't invest in them.

I don't think this is a good approach. It's like treating a disease by reducing its symptoms (instead of curing it).

Emotions are indicatives of who we are, our values and ideas. Just by controlling your actions and therefore reducing the amount of emotions you feel - you will not change who you are. That can only be changed by understanding your subconscious ideas through introspection.

The question should not be "if you want certain emotions or not". Rather, once you understand the value which your emotions are responding to, you should then decide if you want the value or not, by rational, conscious analysis.

A young man comes to a ministry. He confesses to the priest "father, I must confess. I am attracted to the dark side. I want to do evil deeds". Father says "my son, on the corner of 3rd street and south avenue there is a house for the elderly. Go there and spend 3 days helping old ladies. Then you will be cured". The young man spends 3 days helping old ladies, then comes back to the ministry. "Father, I feel that the dark side in me is arising. It has taken a specific target now - it hates old ladies."

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I think another implicit assumption for those people here who balk at this concept is that you're single people who are picturing your single life.

It is not very polite to make assumptions about others in discussions such as these. Also, these assumptions are frequently incorrect, which is more important.

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