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Rational love vs Rational Self-Interest

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I have been a long time reader here, but just now wanted to start posting some questions.

I have been thinking a lot about the definitions of words that Objectivism uses.

I am having trouble coming up with a difference between saying "Rational Self-Interest" and Rational Love, or just the Objectivist definition of love. Would anyone care to comment on this?

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I am having trouble coming up with a difference between saying "Rational Self-Interest" and Rational Love, or just the Objectivist definition of love. Would anyone care to comment on this?

Here is the Lexicon page for "Love".

The difference between "Rational Self-Interest" and "Rational Love" (or just "Love") is that "Rational Self-Interest" is a much wider category than "Love". A man has many interests or values which he must and does pursue, love is just one of them.

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Here is the Lexicon page for "Love".

The difference between "Rational Self-Interest" and "Rational Love" (or just "Love") is that "Rational Self-Interest" is a much wider category than "Love". A man has many interests or values which he must and does pursue, love is just one of them.

That link is for Romantic or Emotional Love. Perhaps saying "Rational Love" is a wrong application of the word love? So I might just be wrong in the fact that there is no "Rational Love," just Emotional Love that is based on Reason.

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So I might just be wrong in the fact that there is no "Rational Love," just Emotional Love that is based on Reason.
The link you pointed to described "rational love" as:
Rational love is love based upon intellect, reason or spirituality rather than natural love which is based upon instinct, intuition or romance.
That's pretty vague, but do you have some type of actual example you are thinking of? Edited by softwareNerd
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Well, love is an emotion, so there's no such thing as non-emotional love. It means that you see something, or in this case someone, as good for you, and you desire and want to possess, achieve, and keep this value, i.e. be with this person.

There is no instincts or "intuitions" versus emotions and there is no dichotomy between rational love and emotional love because there need be no dichotomy between reason and emotions. Rational love would just mean a romantic emotional response to a person coming from one's evaluation of that person rationally. An irrational love would mean a romantic emotional response to a person based on contradictory ideas about that person. The counsel to have a rational love is basically along the same lines of not substituting your feelings for your mind. This doesn't mean you are without a capacity to feel, just that you know your feelings are products of rational (i.e. objectively good-for-you) values instead of desires or passions you haven't thought through.

There's a new book out called The Selfish Path to Romance. Haven't read it, but it looks good.

Maybe it would help to investigate the relationship between reason and emotion. It used to be held that you are constantly bombarded by random urges, maybe as a result of instincts or sub-conscious intuitions, and that to be rational simply means supressing the passions. But this doesn't hold water, as reason doesn't preclude having intense emotion about what one is reasoning about, and emotions change depending on what kind of ideas the person holds. A good discussion can be found in Chpater 5 of OPAR, in "Philosophy: Who Needs It," Chapter 5 of Branden's Psychology of Self-Esteem has a good discussion on emotion and Chapter 11 on romantic love, here's a random web page on emotions, and in any basic psychology text that discusses the "Lazarus theory" of emotions as products of cognitive appraisals or value-judgments.

Edited by 2046
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The link you pointed to described "rational love" as: That's pretty vague, but do you have some type of actual example you are thinking of?

Yes, pretty vague. I was following a train of thought that anything I do out of Rational Self-Interest I also do because I love my self, my work or those I value. But the more I think about it, love is just an emotion that can be useful, but sometimes I may not love the most rational action, and I should default to my reason and try to figure out why my emotions are not in line with reasoning.

So the more I think about it, the more I agree with Marc. Love is a narrower category.

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So the more I think about it, the more I agree with Marc. Love is a narrower category.

I'd say love goes in its own category altogether. Acting in a truly self-interested way would indicate loving yourself; acting in a way "because it's rational" basically gets rid of the whole point of rational self-interest being about you. As you said, love is an emotion. You can use it to refer to an undying desire to serve a collective even, which isn't in much of anyone's self-interest. Love doesn't apply well to all things in your self-interest anyway. I don't love getting a flu shot, but I do still get one because it's in my interest.

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I was following a train of thought that anything I do out of Rational Self-Interest I also do because I love my self, my work or those I value.

Ahh, so that's what you were getting at, that is a good line of thought to follow -- it is a very good question which indicates a keen insight and involves an important identification: what is self-love, is it important and how is it related to my rational self-interest, my achievements and my ability to achieve?

"Self-love" is "self-esteem" and it is an essential value without which we cannot live (really in the fullest sense of the word but even, if you consider all its implications, existentially: you cannot live without considering yourself worthy of life), achieve or be happy. Self-esteem is one of the cardinal values in Objectivism, as Ayn Rand says "no value is higher than self-esteem". Here is the Lexicon page on "self-esteem" and it starts with this quote:

To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—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. [-- From Galt's Speech by Ayn Rand]

Self-esteem is an emotional reaction to, or evaluation of, the self. It is a play between ability and worthiness.

