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Creative work ahead of family?

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Avila
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Avila,

I think a large problem here is that you are using an understanding of some terms in a different manner than Objectivists would. So to address your posts regarding altruism you may want to refresh yourself on what an Objectivist understands the definition of "sacrifice" to be.

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/sacrifice.html

Of note on your posts about the morality of family being a primary value focus on what Rand is talking about when she gives the example of the mother and the choice to buy a hat or food for her child.

Perhaps this will be helpful?

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""This particular Oist principle of work being primary over family" as you put it, is a fallacy,and strawman."

PLAYBOY: According to your philosophy, work and achievement are the highest goals of life. Do you regard as immoral those who find greater fulfillment in the warmth of friendship and family ties?

RAND: If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral."

If it isn't an Objectivist principle, then why does she call it "immoral", as opposed to "ill-advised", or "not my cup of tea"?

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"I think a large problem here is that you are using an understanding of some terms in a different manner than Objectivists would."

This has been a consistent problem on this forum, both for me and for others whom I see struggling with some Objectivist concepts: Rand created her own definitions of terms. I wonder, sometimes when I'm feeling rather cynical, if this was meant as a kind of protection, to keep her philosophy from being easily questioned. It certainly creates a morass of side distractions.

The question I would have for you, then, is what defintion of terms was Rand using when she gave the Playboy interview? Certainly it was going out to a largely non-Objectivist audience, so it would have been stupid of her to have used Objectivist meanings of common words. So I'm still left wondering why any sane person thinks it is immoral to put one's spouse and one's children ahead of one's work.

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""This particular Oist principle of work being primary over family" as you put it, is a fallacy,and strawman."

PLAYBOY: According to your philosophy, work and achievement are the highest goals of life. Do you regard as immoral those who find greater fulfillment in the warmth of friendship and family ties?

RAND: If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral."

If it isn't an Objectivist principle, then why does she call it "immoral", as opposed to "ill-advised", or "not my cup of tea"?

Because Objectivism is 'ruled' by a small number of principles. Actions would be moral,

or immoral (rational or irrational) depending on their correspondence to such principles.

Rand was judging one specific act - which could have almost unlimited variations - that

conflicts with the principle of rational egoism.

The principles themselves directly pertain to, and are derived from, reality, and man's reason.

Anti-reality = anti-mind = irrational/immoral. (very simply.)

Definitely not her cup of tea.

Heh.

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I have to wonder, too, if this particular O'ist principle (work being primary over family) might be one of the reasons Objectivism never seems to take hold. for sure.

I think part of the problem is that Rand didn't often explain what she meant by career. People often take that to mean some father staying at work late at night, willfully neglecting family at every turn. Maybe you're right, and that even if people do understand what Rand meant by career, it's simply a major turn-off putting your own endeavors as the primary consideration in life, which simply sounds cruel to them. Some people *really do* end up in a conflict between what's better for their family, and what's best for them, but never bother to figure out that family does not have to be a hindrance towards pursuing their own goals. Other people should be a benefit for those goals, and integrated in such a way that the reason those people are even valuable in the first place is to the extent they improve your life. Plenty of artists and writers (Rand included) received tremendous value from spouses, children, or friendships because those relationships improve the quality of a career by leaps and bounds. Rand mentioned many times how her husband made a notable difference in her writing pursuits. I recall how he helped (incidentally and by accident) her pick the title "Atlas Shrugged". Those relationships help a person think in a certain way. The relationships aren't used to fill a hole in their life, but rather, help push up their life to more fulfilling places. If family was the primary concern, we would be talking in terms of what way a career furthers a family, leaving aside that your own life and interests really are the most essential aspects to leading a good life.

It seems to me that you're primarily wondering about the "family as a career". I'm not sure if you will get a "one-size fits all" answer, because that's heavily contextual. I think many people unfortunately choose to have a family because of some impulse that it's what you're "supposed" to do. Even in that interview, Rand ultimately says "it depends" in regards to devoting yourself to a home and family. (Bluecherry mentioned some ways it may be fully moral and good.) If you want to talk about that, I have room to expand.

