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Post 20

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 10:58amSanction this postReply
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Shayne, I think you need a "time-out"
Shouldn't the primary objective of any Objectivist be to reconcile Objectivism to reality? 
This has always been the foremost question in my mind.

Apparently Ayn Rand practiced polyamory and had no moral objection to it as long as it was out in the open to those involved. I feel the same way about that type of thing. What amazes me is that the situation went on for four years. From an objectivist perspective, how does one reconcile such behavior with their beliefs? In pursuing your own rational self interest, do you disregard your partner's best interests. It is a lot to ask of one's partner, but I'm sure individual circumstances apply. I think I need to read Barbara's book.



Post 21

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 11:17amSanction this postReply
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KadDaddy, it's a wonderful bio. Your questions about the long-term stability of "polyamory" are well founded, and the book will do nothing to reassure you that it's a good idea.

It's easy to dismiss as "mindless conventions" the habits and traditions of millennia. But while it is stupid to conform without thinking to a past or popular way of doing things simply because its old or popular, that doesn't mean there might not have been solid reasons why a certain practice has stood the test of time. The logical alternative to mindlessly conforming to traditions and conventions is not to mindlessly dismiss them. Mindlessness is never right. Rather, we first should ask ourselves if such practices have any rational basis in the facts of human nature and reality -- and then judge their worth accordingly.

So before simply dismissing monogamy out of hand, we might pause to ask ourselves if there aren't good reasons why it remains the overwhelmingly dominant pattern in intimate relationships, across time and cultures.


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Post 22

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 12:48pmSanction this postReply
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Robert said: So before simply dismissing monogamy out of hand, we might pause to ask ourselves if there aren't good reasons why it remains the overwhelmingly dominant pattern in intimate relationships, across time and cultures.

 

Robert, let me take a quick stab, a very non-specific outline stab at that:

 

I would say that most human beings tend towards holding their intimate sexual relationship with someone they love among their highest values (if not THE highest value). For many people, the sexual intimacy of their relationship has attained a level so high in their heirchy of values that they cannot conceive of sharing it with others. Having attained ones highest possible expression of love, the person finds the idea of casual sexual relations as being a lowering of the higher personal standards that this new intimacy has given them. When both persons have come to hold the other among their highest and most cherished values, intimacy, as the highest expression of their valuing; begins to embody the essence of that relationship as a whole.  Once the other person acknowledges that they too are responding in the same manner, they choose to formalize (both personally and publicly) the inviolability of this aspect of their relationship with a vow/promise/contract/ritual … ect ... 

 

The practice of monogamy may be no more than an expression of a virtue - a method by which to help gain or keep a value; a form of possessiveness, an unwillingness to share a certain aspect (sexual) of a person that has become among their highest values. This is not to be confused with a sense of 'ownership', but rather a public expression of two people declaring that they selfishly are unwilling to share that aspect of their relationship with any other person; that they have earned this value, and no one else is worthy of it. 

 

My example is an idealization of monogamy within the context of how I believe it should be properly expressed. That monogamous relationships have been based on other factors, from tradition to outright contracts that enforce servitude or duty, is obvious. That said I believe that most people that willingly enter into monogamous relationships are at least attempting to achieve the example I gave (or some variation of it).

 

George

 

 


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Post 23

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 1:28pmSanction this postReply
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George, I think you are exactly right.

Can one have sex without intimacy? Of course. Is it "immoral" to do so? Not necessarily. But is it enough?

That depends on how much we want out of life.

When we really love someone, sex becomes the ultimate form and expression of our intimacy: there are no barriers or limits to what we experience together. But "intimacy" shared among many people is a contradiction in terms: you can't be "intimate" at an orgy, flaunting your private life on Reality TV or wallowing promiscuously in any public trough where many anonymous bodies feed.

"Love is exception-making," said Rand in The Fountainhead, and it strikes me that the big exception most of us make in love -- sexual exclusivity -- has the practical purpose of enhancing and intensifying our experience of passionate intimacy.

To the extent that we are sexually non-exclusive (some would say "promiscuous"), each relationship loses its exceptional quality, hence its intimacy, hence its intensity. Whatever "spice" we think we gain in terms of experimental variety and "fun," we lose in terms of depth of understanding and passionate involvement with another. Multiple relationships necessarily become casual and superficial because, frankly, we don't have the time, energy and concentration for anything more. It is largely a connection of bodies, not souls.