“It is the union of two (inseparable) conclusions, […] – I can achieve the best and I deserve the best I can achieve – I am able to live and I am worthy of living.” -- Leonard Peikoff, OPAR, p. 306

"Self-esteem is the dual conviction that one is able to live and worthy of happiness. Its two components, self-confidence and self-respect, are objective requirements of human life and happiness. If a person does not develop self-confidence, he will not be able to live successfully, because he will have no psychological motivation to put forth the necessary effort. Why should he try if he cannot succeed? And if a person does not develop self-respect, he will not be able to achieve happiness, because he will lack the positive personal evaluation that is the essence of happiness. How can he be happy if he thinks he is no good?" -- Craig Biddle, Loving Life, p. 69

And these two convictions (self-respect and self-confidence) work in tandem, each dependent on the other, each fostering the other.

“[T]here is a continuous feedback loop between our actions in the world and our self-esteem. The level of our self-esteem influences how we act, and how we act influences the level of our self-esteem.” -- Branden, The Six Pillars of Self-esteem, p. 4

And it isn't just Objectivists who consider self-esteem to be a crucial value. Abraham Maslow, a famous psychologist for one, considered self-esteem to be a basic psychological need without which self-actualization, achievement and fulfillment are not possible. Self-esteem in his view is a very powerful force. One could have all of their basic needs met, most of their psychological needs met and yet without self-esteem, fulfillment is thwarted.

So your rational self-interest, your life, cannot be achieved if you don't think you have the ability to achieve it or if you don't think you are worthy of happiness. And how can you develop your self-esteem? Rationally, by being productive, by working hard and achieving your goals and then celebrating when you do and learning from your mistakes, by knowing, by proving to yourself that your mind is efficacious and that you are a good person worthy of happiness.

But notice how if one's beliefs instead say: your mind is impotent to know anything, you are not capable of knowing and nothing is knowable anyway, your being is not worthy of any achievements, you should give up your values instead of pursuing them, you should sacrifice yourself to others, you are not important others are, morality is about what is good for others, selfishness is bad; then self-esteem and pride are not only impossible but are frowned upon and thus happiness is not possible and thus a full life is not possible. This theme and its antithesis are fully developed in "The Fountainhead".

Self-esteem is absolutely essential to recognizing and achieving your rational self-interest, your happiness. (I am elated and proud to think about how self-confident, self-assured, rational and egoistic our Founding Fathers must have been in order to include in the country's founding document our Right to pursue our own happiness and their focus on happiness as a reason to take action. I feel very fortunate to live in this country.)

I was following a train of thought that anything I do out of Rational Self-Interest I also do because I love my self, my work or those I value. [emphasis added]

So I would say the unhighlighted portion is absolutely true and about the emphasized phase I would say that you cannot love your work or others if you don't first love yourself.

But the more I think about it, love is just an emotion that can be useful, but sometimes I may not love the most rational action, and I should default to my reason and try to figure out why my emotions are not in line with reasoning. [emphasis added]

Keeping your long-term goals in mind, if your action is a rational means to that end, then you can actually enhance your self-esteem by performing that action even if there is something more "pleasant" to engage in at the time.

As for the emphasized part, I think I know what you mean and I agree that checking your emotions is always a good idea, but I wouldn't consider it "defaulting" to your reason (which implies that there was some other choice before using reason), instead, reason should always be the ruling faculty. (Actually, there may be certain exceptions like when experiencing art).

And just to flesh out more of what comprises "interests", here is how Ayn Rand describes man's "interests":

The term “interests” is a wide abstraction that covers the entire field of ethics. It includes the issues of: man’s values, his desires, his goals and their actual achievement in reality. A man’s “interests” depend on the kind of goals he chooses to pursue, his choice of goals depends on his desires, his desires depend on his values—and, for a rational man, his values depend on the judgment of his mind.

Desires (or feelings or emotions or wishes or whims) are not tools of cognition; they are not a valid standard of value, nor a valid criterion of man’s interests. The mere fact that a man desires something does not constitute a proof that the object of his desire is good, nor that its achievement is actually to his interest. [-- From "The Conflicts' of Men's Interests", VOS, pg. 50]

So the more I think about it, the more I agree with Marc. Love is a narrower category.

And now that I know what your were after I would maintain that "love" is a rational value that one should pursue as part of one's rational self-interest. But I would enhance that with the idea that "self-love" or "self-esteem" is a prerequisite to attaining one's rational self-interest -- knowing, concomitantly, that self-esteem is reenforced by making the achievements which comprise the whole of one's rational self-interest.

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