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Love versus career choice (as values)?

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acapier
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I've decided to post this in response to a discussion about "romantic love" and its value to man's life being discussed in the "Questions..." department (simply titled: "Love"). It occurred to me that during that discussion no one yet involved agreed with what I said about it, which is quite startling to me since I know that my stand on the issue is the core of what it means to be "man". Either people have not studied Objectivism closely, or they're simply dismissing parts of it to suit them (which would be a grave error). If many of these individuals have mistaken what romantic love is to an Objectivist, then I'm wondering how many others are making the same mistake?

The debate is about what man should hold higher as a value: romantic love or productive work? Those in the discussion said that one should hold a romantic relationship as a higher value than that of one's productive work; I say the opposite. While I agree that having any type of love in one's life is of great value, it is only productive work (in part) that makes that love possible; therefore, one must hold the value of productive work above any relationship (romantic or otherwise).

Reason, Purpose, and Self-Esteem are the primary values (meaning that they must come first before all others can be attained) in man's life. What I'm discussing here is the second: Purpose (or goal-directedness). Now, a man may have many goals in his life (including having romantic relationships), but it is his main goal (his central purpose) that must be held as his higher value. If a man bases his central purpose on having or keeping a romantic relationship, no matter how great, he then becomes dependent on it since it is an outside source. If the relationship ends (by death or otherwise) then his purpose no longer exists and he might as well commit suicide.

Man must be a self-sustained entity, meaning that no outside source can create his values or character; it must come from within himself. Once he has Reason he knows that in order to survive (physically and spiritually) he must produce by his own ability and means (i.e. by productive work). Productive work is the translation of his mind by his body recreated in the physical world. If a man chooses not to produce, and instead use the minds and bodies of others, he becomes a parasite; he becomes idle like a car stuck in neutral waiting for any passersby to give him aid. So, the question is: Could an Objectivist love such a person? The answer is unequivocally No.

Some might argue that once you find "true love" you then rearrange your hierarchy of values to place that person on top, and then career or work second. The error in that is simple. What you've just done was use your productive work as "bait" for your relationship. Fundamental values do not change; they are constants, immutable. If you change it then you never truely regarded it as such in the first place.

It's very easy to forego Reason in the face of love, so it's that much more important that one knows and understands himself before entering any such love. Know your value system and stead fast to your convictions. Ayn Rand wrote extensively, in her fiction and non-fiction alike, about this, and "romantic love" was no exception. Remember, it is your Reason, Purpose, and Self-Esteem (all self-generated values) that a person properly falls in love with, so one must have and keep those as primary (because they come from within); all relationships (including romantic ones) with men are secondary.

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While I agree that having any type of love in one's life is of great value, it is only productive work (in part) that makes that love possible; therefore, one must hold the value of productive work above any relationship (romantic or otherwise).

P: It is only productive work that makes love (or any other relationship) possible

(P2): One wants to maintain the proper hierarchy of values

C: One must hold the value of productive work above any relationship

This seems irrefutable, and I don't see how anyone can logically deny it.

Maybe their confusion comes from an example of this kind:

If I have a dream job and I somehow find romantic love 3,000mi away, and, b/c of the circumstances, must move to her location in order to be with her, thus requiring me to get a job flipping burgers at mcdonalds since it's the only job available and I need $, I don't see this as sacrifice.

In the case above, I gave up my dream job in order to be with her, but I didn't give up the value of productive work per se (although flipping burgers isn't the best example of "productive work" since it requires about nothing of the mind, but the replacement job, hypothetically, could be anything less than my dream job and would still fit the purpose of serving as an example)--I still see the need to make $ in order to survive, but I value being in her presence more so than having my dream job. Note, however, that this doesn't necessitate the value of love superimposing the value of productive work.

With this being said, I'd like to end with a quote from VOS, pg 69:

"Accompanying one's husband or wife to a concert, when one does not care for music, is not a "compromise" (or sacrifice); surrendering to his or her irrational demands for social conformity, for pretended religious observance or for generosity toward boorish in-laws, is."

