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Jealousy : is ever rational or proper?

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Can you narrow your question down? Do you want to talk about casual sex, or the emotion of jealousy? I agree though that jealousy is very bad for various reasons, but I wouldn't call it rational or irrational. Of course, resulting behavior may be irrational. Jealousy may suggest insecurity with one's values.

By the way, Rand never really argued for self-ownership, and I think that concept is not a valid one.

May aim is to talk about jealousy as an emotion, but I'm particularly looking at Rand's response over the Branden affair and arguing that, without realizing it perhaps, her reaction was in opposition to her own worldview concerning individual liberty and her belief about discarding deontological ethics. So a discussion of casual sex I think can be included in any discussion about jealousy, as well as a discussion about other viewpoints on various kinds of sex/relationship structures.

With regard to deontological ethics, what I mean is that Rand argued that we should not be bound by what others tell us we "ought" to do, as though we are enslaved by some ethic of social oughtness, but instead we should seek our own rational self-interest. I agree with that. But in order to hold to that, we should also not try to push a social oughtness onto other people. Jealousy often leads to that in relationships.

In Rand's case, she seemed to believe Branden had an obligation (deontological ethic) to be a relationship contract with her, regardless of his own desires or self-interest. She attacked his decisions on the grounds that he wasn't being rational in his choice of a particular romantic/sex interest. As though she knew which choice is rational for him better than he did. In truth, what she failed to see (because jealousy so often blinds us) was that she was reacting out of her hurt, jealous-tinged emotions.

But to be consistent (and rational) when granting other people freedom to seek their own self-interest without trying to hold them to someone else's feeling of what they are obligated to do, then you must grant people the freedom to choose whom they are interested in, no matter what kind of relationship it is, be it casual friendship, romantic love, or sexual interest.

Jealousy (defined as wanting what someone else has, or losing what you had to someone else) is irrational for a host of reasons. Primarily, it is irrational in terms of human relationships because it presupposes that a person is a thing that can be owned by another person. It assumes that with a person whom you want to keep for yourself, their self-interest and personal desire suddenly don't matter. It irrationally supposes that so-and-so should be with you irrespective if they desire to be or if it satisfies their self-interest. It irrationally supposes that a robotic love, devoid of desire, is sufficient ("I don't care if you want to or not, you have a relationship contract to stay with me, and you must keep yourself from relationships with other people who you do desire a relationship with, if I don't like the nature of that relationship."). Even if a person did stay with you out of a relationship contract obligation, is that what you really want? Is that love? No, love can ONLY exist, as Rand said herself, if it is in accordance with self-interest. Love does not exist in obligation. Rand was so clear on that, and yet with Branden she seemed to forget it, or not apply it consistently.

"By the way, Rand never really argued for self-ownership, and I think that concept is not a valid one."

She did. I'm not sure how you can read Man's Rights, or The Virtue of Selfishness, or any of her works really, and fail to see the conclusion that we fundamentally have a right to self-ownership.

From Man's Rights:

All previous systems had held that man’s life belongs to society, that society can dispose of him in any way it pleases, and that any freedom he enjoys is his only by favor, by the permission of society, which may be revoked at any time. The United States held that man’s life is his by right (which means: by moral principle and by his nature), that a right is the property of an individual, that society as such has no rights, and that the only moral purpose of a government is the protection of individual rights. ... There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life.
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suppose the person you're romantically interested in dates someone else - there are two types of jealousy possible here: One is being jealous for the woman - wanting the woman and being jealous that someone else has her. The other option is being jealous of the personality of the man who has her and seeing it as reproach for your personality not being good enough. The last type is much more severe and threatening.

I disagree with this point. The first type is the more dangerous of the two. Both are problems. The last type is more closely related to a problem of self-approval (although both types are really self-approval problems).

The reason you would want to have the personality, or other traits, of the man is because you subconsciously are seeking approval from other people, and think that you can't get it with the traits you currently possess. You wish to have some other traits that you don't have, but the real problem is that you are seeking approval from other people to begin with. You can't solve this problem until you realize that there is only one person's approval that you should be concerned with -- your own. If you decide that you like who you are and what you believe in and your personal ethic, then you can also be empowered to grant self-approval, and free yourself from the self-made prison of seeking approval from outside sources. But overall, this is a less dangerous problem than the first type you mentioned.

