Burgess Laughlin

Ayn Rand's view of love?

32 posts in this topic

My purpose here is to identify and then discuss what Ayn Rand means by "love." The Ayn Rand Lexicon contains, under "Love," the key passages which Ayn Rand wrote about this subject -- four pages of excerpts!

The passages I think are most important for this topic, appear in:

- Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, 2nd ed., pp. 34-35.

- "The Objectivist Ethics" in The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 29 (hb) or 31-32 (pb).

- "The Ethics of Emergencies" in VOS, p. 51 (hb) or 46 (pb).

- "The Conflicts of Men's Interests" in VOS, p. 65 (hb) or 55 (pb).

- "Of Living Death" in The Objectivist, 1968, 2.

- "Philosophy and Sense of Life" in The Romantic Manifesto, p. 49 (hb) or 32 (pb).

- "Galt's Speech" in For the New Intellectual, p. 182 (hb) or 147 (pb)

1. What is love?[

Love is an emotion. Which kind? The kind that is an automatic response to an "evaluation of an existent as a positive value and as a source of pleasure." (IOE, 2nd ed., p. 34)

This statement, and the passage in which it appears, is Ayn Rand's most formal consideration of love. I take it as definitive of her view of the nature of love.

2. What kinds of love are there?

The different kinds of love are distinguished both by their objects and by their relative intensity.

"The object [of love] may be a thing, an event, an activity, a condition or a person." (IOE, 2nd ed., p. 34)

One can also love at various levels of intensity. A low level of intensity of love is liking. (Ibid.)

Affection is mid-level. For example, the objects of affection, which is one kind of love, are people. (Ibid.) (Presumably affection applies also to "people-like" animals -- pets -- such as a favorite cat or dog, but the main point is the same. See Charles and Mary Ann Sures' Facets of Ayn Rand and Jeff Britting's Ayn Rand for comments about Ayn Rand's love for her cats.)

The highest level of intensity of love is romantic love. The object of romantic love (still from IOE, 2nd ed., p. 34) is a person who has a valued sense of life (a "style of soul"), which is a summary -- valid or not -- of that person's values. ("PSL," RM, p. 49/32)

----

The summary above is the most concise description of Ayn Rand's idea of love, as I understand it, that I can offer. I confess to sometimes being confused in reading one passage after another in different works.

Have I presented her view accurately? If so, is it correct based on your experience and thinking?

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Here are a few of the puzzles that emerged while I was reading about Ayn Rand's view of love:

1. Aren't all values "positive," even if not always sources of pleasure?

2. Note the great breadth of her definition of love; it does not refer to an evaluation of the highest value in a given category, but to any source of pleasure that is also a "positive value."

3. Where did the idea of "highest value in a category" come from? Did I imagine that or does it appear elsewhere in her writings, or perhaps in the writings of her successors?

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Here are a few of the puzzles that emerged while I was reading about Ayn Rand's view of love:

1. Aren't all values "positive," even if not always sources of pleasure?

2. Note the great breadth of her definition of love; it does not refer to an evaluation of the highest value in a given category, but to any source of pleasure that is also a "positive value."

3. Where did the idea of "highest value in a category" come from? Did I imagine that or does it appear elsewhere in her writings, or perhaps in the writings of her successors?

1. It is my understanding that the definition of value(s) is neutral in the sense you are talking about. Values refer to the result of an action taken by a living entity. This does not necessarily mean they are beneficial, particularly when man is the subject involved.

2. My thoughts on this are that she left this open because there may be multiple objects which meet a certain criteria for being "a source of pleasure". (again, that is my own speculation.)

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Here are a few of the puzzles that emerged while I was reading about Ayn Rand's view of love:

1. Aren't all values "positive," even if not always sources of pleasure?

1. It is my understanding that the definition of value(s) is neutral in the sense you are talking about. Values refer to the result of an action taken by a living entity. This does not necessarily mean they are beneficial, particularly when man is the subject involved.

I think we need to separate out two different senses of "beneficial." There is "beneficial" as judged by the person acting, and there is "beneficial" in fact. (Ideally they should be the same.) I think Burgess is correct that all values are "positive" in that the basis for acting is that the person judges the result of his action to be beneficial. If the result of the action is judged to be not beneficial then the object of the action is not a value and any action taken would be to avoid it. This would mean, then, that the only case of "neutral" is if the object of an action is judged neither good nor bad, in which case no action is taken and the object would have no value.

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Love is an emotion. Which kind? The kind that is an automatic response to an "evaluation of an existent as a positive value and as a source of pleasure." (IOE, 2nd ed., p. 34) [...]

One can also love at various levels of intensity. A low level of intensity of love is liking. (Ibid.)