Parenthesis are mine.

Edited by Nxixcxk
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The debate is about what man should hold higher as a value: romantic love or productive work?  Those in the discussion said that one should hold a romantic relationship as a higher value than that of one's productive work; I say the opposite.

The debate was over whether one should hold one's career as a greater value than romantic love, not productive work. Productiveness is one of the primary virtues of Objectivism and the result of it (one's work) is thus one of the primary VALUES.

However, productive work does not specify a specific career. There are many ways to engage in production, not all of which include holding some kind of company position etc. I can fully see a man (or woman) deciding to change careers or temporarily suspend one (motherhood, anyone?) in order to better enjoy their romantic relationship . I cannot see them giving up work entirely, even temporarily.

Precision is very important in debating. If you mean "productive work" please use that term and not "career" . . . they cover different aspects of life.

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Actually, I had a conversation like this with my wife. I was communicating that I might not pursue a big money-making career after she becomes a doctor, since the taxes are punative. She was immediately concerned that I was advocating becoming non-productive and became quite upset. (and rightly so!) Of course, I was not, and I pointed out that I had said that I might not make a lot of money, and that this did not at all mean that I wouldn't produce things of value. (I offered the examples of writer and states attorney)

She was immediately relieved. (also rightly so!)

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The key here is to remember that while values most certainly do exist in a hierarchy, they also exist in context.

No value is ever a value out of context. While it's perfectly proper to say that one's career is one's highest value, that doesn't mean that one pursues it to the exclusion of everything else in one's life.

To put it another way: one's career is one's top value — but it's not the only important value, and shouldn't be treated as such.

It's fairly easy to talk about values such as career and romantic love in the abstract sense, and to rank their relative importance in human life. What's not so easy is to translate these values (and this hierarchy) into real-life choices and actions; to make decisions, while keeping the full context of one's life and other values in mind.

It's a very common error to hold "frozen abstractions" — that is, to treat an abstraction as if it were a concrete — such as viewing productive work in terms of a specific career, or viewing one's "career" in terms of a specific job. The fact is that a career can often encompass a range of possibilities, if one is flexible and open to them.

One of the hallmarks of a person with a good sense of values is that he doesn't get locked in to just one option. He's able to roll with changes. He isn't thrown into a tailspin when the company he's worked for for the last twenty years goes out of business — in fact, in this day and age, he's not even likely to be working for the same company (or even the same job) for that long. He's constantly looking to better himself; he's willing to consider the new, the untried, even the risky. But he can only do this to the degree that he's open to new possibilities; to the degree that he can "think outside the box," and recognize and seize opportunities as they come up.

A person who is locked into that one option — a person who holds super-concrete values, and pursues super-concrete goals — is not a passionate valuer by a long shot. That's a person whose sense of values is really quite primitive, and whose values have likely long ago gone stale.

If I have a dream job and I somehow find romantic love 3,000mi away, and, b/c of the circumstances, must move to her location in order to be with her,  thus requiring me to get a job flipping burgers at mcdonalds since it's the only job available and I need $, I don't see this as sacrifice.

I would say that if one were to move to an area where the only job one could get is flipping burgers (assuming one was qualified for much more) — with little or no chance of ever being able to obtain a better, more suitable job — and that one did this merely to be in the proximity of the person one loves — then yes, I would most definitely consider this to be a sacrifice.

It's also an exceedingly suspicious scenario.

In addition to the extreme implausibility of the projected employment situation, given everything I know about romantic relationships, both conceptually and statistically, I'd have very serious doubts about someone who said that he'd found "love" 3,000 miles away. With all due respect to those who claim to be carrying on passionate romances via telephone and Instant Messages, I don't see how it's possible for two people to reach the point of being able to say that they're truly in love — that they have an actual romantic relationship worth packing up and moving to another city to pursue — without regularly having been in each other's presence, and developing that relationship in person, over a fairly long period of time.

It's not that people don't do this all the time — they do, and with varying degrees of disaster. Love may conquer a lot, but it hasn't yet mastered this one.