In the first type, a person actually believes that in some way they can own people, or that they want to own people. That they want to have a particular person for themselves, irrespective of that person's desires. This kind of thought-process is dangerously close to having a disregard for someone's right to own their own self, and their own emotions and desires, and it is blind to the fact that true love can't be an obligation kind of love. If you are unable to grant people the freedom to choose whom they spend time with or form relationships with, without being pained over their decisions, then that can lead to some very unpleasant and dangerous thought processes and actions on your part.

Good luck resisting the temptation to respond. ;)

Edited by secondhander
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Emotions by Rand's definitions are responses, they are not legitimate criteria for action, especially in a moral sense. The problem(s) that result from jealousy are then analgous to hedonism being an appropriate stance to action.

Yes. And this is where I think I disagree with Rand to some degree. She seemed to want to find an objectively rational reason for every action, and didn't allow any kind of subjective desire to be a reason for any action. I agree with her that subjective "whim worship" is a poor reason for actions when they contradict fundamental and objective standards, however I allow for there being some subjective desires that do not contradict other objective and fundamental desires. In those cases, doing something because you want to, simply for pleasure, is perfectly acceptable, as far as I can tell. I'd love to hear if I've misunderstood her on these points or the points below.

Rand didn't seem to oppose pleasure:

The form in which man experiences the reality of his values is pleasure

She just believed pleasure should not be standard of morality (I agree) or a guide to action (I disagree). Confusingly, she did say that pleasure was the ultimate goal.

The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

I'm unclear on how the purpose of morality is to teach you to enjoy yourself and live, and yet pleasure is not supposed to be a guide to action.

It seems wrong to say that life is for surviving simply for the sake of surviving; instead, life is for surviving for the purpose of enjoying life, but you can only achieve that enjoyment if you pursue your enjoyment with the means of rationality.

Rand seemed to believe that the concept of a "standard of morality" was the same as the concept of "a guide to action," and I think those are two different things.

Sometimes, doing something for the pure enjoyment of it is fine, so long as it doesn't violate a rational standard of morality. So, if you are on a cruise ship, and decide to buy a frozen daiquiri just because you want to sip it under the sun on a deck chair for the pure enjoyment of it, then that is perfectly fine, because it is in no way violating a standard of morality. If you want to go eat lunch with a friend and spend time with them socially, for the pure enjoyment of it, there is nothing wrong with that as well. And by extension, if you want to have sex with someone, for the pure enjoyment of it, there is nothing wrong with that, so long as it does not violate the rational standard of morality, which is survival as a means to enjoy your own life.

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I agree with what you say about jealousy. I do think Rand acted jealously given what I know, which is improper of her. I'm not sure what to add that's new, except perhaps that jealousy is an indicator of a lack of trust in another person. If you are concerned that someone is going to abandon you due to mistakes or failing to see the value in you, something is wrong with the relationship that needs to be fixed. Jealousy is primarily about a possible loss of a value, so this applies to even friendships. Someone acting in their own interests and spending time with people in addition to you is not a threat to you. Their good is your good, and does not indicate that you are worth any less. More or less, I do not think there is any rational basis to jealousy, unlike some emotions like fear or anger. Those emotions may have a rational basis sometimes. Not that it should be suppressed; jealousy is something to deal with and hopefully fix.

She did. I'm not sure how you can read Man's Rights, or The Virtue of Selfishness, or any of her works really, and fail to see the conclusion that we fundamentally have a right to self-ownership.

Hmm the only sentence I see is this one, which I didn't know about: "that a right is the property of an individual". That doesn't make sense to me, and I don't know where else she implied that terminology. I'll discuss it in another thread if you want.

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Rand assumes that the rational reasons for attraction must be something that she herself can see, and since she can't see the reasons for Branden's attraction to Patrecia, then he must not be operating objectively. Part of Rand's problem in this regard is that she believes the only objective virtues a person can rationally be attracted to are character qualities. And at that, she doesn't allow for the possibility that there are some character qualities someone might have that she is unable to see, or hasn't yet seen.

But sometimes what we are attracted to sexually are not "character" qualities alone.Rand would have benefited in understanding more about evolutionary psychology, which has shown us that our sexual attraction often has "objectively" to do with procreation: Hip to waist ratio, reproductive potential, capability, genetic resistance to disease, social approval, etc. Because Rand is unaware of those kinds of evolutionary sexual attraction switches, she writes things like this:

Right. So your complaint is that she's wrong, not that she hasn't lived up to her own views. Oh well, so you think she's wrong about sexual attraction. If you wanna argue about that, start a thread about it (well, actually, there are already threads on the subject, post in one of them). But leave out the ad hominem.