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This has been a consistent problem on this forum, both for me and for others whom I see struggling with some Objectivist concepts: Rand created her own definitions of terms. I wonder, sometimes when I'm feeling rather cynical, if this was meant as a kind of protection, to keep her philosophy from being easily questioned. It certainly creates a morass of side distractions.

I'm afraid we disagree there. She did not create new definitions out of thin air. What she did was remove all contradictions and ambiguities taking things down to their essentials.

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"I'm afraid we disagree there. She did not create new definitions out of thin air. What she did was remove all contradictions and ambiguities taking things down to their essentials."

Yes, we will have to disagree on that. But tell me, is she using her definitions or common definitions in the Playboy interview? Here it is again:

PLAYBOY: According to your philosophy, work and achievement are the highest goals of life. Do you regard as immoral those who find greater fulfillment in the warmth of friendship and family ties? RAND: If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral."

So just what term am I misunderstanding?

Edited by Avila
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"I think part of the problem is that Rand didn't often explain what she meant by career. People often take that to mean some father staying at work late at night, willfully neglecting family at every turn."

I certainly don't think that's what she meant, and I doubt many people do: that would be an extreme caricature.

"Some people *really do* end up in a conflict between what's better for their family, and what's best for them, but never bother to figure out that family does not have to be a hindrance towards pursuing their own goals."

I agree with you, though one can certainly think of situations where such a conflict is, in fact, real, and not imagined.

"Plenty of artists and writers (Rand included) received tremendous value from spouses, children, or friendships because those relationships improve the quality of a career by leaps and bounds."

Again, I agree -- certainly my creative work (I am an artist) benefits from the support I receive from my spouse. However, the benefit to my career is, as it were, a "side benefit", and not the primary. Receiving love from and giving love to my spouse and my children is the primary benefit, as it contributes to my happiness and joy. My creative work is NOTHING compared to that -- though only in comparison, I should immediately point out, as I do derive much satisfaction from my work.

I don't like treating people as "things", and viewing one's spouse and children as important because they add to the quality of my career is getting rather close to that.

"It seems to me that you're primarily wondering about the "family as a career".

No, not really --- I understand that Rand said that a family could be one's career, and I'm fine with that. I'm still wondering why she said what she said in answering the Playboy interviewer:

PLAYBOY: According to your philosophy, work and achievement are the highest goals of life. Do you regard as immoral those who find greater fulfillment in the warmth of friendship and family ties?

RAND: If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral."

SHE is making the distinction between "productive work" and "family", despite many posters trying to soften this by saying that I am positing a false dichotomy; that it isn't an O'ist principle (in which case, why would it be immoral?); that I don't know what she meant by family; that I don't understand Objectivist terms (which terms, in her answer, am I not getting?). I understand that this is her opinion, but I don't see the evidence that it is anything but that. It might be true for her, but it certainly doesn't fit my experience, nor the experience of many people I know. It's not immoral to value human relationships above one's work. If one is pursuing happiness (and what person doesn't?), and finds that his spouse and children bring him more joy than does his job as an insurance claims adjuster, or accountant, or garbage truck driver, than that seems morally healthy.

Part of the problem is that we aren't all going to be architects, or railroad owners, or innovators in metallurgy. Lots of folks have pretty dull jobs, but judge them worthwhile because it provides them with a paycheck that allows them to pursue happiness in other ways.

"I think many people unfortunately choose to have a family because of some impulse that it's what you're "supposed" to do."

Outside of arranged marriages (rare in this country), do you really think this is common? "Many"? Most people I know want to share their life with someone they love. Maybe it's just the circles I operate in, but I don't know of any of my married friends who chose that path because they thought it was what they were "supposed" to do. I do know one woman who has been divorced for decades who did say to me that that's why she married the loser she did. When she told me this, many years ago, I was surprised: I had NEVER heard anyone say that. She remains the only example I know of this, and I'm almost 50.

"Even in that interview, Rand ultimately says "it depends" in regards to devoting yourself to a home and family."

Yes, which suggests a contradiction, or perhaps she simply gave an answer (the one I quoted) without thinking it through very well. I can see how that could happen in an interview. The use of the word "immoral" is what gives her statement such force, though -- it suggests some universal that has been violated. That she later says "it depends" is more palatable, as it then suggests the importance of context.

