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Creative work ahead of family?

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Avila
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"Liberals do everything in their power to sabotage, hurt, and prevent people from succeeding. They are evil, cold, uncaring human beings who care only about themselves, while claiming to care about "the people"."

I completely agree that Liberalism does all that you say it does. However, it's ridiculous to claim that all Liberals want to do what you say -- oftentimes, perfectly sincere people hold views that appear to be compassionate and caring, but, in actual results, fail and even have the opposite effect. But it is no credit to you to not acknowledge that many liberals are simply unrealistic, have flawed ideas about human nature, or just haven't thought things through, as opposed to being "evil, cold, uncaring".

"Just wondering how the heck I can ever achieve anything when I'm so old. Most people have success in their teens or 20s or not at all."

There's just way too much self-pity here. You appear to be setting yourself up for failure....when you fail, then, it will be because of your upbringing or being too old. You won't get anywhere with these self-absorbed attitudes.

"Family just wasn't important to him."

Nor was it important to Ayn Rand, so you're probably in the wrong place to look for a concept of family to strive for (a family of your own).

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Rand did value her family, which is apparent in most biographies about her that I've heard of. All she ever really said is that family is not intrinsically a value, probably taking the approach that family consists of people you choose and cultivating values.

Edited by Eiuol
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"Rand did value her family, which is apparent in most biographies about her that I've heard of. All she ever really said is that family is not intrinsically a value, probably taking the approach that family consists of people you choose and cultivating values."

Her expression of family that I have in mind is from an interview wherein she stated that those who put family ahead of creative work were immoral. Personally, I think THAT idea is immoral!

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I think Rand meant that sacrificing one's work and life for the sake of their family was what was evil.

How many people give up way too much of themselves for friends and family and are drained from doing so? Plenty! They are all the worse for it. Without the energy available from catering to their own needs, how can one be there for who they value?

One can still value themselves and value other people. It is not black and white. This is obviously a huge problem with our society. It seems to be a choice between meaning and money; putting the self first,and giving to others. It is possible for these all to intersect if one is rational about their approach.

After all, when we fly on an aircraft the safety instructions mention putting on one's oxygen mask before helping others.

It's a great metaphor.

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Her expression of family that I have in mind is from an interview wherein she stated that those who put family ahead of creative work were immoral. Personally, I think THAT idea is immoral!

You know, it's possible to have values that are equal. I'm perplexed at how people consistently interpret "ahead" in that quote to mean that family (the chosen kind) cannot be just as important as a career. Putting others *above* oneself is different than putting other people who provide value as essential to one's life as about equal. Sort of like that line where you can't say "I love you" without "I". That relates to the original list here, in the sense that many people probably put things into such a strict value hierarchy that value can only be measured in terms of greater than and less than, thus anyone who makes "more money than they need" is unfairly superior in some manner. Looking at value as zero-sum does that. So, of course, it would sound like Rand is being totally cold, rather than perfectly reasonable when looking at the words as stated.

Edited by Eiuol
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"You know, it's possible to have values that are equal. I'm perplexed at how people consistently interpret "ahead" in that quote to mean that family (the chosen kind) cannot be just as important as a career. Putting others *above* oneself is different than putting other people who provide value as essential to one's life as about equal. Sort of like that line where you can't say "I love you" without "I"." That's about as favorable an interpretation one can put on what Rand said, and it's reasonable, though it is just as reasonable to take Rand at her word -- and "immoral" is pretty strong language to be used.

It would be helpful, too, for Rand to have clarified just which family and career ties she had in mind: they are not all equal. A grown child who puts his own creative work ahead of what his parents may have expected from him is simply being true to himself, and his parents' expectations are merely a projection of their desires, not his. It would be foolish to put family -- in this case, his parents' wishes -- ahead of his work. (I still wouldn't call it immoral, but that's beside the point...) If, however, a man puts his creative work above his wife and children, he is being foolish. Alienated kids and possibly divorce are the likely result. Rand never had kids. I find that very significant -- most people, especially those who marry, do have families. It's a huge life experience that most humans embark upon, one with consequences for the surrounding society -- and one that Rand was completely ignorant of. I think her theories about the relative morality of work vs. family are just that -- theories.

