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Objectivism and Children


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#1 Speciale

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 08:45 PM

I'm still learning the philosophy of objectivism--i'm currently halfway through AS--and i've got a question that maybe someone here can answer.

It seems like objectivism leaves no justification, no standards, no room for children. The prime movers in AS display a high level of resistance against authority, but in my eyes: they can AFFORD to go to jail, to be shot, to be robbed of their mind or spirit. For children, they are still developing the person they want themselves to become, learning the skills necessary to survive. And when threatned to have the sources that allow them to develop removed--schools, parents, etc.--they have no choice BUT to give in to authority, for they need those sources to continue their quest towards Individualism.

So my question is: am i looking at this the wrong way? Or does objectivism leave out a huge chunk of ethics for children?
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#2 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 08:58 PM

It seems like objectivism leaves no justification, no standards, no room for children.

Huh? They're perfect for stewing.

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#3 Speciale

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 08:59 PM

Thats so morbid!! X)
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#4 Selene

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 09:16 PM

Chris:

ND has a great sense of humor...

However, your observation about children and Objectivism is dead right on point. The absence of children to any great degree in Ayn's work is glaring.

There is one small reference to motherhood and children at one point later in Atlas. I will not quote the section as I do not want to effect the plot.

According to Heller and Burns, Ayn had an abortion in the 1930's. Both Heller and Burns make reference to her unhappy childhood which included some pitifully poor parenting by her mother.

When I first read Atlas, I was just as struck by the absence of children as you are.

Children would certainly be a burden for her hero's and heroines and none of the main ones have any children.

Great observation.

Adam
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#5 studiodekadent

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Posted 02 November 2011 - 09:18 PM

It seems like objectivism leaves no justification, no standards, no room for children. The prime movers in AS display a high level of resistance against authority, but in my eyes: they can AFFORD to go to jail, to be shot, to be robbed of their mind or spirit. For children, they are still developing the person they want themselves to become, learning the skills necessary to survive. And when threatned to have the sources that allow them to develop removed--schools, parents, etc.--they have no choice BUT to give in to authority, for they need those sources to continue their quest towards Individualism.

So my question is: am i looking at this the wrong way? Or does objectivism leave out a huge chunk of ethics for children?


The role of children has always been a sticking point within Objectivism. Rand herself had a pretty pro-youth perspective; she tended to see children as more likely to be reality-oriented than many adults because they haven't been corrupted by collectivist social norms/fictions yet. Case in point: The Emperor's New Clothes. She also argued against raising kids with "white lies" or that kind of thing.

On the other hand, children are still growing and developing a cognitive/sensory apparatus. So a child's own cognitive skills/capacities aren't necessarily equal to those of most adults (there are individual variations of course, many children mature intellectually very quickly and many older people are absolute idiots that dare to think their so-called 'experience' makes them superior to the youth (an attitude which is an absolute distortion of proper empiricism AND a bizarre attack on empirical context (no Grandma, your experience of YOUR life doesn't say anything at all about MY life, thank you very much))).

From your post, it seems that you are asking about whether or not Objectivist moral standards would be too harsh on children, and you're using Atlas Shrugged as an example (correct me if I'm wrong here). But let's get something out of the way....

Atlas Shrugged is a fiction novel. It is indeed a philosophical fiction, but the book is an allegory. It deliberately paints in broad, symbolic strokes. It isn't the "definitive" presentation of Objectivism and it isn't meant to be read in the same way that nutcase fundy Jesus-lovers read the Bible. It is a work of romantic philosophical fiction rather than a dry philosophical treatise.

Now, I know Rand's tone comes off as very harsh, stark and uncompromising. But let's look at some important principles in Objectivism which I believe may help you come up with an answer.

1) What is moral for any person is that which furthers the survival of that person on a level proper to that person's nature. Children, as explained above, generally have less proficient cognitive faculties than adults (in general). This doesn't make them inferior, but it does mean you can't apply adult standards to kids (exceptions may apply).