Edited by Avila
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This has been a consistent problem on this forum, both for me and for others whom I see struggling with some Objectivist concepts: Rand created her own definitions of terms. I wonder, sometimes when I'm feeling rather cynical, if this was meant as a kind of protection, to keep her philosophy from being easily questioned. It certainly creates a morass of side distractions.

The question I would have for you, then, is what defintion of terms was Rand using when she gave the Playboy interview? Certainly it was going out to a largely non-Objectivist audience, so it would have been stupid of her to have used Objectivist meanings of common words. So I'm still left wondering why any sane person thinks it is immoral to put one's spouse and one's children ahead of one's work.

Please do not insult Rand by suggesting that she tried to manipulate people out of finding flaws in her philosophy by making her terms confusing. The term in question -- "selfish" -- has had two meanings over time, or rather one meaning, and one meaning derived from the original. The base definition is, "Concerned chiefly with one's self." The altered definition adds, "...at the expense of others." With Google Books, I found dictionaries from 1770 and 1831 without the negative connotation, but dictionaries closer to 1900 began adding, or including after the original, the negative connotation. Even without taking into consideration Rand's well-known meticulous writing style and choice of words, not to mention her hefty intellectual achievement, at the very minimum one could say she was simply using a definition over 100 years older than she was. But wait! She didn't stop there -- she went ahead and explicitly defined the term, and made a point to also stress the concept and elaborate. If you know all this and still cynically, as you say, suspect Rand was trying to pull one over on her general public reader, I think it is you who is being dishonest. And, knowing this, I think you know which term she was using in her interviews -- no confusion there.

Which other term of hers did you have in mind, which causes you to identify this "consistent problem" on the forum?

I would confidently say most of the world has kids for reasons other than wanting them. Your circle of friends has skewed your view. But even in the most ideal parent/child circumstance, a parent still needs fuel for his own person in order to then love/receive love/provide for/do anything, and productive work is the main supplier of this fuel. If you disagree at this point, you either believe that a person can be another person's fuel, or you believe there is some other larger source of personal fuel, or you believe that no such fuel is necessary for a person to be happy. In this case, we disagree so fundamentally as to what constitutes and causes personal fulfillment and happiness that I wonder if we will ever reach agreement.

You didn't respond to my last post, but I can't say it again in a better way than I have already.

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Yes, the criticism of "perversion of language" keeps coming up.

Your explanation of 'selfish' is exactly like mine - from denotation to connotation, but Rand's usage

was the classic and original one.

The other classic Randian usage of 'altruism' - I saw confirmed on OL recently, by the erudite philosophical

historian, George H. Smith - as in exact accordance with the scholar who coined the word, Auguste Comte.

We're all familiar with AR's riposte when asked why she insisted on using words that people found unpalatable:

"For the very reason that you hate them".

(Or something like that.)

When the concept of egoism is uncomfortable for most people, why should they be protected from the reality

of it by a "nicer" word?

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The problems I and other encounter with Rand's definitions of terms is the topic for another thread. I'll look at past threads here to come up with examples where, in response to someone, it was said "You need to know what Rand meant by the term ____ ", or "You are using the term differently than Rand did", and so on.

There's no need to be so defensive, Jaskn. If you read what I wrote, you'll notice that I said "when I'm feeling rather cynical" -- I don't actually know why Rand used different definitions for philosophical terms than what is commonly used. It might be that she was not well-schooled in philosophy. A philosophy professor I knew (he admired Rand's observations of economic conditions, but did not regard her highly as a philosopher) speculated that it might be that. Who knows? It does make it difficult to discuss anything, as it comes up very frequently.

It's a subject for another thread. At any rate, no one has told me, though I've asked twice, just what terms I am misunderstanding in the Playboy interview exchange I have quoted. And it would be stupid, would it not, for Rand to have used her own lexicon in an interview going out to the general public? I don't think I'm misunderstanding any of her terms in that quote.

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I don't think I'm misunderstanding any of her terms in that quote.
I would agree, I don't think any of the terms are used in an odd way. Rand rarely used terms differently -- even if some people who are learning Objectivism say so. The belief that she did is completely understandable though, since the concretes subsumed by her concepts can be radically different and even the opposite of the typical concretes subsumed when someone else uses the concept.