Edited by Avila
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It would be helpful, too, for Rand to have clarified just which family and career ties she had in mind: they are not all equal.

Note that the quote never mentioned anything about the reverse - creative work ahead of family. I can't ask Rand to clarify and neither can you, so it would be wrong to project on what I think she meant. I can only talk about what she did say, which is that putting other people above oneself is immoral.

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"Note that the quote never mentioned anything about the reverse - creative work ahead of family. I can't ask Rand to clarify and neither can you, so it would be wrong to project on what I think she meant. I can only talk about what she did say, which is that putting other people above oneself is immoral."

Here's the exact question and answer from the Playboy interview:

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. Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life. A man who places others first, above his own creative work, is an emotional parasite; whereas, if he places his work first, there is no conflict between his work and his enjoyment of human relationships.

So Rand is saying a person should put his work, and not just himself, above family and friends, and it is immoral for him to do otherwise. This is, I think, a result of her never having children, as is her statement that "Friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life". Or, she may not have witnessed (as I certainly have) the damage inflicted on children who are put behind a father or mother's work. It screws them up, as they are constantly trying to win the approval of their distrected parents, and who go on to seek love from anywhere else they can, usually being so insecure that they choose badly.

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She is not saying to "put your work above your family" by which you seem to take as "ignore your children," or whatever else you seem to be implying. It's pretty obvious how you can get that just by focusing on those words "place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work," but quote mining and attempts at psychologizing are quite different things from serious philosophical analysis. There is an entire background of information, including several books, which you are ignoring that conditions such a statement. It's not really fruitful, if your goal is actually to understand what someone means by something (which looks doubtful), to take some 4-sentence quote and try to see what you can get it to mean, rather than bringing the whole of the person's work to bear.

What we have to keep in mind is that the discussion is in relation to one's goals in life. Rand conceives a flourishing life as encompassing a number of general activities, such as career, relationships, recreation, art, etc. (VOS 72.) Your productive work is the most fundamental of these in her view (VOS 72.) One's main goal in life can't be "human relationships" or "having ties to other people" (hence the "emotional parasite" comment), but as Rand conceives it, one has to have some sort of purpose or career or consciously chosen pursuit for oneself as the main activity that you spend most of your time doing, a certain goal integrating your course or progress through life, as opposed to just sort of taking life moment to moment (VOS 26; OPAR chapter 8, section 5.) This could be a number of things, including raising children. Her point is that once you see your productive goal in life in relation to your personal flourishing, then there is no clash between your family and your work.

Now, whether you think this is right or wrong, at least you should not try to distort it (whether it is blatant or unclear) and at least make an attempt to see what this means in the context of the person's stated philosophical views. You can make anyone pretty much seem to believe anything otherwise. But that won't get us any closer to an understanding.

Edited by 2046
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2046,

I think that's a pretty definitive reply on the topic. It strikes me more often in this sort of

discussion that opposing viewpoints come down to mutual exclusion vs. hierarchicalism.

Objectivists are well-used to thinking hierarchically - containing an array of values in an ordered

manner - but in order to communicate effectively, we should be aware of the fact that many people think

black or white, either this, or that. Family...or selfish creativity. False dichotomy

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"as Rand conceives it, one has to have some sort of purpose or career or consciously chosen pursuit for oneself as the main activity that you spend most of your time doing, a certain goal integrating your course or progress through life, as opposed to just sort of taking life moment to moment."

And I agree entirely with that. To not have any purpose is to drift aimlessly, and since I think it is man's nature to have purpose, I don't think happiness can be achieved without it.

I think my problem here is that she posits a dichotomy where I don't think one need be. When she says that "friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life", she doesn't seem to allow for the fact that for many people, they are in fact primary -- and may even be one's "creative work" (as anyone who has kids can attest to). Man is not an island -- he generally isn't able to be productive if the elements of family and friends are missing or are dysfunctional. If he has healthy family and friend ties, then he is able to rise above difficulties more easily and concentrate on his productive work. I think Rand put the cart before the horse...