2) In order to be moral, one doesn't need to act in exactly the same way the strikers in Atlas Shrugged did. Remember, AS is romantic fiction rather than a How-To-Guide. Ayn Rand herself said in an interview that she'd regard a human being as COMPLETELY good as long as that human being never does evil consciously (i.e. knowingly). The only "cardinal sins" (I hate using that term) in Objectivism are 1) intellectual dishonesty ("Evasion") and 2) willfully violating the individual rights of others. Its probably fair to say that as long as someone doesn't do either of these things, they're perfectly moral under Objectivist standards (they might be wrong or mistaken, but they wouldn't be evil).

3) Morality needs to be independently understood and voluntarily practiced. Values require valuers, knowledge requires knowers. If someone truly lacks knowledge of morality and does something bad, they have committed an error of KNOWLEDGE, not an error of morality. Basically, for an action and its actor to be truly and completely evil, it must be performed voluntarily by someone that KNOWS the action is wrong. This kind of evil is in reality quite rare, at least in my experience.

I can't claim the above would provide you with a perfect, watertight, open-and-shut answer, but going by those principles I'm inclined to conclude that Objectivism itself (correctly and consistently practiced) would be very lenient and forgiving regarding issues of children's ethics.
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#6 BaalChatzaf

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 10:00 AM


It seems like objectivism leaves no justification, no standards, no room for children.

Huh? They're perfect for stewing.

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Are we channeling Jonathan Swift?

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#7 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 10:04 AM

Are we channeling Jonathan Swift?

Does it look like an Irish baby?

Anyway, let's not kill this newbie's thread.
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#8 Mikee

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 11:46 AM

Role models for objectivist child rearing: 1. The bushman dad in "The Gods Must be Crazy" 2. Kurt Russell in "Soldier".

#9 Selene

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 12:50 PM

Role models for objectivist child rearing: 1. The bushman dad in "The Gods Must be Crazy" 2. Kurt Russell in "Soldier".


Good one Mikee!!
"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#10 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 01:23 PM

For the education part of child rearing, there's "The Comprachicos" by Ayn Rand and her continual endorsement of Montessori.

I can probably find some more stuff if I look.

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#11 Speciale

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 02:57 PM

1) What is moral for any person is that which furthers the survival of that person on a level proper to that person's nature.


This pretty much answers my question. Thank you!

Are we channeling Jonathan Swift?

Ba'al Chatzaf


It's eyes kind of made me think of Robert Downey Jr.

Role models for objectivist child rearing: 1. The bushman dad in "The Gods Must be Crazy" 2. Kurt Russell in "Soldier".


Never saw the 1st. But Kurt Russel in "Soldier"?? He's certainly quiet enough...

Btw i dont care if you kill this thread. this whole forum belongs to you guys
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#12 Mikee

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 03:53 PM

Sgt Todd and the small boy were alone when confronted with a deadly snake. Instead of simply killing the snake he taught the boy how to kill snakes. He was banished from the group for endangering the boy. They later knew they had made an error when the boy saved his parents from another snake by killing it as he had been taught by Sgt Todd.

#13 Selene

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 04:04 PM

Btw i dont care if you kill this thread. this whole forum belongs to you guys


Chris:

ND was just referring to our propensity on OL to engage in "thread drift" and veering way way off the original thrust of the thread through the eye of the needle.

So, "killing" [veering away from the original issue] the newbie's [you] "thread " [original topic] was what he was referring to, not ending the thread.

Adam
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#14 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 04:28 PM

ND was just referring to our propensity on OL to engage in "thread drift" and veering way way off the original thrust of the thread through the eye of the needle.

So, "killing" [veering away from the original issue] the newbie's [you] "thread " [original topic] was what he was referring to, not ending the thread.

