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Objectivism and Children

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Brant, to be clear.

In #164 - under the impression that Rand would not categorically advise against having children -

I said:

"If you read it** as "Don't have a child." That's obvious madness. Only the most superficial take on Rand..." etc.

It wasn't Rand's "madness" I meant - but the person's "madness" who interprets her statement (reads it) that way. D'you see what I mean? It went haywire since that misunderstanding.

** ["When you bring children into the world, you sacrifice your own sovereignty and become a means to an end..."]

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Well, that statement is false. Frankly, it does not sound like Rand. Yeah, she could have said it. I say semantics and extemporaneous, you say madness. I say that's (your) madness? Nope.

--Brant

you're off the hook, thanks to me--why not do the same for her? (heh, heh)

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One thoughtful poster in this thread was John Tyson (john42t), and I see he has created a number of intellectual presentations on YouTube, several of them about the philosophy of Ayn Rand, e.g, What’s Objectivism.

I am unable to get the link to Rand’s remarks, which were the kickoff for this thread, to say anything. Assuming that the quoted remark is accurate, I’d suggest that Rand had there fallen into the usual American definition of sacrifice, which, as I have cited from my American Heritage Dictionary many times, is merely the forfeiting of something of significant value for something else. Such a usage by Rand would not happen in anything she wrote for publication, at least not after 1957. I imagine known to the audience here Rand’s special definition of sacrifice in Atlas and her discussion there, in that fictional speech, of sacrifice in the context of mother-child relation (and her dramatization of mother-child relationship when Dagny was in the valley, mentioned by Michael above).

I was surprised no one mentioned what was in N. Branden’s piece in The Objectivist Newsletter (Dec 1962) addressing the question “What are the respective obligations of parents to children, and children to parents?” He treats therein issues of sacrifice, duties, and responsibilities. He boots duty and embraces responsibilities and rights (as Rand would do in a more general way in her later essay “Causality vs. Duty” – 1974), and he dissolves all prima facie sacrifices (in the restricted Randian sense) of parents and children with responsibilities, rights, and rational prerogatives. There is some good common sense and psychological sensitivity in this little piece. He never appeals to the trader model of human relationships, which overblown model Merlin mentioned.

By the time I finished high school, I knew I did not want to father children. I did not want to raise a family. Decades later, when I met Walter and his family with two sons, and especially when the grandson came along, I was able to share in that joy of family and see in a very concrete and adult way the incredible preciousness of making and having children. I do not regret my decision. I wanted to create things, I had big projects I wanted to dedicate myself to, and with my own limits of ability, they would require such time as would not be compatible with having children. I know successful academic folk who managed also to be a good parent (and Leonard Euler is a famous example), but not all of us are that gifted.

Ayn Rand had brain children. I think you are incorrect, Adam, about the tragedy of not passing on genes. To some extent, if I recall correctly, they are passed on by one’s siblings. But anyway Einstein had children, and no such repeat of his power of mind. (No pretentious comparability of Rand to Einstein intended.) Rand created, and her grand creations are available for our enjoyment and challenge. Rejoice.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

PS

Further from N. Branden in the ’60’s, from his lectures transcribed in The Vision of Ayn Rand, see pages 67, 84, 143, 187, 197–98, 230, 282, 311, 483, 511-514, 526–27.

From Kathleen Touchstone’s Then Athena Said (2006):

“Children . . . have not been fully integrated into OE in a systematic way” (10). Her book tries to correct that.

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Well, I'd think the essence of "spiritual trade" is it's not precisely equal to material trade (for $50 you receive $50-worth of microwave, and both parties walk away happy) since one cannot know with prescience who is going to get the 'better' of the trade. In advance and toward the end of one's life, nobody can possbly measure how much spiritual value one will take and give - or took and gave - to another person, or persons. I include all close relationships.Value is given and taken in infinite ways, sometimes in micro-seconds of thought and emotion; at times heavily to one's own benefit by actions, or else not. Ultimately, does the exact balance of trade even matter a fig? For a very special person I hardly get to see any more, only knowing he/she exists is enough. Of course sometimes we realise that it is all one-way value and might have to end a friendship. If someone close dies, their memory will sustain us too. So I do think the concept holds.

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When Nathaniel Branden married Devers and thus got a grandchild, he was amazed, grateful and delighted for the widening and deepening of his life's experiences. Tragically, the young man was killed in an automobile accident in Scotland in early 1995.

--Brant

"I love you a whole sky full!"

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Well my son is a joy and words just can't describe how grateful I am to have raised him and watched him grow.

That's great, and you highly value the experience. My original point was that it is not a "trade" literally. I accept calling it a trade-off, time and money spent raising a child rather than something else. I view trade-off as a metaphor. It is no more a literal trade than opportunity cost is a literal cost.

Apparently the opportunity cost of Ayn Rand having children was way too high.

She had already decided that she would never have children. "It was for the same reason as today, " she later explained. "I would not have time for it. I wanted to be a writer, that was the only thing I was interested in, and I knew that's a full-time job; ... it would interfere with my career." (The Passion of Ayn Rand, 33)

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This video is a little off-topic but not by much. It is a talk on the rights of children that I gave in 1981. It's a little technical and a little long (1 hour), so it may not appeal to everyone, but I tried to deal with some of the difficult philosophical issues surrounding the topic of children's rights. The fellow who introduces me is the economist and historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel.

