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How is love explained?

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Marty McFly
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If the child's whole philosophy is just wrong. If he/she behaves in an entitlement generation or something... If they adopt a philosophy that is disgusting to the parent, and yet the parent cant help loving that child. I understand tough love and everything, but if the child is at rock botton, what does a parent do?

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Do you have a specific case study in mind, or is this just a thought experiment exercise?

 

The details provided thus far are pretty scant, and do not sound like a plausible progression thus far. Many children rebel in a way that is challenging to the parents, but a philosophy is built over years and the rebellion is usually done within the framework of what he has learned up to that point in time.

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Marty McFly:

You're withholding details.

 

If the child's whole philosophy is just wrong. If he/she behaves in an entitlement generation or something... If they adopt a philosophy that is disgusting to the parent, and yet the parent cant help loving that child. I understand tough love and everything, but if the child is at rock botton, what does a parent do?

"Behaving in an entitlement generation or something" is too general. This could be interpreted to mean anything. Is there a name to the philosophy your child has adopted, or is it merely a rebellious phase? How old is the child? Young people, especially in America, claim a "right" to freedom, which often includes their "right" to unrestricted and often self-destructive behavior, without accepting the costs or consequences.

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Marty, I refuse to have children in large part because of the possibility you are inquiring about. The idea that a child could choose all the values I hate would be the worst possible experience in a relationship to me. (Its more than that for me, but thats the biggest reason) After all relationships, not to mention, love, are based on common values. To think of being responsible for another human whom I don't particularly like, is like self imposed slavery to me. Of course given the right influences, this is unlikely, but those activities are the rest of the reasons I have no interest in.....

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Marty, I refuse to have children in large part because of the possibility you are inquiring about. The idea that a child could choose all the values I hate would be the worst possible experience in a relationship to me. (Its more than that for me, but thats the biggest reason) After all relationships, not to mention, love, are based on common values. To think of being responsible for another human whom I don't particularly like, is like self imposed slavery to me. Of course given the right influences, this is unlikely, but those activities are the rest of the reasons I have no interest in.....

 

Doesn't the attitude "I refuse to try because something might turn out badly" run counter to much of Objectivist philosophy?

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Robert said:

Doesn't the attitude "I refuse to try because something might turn out badly" run counter to much of Objectivist philosophy?

That does not describe my position. I would have to actually value most of the other activities associated with rearing a child in order for it to be what you're talking about. . The attitude, "I refuse to try something that I want to do because it might turn out to be bad," is a problem, but not one that I possess. I have been the primary father figure in my nephews life, and that I have enjoyed. But even here, I see constantly, aspects of this endeavor, that I could never want to do as a parent with that type of responsibility. Basically I get to choose only the activities that please me in relationship to my nephew. Even here, the immaturity associated with a young mind, reminds me of things associated with parenting, that I could never tolerate as a lifestyle. These are not moral failures, being that he's a youngster, and these things diminish as he grows older, but man, sitting around as a parent, waiting for you kid to finally see things as they are, (recognition of virtue) is not something I'm interested in. Edited by Plasmatic
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Doesn't the attitude "I refuse to try because something might turn out badly" run counter to much of Objectivist philosophy?

Have you ever tasted cyanide before?  If not, why not?

 

When a parent loves his/her child, and this child behaves in ways that are just wrong, how does the parent deal with it?

There are several unidentified variables here.

  1. Does this child understand the immorality of their actions?
  2. If they do understand, what is the nature and degree of their immorality?

As a parent, I would generally base my decisions on my certainty of 1 and the severity of 2.  On the lesser side I would suggest the traditional punishments (spanking, lectures, etc).

On the worst possible end of the spectrum, you have to remind yourself that you are not (and should not be) defined by your children; this seems to be implicit in the way many people approach parenting and it's not fair to anyone involved.

So in the farthest degrees of immorality (and when your children are fairly mature), you must ask yourself what sort of values you can expect from their company; whether they inspire your respect and affection, or simply upset you.

That said. . .

 

If the child's whole philosophy is just wrong.

You should reexamine question 1.

If your child has deliberately rejected the truth (and you seem to consider them old enough to be held responsible for it) then it is no longer rational for you to give them any more time or space in your mind.