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I think my problem here is that she posits a dichotomy where I don't think one need be. When she says that "friendship, family life and human relationships are not primary in a man's life",...
To say something is primary to another is not to posit a dichotomy. It is completely consistent with the notion that the secondary thing (whatever it may be) is an important part of man's life.

...she doesn't seem to allow for the fact that for many people, they are in fact primary -- and may even be one's "creative work" (as anyone who has kids can attest to). Man is not an island -- he generally isn't able to be productive if the elements of family and friends are missing or are dysfunctional. If he has healthy family and friend ties, then he is able to rise above difficulties more easily and concentrate on his productive work. I think Rand put the cart before the horse...
I wonder if you recognize the irony here. In both the examples you are making an argument for family by using the premise that they could be a form of creative work, or that they can help in performing such creative work. In other words, you are justifying family by an appeal to creative-work and productivity. In other words, this particular argument implies that family is secondary and only a mean to an end, or a concrete form of a particular end.

I would argue that some type of friends -- family or otherwise -- are an extremely important part of a person's life. In fact, they might be essential to a really happy life. Still, they're secondary to creative work except in the case where they are the creative work (as in parenting). This is consistent with what Rand's views.

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"I wonder if you recognize the irony here. In both the examples you are making an argument for family by using the premise that they could be a form of creative work, or that they can help in performing such creative work. In other words, you are justifying family by an appeal to creative-work and productivity. In other words, this particular argument implies that family is secondary and only a mean to an end, or a concrete form of a particular end."

No, that's not what I am doing. I can make other arguments for family being a primary value, but in this case I was pointing out that dysfunction in that area can become a serious hurdle to any kind of creative work. I say this for those who would insist, as Rand does, that creative work takes precedence. I am thinking, too, of the original poster, who wishes to do creative work but can't see to get past his flawed childhood (he says of his father, "Family wasn't important to him.").

"To say something is primary to another is not to posit a dichotomy."

I agree, but my point was that Rand did not seem capable of seeing the raising of a family as one's creative work. She did not apparently recognize that the two -- creative work and family -- could be one and the same. Otherwise, why state that one needed to be higher than the other in one's hierarchy of values?

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I can make other arguments for family being a primary value, ...
I assume you are conceding that the particular arguments you made -- both of them -- were clearly assuming that family was good because it was serving the primary value (i.e. primary as assumed by your argument) of creative/productive work. If so, that's all I was pointing out (i.e. that -- in those two arguments -- you were hoisting yourself by your own petard.)

You claim to have other arguments somewhere in your back-pocket. Well, you cannot expect people to respond to ghost arguments, surely. I have some good arguments about why you can't, but I'm keeping them secret too ;)

I agree, but my point was that Rand did not seem capable of seeing the raising of a family as one's creative work. She did not apparently recognize that the two -- creative work and family -- could be one and the same.
Actually, Rand did concede that parenting could be a career, though she also mentioned the fact that it isn't a life-time full-time one. (I suppose, one could come up with some special situations, like people who keep adopting groups of siblings as the younger ones become independent; but, that type of example is the classic "exception proves the rule" prototype.) Since you're not an Objectivist, I don't expect that you'd know this; but, now you know. Edited by softwareNerd
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"I assume you are conceding that the particular arguments you made -- both of them -- were clearly assuming that family was good because it was serving the primary value (i.e. primary as assumed by your argument) of creative/productive work. If so, that's all I was pointing out (i.e. that -- in those two arguments -- you were hoisting yourself by your own petard.)" No, I'm not conceding that at all. Though others here have been quick to point out that equality in values is possible; that no dichotomy is necessary, (and I agree entirely with that) I am going by Rand's own words, in which she does not allow for this "equality" in values: Rand -- "If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral." That doesn't allow for an "equality" in values, does it? , as plain as can be, that people who put friendship and family ties above their productive work are immoral. That does suggest a dichotomy, does it not? I have tried to be fair as possible with Rand in saying that I believe because she did not have children, she was simply ignorant, and so perhaps may have simply had in mind the example that I gave -- that is, a grown child who follows his own wishes for a career in contradiction to his parents. But without that hypothetical distinction, I am left with her own words..... Rand: "If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral." "Immoral"?!!! I think her stated position, absent my hypotheticals, is immoral. "You claim to have other arguments somewhere in your back-pocket. Well, you cannot expect people to respond to ghost arguments, surely. I have some good arguments about why you can't, but I'm keeping them secret too" Hah hah. I didn't think it was relevant to the discussion at hand, but yes, there are common sense arguments for the importance of the family. Let me mention just one: criminals, by a vast majority, come from broken, fatherless homes. If you don't think that has an impact on society, you're deluding yourself. And where the father is absent, the state steps in (with usually disastrous results). And again, look at the OP here: he is crippled by his father's neglecting of his family.