But let's say that we're living in a science fiction novel, and that interplanetary love does indeed exist. In this case, I would say: Why must you move to be with her? Could she not find suitable employment in your area? (And if she made it clear that she wouldn't move to be with you, what would that tell you about her feelings and level of commitment?)

Another option would be that you both move to another galaxy, where each of you could find meaningful work.

The point is that negotiation and compromise of this kind is essential to a successful romantic relationship, to say nothing of life in general.

Of course, it very rarely happens that two people who love each other are simply unable reach a solution — meaning that one or the other would have no choice but to sacrifice him- or herself — in which case the relationship regrettably cannot continue.

Fortunately, much more often than not, an acceptable, non-self-sacrificial solution can be found. It just takes imagination and, again, flexibility.

Edited by Kevin Delaney
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Productive work = Any goal-directed action that moves one forward to one's central Purpose (which is career); although not completely exclusive, you cannot separate them.

No, productive work does not necessarily produce monetary wealth. One may want to have a good medical career, and as part of gaining experience work voluntarily for an organization. He/she is still using their own mind for their own benefit even though without pay; however, this is done only with the person's central purpose (say, becoming a doctor) clearly in view. In regards to motherhood, it doesn't suspend one's career, it becomes one in itself (and is by far the most demanding); but also, motherhood cannot be one's central purpose because what does one do when the children have grown? Raising children is important, but even that should never interfere or cloud your central purpose.

Leonard Peikoff, in Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand (pg 300), says this, "The producer moves through his days not in random circles, but in a straight line -- which last, Ayn Rand writes, 'is the badge of man, the straight line of...motion from goal to goal, each leading to the next and to a single growing sum...'" This means that nothing (not even love) can deter you from your absolute goal. All actions you take must move you forward, not back.

What I think that many of you are saying is that if two people fall in love and begin a relationship where one may have to give up his/her central purpose for something less then that's okay if the two truely love one another. Don't you see what's wrong with that? You're saying that in matters of love it's okay to suspend reason. Your central purpose is everything, it's what you've chosen as your purpose for existence (which cannot be anything outside of yourself). To give it up (or settle for less) for someone else's love goes against everything that Objectivism stands for. I would never ask anyone to give that up for a relationship with me, and if they did it voluntarily I could no longer love them anyway.

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It's a very common error to hold "frozen abstractions" — that is, to treat an abstraction as if it were a concrete — such as viewing productive work in terms of a specific career, or viewing one's "career" in terms of a specific job.

Abstractions are concretes; at least an abstraction of importance. If you cannot relate an abstraction to concrete reality then it's worthless.

One of the hallmarks of a person with a good sense of values is that he doesn't get locked in to just one option. He's able to roll with changes.

Read anything written by Ayn Rand.

(Added credits to the quotes-SoftwareNerd)

Edited by softwareNerd
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Productive work = Any goal-directed action that moves one forward to one's central Purpose (which is career); although not completely exclusive, you cannot separate them.

Actually a better term for this would be "avocation", or Central Purpose in Life. Career has very definite professional connotations. Being an Architect, a Doctor, or a Teacher is a career . . . studying physics or landscaping one's property is not, however these two can also be an avocation or CPL. (As Burgess Laughlin says.)

There are distinct differences (albeit subtle ones) between the terms "work", "career", "job", etc.

In other words: we got what you meant. Should one sacrifice one's own happiness for one's beloved? No. How could you even love someone that could ask such a thing? If one finds a truly deep and meaningful relationship, should one be willing to make accomodations such as changing locations, transfering positions, starting one's own business, etc? It depends on the value you place on your specific job situation and the value you place on the other person.

I know several people that have completely changed tracks quite late in life for various reasons, including getting married. There's nothing wrong with that . . . it can take a long time to find one's CPL. This doesn't mean that one life comes to an end and another begins, it just means you've shifted your progression sideways a bit. You're still going forward, just not in the same line.

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What I think that many of you are saying is that if two people fall in love and begin a relationship where one may have to give up his/her central purpose for something less then that's okay if the two truely love one another.

