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Use people as subjects - use people as objects

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ClarkM
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Hi,

 

I've come across a blog where a lady claims that the way to health and self-esteem is to gain reference experiences that one is valuable in oneself. As opposed to being loved unconditionally "for no reason". The lady distinguished between being used as a subject and being used as an object. The former being health-bringing and the latter contributing to alienation. 

 

Is this described in Objectivist literature or in Aristotle? I know Aristotle at least comes close to this, but I'm not well read enough...

 

 

Thanks!

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(Could you give us a link to the blog?)

Yes, Rand would agree that self-esteem is fundamentally a matter of learning to deal with the world and master it. Parents, friends and teachers can help us, but we still have to do the work ourselves. She would also agree that wanting to be loved for no reason is undesirable. See the story of James Taggart and his wife in Atlas Shrugged.

Aristotle, in the Nichomachean Ethics, distinguishes between people we value for themselves - our friends - and others we value for what they can do for us. The people who take care of my car are valuable to me, but I'm not interested in a personal relationship with them. Nathaniel Branden these entity and process relationships respectively.

I'm not sure what the blogger means by "being  used as a subject and being used as an object". It sounds a bit like Kant's distinction between treating people as ends and treating them as means, and we all know what she thought of Kant.

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Posted (edited)

I think she is referring to Aristotle's distinction, as @Reidywrites:
"Aristotle, in the Nichomachean Ethics, distinguishes between people we value for themselves - our friends - and others we value for what they can do for us."

 

The woman said that she was raised in a protestant authoritarian family where one was only valued for obedience (cf. the 4th commandment). She broke away from that through seeing through the hypocrisy of thinking that being obedient is being "good". In reality it is merely submission out of fear. 

 

Her preferred solution to this problem - the problem of being an obedient neurotic - was to get new reference experiences from healthy people - people who didn't want obedience, but wanted to use others - not as objects - but as subjects - and gain value from who they are in themselves. When she got those experiences, she didn't have to rely on value-through-obedience anymore. She knew that she was valuable to others when she acted in ethical egoist ways. 

 

I doubt that Aristotle explained how his notion of philia could free people from authoritarian morality, so I wonder what modern philosopher, if any, did write about just this. Rand comes close, but I don't know if she really explains the breaking away from neuroticism in this sense.

 

Other candidates are Alice Miller - "For your own good", and Erich Fromm's Aristotelian-inspired "Man for himself". But I haven't seen this explained clearly in their works either. 

 

As I view this as a major cure of neuroticism, I'd really like to see a clear explanation of it. 

Edited by ClarkM
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