For instance, when an Objectivist says "doing XYZ is immoral", he is saying "doing XYZ is not in your long term interest and will not give you that lasting happiness you seek".

To someone who looks only at the concretes, this concept of "immoral" seems to be completely non-standard. And, in the concretes subsumed, it is. Yet, viewed more abstractly, it is exactly the same concept as a Christian or Muslim or atheist-commie would use in the sense that is designates "stuff you ought not do".

Edited by softwareNerd
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Part of the problem is that we aren't all going to be architects, or railroad owners, or innovators in metallurgy. Lots of folks have pretty dull jobs, but judge them worthwhile because it provides them with a paycheck that allows them to pursue happiness in other ways.

I would have to ask why a person holds a "dull" job before judging those people perfectly moral in their choice. If you need to be a waiter to support yourself in school, that's one thing. It's another to be a waiter because it's "good enough" and you'll just resign yourself to pursuing happiness in "other" ways, like having two kids and a dog. No, we're not all going to be railroad owners, but we all should strive to be the best possible. Taking a dull job in order to pursue presumably a family is exactly what I meant by "filling a hole". If your job is boring and you don't strive for much more, I'd say that is immoral. That isn't to say all people who take dull jobs lead miserable lives, I only mean that "good enough" is never the moral choice.

(The discussion seems to be quite far from the original topic, so I may split the thread later)

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"No, we're not all going to be railroad owners, but we all should strive to be the best possible."

We completely agree on this. Being a painter, I rely on selling my work to people who have discretionary income. I could be affected by a poor economy and the "eat the rich" attitudes of those who want to punish those who make more than they do. If I was ever forced, by economic circumstances, to get a job flipping burgers or bagging groceries, I would do the very best job possible.

Taking a dull job in order to pursue presumably a family is exactly what I meant by "filling a hole".

I think this needs much more explanation. What sort of "hole" are we talking about here? I am thinking of the original poster on this thread, who has struggled, apparently, with a hole created by a poor family environment (as he says, his father didn't think family was important). It's possible that pursuing his creative work might fill that hole, but it's just as possible that the love of a spouse and family would fill it. I can certainly think of examples of the latter; I can't, off-hand, think of examples of the former, though I acknowledge that they could exist.

If your job is boring and you don't strive for much more, I'd say that is immoral.

Not everyone is able to secure the job they might like, no matter how much they strive. Not all factors are under their control. I'm guessing that many of the forum members here are in high school or in college, so it's understandable that they fall into the easy "just try hard enough and you'll get what you want" mindset. I think the real world will be something of a shock to them. If, on the other hand, you're condemning the lack of striving, then I am more sympathetic to your way of thinking, but I even then I think the morality or immorality of that depends upon context, and upon that person's goals. Human relationships may simply matter more to someone, and contribute more to their happiness, than mere work. To assert otherwise is to ignore that people are individuals, and don't always fit Rand's model of the ideal. It's just her ideal, not some actual, transcendant ideal.

That isn't to say all people who take dull jobs lead miserable lives, I only mean that "good enough" is never the moral choice.

It depends upon that person's ultimate goals. If a paycheck for a rather dull job allows a person to pursue other avenues which bring him happiness, then that would seem to be "good enough".

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"Not everyone is able to secure the job they might like, no matter how much they strive. Not all factors are under their control. I'm guessing that many of the forum members here are in high school or in college, so it's understandable that they fall into the easy "just try hard enough and you'll get what you want" mindset. I think the real world will be something of a shock to them."

The work hard and with a bit of pluck and luck you'll succeed is a dangerous Horatio Algier meme.

The control we have over the world and the people in it may be low, but there have been those who are able to engineer the circumstances they wish, working within their limitations, no matter how harsh they are.

Yes, a lot of businesses fail, so do a lot of people who strive for something. The people who sometimes end up winning are the ones who persist and learn from what went wrong. Now, I am of course not saying the underdog always wins. That would be insane. I am referring to someone who screws up but learns from their mistakes and improves.

You also underestimate the power of connections, either personal or the way your work connects with others. Being observant is crucial too, as is finding ways to forge opportunity rather than wait for someone to grant it to you.

Edited by VoltageControl
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"Somebody else correct me if I'm wrong..., but I'm pretty sure somewhere in reliable sources on Oism there is something stated to the effect that yes, being a "full time parent" can be moral if one approaches it as their career.."