Edited by Avila
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No, I'm not conceding that at all.
You argued family can be good because it can be a creative pursuit. You also argued that family was good because it helped one to be productive. By doing so, you are conceding that creative work is primary. You can claim not to be conceding it; you can claim that you have other arguments that you;re keeping to yourself...but, surely you see why nobody is going to believe an empty assertion. Faith doesn't work with me: try reason.

Though others here have been quick to point out that equality in values is possible; that no dichotomy is necessary, (and I agree entirely with that) I am going by Rand's own words, in which she does not allow for this "equality" in values: Rand -- "If they place such things as friendship and family ties above their own productive work, yes, then they are immoral."

That doesn't allow for an "equality" in values, does it?

I have no idea what "equality" you're speaking of. I would not claim equality while trying to defend one as primary. Perhaps it was a reference to something someone else posted, so I'll leave it to ... whoever... to reply.

How else do you want to sugar-coat what she said? She says, as plain as can be, that people who put friendship and family ties above their productive work are immoral. That does suggest a dichotomy, does it not?
No, it does not. Why would it? Saying that A is primary to B does not imply a dichotomy between A and B (a point I made earlier).

"Immoral"?!!! I think her stated position, absent my hypotheticals, is immoral.
Well, the contents of your mind aren't really relevant to anyone who does not interact with you, unless they see some reason for emulating those contents. So, try reason.

Hah hah. I didn't think it was relevant to the discussion at hand, but yes, there are common sense arguments for the importance of the family. Let me mention just one: criminals, by a vast majority, come from broken, fatherless homes. If you don't think that has an impact on society, you're deluding yourself. And where the father is absent, the state steps in (with usually disastrous results). And again, look at the OP here: he is crippled by his father's neglecting of his family.
I really don't think you understand the whole concept of "primary". In this argument, you are again arguing for family as a means to an end" social welfare, reduced crime, etc. Why would you think I'd disagree with these facts or that they have any relevance to the sentence you quoted from Rand?
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Sorry, I had problems with the response (the text field was not cooperative!) so I'm sorry if my reply to you was hard to read. I simply wasn't able to edit properly, and at some point it wouldn't allow me to type anything at all. But it seems to have been straightened out...

"You argued family can be good because it can be a creative pursuit. You also argued that family was good because it helped one to be productive. By doing so, you are conceding that creative work is primary."

Not at all. I simply gave those arguments for those who would argue that creative work is primary. Personally, as a human being, I think that the family gives all kinds of benefits, but the emotional and mental health that comes from healthy familial love is certainly one of its primary benefits. Its benefit to the creative process is also important, but not as primary as that. Love, which is essential for emotional and mental health, comes from family and friends. Without that, humans are crippled.

"You claim to have other arguments somewhere in your back-pocket. Well, you cannot expect people to respond to ghost arguments, surely. I have some good arguments about why you can't, but I'm keeping them secret too"

You're simply engaged in sophistry now: I gave you a simple argument for the good of the family (its effect on crime) in response to your challenge above, and now you want to dismiss that because you claim it is merely a "means to an end".

At some point, you just lose on the common sense front. There are benefits to the intact family: I gave you a few examples. But you are skating away from Rand's claim that those who put family ahead of their work were immoral. I am looking for reasons to think why she would say such a nutty thing, and have come up with the partial excuse that, not having children, she didn't know any better. So, since you are presumably going to agree with this statement of Rand's, what do you think she meant? Should her comment be taken literally (in which case, I think she;s simply out of touch with the reality of family life), or do you have some spin you can put on it?