No, I don't think it is necessarily "immoral" to live life less than at its fullest: it may not destroy or harm you. But I think it is the waste of a marvelous opportunity for deep, rewarding satisfaction. Perhaps a deep level of intimacy can be reached and sustained among three partners; I don't know. But as the numbers of participants go up, the intimacy and intensity must go down.

Filling one's life with a string of shallow, fleeting, largely meaningless relationships robs it of potentially the most intense emotional fulfillment one can find with another person: that of impassioned intimacy. Having had that kind of experience, I will accept no substitute.



Post 24

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 2:32pmSanction this postReply
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If party X and Y have a contract to be faithful to one another, and party Y alters that contract with the verbal consent of X.
Then how can Y be immoral?

If no fraud has taken place, assuming X got a bad deal out of it, then it is X that is guilty of evasion and not Y.

That's what we would conclude in the free market. Why should relationships be any different?

If I were in the position of "X" I would not accept the situation and break the contract. But how can I fault "Y" if I passively agree to the change?

It seems to me that Robert is simply preaching a personal morality that he has applied to relationships with little or no objective reasoning behind it. 



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Post 25

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 2:37pmSanction this postReply
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My simplistic view on the ethical way to live has only two basic rules: 1). To pursue one’s own happiness; and 2). Do not hurt others.

My second rule immediately runs me into a dilemma when it concerns romantic relationship, which I guess is the real topic here. If I haven’t hurt many other people in the world, I know for sure that I have hurt, one time or another, one way or another, nearly all the people who love or loved me and who are or have been closest to me. On the other hand, I have also been hurt most gravely by people whom I love the most. Why is that? Is it because only those whom we love the most are able to hurt us the most? I don’t have an answer, yet.

If we take Michael’s analogy of perfecting one’s moral way of living with that of perfecting a complex skill, I’d say that like any other pursuits, the attempt at perfection of a moral life is also a never-ending struggle. The moment that you are satisfied and stop trying, is likely the moment that you are going to blunder. One thing I know for sure is that nobody, no matter how mature/moral/perfect they may be, can promise not to make any more mistakes in life. A person’s happiness is also not a static thing. Looking back on my own life, it has been a constant struggle only intermitted with fleeting moments of blissful joy and happiness. I expect that the struggle will continue until the day I die. I think the important thing is that I shall be able to say that I have lived my life full when the day comes.


Finally, to get back to the real topic of The Affair, all I am able to say is that except in very few rare cases, nobody knows exactly what’s going on behind the bedroom door of others.

(Edited by Hong Zhang on 2/15, 2:40pm)


Post 26

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 2:43pmSanction this postReply
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A person’s happiness is also not a static thing.
: )

Atlas points on there way to Hong!

George


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Post 27

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 2:48pmSanction this postReply
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You forget two things, Marcus.

First, in the context of Objectivism, both parties are supposed to be motivated by rational self-interest. Second, in the context of a loving relationship, both are supposed to care about the objective well-being of the other. That's why Rand's shorthand summary of her social ethics -- Galt's Oath -- specifies that one neither sacrifices oneself (your X), nor asks anyone else to sacrifice himself for one's own benefit (your Y).

In your example, I fault Y morally for asking that X (whom he presumably loves) sacrifice her best interests; and I fault X morally for passively doing so.

Whatever X and Y are practicing here, neither is practicing the Objectivist ethics of rational self-interest.

That is my "objective reasoning."
(Edited by Robert Bidinotto on 2/15, 2:50pm)


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Post 28

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 5:36pmSanction this postReply
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Honest to god, I have never read more self-absorbed rhetorical nonsense than I am reading here (and on the other thread about The Affair).

Galt's admonition, The Oath, had more to do with not acknowledging an unwarranted claim on your life and work product than it did with not living for another.  The former is evil, the later is a choice.  We can chose to give our lives,or portions of them, to whatever and whomever we want; but no one has a right to claim our lives, or the product of our work, as theirs.   It is an issue of volition versus slavery.  Why is that so difficult?  Look at the issue of being willing to die for freedom. Watch the movie, "Glory." I don't think that Rand would deny the merit of living or dying for a cause like Freedom -- or for the freedom of those you love. 

You live with the deals you make, so long as you are sui juris and fully informed (not the victim of fraud), when you make them.  Sometimes it's not easy, sometimes it conflicts with your primal urges. Maybe you have to suppress fear, maybe you have to suppress impulse, to stay the course.  I have never made a sale in which I didn't later think I could have gotten more.  I have never negotiated the purchase of something wherein I didn't think later that I could have gotten it for less.  But I live with my deals and drive on.  And the cumulative effect of my operating with such integrity works to my benefit, financially and spiritually.

