Guest Dan Edge

The Morality of Monogamy

369 posts in this topic

Howdy,

This is a rough draft for a short essay I wrote a few years back endorsing monogamy in romantic relationships. I wrote a background for the essay explaining some basics of Oist epistemology and ethics, and psychological visibility and automatization, for those who were unfamiliar with the concepts. I figured most of you would know that stuff, so just let me know if you want a link to the background.

THE MORALITY OF MONOGAMY

     Monogamy is the inductive choice.  We want our partner to desire us exclusively, and she requires the same of us.  There is nothing supernatural about this feeling or preference.  It has too long been attributed to a sense of duty to our partner, to the church, or to the human race.  In fact, we need this kind of exclusive romantic affection to preserve a positive sense of life for the long term. It is very natural and moral to have a profound, selfish desire that our partner stay true to us.

     Still, many in the objectivist community remain unconvinced.  They offer polygamy a silent sanction, even though they would never enter into such a relationship themselves.  Is it possible that we have all somehow retained the irrational premise of monogamy from a religious upbringing?  That we experience deep pain when our lover is untrue because of an unchecked, glaring contradiction in the subconscious? 

     After checking and re-checking the contents of my mind for the past decade, I have grown to trust my emotional reactions on issues like this.  I didn’t need to write an essay about it to know that I would always pursue a monogamous romantic relationship for the long term.  However, there is great value in explicitly identifying the source of these emotions, so this essay will be the intellectual justification for what most of us already feel:

     In this context, I define monogamy as a long-term romantic relationship in which both partners preserve romantic and sexual exclusivity.  I specify that this is a long-term endeavor because my goal is to discover which kinds of relationships are most conducive to happiness and psychological health over the course of our entire lives.  “Short-term polygamy,” or dating, is appropriate for limited periods of time, but this is a separate issue.

     I claim that a monogamous relationship is the ideal channel for romantic love.  This is the standard; this is what we shoot for.  It is possible that there are some individuals with extenuating circumstances who, for whatever reason, can never attain this ideal.  These are exceptions to the rule or emergency cases, and ought not be the basis of romantic love psychology.  In this essay, I will be inducing principles that relate to normal, natural, rational human beings who are capable of pursuing and attaining their values, as is appropriate for any intellectual pursuit.

     I can’t stress enough the importance of psychological visibility as it relates to romantic relationships.  Through a lover, we can experience the deepest form of self-love possible.  In order to attain this highest level of happiness, it is necessary to directly perceive another being that reflects both the broadest and the most specific aspects of self simultaneously.  By that I mean, the being must reflect your broader intellectual values like philosophical and political beliefs, and also the specific traits, personality quirks, and physical attributes that make you who you are.  Personality traits are morally optional within a certain range, and there are countless possibilities for human choice.

     Self-love is like a psychological prime mover.  I don’t need a reason to love the fact that I am a man, have green eyes, like to play chess, and tell stupid jokes.  I would not want to trade my life, my personality, or my body (or especially my girlfriend) with anyone else.  Most of us feel this way, especially those with a healthy self-esteem.  It is appropriate for us to highly value our own optional value judgments and individuality.  The direct, perceptual experience of a being that psychologically mirrors many or all of these specific traits generates an emotional reaction in proportion to the depth and scope of the reflection.  A lover can provide such a mirror. 

     Through interaction, shared experiences, and physical contact, two lovers can build an immense private world with one another.  Think about people you know (if any), who have been in a rational and mutually beneficial relationship for an extended period of time.  If they’re anything like the couples I’ve met, they seem to read each other’s minds, anticipate each other’s choices, and generally display an acute understanding of each other’s distinguishing attributes.  In a good romance, no one knows your various likes and dislikes as well as your partner.               

     Lovers become a part of each other as they share life experiences.  This is not any kind of second-handedness, but a marvelous consequence of living and growing with another sentient, rational being.  Often, our most treasured memories are of things we learned or experienced with a loved one. 

     The more we grow as individuals, the greater capacity we have to experience an even higher emotional sum in response to our values.  There is more self to sum up, i.e., there are more aspects of self automatized in the subconscious.  In a long-term romantic love relationship, memories and experiences of your lover become a substantial part of that sum.  Your long time wife is not only a value because she is wonderful, but because she has been wonderful for years.  If you both continue to grow individually and with one another, the shared private world embodied in your partner can become your highest perceivable value. 