 

Since that is the nature of the question, I would strongly recommend that you answer it with painstaking precision.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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The essential observable, which you should try to identify, is whether this 'wrong philosophy' is contradictory, in your child's own words.

I have known people who said that Capitalism was evil, because when they said "Capitalism" what they meant was "a mixed economy"; although they did not have the words to convey it, they were affirming Rand's politics by attempting to refute them (on the premise that she and I were advocates of a mixed economy).

 

If they have explicitly advocated and defended a contradiction, especially if they acknowledge it as a contradiction, then you may safely infer some amount of evasion and immorality.

If not then you should entertain the possibility that they may actually be right in the wrong language.

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so this is my question: if it comes to this, if it is no longer rational to  give them any time or space in your mind, how is still loving that person explained? It's easy to say that one should not give that person time or space, but when that person is one's own child, how is that love explained in Objectivism? how is a parent's refusal to give up hope for their adult child explained?

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I think "hope for their child" is explained pretty easily by their many years together, especially since it begins from the child's very entrance to the world. All of the child's stages in life both good and bad, mood swings, idiosyncrasies, etc., in addition to plenty of good memories together, give a parent a lot to hope with.

"Love" doesn't mean the same thing universally, either, even if it's defined as "a very strong, positive feeling toward someone." A prolonged period where a parent does not like who their kid is becoming/has become may lead to love dissolving. And of course, due to many factors, the kid (or "adult kid") may still be in the parent's life, and love may grow again, or grow stronger, at a later time.

I guess what I'm saying is that a parent/child relationship isn't fundamentally different than any relationship, in that certain interpersonal factors will lead to strong emotional connections -- or not. Some of the particular factors, though, are very different, which could be why people so often say things like, "Unless you're a parent, you could never understand." Well, no. You have friends and family, you do understand. But, you've never seen someone from the moment their foot was the size of your thumb, so you may not have the same tolerance or patience for "downturns" in a relationship.

Edited by JASKN
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I think "hope for their child" is explained pretty easily by their many years together, especially since it begins from the child's very entrance to the world.

And this means the parent has seen the kid in years when the kid was "good" (this is true regardless of one's conception of the good). Having seen different, when the parent sees the "bad" (grown-up) kid, there is a sense that the badness is not core to his character. [Little Johnny used to love being in the church choir, singing all those hymns in praise of the lord. That's who he really is: not this atheist who has been influenced by modern college professors!]

 

In addition, as much as a parent may understand that a kid can make choices and go their own way, they also realize that they had a huge role in forming their kid's personality. [Maybe I should have taught Johnny about God differently. Maybe he was just trying to please us when he was such a cherub in the church choir. Maybe I failed him by not warning him about those evil college professors!]

 

So, added to the feeling that the bad behavior is not truly reflective of the kid's character, comes this doubt: perhaps I am partially responsible for it. 

 

Finally, even if the love wanes, most parents will still be left with a sense of: "if I am not there for him, who will be?" 

 

 

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Marty:

All people, assuming they enjoy a normal physiology, come into their own, and make their own discoveries. Exactly who they will be, many of them don't know until they've experienced some independence. If the child is still legally dependent, adolescence can be the trial of a parent's life. Not knowing the exact nature of your frustration, I can only suppose. Tough-love was always the response of parents back in the day, or out-and-out alienation. Judging by your deep love for your child, it seems that no matter what he/she does, you will always hold out the option of reconciliation. This is understandable. While I cannot judge as to whether your child's philosophy (his/her most avowed beliefs) is at the center of the trouble, or if it is a series of behavioral mistakes (merely poor judgement), that person, your child, will have to make his/her own decisions. As the others have previously mentioned, you can only be accountable for the earliest influences of the child's experiences. So much of our culture delivers conflicted messages to the young and impressionable that it is a small wonder of the horrific stories we hear of in the media. I regret to say, I have no genuine advice to offer; I can only say that an irrational person either corrects his/her own behavior, or reality will do it for them.

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so this is my question: if it comes to this, if it is no longer rational to  give them any time or space in your mind, how is still loving that person explained?