Who is saying that? Not I. I also don't see anyone else here who is saying that... Perhaps you should wait for someone to speak up before you launch a further assault on the straw man... :)

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Abstractions are concretes; at least an abstraction of importance.

Why do you think that abstractions are concretes -- that is, physical existents outside the mind?

What is the relevance of importance (which is an evaluation) to whether an abstraction refers to concretes?

If you cannot relate an abstraction to concrete reality then it's worthless.
This is a true statement -- unless you include abstractions referring to mental entities such as thoughts.

Read anything written by Ayn Rand.

I have: The excerpt from The Romantic Manifesto, p. 27 (p. 23, paperback), the excerpt that appears in "Abstractions and Concretes," The Ayn Rand Lexicon, p. 3.

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It's a very common error to hold "frozen abstractions" — that is, to treat an abstraction as if it were a concrete — such as viewing productive work in terms of a specific career, or viewing one's "career" in terms of a specific job. The fact is that a career can often encompass a range of possibilities, if one is flexible and open to them.

Abstractions are concretes; at least an abstraction of importance.  If you cannot relate an abstraction to concrete reality then it's worthless.

This individual is taxing my benevolence, but for the benefit of the younger members of this forum, the fallacy of the "frozen abstraction" means substituting a particular concrete for the wider abstract class to which it belongs.

To hold a frozen abstraction means, not failing to relate your abstractions to reality, but tying an abstraction to only ONE instance of it — and then treating the abstraction as if it were this particular concrete.

Miss Rand gives the example of equating "morality" with altruism. (See "Collectivized Ethics," VOS) Of course altruism is a morality, but it's not "morality."

The broader the abstraction, the wider the range of possibilities it subsumes. This is true for abstractions in general, and for abstract values as they relate to one's life. It's why, as I say, one needs to be flexible and open to possibilities in one's career — able to "roll with changes" — not mentally locked in to just one terribly specific option.

Acapier doesn't like this, and seems to think that Ayn Rand advocated otherwise. He's apparently unaware that Miss Rand essentially switched careers herself — from that of a screenwriter and novelist, to that of an essayist and lecturer — upon completing Atlas Shrugged and deciding that the prospect of writing more fiction was no longer interesting to her. She didn't become a longshoreman, of course, but her career values were flexible enough to allow her find another line of work which was fulfilling to her, and which made sense given her talents and interests.

Presumably, under the view that Acapier is espousing, if once upon a time a person decided that his career was to be that of "buggy manufacturer," he should have relentlessly pursued this line of work, even after it became clear that the automobile industry had rendered this particular occupation permanently obsolete.

If that's not a case of failing to relate one's abstractions to concrete reality, I don't know what would be.

Edited by Kevin Delaney
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I haven't as yet had time to read throught this entire thread but it seems very interesting. Acapier, you seem to be quite passionate about the subject. To read some of my structured thought on the subject you might want to check out my essay on the difference between romantic love and friendship in the Members Writing section entitled, "A Motor Like Mine: A Discussion on Romantic Love."

Americo.

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Miss Rand essentially switched careers herself — from that of a screenwriter and novelist, to that of an essayist and lecturer — upon completing Atlas Shrugged and deciding that the prospect of writing more fiction was no longer interesting to her. She didn't become a longshoreman, of course, but her career values were flexible enough to allow her find another line of work which was fulfilling to her, and which made sense given her talents and interests.

She did so only out of necessity to make her philosophy more clear to those who didn't understand it. As do most people, she hated public speaking and outside of talking about Objectivism nothing else interested her (as a career). Everything she did was integrated into her central purpose of being a writer/philosopher in the context of her own philosophy.

if once upon a time a person decided that his career was to be that of "buggy manufacturer," he should have relentlessly pursued this line of work, even after it became clear that the automobile industry had rendered this particular occupation permanently obsolete.

My grandfather was a "buggy manufacturer" (the occupation is "blacksmith"), and that was his central purpose. He loved taking the wood and steel and crafting it with his own hands. He did it because he wanted to; he did not want to manufacture cars even though he could possibly make more money. No, he wasn't a millionare, but he was a man of integrity and honesty (much more valuable than any money he would have gained doing something different).