What I am reading here is often like a masque in which some people want to claim to have integrity, claim to adhere to principles, yet at the same time grab whatever fruit they see and eat it.  The appeal of Objectivism is that it takes strength and character to make it work.  Monogamy, like any discipline, requires focus to make it work.  ONO's (Objectivists in Name Only) seem to want the title and credibility of being "Objectivists" without rising to the commensurate level of strength and discipline to deserve the brand.  Forget the sex for the moment:  nothing any of the heros of Atlas Shrugged did was easy for them.  It was in each case a matter of struggle, soul searching, and sacrifice, and out of that sacrifice came good.  Objectivism is not the path of least resistance, it is often the path of greatest resistance.


 





Post 29

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 6:16pmSanction this postReply
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Joe M; interesting take. So how does one determine when the ego is integrated with the self? And does one remain “morally perfect,” regardless of the morality of their future actions?

 

In general, I agree with Robert and that the focus on “moral perfection” is unnecessary and unattainable. I disagree completely that a romantic relationship of any kind should resemble a “contract,” or that parallels can be made to the economic free market. “Contractualizing” a relationship, complete with terms, obligations, duties and legal binding is against the spirit of every romantic relationship I’ve ever had.

 

As for Shayne … Wa-hey! Look at him froth! He’s like one of those bubble-blowers from Mattel!


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Post 30

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 7:23pmSanction this postReply
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It seems that there is a forgetting just what a moral code is - that it is a code of values with which to guide you thru life.... note carefully the word - GUIDE...... it is NOT a set of commandments, with whom failure is equated with immorality, but is a guide, a generalized blueprint that aids one in making his/her way across the span of one's life ..... yes, there are certain conformities involved as 'man qua man' is - but the specifics are intailed in context, according to the individual, not the group......and this allows for much variation in specific application....

Post 31

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 7:58pmSanction this postReply
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George,
Your sanction is very much appreciated!


Post 32

Tuesday, February 15, 2005 - 8:12pmSanction this postReply
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Glenn, you wrote: " So how does one determine when the ego is integrated with the self? And does one remain “morally perfect,” regardless of the morality of their future actions?"

Good question, Glenn. I would think that would be for the individual to determine. Not in a supernatural "one just knows" way, but when one gets that sense of inner peace that comes with realizing one's true nature. Reality, as in ethics, is the arbiter.
Quick "Jungian" answer? When the unconscious side is confronted through introspection and premise checking... and the "Brandian" answer? When the "disowned self" is confronted and...owned. "Sciabarrian" answer? When the ego and the self engage in a dialectic and the triad is achieved...Objectivist answer? That's a tricky one...because of Rand's use of the word ego; I have a hard time separating "ego" from "self" in Rand's use of the term. (For a detailed explanation, see "Ego: Problems of Defintion at http://jungianobjectivism.tripod.com/id13.html).
The common denominator, however, is coming to know the wider scope of the psyche, and the ego, if defined as the self-aware portion of conscious widens its scope. An example from ATLAS would be Jim Taggart's realization of what he really is, when he stops evading and acknowledges his failings. (In this case, he does not achieve perfection, because it destroyed him.) But Reardon is an example of someone who achieved great things in business, but not in his personal life, because his self image was not complete. Through his relationship with Dagny and Francisco, he comes to a fuller understanding of sex, self, money, etc. and finds a philosophy that allows him to be complete.

Your other question is one I hadn't though about, but I think of the Christian term "backsliding." I think one can coast on morality, but also think that there has to be an element of choice involved; think Robert Stadler. Think of those who betray their values. There is a parable that comes to mind: 3 people find a wallet containing money and I.D. The first person decides to keep it, the second without temptation returns it intact, and the third person considers keeping it, but returns it intact. Who shows the most moral growth? The given answer is the third, since the second person merely followed his morality, and did not grow, where the second person had to make a choice.

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Post 33

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 1:15amSanction this postReply
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Perhaps what is most deadly about open marriages is that they spell the death of true intimacy. Robert, you said, and I agree, that marriage "is an intimate personal union." But if there are other sexual partners, that has to mean that there is an area of the couple's lives that they cannot share with each other -- there is, in effect, a closed door between them that cannot and should not be opened. Each of them has an entire other relationship, one that, because it is romantic and sexual, strives for full intimacy -- and that is at war with the striving for intimacy of the marital relationship. There are closed doors both in the marital and the extra-marital relationships, areas that cannot be shared, and so the closeness in both kinds of relationships is lessened. Both relationships suffer and cannot reach their true potential.