Then there is at least a superficial conflict with Rand's earlier answer in the interview. I suppose what I am looking for is her further explanation: in her first answer, then, is she speaking of one's birth family, and the situation is something like the example given above of someone who wants to be an artist, but becomes an architect because his mom has always longed of that type of career for him? Perhaps that is the explanation, as apparently she then goes on to say that family can be a career. But it would be nice to know, and unfortunately there's no way of ascertaining that for sure.

Though I think letting your family dictate your career to you would be one way for valuing family over career to play out, I don't think it is the only way. It also doesn't apply only to one's birth family (note how Hank's wife in Atlas Shrugged is part of the family that thinks they should be more important than work.)

As for family qua career, I admittedly have not had much chance to seriously examine this idea yet, but I'd say family only meets criteria to be a career itself though given that it could be a career for a non-family member to do it and that one does not behave in a way that one would fire anybody else for if they were doing the job pretty much. The reason this is not in conflict though with what Rand stated in Playboy is it is not placing family *above* career if family *is* career. That would necessitate they are valued equally. For family to be placed above career in value, you either have to have a separate career that you are neglecting in favor of the family or no career because you gave it career up or don't think you need one because of family. Failure to meet the criteria above for family as career while having no other career and not seriously attempting to get one would qualify one as without a career.

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Why in the first place do people consider it their right to dictate what a person spends their life doing?

To me it seems that it doesn't matter if someone is a CEO or a painter, if this is within the pursuit of their own happiness, and they are not sacrificing others or themselves, why not?

Good luck trying to explain to the average person that not every leader in a field isn't a conniving asshole who wishes to steal from the "little guy".

A Selfish person who is successful most certainly can benefit far more people by the the achievement of their own values rather than struggling doing something they are not suited for or not living up to their potential.

Of course the highly Leftist will see this as the "trickle down" theory popularized during the Reagan era, which since it doesn't automatically save the sacred middle class, is evil.

People watch too many movies and think the news media doesn't have a bias.

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"Though I think letting your family dictate your career to you would be one way for valuing family over career to play out, I don't think it is the only way."

You're probably right. Any other examples come to mind?

"It also doesn't apply only to one's birth family (note how Hank's wife in Atlas Shrugged is part of the family that thinks they should be more important than work.)"

That's a work of fiction -- Hank and his wife don't exist. Do you have some real-life examples to offer?

"As for family qua career, I admittedly have not had much chance to seriously examine this idea yet, but I'd say family only meets criteria to be a career itself though given that it could be a career for a non-family member to do it and that one does not behave in a way that one would fire anybody else for if they were doing the job pretty much."

I'm afraid I have no idea what you're trying to say here.

"The reason this is not in conflict though with what Rand stated in Playboy is it is not placing family *above* career if family *is* career. That would necessitate they are valued equally. For family to be placed above career in value, you either have to have a separate career that you are neglecting in favor of the family or no career because you gave it career up or don't think you need one because of family."

Again, this is very confusing. But I think I know what you're trying to say -- and I disagree, profoundly. You are talking about families and careers in a theoretical way, but I'm interested in real-world experiences. I have already mentioned that I put my spouse and my children FIRST. They are what bring me the most joy and happiness, in giving and receiving love. Yes, I also derive great satisfaction from my career as an artist. Yes, having a happy family no doubt contributes to my career as an artist, but that is NOT their primary benefit to me. I know of many families whose priorities are the same as mine. I think Rand's views on the subject were simply her opinion, no more. I disagree with her, but I acknowledge that for some people, their work is what gives them the most satisfaction. Neither choice is inherently immoral.

Edited by Avila
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What if your Bishop had replied in a Playboy interview

to the same question asked of Rand:

"If they place such things as friendship

and family ties above their Worship of God,

yes, then they are immoral."

Would you agree? Would you understand, if you didn't?

I'll leave you to draw your own correlations and conclusions.

Edited by whYNOT
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"Any other examples come to mind?"