To relate this to Ayn Rand's writing: Howard Roark was to be an architect, and only an architect, by his own standards. He said that he wanted to create buildings, and this is how he's going to do it; and he never strayed from that. So, he was frozen to his abstraction of the career "architect". Yes, he had a few other jobs along the way, but those were taken only because he had to survive if he was not allowed to build in his way. He could have done other things in the "construction" business, but he wasn't those things and none of them could make him happy. Look at all the main heroes in Rand's novels, none stray from their careers and methods because of so-called "practicallity"; they were frozen to them. Sure new methods, tools, or ideas are introduced to a specific career, but they do not change the basis of it, it doesn't alter its purpose.

To my own life: I am a pastry chef, and only a pastry chef. I love to get my hands into some dough and create "edible art". Working in a hot bakeshop pouring my soul into all of it, and to say when it's done, "This is mine." This is my "frozen abstraction", and it is very concrete; as concrete as the monitor you're viewing these words.

Edited by softwareNerd
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In addition to the extreme implausibility of the projected employment situation, given everything I know about romantic relationships, both conceptually and statistically, I'd have very serious doubts about someone who said that he'd found "love" 3,000 miles away. With all due respect to those who claim to be carrying on passionate romances via telephone and Instant Messages, I don't see how it's possible for two people to reach the point of being able to say that they're truly in love — that they have an actual romantic relationship worth packing up and moving to another city to pursue — without regularly having been in each other's presence, and developing that relationship in person, over a fairly long period of time.

It's not that people don't do this all the time — they do, and with varying degrees of disaster. Love may conquer a lot, but it hasn't yet mastered this one.

:non-existent hand-raising emotion:

It wasn't 3,000 miles, only 1,000. And sorry, but yes -- we had an actual romantic relationship without having regularly been in each other's immediate physical presence. We even had candlelit dinner via webcam :lol: We are currently married and living together. (She relocated to my location for various reasons). The essential part of "romantic" relationship is not physical touching but in the emotion you feel, the extreme admiration for the contents of your partner's mind as well as the body. Now -- to express that integrated emotion, you need physical touching, but that doesn't make the contents of the mind any less real, or the resulting emotion any less romantic.

Further, communication is communication, whether it be by phone, fax, email, IM, or whatever. If you convey your ideas, your ideas are conveyed, and that is all that's required (apart from recognition of them on the other end).

Notwithstanding that, the rest of what you say I agree with completely.

Edited by TomL
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Re: Tom L's post above

It's generally my policy not to respond to this kind of objection (i.e., citing an actual relationship as a counterargument to something I've said), since it amounts to a challenge to comment on and refute the relationship — which I obviously can't, nor would I want to do.

That said, I will say that in my view, romantic communication is much more than merely the exchange of ideas — and physical affection is far from the only reason why romantic partners (or potential partners) would want to be in each other's immediate proximity.

Moreover, I would like to hear one single WOMAN on this forum agree that communicating with a romantic candidate — or anyone, for that matter — via fax or email is at all comparable to being with the person, and experiencing him or her in person.

I recently spoke at length about my views on long-distance relationships in an audio interview, which I plan to make available on my website shortly.

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Moreover, I would like to hear one single WOMAN on this forum agree that communicating with a romantic candidate — or anyone, for that matter — via fax or email is at all comparable to being with the person, and experiencing him or her in person.

It's not the same. However, this is such an obvious statement that it conveys no infomation. Is watching a movie the same as reading a book? No, and the difference doesn't need to be explained.

However, the fact that different means of communication are different doesn't make one naturally superior to others. What is important is the way one approaches various means of communication. If you recognize that they ARE different, that different information is conveyed, that you can expect different things, then, yes, it is possible to have a relationship that primarily uses a non-standard method of communication.

It is an interesting fact that people can train themselves to use different interfaces, and, in fact, train themselves so well that the use of the interface becomes completely automatized. I've heard this described as developing almost a "sixth sense" regarding the interface . . . you can "feel" when something isn't working, or, on the other hand, when it IS working.