Ghs

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My guess is that "trade-off" wouldn't sufficiently cover all the bases to Rand, for whom we know, every rational human dealing and relationship signifies a non-sacrificial *trade* of men's values, therefore of men's consciousness.

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This video is a little off-topic but not by much. It is a talk on the rights of children that I gave in 1981. It's a little technical and a little long (1 hour), so it may not appeal to everyone, but I tried to deal with some of the difficult philosophical issues surrounding the topic of children's rights. The fellow who introduces me is the economist and historian Jeffrey Rogers Hummel.

Ghs

The basic problem is this kind of exposition is it's a thinking piece only. (I don't think George is claiming much if anything else.) You don't run out and radically change laws respecting children and infants. This is because a radical solution to the implied problem most broadly applied across society is unlikely to be a moral one respecting any radical implementation. That's rendering real the Utopian Vision by rendering apart society. So, how to get there from here? Frankly, no one is ever going to get there. It's the direction of travel that's desirable as a destination in and of itself--a dynamic one. Regardless, Utopia is not dynamic. It's static. If possible and achieved one would be living in uninteresting times. Or, with children, we have to be careful about what we do.

I start with natural rights are a human (philosophical) invention congruent with human nature (hence "natural"). It's from adults for adults and children and infants are worked into the model and work themselves into the model through action and education, both existential and self. Childrens' rights start out of the right to life base then as children can make use and do make use of them.

In my case the memory of who I am starts with my earliest cognitive evaluation of myself and circumstances. I was 2 1/2 and it was exactly the same time my mother took my photo on a tricycle. I remember that because of the failed effort I had in holding a cast iron toy truck in my hand. It bent my wrist and there I am in that photo with the toy and bent wrist. I've been self aware the same person ever since. Maybe that personhood was true from conception. I'm rather sure it was. Now, there was someone out of some "model" who then in my life had the "right" to beat me, starve me, cook me in oil and eat me? Even the abstraction that no one had the duty to take care of me and feed me, etc. doesn't gainsay the fact that by not doing that for me at that age some fucking body was violating my rights by initiating force through acts of omission. Yeah. We can say that was the violation of some contract model or guardianship model but not say it's not a violation of my right to life by the initiation of force. If this is agreed upon--doubtful in libertarian conversation, less so in Objectivist--then we revert to the initiation of force model and can toss all those other ones except as any needed re-enforcement of that primary even to the point of rationalizations if that's what it takes to keep someone from beating the shit out of my 2 1/2 yo self with a leather belt.

People are going to do what they have to do regardless of political philosophy if they can do it. I'm not going to call 911 and complain the child screaming next door is violating my rights for making that noise--not when Dad is preparing to barbeque him on the backyard grill. That's not going to be my complaint. And while waiting for the cops I just might beat the shit out of him using a few more blows, maybe, than necessary regardless of Tucker's "ownership" model.

--Brant

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Brant and Mark, I haven't viewed the relevant clip, (I was directed straight to a nasty rant on RussiaToday by one of those USA-hating Americans who always crop up there, trying to smash Rand and capitalism by way of "greedy corporatism". I'll try it again).

My 'read' of the recording is that the context is a Papal encyclical (on birth control, I am guessing). She begins this way:

No existe pareja en la Tierra, de ningún nivel de ingreso, en ningún país, civilizado o no, qui sería capaz de sostener el número de hijos que producirían si obedecirian la encíclica católica al pie de la letra. Consideren la posicion de una pareja estadounidense promedio. ¿Qué sería de su vida si lograran criar, digamos, 12 hijos, trabajando de mañana a noce, corriendo una carrera desesperada con las viajes periódicos a salas de maternidad, con las facturas de la renta, los alimentos, la vestimenta, las pediatras, los purés de vegetales, los libros escolares, el sarampíon, las paperas, los convulsiva, árboles de navidad, películas, conos de helada, campamentos de verano, vestidos de fiesta, eventos, documentos, hospitales, colegios, donde cado aumento de salario del esforado padre trabajador es hipotecado y tragado de ser recibio,

Mark unfortunately provided a Youtube link that included a time code which programmatically started the video at its very end. Here below is the video via a time-code-removed link, it is only two minutes long ... I believe that the context of the encyclical (Pope Paul?) animates her remarks. The 'obligation' to have as many children as 'The Lord' delivers to the womb is what she is rejecting, I believe. She might have a few words to say about the Duggars were she still with us today.

-- sure enough, there was an encyclical by Pope Paul VI, issued on 25 July 1968, titled Of Human Life, subtitled On the Regulation of Birth.

With regard to man's innate drives and emotions, responsible parenthood means that man's reason and will must exert control over them.

With regard to physical, economic, psychological and social conditions, responsible parenthood is exercised by those who prudently and generously decide to have more children, and by those who, for serious reasons and with due respect to moral precepts, decide not to have additional children for either a certain or an indefinite period of time.

Responsible parenthood, as we use the term here, has one further essential aspect of paramount importance. It concerns the objective moral order which was established by God, and of which a right conscience is the true interpreter. In a word, the exercise of responsible parenthood requires that husband and wife, keeping a right order of priorities, recognize their own duties toward God, themselves, their families and human society.

From this it follows that they are not free to act as they choose in the service of transmitting life, as if it were wholly up to them to decide what is the right course to follow. On the contrary, they are bound to ensure that what they do corresponds to the will of God the Creator. The very nature of marriage and its use makes His will clear, while the constant teaching of the Church spells it out.

Edited by william.scherk

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