At first, I was very surprised to see Ayn Rand formulate such a very broad definition of love. Later, when I recalled what Mary Ann and Charles Sures said in Facets of Ayn Rand about Ayn Rand's likes and dislikes, I was no longer surprised.

Ayn Rand was herself a passionate valuer. She loved -- or didn't love -- a lot of things: favorite colors, foods, clothes, and other things as well as pieces of music and individual people. Her term/idea "love" covers all those objects because they were a value and a source of pleasure to her.

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1. What is love?

Love is an emotion. Which kind? The kind that is an automatic response to an "evaluation of an existent as a positive value and as a source of pleasure." (IOE, 2nd ed., p. 34) [...]

2. What kinds of love are there? [...]

One can also love at various levels of intensity. A low level of intensity of love is liking. (Ibid.)

Affection is mid-level. For example, the objects of affection, which is one kind of love, are people. [...]

The highest level of intensity of love is romantic love. [...]

Following is another puzzle I want to add to the list in post 2: Why is romantic love the highest level of intensity of love? Why not love of one's central purpose in life?

If one had to choose (a doubtful proposition), why would someone like Howard Roark love his work less than he would love someone like Dominique? The only plausible answer is that romantic love involves one's whole nature, mind and body, whereas one's beloved central purpose in life may indeed be a passionately held purpose, but it does not involve one's masculinity or femininity -- an inborn part of who one is as a whole person.

It does not follow that one should be ready to abandon one's beloved work in favor of a romantic partner, if such an unlikely dilemma ever emerged. There may be other factors involved -- such as the societal future of that particular activity (for example, medicine in an increasingly statist world), the prospects of finding another romantic partner or, for that matter, how close that romantic partner really is to one's ideal partner.

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This is a fictional example. But, in "The Fountainhead" Dominique offers to stay with Roark, if he gives up architecture, we know he does not. So, could it be that "romantic love" is the highest form of love one attaches to something other than oneself.

"Love, friendship, respect, admiration are the emotional response of one man to the virtues of another, the spiritual payment given in exchange for the personal, selfish pleasure which one man derives from the virtues of another man's character." The Objectivist Ethics, VOS, page 31

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Here are a few of the puzzles that emerged while I was reading about Ayn Rand's view of love:

1. Aren't all values "positive," even if not always sources of pleasure?

2. Note the great breadth of her definition of love; it does not refer to an evaluation of the highest value in a given category, but to any source of pleasure that is also a "positive value." 

3. Where did the idea of "highest value in a category" come from? Did I imagine that or does it appear elsewhere in her writings, or perhaps in the writings of her successors?

My understanding is that there are several components involved in the process

of determining love. They are valued, valuer, value and beneficiary. The existent

is the valued; Oneself is the valuer and the beneficiary; and the value is how

much one wants and is a result of a mathematical process that sums up the

intensity of the pleasure felt during the interaction with the existent and

compares to the intensity of the pleasure felt while the existent is absent.

The book, "The Mathematics of Marriage" by John Gottman and his colleagues

has a detailed information on this. His book contains information on how intensity

of pleasure is measured. It's quite fascinating.

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The book, "The Mathematics of Marriage" by John Gottman and his colleagues

has a detailed information on this. His book contains information on how intensity

of pleasure is measured. It's quite fascinating.

I see from amazon.com that the subtitle of the book is "Dynamic Nonlinear Models," so the mathematics applied is more complex than what might be implied from the description above. Just reading the book description makes me extremely suspicious about the value of this work. Note this part:

"Applying ideas such as phase space, null clines, influence functions, inertia, and uninfluenced and influenced stable steady states (attractors), the authors show how other researchers can use the methods to weigh their own data with positive and negative weights. While the focus is on modeling marriage, the techniques can be applied to other types of psychological phenomena as well."

I think that the entire field of psychology is still in the baby state in terms of identifying and understanding psychological mechanisms, so it seems more than a bit unrealistic to properly use mathematics with this degree of complexity to quantify that which is poorly understood.

But, the subject is intriguing and if I have some time I might look at the book. Thanks for mentioning it.

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"Applying ideas such as phase space, null clines, influence functions, inertia, and uninfluenced and influenced stable steady states (attractors), the authors show how other researchers can use the methods to weigh their own data with positive and negative weights. While the focus is on modeling marriage, the techniques can be applied to other types of psychological phenomena as well."

So that's why I was attractored the blonde in the short skirt I saw today - I was under the influence function of her phase space, which made my steady state unstable. Well, she did have very impressive null clines!

(Sorry, I had to.)