And I believe that the only thing more disastrous than closing the door to each relationship, would be not to close it.

Barbara

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Post 34

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 1:27amSanction this postReply
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Robert, you asked:"Should your focus be virtue-centered, or value-centered?"

I fully agree with your answer: that it should be value-centered. One day many years ago, I realized -- at long last -- that I had spent a number of years improving my soul, focusing on growing, improving, perfecting myself, and that I was monumentally bored with the whole procedure. I decided I had had enough of contemplating my navel, that I was quite good enough as I stood in my boots, and that it was time to take whoever and whatever I was and begin to live my life rather than to prepare to live it.

It was a decision I have always been heartily thankful I made. It did not, of course, mean that I stopped growing. It meant only that spiritual growth ceased to be the meaning of my life. The meaning of my life became the values I gained and the happiness entailed in gaining them.

Barbara



Post 35

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 1:35amSanction this postReply
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George:"The practice of monogamy may be no more than an expression of a virtue - a method by which to help gain or keep a value; a form of possessiveness, an unwillingness to share a certain aspect (sexual) of a person that has become among their highest values."

Beautifully put, George.

Barbara

Post 36

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 1:42amSanction this postReply
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A friend of mine once said something about open marriages that is very true and very relevant here. She said, "You can love two people at the same time. You cannot love two people passionately at the same time."

She was pointing out that if one person in a marriage seeks another sexual partner, then the passion in the marriage has gone, however much love may remain. The love is no longer the kind that originally led to the marriage -- whether the partners are willing to acknowledge it or not.

Barbara

Post 37

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 2:20amSanction this postReply
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With all my talk of X and Y, I was not meaning to portray these relationships as cold and clinical business deals.

But if we are to make rational moral judgements about a situation, we need to assess the facts of the situation in an objective manner.

However, people have feelings, they get attached to one another and obviously get very hurt. It will most usually not be a simple situation of, "well if you do X, then I'll do Y". In the marketplace, successful businessmen do not let strong emotions negatively affect their trading practices, however in relationships we rarely can or want to divorce the emotions from our interactions. I dare say, that strong subjective emotions are usually the reason we started the relationship in the first place.


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Post 38

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 5:51amSanction this postReply
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I certainly was not dismissing marriage and monogamy out of hand as "mindless conventions." Far from it. I was married for ten years and view it as a contractual monogamy, and after going through a long divorce, I realize it was a business arrangement as well. I think that is why marriage is often referred to as a partnership. Though seemingly cold and clinical, I think Marcus explained the situation well in his XY example. 

Polyamory is an accepted practice in some cultures and I've had discussions about it with a pagan friend who believes that being poly is perfectly normal. Most people would not agree. I have also come to believe that you can be in love with more than one person at a time, but that certainly does not mean you should act on it. Personally, I believe that if you are married, you have committed yourself to a monogamous lifestyle and if you insist on pursuing another relationship, you should separate or divorce or at least have your partner's consent. In other words, the sneaking around, lying and deception destroy trust and usually have a devastating effect on the relationship.

My question was, "From an objectivist perspective, how does one reconcile such behavior with their beliefs?"  I am just trying to figure out was Ayn Rand was thinking when she had the affair. Barbara, were you and Frank really supportive of the affair or was it a matter of feeling powerless to stop it?


Post 39

Wednesday, February 16, 2005 - 5:59amSanction this postReply
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I have identified with some points that everyone has made but no one quite stated morality as I see it. Though Hong is closest.

 

I see morality as a practical tool to succeed in a flourishing life.

 

Morality doesn’t, for me, have anything to do with omniscience or never making a mistake.

 

Moral perfection for me, is about:

  1. Exploiting and flourishing in my abilities and actions that add to my life, which would include relationships, productive work, and introspective awareness;
  2. Being very kind and empathetic to issues, problems, and points of view I do not understand (actually I feel more of kind of indifference until the light bulb of understanding hits me, but I never feel guilty or obligated about things I don’t understand.
  3. And never maliciously attack, in deliberate action, the good.

 

All the above I see as black or white regarding actions: either your perfect or your scum.

 

Michael


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