When you think of your favorite fictional characters (regardless of who they are), that they are your favorites means you identify with their virtues.  Everyone knows a great many things about themselves, some of which they value and some of which they don't.  To identify with someone means to recognize that you share some trait(s) with them, which you consider valuable.

For example, I am particularly fond of Captain Kirk because neither of us believe in an unwinnable scenario, and I take great pride in that.  At times I am also prone to long-winded hyperbole (like Bones) but I do not feel the same way about him because I am not proud of our similarities.

 

Notice that it all boils down to analogies, drawn between my own introspective knowledge and my knowledge of someone else's behavior.  Such introspective analogies are directly relevant to your question, because when you enjoy someone else's company and you feel some comradery towards them, it is also because you recognize some virtues which you share with them.

 

Now the concept of "virtue" itself refers to the value of a personal characteristic.  Such characteristics are objectively valuable to the extent that you value yourself; that you want to be a particular sort of person.  The significance therein stems from the fact that everyone is constantly gaining new experiences, learning, adapting, in countless different ways. 

What you consider morally "virtuous" allows you to choose the course of your own development and those whom you consider worthy of your "love" are those whom you idolize in a particular and profoundly private way.

 

Whom you love is dictated by what you love about yourself.

 

With that firmly in mind, let's return to the original question:

so this is my question: if it comes to this, if it is no longer rational to  give them any time or space in your mind, how is still loving that person explained?

One of two ways, depending on whether you consider them fundamentally moral or immoral.

 

As SoftwareNerd mentioned, it may be that you do not actually believe that their flaws run all the way down; that their current behavior is only a temporary lapse (and hence they are still worth being valued).  If your thoughts contradict your feelings in this way then your thoughts are in error; you should realize explicitly that you do not actually believe your own accusations, deep down, and adjust yourself accordingly.

 

The alternative, if you truly believe that they are rotten to the core, is that you have fallen into the mental habit of expecting "unconditional love" and that you cannot bring yourself to properly evaluate the facts, because it would make you feel guilty.

For example:  "Johnny butchered and ate twelve people but I can't stop loving him because that would make me a bad parent."

It is not the likely case but, if your thoughts contradict your feelings in that way, then you must stop and check your premises immediately if you care about the very possibility of your own happiness.

 

I cannot calculate the damage which "unconditional love" has inflicted on innumerable children, throughout the centuries, but I believe it has been even worse for the perpetrators: their parents.

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Let's just say for the sake of argument that children pick up on their partents' world view fairly easily, but in a way that cannot be explained by the children themselves due to a lack of linguistic skill.

 

What we seem to presently see among adults is a feeling of self-entitlement, or an 'it's all about me' attitude that makes a parody out of Rand's virtue of selfishness.

 

Why, then, would we not expect children to behave in the same manner? The same is true, BTW, of bullying.

 

Love, then, in part seem to exist as a type of acknowledgement that children are bent and mutilated by a zeitgeist over which individual parets have little control.

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These are interesting thoughts. Now what if that son or daughter who is acting irrationally and who's philosophy greatly contrasts that of the parent does something stupid that puts his/her life in danger, and the parent sacrifices his/her life to save that child.

Would that parent be considered irrational?

Is love rational

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Frank said:

Love, then, in part seem to exist as a type of acknowledgement that children are bent and mutilated by a zeitgeist over which individual parets have little control.

We have a concept for that, its pity, not love. Imagine a valentines card where you could substitute "pity" for the word love.....No thanks!

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Marty,

While not knowing the particulars of your child's dangerous behavior, it is rational to put your own life at risk, if it means securing the life of someone with whom you could not live without.

 

These are interesting thoughts. Now what if that son or daughter who is acting irrationally and who's philosophy greatly contrasts that of the parent does something stupid that puts his/her life in danger, and the parent sacrifices his/her life to save that child.
Would that parent be considered irrational?
Is love rational

Depending on just how much you love your child, how your life would be affected if the child's life could have been saved by you, it is not a sacrifice to save that child. It is not irrational to save someone you love. And if in the event the tragedy of your child's loss became reality, you would forever be haunted and depressed by the memory of failing to save your child, or you would have to get over that memory, accepting the fact that your child made the irrational choices. Your life is your highest value in Objectivist philosophy.

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