Burgess Laughlin

Ayn Rand's view of love?

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In Leonard Peikoff's talk Love, Sex and Romance, he discusses the distinction between love and friendship and quotes Rand as having said about her husband:

He is not my friend; he matters to me !

He mentions that he used to disagree with Rand about this; that he used to think that love is to friendship sort of like what certainty is to cognition, but he's since changed his view and now agrees with her that love is a sui generus relationship.

He also mentions that Rand stated that friendship can be promoted to love, but love can't be demoted to friendship (does anyone know if this is part of something Rand wrote and if so, where ?)

The way I interpret this is that a love relationship involves a physical inter-dependency centered around sex wherein each person is a unique and irreplaceable value to the other, and as such the relationship takes on a host of aspects beyond friendship.

I see this sort of liike if a friend becomes a business partner. While you may still remain friends, the relationship takes on a whole new dimension when you commit to the inter-dependency of being in business together. In a lot of areas where, as friends, it was OK to "agree to disagree", as business partners you have to agree, or the business will fail. Things like the physical location of the business, hours of operation, target markets, etc. can fall into this category.

In a similar way, a love relationship is one wherein "agreeing to disagree" no longer works in many areas where it worked fine in a friendship. Again, I think these center around and arise from sex, but I think they quickly spread into a wide range of other things such as what sorts of social activities one engages in, one's choice of friends, certain personal habits, etc. It becomes necessary to agree on things with one's lover that one would never even question a friend about.

I'd like to hear what others think of Rand's view that love and friendship are fundamentally different.

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[...] a love relationship involves a physical inter-dependency centered around sex [...]

Why do you describe a romantic-love relationship as one of dependency? I see such a relationship as a form of trade between independent individuals.

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

She actually refers to it as such in this letter to Gerald Loeb from June 3, 1944:

But above all, and greater, I think, than any other emotion in the book, is Wynand's love for Roark. Wynand is in love with Roark--in every way except the physical. It is not a homosexual feeling--but it is love in the romantic sense and in the highest sense. Not just affection or admiration.

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Why do you describe a romantic-love relationship as one of dependency? I see such a relationship as a form of trade between independent individuals.

Because of the irreplacibility of the individuals involved. While it may be true that any number of individuals could potentially fill the role of one's romantic partner, once one is actually chosen, that individual is not interchangeable with another in the way that one customer is interchangeable with another in the general case of trade.

What's being traded in love is the self which is unique. The value created by the relationship - the value each derives from the other's self - is unique and depends on the individuals involved.

Ideally each partner independently chooses to enter into the relationship, but once entered into, the value of that person can only be obtained from and is dependent on that person, and vice versa, which is why I called it inter-dependent.

It's still mutual trade to mutual benefit.

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I'd like to hear what others think of Rand's view that love and friendship are fundamentally different.

By your use of "love" here I assume you mean "romantic love." Love is a response to values, and one can certainly love a friend. But, as I understand it, Miss Rand generally distinguishes between romantic love and friendship in that the former is sexual, while the latter is not.

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By your use of "love" here I assume you mean "romantic love."

Yes, that's what I mean.

[Maybe I should have started a new topic - "Ayn Rand's view of romantic love" ?]

Love is a response to values, and one can certainly love a friend. But, as I understand it, Miss Rand generally distinguishes between romantic love and friendship in that the former is sexual, while the latter is not.

I think you're right that friendship can be described as a form of love, but my understanding of her perspective is that romantic love is not a form of friendship, that it is a different kind of relationship, that to unite the two relationships under the same concept of "friendship" is an attempt to unite by non-essentials; that romantic love is not simply friendship plus sex (not to imply that that would be something simple).

It sort of grates to say "my romantic lover is not my friend"; it raises questions like "Is it proper to treat one's romantic lover in unfriendly ways and to tolerate unfriendly treatment by one's romantic lover ? Can one's romantic lover be one's enemy ?", etc.

I'm not at all happy with the term "inter-dependency" to describe the unique character of romantic love though - it sounds like a view from an altruist perspective.

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I think you're right that friendship can be described as a form of love ...

I didn't say that friendship can be described as "a form of love." I said that it is possible to love a friend.

... but my understanding of her perspective is that romantic love is not a form of friendship,

That is my understanding too.

It sort of grates to say "my romantic lover is not my friend";

Personally, I have no difficulty in saying that my wife is my friend, but only in a very loose sense of "friend."

... it raises questions like "Is it proper to treat one's romantic lover in unfriendly ways and to tolerate unfriendly treatment by one's romantic lover

I think your question contains an implied equivocation on "friend." The condition of "unfriendly," as in inhospitable, is not the same as the overall relationship "friend." It is, in general, not proper to treat one's romantic lover in unfriendly ways, but not because your relationship with your partner is different from your relationship with a friend.

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