Edited by Avila
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Avila,

This I think should be a debate on the essential premise, which is the morality of

rational egoism, with respect to family values.

From your remarks, I take it you don't approve of rational selfishness, right?

So stop beating round the bush, and say so.

If conservative, family, values should take precedence over individualism, make your case.

Rand's statement is clear; although I don't think anyone here has ascertained whether she meant

one's birth family - or one's chosen/created one. Important distinction.

Having read an off-the-cuff remark she made about the serious responsibilties of having

children, I'd say 10 to one she meant the former.

iow, I'm guessing she would advise not starting a family until the time it can be given equal value

to one's productive work.

But I'd still like to hear why family should take priority.

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Traditional or conservative family values are based on religious or social duties. They are not values in the full sense of the word. A man and woman create a family and rise children not because they want to do that or enjoy the happiness which family life and children could give them, but simply because their tradition demands it. However if they do it for their own joy and pleasure, how such a values could give them anything else then a satisfaction of their utmost selfishness? Please note that if their selfishness is not rational they never would be able to achieve the happiness of family life. In short there is no dichotomy between family values and rational selfishness. On the contrary, without the latter no family values are possible or achievable. In regard to the question whether or not family life contradicts the creative productive work-please remember that child rearing is a full time job, and what could be more productive or creative then creation of the new rational human being?

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You're simply engaged in sophistry now: I gave you a simple argument for the good of the family (its effect on crime) in response to your challenge above, and now you want to dismiss that because you claim it is merely a "means to an end".
As I said in the previous post, I think you really don;t understand the notion of "primary". Either that, or you simply don;t realize that your quote from Rand was about family not being primary to creative work. I did not dismiss your claim about the value of family. Indeed, I've been supportive of the notion of family more than once, and have indicated Rand's support too. I was not dismissing the value of family. I was simply pointing out that you were -- once again -- arguing that family was not primary, but just a means to an end.

You call this "sophistry" and appeal to "common sense". Surely the Jesuits taught you better.

But you are skating away from Rand's claim that those who put family ahead of their work were immoral
Why would I skate away from something that is true?

I am looking for reasons to think why she would say such a nutty thing, ...
You're on thin ice here.

...what do you think she meant?
As I've said repeatedly, it means that family is not primary. Have you read the entire interview? For instance, two sentences later when she says "there is no conflict between ... work and ... enjoyment of human relationships". Or, two questions later when the interview tries to clarify by asking: "Is a woman immoral who chooses to devote herself to home and family instead of a career?", and Rand answers "not immoral"?

As I said in an earlier post, human relationships are extremely important, and probably essential to a truly happy life, but that does not make them primary. A sense of purpose is far higher in the chain.

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"A man and woman create a family and rise children not because they want to do that or enjoy the happiness which family life and children could give them, but simply because their tradition demands it."

Wow.....do you actually believe this? This is an amzing statement. You are out of touch with reality.

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"From your remarks, I take it you don't approve of rational selfishness, right?"

Wrong.

"Rand's statement is clear; although I don't think anyone here has ascertained whether she meant

one's birth family - or one's chosen/created one. Important distinction."

I agree -- it is a very important distinction.

"Having read an off-the-cuff remark she made about the serious responsibilties of having

children, I'd say 10 to one she meant the former."

I would hope so.

"But I'd still like to hear why family should take priority."

As I mentioned before, love, which is essential for emotional and mental health, comes from family and friends. Without that, humans are usually crippled. All healthy, functioning individuals seek happiness -- no one in their right mind deliberately chooses misery. Being loved and loving is usually essential to that happiness, and love comes from family and friends. I say "usually", because there are a few individuals for whom their creative work is so consuming that they derive all of their happiness from it. But those are the exceptions, not the rule. For the most part, individuals coming from unloving, dysfunctional families (like the OP here) have significant emotional hurdles to overcome in the areas of personal happiness, ability to relate with others, and their own creative work. And certainly there are many examples of individuals coming from these kinds of backgrounds who are "healed" by the love of their own spouse and children (the painter Carl Larsson comes to mind). Where else is the individual going to receive and give love, if not with family and friends?

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