Well aside from family dictating what your career is to be and thus taking one that is not what you otherwise would have chosen, a couple things come to mind. If one has picked their own career, but has their family controlling how they do things in ways they would not have chosen themselves that would count I think. (For example, this could be passing up on large opportunities because it would cause some inconvenience for others in the family.) It could also mean giving up on having one's own career aspirations because the people one lives with make enough money to afford your expenses and they just want to have you available at petty much any time.

Just an idea, but I wonder if scale is part of the confusion on this issue. One may pass up a small to mild career activity for something that is a really big deal with a family member or even a friend perhaps (ex: a typical work day with no major deadlines being taken off for attending a close family member's graduation from college.) This is not immoral and showing that you just put your family as a primary over your career. Family has been placed on top when things are happening the other way around, one is skipping on large, significant career events for mild family events. (ex: staying home with the kid who is feeling a little under the weather rather than getting a babysitter on the day one was scheduled to go interview for a position working in one's top choice of employer.)

"That's a work of fiction -- Hank and his wife don't exist. Do you have some real-life examples to offer?"

Hank was used for illustrative purposes of what kinds of things could and would count. He was not meant to prove something all on his own.

"I'm afraid I have no idea what you're trying to say here."

Alright, I'll try again. Could somebody normally be hired to do something? If yes, then it doesn't matter whether somebody is family of their employer or not, it can count as a career pursuit. You don't need money or some physical objects being exchanged for something to be a career necessarily and in these cases with family, it would often be pointless to involve money. You could end up with something like mom and dad are hiring mom to take care of the kids for several years and mom and dad have a joint bank account, so money gets taken out and then put right back in the same account if one insisted on going through a payment process. (ex: People can get paid to be nannies and home school teachers, so a family member could stay home to supervise and teach the kids and that would still count as a career pursuit. Or, some people with sever disabilities hire assistants to help them manage their daily life, so this would count as fulfilling career pursuit if one did it for a family member too. Often when people are really old and ill they have people who are hired to come take care of their cooking and cleaning and administering medication and such, so taking care of chores and health issues for an ailing family member could work too.)

However, if one only remains in this job because their employer is family and thus likes and sympathizes them, then you have ceased to be doing something as a career. (Would you fire a nanny if they behaved as you did staying home with your kids? Then you are not doing enough to clear the bar as this being a career pursuit.)

"Again, this is very confusing."

I was specifically aiming to address there something you said about it seeming like Rand may have been contradicting what she said in Playboy when she has that woman in Atlas Shrugged who is a stay at home mom. I was not intending in that section to argue why one should or should not do or be anything, just why there was not a contradiction.

As for what you go on to say, that one is getting more happiness from thing one than thing two is not proof in itself that therefore putting thing one above thing to must be moral. This approach of determining morality based upon one's emotional reactions and calling moral anything that seems to be making one happy at any given time is pretty much hedonism. http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/hedonism.html This entry in the Ayn Rand Lexicon on hedonism starts with something you have probably seen since it is from the Playboy interview, but it has two more excerpts also you probably haven't seen. If you have not done so before, looking into how the ethical positions are reached in Objectivism rather than just what they ultimately are may help clarify this topic for you. Also though, I don't think anybody meant to say or imply that the primary purpose and benefit of one's family is as something to further one's career. I agree that is not the case. However, being used just as something to further one's career is not why family morally belongs lower on the totem pole than career. The actual reason is more complicated and would take longer to explain, pretty much covering several of the first chapters in a book written as an overview of Objectivism to go through everything involved in forming the principle involved in this subject. I think I'll let somebody else take care of part of this discussion if need be as I primarily started posting just about how there are some cases where family can be one's career, at least for a while.

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"As for what you go on to say, that one is getting more happiness from thing one than thing two is not proof in itself that therefore putting thing one above thing to must be moral."

I would agree -- the morality depends upon what "thing one" and "thing two" are. But I disagree with Rand that work should be primary. It's her OPINION, not some fact that she has established, fer Pete's sake. Not everyone values things the exact way Rand did. I think there's lots of room for differing individuals having differing value systems.

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I have already mentioned that I put my spouse and my children FIRST. They are what bring me the most joy and happiness, in giving and receiving love.

You don't actually do this, as it is false based on simple logic alone. If you didn't put yourself and your own happiness first, you would literally have nothing with which to love anyone or anything else. Without addressing this argument, everything else you say cannot be substantiated. Edited by JASKN
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