It is also the case that, when that feedback is lacking, it becomes essentially impossible to tell how what you're doing is affecting your circumstances. Thus the need for a "stick shaker" in fly-by-wire aircraft control systems.

I won't comment on whether computer-mediated communications is a "good" method or not, but I have noticed that most of the people I know that have had successful chat relationships are really serious computer geeks . . . people who have automatized using that particular interface all the way down to the bottom.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Now, a man may have many goals in his life (including having romantic relationships), but it is his main goal (his central purpose) that must be held as his higher value.  If a man bases his central purpose on having or keeping a romantic relationship, no matter how great, he then becomes dependent on it since it is an outside source.

This does not explain why his main goal must be the higher value. You begin with: "If a man builds his central purpose on having or keeping a romantic relationship..." not "If a man holds a romantic relationship as his highest value...". By implication, you seem to be saying that holding something as a higher value means holding it as your central purpose. Is that what you are implying, and if so, why?

I think love is a greater value than work, even though the latter is not possible without the former. Productive work is the cause, and love is the effect, but I do not see that this fact necessitates love being the lesser value to someone who has it.

EDIT: Typo correction.

Edited by iouswuoibev
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  • 2 months later...
By implication, you seem to be saying that holding something as a higher value means holding it as your central purpose. Is that what you are implying, and if so, why?

No, and yes; One usually decides "this is my central purpose, therefore it is higher in value than..." (not the other way around), and it is higher than, say, a romantic relationship because a proper relationship can't exist without your CPL. Your CPL, however, can and does exist without any relationships. Additionally, if your CPL requires the relationship of another then perhaps you should check the premises of your CPL.

It comes down to this: values are heirarchical, as one builds into the next. If reason, purpose, and self-esteem are the primary values proper to man, and man acts to gain/keep his values, then a man's work is a higher value than a romantic relationship; as his work gives him access to these primary values, a relationship (of any kind) does not, and such relationships are proper only when a man possesses his primary values.

2 + 2 = 4.

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First, I would like to thank acapier for bring this subject to life (again). Following is my understanding of various but related issues.

Objectivism, Ayn Rand's philosophy, sets the context for philosophical discussions in this forum. In Objectivism, the three cardinal values are reason, purpose, and self-esteem. (See The Ayn Rand Lexicon for "Purpose.") What does "cardinal" mean? It means primary, that is, the one(s) from which others follow. (The English word "cardinal" comes from the Latin cardo, cardinis, meaning "hinge." Thus a "cardinal" value is one on which others depend.)

Note, though, that there is no hierarchy among the three cardinal values. One must pursue all three of these philosophical values all of the time in order to achieve any other (strictly personal) values in life. Another way of seeing this is to try to imagine a "trade-off" among the three highest philosophical values. It can't be done objectively.

Now, the virtue of productivity corresponds to the value of purpose. Stated as an abstraction, one's central purpose in life is one's chosen form of being productive. Why is it "central"? Because all of one's life depends on productivity. But note that "central" does not mean "only." Further, while everyone should have some CPL, it can take a different form for each person.

For instance, my central purpose in life is to tell success stories from history. But I have two other highest personal purposes in life -- friendships and favorite leisure activities. Here there can and should be a hierarchy. Why? To allow the inevitable trade-offs that must be made at particular times and places. I cannot do everything at once, and sometimes I must postpone or diminish pursuit of one purpose in order to achieve a higher one. For instance, I might have to postpone even living with a spouse for a period in order to secure a particular job crucial to my career. Perhaps a medical internship in a suitably specialized hospital in another city would be an example.

Making trade-offs among one's highest strictly personal purposes does not mean choosing one to the exclusion of others, and certainly not forever. Rather, trade-offs need sometimes to be made in the form, place, time, and manner of achieving those purposes. This is why it is so important to state purposes as abstractions -- so that they can refer to a wide range of concretes, many of which may be optional.