Indeed, I was concerned that too many comic interjections would drive the new guy away or at least give him a bad impression. We take ideas seriously here, really we do...except when we don't.
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#15 Mikee

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 05:04 PM

I was not trying to be funny.

#16 Reidy

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 05:38 PM

This criticism has been around at least since the notorious review Whittaker Chambers wrote of Atlas Shrugged. Studiodekadent, in #5, has already brought up the most important point against it: Rand was a storyteller who included just the details that moved the story along; any moral instruction we might get is a byproduct and not her purpose in telling the story. I don't often come across people who wish her novels had been longer.

Second, she would have counted on our powers of abstraction. Raising children is a career that entails costs, risks and reward; it has this much in common with the careers she did get around to depicting.

Third, parenthood comes up more often in her work than you might recall. In Think Twice, the boy in the wheelchair is important to our understanding of the murder victim, and he provides a possible motive for one of the characters. The couple in Anthem have a child. At least one family in the valley in Atlas Shrugged has children, and a father's devotion to his daughter figures in the runup to the tunnel explosion. Rand's three full-length novels all have lengthly flashbacks to the characters' childhood. If you count adult parent-child relations you have several more. My experience with novels, movies, tv and plays is that Rand is, in the amount of space she devotes to parenthood, fairly typical of authors who write for an adult audience.

#17 daunce lynam

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 06:07 PM


Are we channeling Jonathan Swift?

Does it look like an Irish baby?


It most certainly does -- and look at those vegetables. A mulligatawney stew if I ever saw one.
mmmm...tasty.

#18 daunce lynam

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 06:18 PM

I was not trying to be funny.


You don't have to try!

#19 Ninth Doctor

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 06:20 PM

It most certainly does -- and look at those vegetables. A mulligatawney stew if I ever saw one.
mmmm...tasty.

Huh? You must mean Canadian mulligatawny, whatever that may be. P.G. Wodehouse fans know what real mulligatawny is, since Psmith is so often knee deep in it, and there's no carrot, potato, or baby on the ingredient list.


http://en.wikipedia....ki/Mulligatawny
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#20 daunce lynam

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 06:38 PM

This criticism has been around at least since the notorious review Whittaker Chambers wrote of Atlas Shrugged. Studiodekadent, in #5, has already brought up the most important point against it: Rand was a storyteller who included just the details that moved the story along; any moral instruction we might get is a byproduct and not her purpose in telling the story. I don't often come across people who wish her novels had been longer.

Second, she would have counted on our powers of abstraction. Raising children is a career that entails costs, risks and reward; it has this much in common with the careers she did get around to depicting.

Third, parenthood comes up more often in her work than you might recall. In Think Twice, the boy in the wheelchair is important to our understanding of the murder victim, and he provides a possible motive for one of the characters. The couple in Anthem have a child. At least one family in the valley in Atlas Shrugged has children, and a father's devotion to his daughter figures in the runup to the tunnel explosion. Rand's three full-length novels all have lengthly flashbacks to the characters' childhood. If you count adult parent-child relations you have several more. My experience with novels, movies, tv and plays is that Rand is, in the amount of space she devotes to parenthood, fairly typical of authors who write for an adult audience.



This does not address the real question our new friend has raised though, the perennially troubling issue of the duality of Rand's depictions of childhood (which you have documented) and the implications of her philosophy, asexpounded in the Comprachicos as Michael referenced. Add to that her references to her own childhood and intellectual development, and you've got a fine kettle of borscht..

On the one hand, the child mind is a tabula rasa on which improper philosophy can write unspeakable, indelible horrors (Compprrachicos, etc). On the other, everybody is capable of perceiving reason, even after such a childhood. On the third hand, she herself perceived the true nature of reality at age 3, had basically formulated her philosophy at age 7, and was stoutly impervious to all irrational influences of the adult intellectual world thereafter.

Because she so often used her own life as illustration of her philosophy, it seems heretical to disentangle them, but it is so fascinating that we are all still doing it, fifty years on.




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