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I don't believe I've committed ad hominem at all in my posts. Even if I were to personally attack Rand in an immature way (I haven't), that wouldn't be ad hominem. An ad hominem is when you say something like, "your argument is wrong, because you are stupid." I haven't done that at all, and I surely don't think Rand is stupid.

Also, my contention is in fact that she hasn't lived up to her own views in a slight way, in terms of seemingly not allowing a former sexual/romantic interest of hers make his own decisions based on his own self-interest. When she fell victim to the emotion of jealousy, and it colored her response, she did not live up to her views. That's the very point I am making.

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But sometimes what we are attracted to sexually are not "character" qualities alone.Rand would have benefited in understanding more about evolutionary psychology, which has shown us that our sexual attraction often has "objectively" to do with procreation: Hip to waist ratio, reproductive potential, capability, genetic resistance to disease, social approval, etc. Because Rand is unaware of those kinds of evolutionary sexual attraction switches, she writes things like this:

No, evolutionary psychology hasn't shown that conclusively as far as I know, those are just taking presumptions of modern Western standards of beauty and making up some story where the standard promotes reproductive fitness. Furthermore, that is for sexual attraction and not necessarily attraction in a romantic sense, at least if you distinguish between the two.

I wouldn't construe anything Rand said that would suggest that character qualities are all that's needed to establish attraction. At most they are necessary, but not sufficient. If a person lacks any good character qualities, they are not a person to start a relationship with. But then there are also character qualities that people value at different levels, values unique to individuals, or any assortment of other factors. The journal entry you mentioned seems like Rand was rationalizing her jealousy, but we're talking about jealousy and attraction basically, not to what degree Rand is being consistent with her own stated views. No two people will or even can have identical values, so it's not bad if there is difference. People vary in the value they "see" in one another.

But why would Rand (and others in general) be sensitive and wary of casual sex? Not because of rationality, but because of social convention, and traditional relationship constructs. That was what fed Rand's jealousy regarding Branden, and that's what caused her to cling to traditional conventions regarding "casual sex" and "promiscuity," and it isn't rational.

This is a lot to assume about a person. Maybe it's true, maybe it's not, we can't ask her, so we won't know. I don't think Rand defined promiscuity really, so I think all she's saying is that sex should not be treated as simply as what to watch on TV at night. Tea and conversation doesn't really have any of the psychological consequences that sex does, and are two very different kinds of action. Pleasure is fine, but that isn't all one should use to judge if an action is beneficial to your life. Apparently heroin has a hell of a lot of pleasure to it, but other consequences must be taken into account since it causes addiction and medical problems. Tea and conversation doesn't have really much to consider as bad, unless you're doing it because your family told you to and you don't even want to go (which would be second-handed). These type of questions are why pleasure shouldn't be the guide to action, because possible impact on your life is just as important. Hedonistic utility is not the measure, even if pleasure is important to living a happy life.

Sex clearly doesn't have the consequences as heroin, but it is not as straightforward as tea. More or less, all Rand implied is that if you have sex with someone, they ought to be really important to you, but I'm afraid that Rand didn't talk about *why* extensively except for one section of AS.

I don't think this response has anything to do with jealousy actually. So, if you would like to talk about what makes for attraction and/or a discussion about casual sex, please make a new thread. You probably could do a search on either term and use an old thread.

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Tea and conversation doesn't really have any of the psychological consequences that sex does

Why? The only reason why sex with someone has greater psychological consequences than tea is because of social convention, as influenced by evolutionary psychology (i.e., if the woman gets pregnant, can you be sure who the father really is if she has had casual sex with multiple partners, and if you can't, then no man will feel obligated to help spend resources on raising the child). But once you factor in modern technology, like birth control methods and safe sex practices or technology to limit STI transmission, then all you are left with are the psychological remnants of the perceived consequences, and thus only left with social conventions that are not based in rationality, but only the evolutionary psychological whispers of the past. If you can eliminate the possibility of pregnancy, and STI contraction, then the "psychological consequences" are ghosts and irrational fears.

But as you say, this does venture into other territory, so I will start a new thread if I feel like carrying it further.

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Why? The only reason why sex with someone has greater psychological consequences than tea is because of social convention, as influenced by evolutionary psychology (i.e., if the woman gets pregnant, can you be sure who the father really is if she has had casual sex with multiple partners, and if you can't, then no man will feel obligated to help spend resources on raising the child).