B):):)

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So that's why I was attractored the blonde in the short skirt I saw today - I was under the influence function of her phase space, which made my steady state unstable. Well, she did have very impressive null clines!

(Sorry, I had to.)

B)  :)  :)

And note the subtitle of the book: "Dynamic Nonlinear Models." (Emphasis mine).

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Here are a few of the puzzles that emerged while I was reading about Ayn Rand's view of love:

1. Aren't all values "positive," even if not always sources of pleasure?

Yes and No. Ayn Rand has two concepts of "value". There is the wide one, the conventional, which is "that which one pursues". This concept of value includes values that harm you and values that benefit you (your life). Out of this wide, general, concept Ayn Rand develops her unique definition and new concept of value. She does this when she discovers the existential and hence epistemological dependence of "life" upon "value". It is her new knowledge, original with her, of the link between "value" and "life" that enables her to narrow and delimit the wider concept by introducing the new, and thus establish an ground-breaking concept and knowledge of what "value" really is and what should serve as the standard of value (life).

You see the same phenomenon, of two concepts, in her development and (re?)discovery of "egoism". Here we can also say that the concept has two definitions and meanings. We have the wider concept, the conventional, which is (my definition) "doing what I think is for my benefit", or "bloody well feel like". This is a wide concept of egoism that groups, at best, rational egoism with the irrational egoism (i.e. a bank robber with an honest businessman). It's by explaining what does not serve one's interests and what does serve (that which is beneficial to ones life) she is able to narrow the wide concept of egoism. That new concept, that "second definition" of egoism she presented in non-fiction form in her: "The Virtue of Selfishness: A NEW Concept of Egoism" (my emphasis).

Note the epistemological point in these two examples: it is the expanded knowledge and context that necessitates the narrowing of concepts (the second more precise delimitation of a prior wider concept). Also, the second, more precise, concept does not invalidate the earlier more "primitive"; in fact, latter builds and is dependent epistemologically on the former.

None of these points are mine. Peikoff made them in one of his lectures (or was it OPAR?), I forget which one.

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She does this when she discovers the existential and hence epistemological dependence of "life" upon "value".

Correction: the above sentence should read: "She does this when she discovers the existential and hence epistemological dependence of "value" upon "life". "

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None of these points are mine. Peikoff made them in one of his lectures (or was it OPAR?), I forget which one.

I checked my notes, it was in "Unity in Epistemology and Ethics" that Dr. Peikoff made the point of the need for (some times) two definitions.

Rgs

Harald

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I wanted to add that I think that romantic love need not be between sexual lovers. There is one person in my life that I romantically love but he and I are not homosexuals. It is from this experience that I think romantic love is for another person and for one that shares one's values so similarly that I must use the term "soul-mate" to describe them. This does not mean that one can only romantically love one person at a time. I may imagine a situation where there are multiple people that I romantically love.

This brings up many interesting questions. I see nothing wrong with romantically loving more than one woman at a time. If I kept open and honest about it am I justified in being sexually active with multiple women? Futhermore, why do I have to romantically love a woman to have sex with her anyway? I know that the best sex is with a woman I romantically love, but am I ever justified in having sex with a woman who I still love but less than romantically as long as I realize it as such?

Ayn Rand was married to Mr. O'Connor when she had an "affair" with Mr. Branden. Perhaps this gives us some insight into what she thought about love and sex?

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I wanted to add that I think that romantic love need not be between sexual lovers. There is one person in my life that I romantically love but he and I are not homosexuals. It is from this experience that I think romantic love is for another person and for one that shares one's values so similarly that I must use the term "soul-mate" to describe them.

I do not understand part of your statement. Are you saying that the love you feel for another man, Mr. X, is of the highest intensity and therefore you call it "romantic love"?

Why not call that love "friendship," as in "best friend"?

The fact that romantic love is the most intense form of love is not what makes it romantic love. Instead, as I use the terms/ideas, romantic love is love between two people who share the highest values ("soul mates") and have engaged their sexual identity into the process.

In other words, what makes romantic love the most intense form of love is that it involves more of who we are: not only our highest philosophical values (shown through sense of life) but also our very physical and psychological nature.

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I wanted to add that I think that romantic love need not be between sexual lovers. There is one person in my life that I romantically love but he and I are not homosexuals.

I do not understand part of your statement. Are you saying that the love you feel for another man, Mr. X, is of the highest intensity and therefore you call it "romantic love"?

Why not call that love "friendship," as in "best friend"?

Would you say that "best friend" captures the love that Wynand had for Roark?

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Would you say that "best friend" captures the love that Wynand had for Roark?

The phrase "best friend" does capture the love that Wynand felt for Roark -- if a "friend" is another self to some degree, and if "best" specifies the highest degree.