For example, if my central purpose in life were to design buildings, I could do that in New York City or in farm country in Colorado. I might prefer NYC, but if a woman I loved had an ideal job offer in Colorado, I would be willing to move there as long as I could still do the work I love in some form. A reasonable assumption, of course, is that even in a dream job (at a certain point in her career), she would not remain there forever. So, there would most likely be new opportunities ahead for both of us.

P. S. -- There is a staircase of abstractions often mistakenly conflated:

- Purpose, as a cardinal value -- most abstract.

- My own central purpose in life -- less abstract, but still abstract enough to cover a vast range of possible actions, places, and times.

- Career (a ladder on which each rung is a job or project) -- the actual series of events that happen when one pursues one's CPL as a progression (undergrad biology student, medical student, intern, resident, doctor in private practice, hospital administrator).

- Job -- a particular set of tasks at a particular time, place, and possibly employer if one isn't self-employed.

- Task -- a particular productive activity such as keeping records in one's own small business.

A common error is the fallacy of frozen abstraction -- in this case, thinking of purpose (as a cardinal value) as being a particular CPL, a particular career, or a particular job. Instead, those are only stages in a series of implementations, each taking the highest abstraction down to the concrete level. So, if I must give up a particular job to stay with a wife, I am not automatically sacrificing my career, CPL, or purpose as a cardinal value.

Edited by BurgessLau
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But I have two other highest personal purposes in life -- friendships and favorite leisure activities.

I understand the value inherent in having such relationships, but should one necessarily define them as a purpose? Any purpose, central or otherwise, denotes "reason for existing"; therefore, defining certain relationships with others as one's "reason for existing" (even if partially so) is contradictory to being an individual.

if my central purpose in life were to design buildings, I could do that in New York City or in farm country in Colorado. I might prefer NYC, but if a woman I loved had an ideal job offer in Colorado, I would be willing to move there as long as I could still do the work I love in some form.

Yes, many careers offer an individual the ability to sustain them wherever that individual might go; however, if one makes a move (considering a relationship or not) that diminshes the productivity of one's ability, then it would be immoral to make such a choice. Consider:

...to settle down into a job that requires less than your mind's full capacity is to cut your motor and sentence yourself to another kind of motion -- decay...
If, in your example above, moving to the country required one to go from designing magnificent skyscrapers to designing simplistic barns then I would see a problem with that. One would still be "designing buildings", but not using the full capacity of his/her mind, thus cheating him/herself and any relationship s/he may have.

The point here is that one's central purpose is the standard of one's life, and that purpose must be as concrete (in the individual's mind) as possible. If it is too abstract, as you say it should be, then one is free to float wherever life might take him/her; with no real goals defined, and no real direction to follow. If one is to make clear choices and have real purpose(s), they must know exactly for which his/her choices pertain (the standard). If I say that my central purpose, and thus the standard of my life, is "to be in the food industry" (very abstract), then I should be just as happy being a busboy for the rest of my life as I would be an owner/operator; regardless of which job I hold I am fulfilling my purpose "to be in the food industry".

If, however, I say that my central purpose is "to be the best, most creative chef I can be", then anything short of that is not good enough for me (and anything more is too much); I must gain the knowledge, have the ability, and strive for the very best from myself in order to fulfill that purpose (which I've chosen). I see life as a straight line from point A to point B; there are no ambiguous curves or dark trails to go down as those distract one from the ultimate goal:

The producer moves through his days not in random circles, but in a straight line -- which this last, Ayn Rand writes, "is the badge of man, the straight line of...motion from goal to farther goal, each leading to the next and to a single growing sum..."
And, in respect to relationships, one does not accomodate work to a relationship, but a relationship to his/her work:

Social relationships are an important value, but only within the appropriate context.  First, a man must be committed to the development of his mind and must achieve the right relationship to reality.  Then, as a form of reward, he can properly enjoy people (those who also achieve such a relationship and who share his values).  First he must be pursuing a productive purpose.  Only then, as a compliment to such pursuit, is he fit for love, parties, or a social life.
Edited by softwareNerd
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