I'll try to be brief.

Even tea has some psychological consequences, as does every action. Mind and body are inseparable. Consequences may be positive. I'm saying sex has greater consequences even in the positive sense because of the degree it is pleasurable, partly due to dopamine release and all that which *doesn't* happen with drinking tea. Greater consequences doesn't always mean bad consequences. I simply don't buy evolutionary psychology regarding sexual preferences though, so leave that out. It's a nonissue anyway, because we are specifically talking about how to evaluate sex and its consequences on life, not why some people are irrational.

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I don't believe I've committed ad hominem at all in my posts. Even if I were to personally attack Rand in an immature way (I haven't), that wouldn't be ad hominem. An ad hominem is when you say something like, "your argument is wrong, because you are stupid." I haven't done that at all, and I surely don't think Rand is stupid.

Also, my contention is in fact that she hasn't lived up to her own views in a slight way, in terms of seemingly not allowing a former sexual/romantic interest of hers make his own decisions based on his own self-interest.

You haven't backed that assertion up with anything. You claimed that you have quotes of her contradicting herself. When I asked for them, all you had was a convoluted argument using evolutionary psychology, to try and prove that she is wrong.

The false claim that you have quotes that she contradicted herself is an ad hominem argument you were using to try and prove her wrong on the nature of sex. This whole scenario you concocted about her personal life is all an ad hominem you are trying to use to prove her wrong on sex.

What you should do instead, if you really want to talk about philosophy and evolutionary psychology, is start a thread on the subject, and never mention Ayn Rand's personal life in it.

Or if, instead, you want to prove your claims about Ayn Rand's personal life, go ahead. But use factual evidence, leave the psychologizing out of it. So far, you haven't done either. You're using the latter to prove the former, which is a pretty obvious example of the ad hominem fallacy.

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  • 4 weeks later...

You haven't backed that assertion up with anything. You claimed that you have quotes of her contradicting herself. When I asked for them, all you had was a convoluted argument using evolutionary psychology, to try and prove that she is wrong.

The false claim that you have quotes that she contradicted herself is an ad hominem argument you were using to try and prove her wrong on the nature of sex. This whole scenario you concocted about her personal life is all an ad hominem you are trying to use to prove her wrong on sex.

What you should do instead, if you really want to talk about philosophy and evolutionary psychology, is start a thread on the subject, and never mention Ayn Rand's personal life in it.

Or if, instead, you want to prove your claims about Ayn Rand's personal life, go ahead. But use factual evidence, leave the psychologizing out of it. So far, you haven't done either. You're using the latter to prove the former, which is a pretty obvious example of the ad hominem fallacy.

 

Hi, Nicky. 

 

I didn't mean to go this long without replying, and I don't want to belabor a point or resurrect an disagreement that is past its time. But it's important to clarify where I believe you've misunderstood my position.

 

My position is that while Rand lived most of her life consistently with her philosophy, when it comes to the Branden incident she did not, particularly in terms of how she viewed the ownership of another person in a relationship and how jealousy played a part in that.

 

That's not an ad hominem.

 

An ad hominem is when you attack someone's argument by highlighting an unrelated personal failing (real or imagined) of the person making the argument, and then try to say that the argument they are makign is somehow false or invalid.

 

I'm not attacking her argument. In fact, I am saying her argument is true, but that she did not live up to it in an area of her life. The contradiction she makes in writing comes from her writing in her personal journal (although it was never meant to be published). Her stated philosophy in the works she did mean to be published however, is not contradictory. 

 

But even without her journal writing, the public knowledge of the way she handled the Branden incident, or at least what seems to be the case of what was reported, does seem to me to contradict her philosophy.

 

My argument is that jealousy in a relationship is at odds with objectivism. That's because the underlying cause of jealousy is a subconscious belief that another person should be owned by you without regard to their free-will desire; Jealousy plays out in attempts to convince a person against their free will and personal desires to stay with you, because of your fear of loss.

 

Once you fully embrace the truth that everyone owns themselves, and that you cannot demand emotion or command a contractual relationship from a person who is free to own themselves, then there is no place for jealousy. And that is precisely because love (as Rand rightly pointed out) can only exist in the free exchange between two (or more) free people. That not only means that you afford other people the freedom and space to choose you freely or to not choose you, but further that you would actually not want or desire them to stay with you if they didn't freely choose to do so without constraint and without a feeling of altruistic relationship obligation. You may still feel loss, but that's a different emotion than jealousy.

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