However, if one relies on a common connotation of "best friend," as an intimate or confidante, "best friend" does "sound" weak doesn't it? In that case, what better alternative does English offer to describe Wynand's seeing Roark as a positive value and a source of (nonsexual) pleasure?

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The phrase "best friend" does capture the love that Wynand felt for Roark -- if a "friend" is another self to some degree, and if "best" specifies the highest degree.

However, if one relies on a common connotation of "best friend," as an intimate or confidante, "best friend" does "sound" weak doesn't it? In that case, what better alternative does English offer to describe Wynand's seeing Roark as a positive value and a source of (nonsexual) pleasure?

I agree, "best friend" does sound weak; "most revered friend" sounds nobler, though perhaps too formal?

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The phrase "best friend" does capture the love that Wynand felt for Roark -- if a "friend" is another self to some degree, and if "best" specifies the highest degree.

However, if one relies on a common connotation of "best friend," as an intimate or confidante, "best friend" does "sound" weak doesn't it? In that case, what better alternative does English offer to describe Wynand's seeing Roark as a positive value and a source of (nonsexual) pleasure?

Aside from "romantic love" I'm not sure what single word or phrase best captures what Wynand felt towards Roark. But, these words by Ayn Rand in the Journals (p. 171) suggest to me something more akin to Nicolaus' statement about romantic love than to a friendship of any kind.

"At the moment, Roark becomes an obsession to him. In the most spiritual sense only, without the slightest possibility of the merest hint of sexual perversion, Wynand is actually in love with Roark."

Why mention the lack of "sexual perversion" if the love was not romantic?

And, again, on p. 233.

"Wynand is actually in love with Roark. It is love in every sense but the physical; its base is not in homosexuality ..."

This characterization sure sounds like romantic love to me, minus the physical expression.

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This characterization sure sounds like romantic love to me, minus the physical expression.

Isn't that what's usually meant by the term "Platonic love"?

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Isn't that what's usually meant by the term "Platonic love"?

On the other hand, I just ran across this quote from a better philosopher:

"A true friend is one soul in two bodies." (Aristotle)

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This characterization sure sounds like romantic love to me, minus the physical expression.

Isn't that what's usually meant by the term "Platonic love"?

I guess that depends upon the meaning taken for "Platonic love." As I have come to understand the term, it is used to express a relationship between a man and a woman, a relationship which could, but does not, result in sexual intimacy. In a sense, it is often used as denial of what would otherwise be natural between a man and a woman.

With that in mind, I do not think the term "Platonic love" describes the relationship between Wynand and Roark since, as Miss Rand's own words make clear, there is not even the hint of homosexuality involved, so the possibility of a sexual relationship is precluded by Wynand's nature, not simply by his choice.

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Futhermore, why do I have to romantically love a woman to have sex with her anyway? I know that the best sex is with a woman I romantically love, but am I ever justified in having sex with a woman who I still love but less than romantically as long as I realize it as such?

I wanted to update this earlier post with my own thinking on the matter. I believe that the only way one is justified in having sex with a less than romantically loved partner is if there is nobody that one values higher. The principle is to only have a sexual relationship with the highest valued person available.

In addition, the quotes from Ms. Rand's journals, given by Mr. Speicher in an earlier post in this thread, confirm to me that I know both what Ayn Rand thought about love and also what are my own beliefs.

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Following is another puzzle I want to add to the list in post 2: Why is romantic love the highest level of intensity of love? Why not love of one's central purpose in life?

If one had to choose (a doubtful proposition), why would someone like Howard Roark love his work less than he would love someone like Dominique? The only plausible answer is that romantic love involves one's whole nature, mind and body, whereas one's beloved central purpose in life may indeed be a passionately held purpose, but it does not involve one's masculinity or femininity -- an inborn part of who one is as a whole person.

It does not follow that one should be ready to abandon one's beloved work in favor of a romantic partner, if such an unlikely dilemma ever emerged. There may be other factors involved -- such as the societal future of that particular activity (for example, medicine in an increasingly statist world), the prospects of finding another romantic partner or, for that matter, how close that romantic partner really is to one's ideal partner.

Don't forget who Dominique is, her individuality. She is the only daughter to a widowed architect, so she has had ample opportunity to understand the aesthetic of architecture. Notice that she knows Howard Roark's work in relation to his soul better than anyone. Notice that she fell in love with Howard Roark even before she saw him; this is the whole beauty of the plot. If she was just an staunch advocate of Individual Rights and property rights, this would not have automatically made Roark fall in love with her. That she understands HIM, does. And vice versa, he understands her battle with the world better than anyone.

Big Nose.

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