     This is why we don’t always “trade up” to a different lover, even if someone else possesses traits and values that we wish our partner had.  If I were to meet a woman who possessed all of the same positive traits as Melanie, but liked to watch football, I would not be tempted in the least to abandon my current relationship.  Melanie and I have a shared context, extending back to high school, that greatly outweighs the value I could gain from pursuing a new relationship.  With a different woman I would have to start all over, and build a whole new private world, which takes time and effort.  This does not mean that one should remain in a long-term relationship that is dying.  The potentiality with someone else could be greater, and the very difficult decision of whether or not to give up on a romance is optional to a degree.  But in making the decision we cannot ignore the value of an existing private world and a powerful source of psychological visibility.

     Still, many ask the question: why not pursue multiple deep romantic relationships and secure multiple wives, each of which better reflect different aspects of self?  If we add up all the private worlds together, it could calculate a hefty sum!  Would this not trigger a more powerful reflection of self and feeling of happiness? 

     The problem with the above argument is that the value of an emotional response to psychological visibility is judged by its intensity, not its quantity.  The private world between two long-term lovers can become massive, and it is automatized into each partner’s subconscious.  It cannot be transferred to someone else at whim.  The private world is intimately, physically connected to one particular person.  The fact that exactly one perceivable entity represents a host of one’s values is what makes psychological visibility possible.  An infinite number of casual romances will never add up to the degree of happiness that monogamous, long-term relationships can provide.

     It is only a matter of time.  Our lives here on earth are limited, so we have a limited amount of time to pursue each of our values.  This makes it important to rank our values, determine how much time and focus to spend on each.  Considering the happiness potential of romance, it is rational and necessary to devote a considerable amount of time over the long-term in pursuing and maintaining love relationships, if such is open to us.  Our aim is the greatest experience of self and happiness possible.  Monogamy is clearly the best method to attain this goal.  If you focus your time and energy on one person, the private world is able to grow faster and deeper over a period of time.  It would be highly unlikely that one could develop the same kind of depth with even two people, much less three or more.  When would you go to work?  J  To put it coldly, it is simply more time-efficient to pursue one relationship at a time, and to pursue a long-term monogamous relationship when possible.  There is no salary cap on the spiritual paycheck.  The private world continues to grow as long as each partner grows as an individual.

     Hopefully, I have sufficiently established that romantic exclusivity is ideal for the long-term.  But we have not yet touched on the question of sexual exclusivity.  Why not make love to your friends as well as your wife?  In order to answer this question, I draw inductions based on experience, and integrate this evidence with previously established principles of psychology.  In the context of this paper, I am depending on you to provide the necessary introspection and draw evidence out of your own mind.  That’s right, I’m putting you to work! J

     Those who have borne the agony of an unfaithful lover possess the most direct and intense evidence that monogamy is preferable.  If your partner shares her body with someone else, it makes it feel less special when she makes love to you again.  Part of the spark is gone, in some cases never to return.  I have never heard of an attempt at sexual polygamy between rational people that did not end in intense pain or the destruction of a relationship.  Most of my good friends have observed the same pattern.  We also notice that rational couples who have been together a long time look like some of the happiest people on earth.  This kind of practical experience provides further evidence for the case that monogamy is the ideal.  As I mentioned at the outset, it should be a huge clue to us that 99% of objectivists pursue romance only in this way. 

     Sexual exclusivity is important to us because we attach a symbolic value to the act of love making, creating a channel though which we experience the emotional sum of psychological visibility.  Just as we punish criminals proportional to the severity of their crimes, so we honor loved ones according to their ranking in our hierarchy of values.  Most of us do not kiss complete strangers. We dole out physical affection proportionate to our degree of intimacy with each individual.  We hug our friends, kiss our relatives, but usually go no further than this except with a romantic interest.  If we begin to focus on one romantic relationship in the interest of building a larger private world, we generally focus all sexual affection on our partner exclusively.  This is a natural decision to make, because in this way we connect the greatest possible emotional and intellectual pleasure to the greatest possible physical pleasure.  We reserve sex as the highest celebration of our values, which will only be shared with the one who maximizes our feelings of happiness and self-esteem. 

     If both lovers preserve sexual exclusivity, then their sex life becomes an even more intimate part of their private world.  It is something shared with you, and no other.  We automatize the symbolic value that we place on sex, which adds even more to the emotional sum we experience with our partner.

     <As a side note, I group foreplay activities with sex in this context because foreplay, by definition, comes before and generally leads to sex.  The symbolism of physical affection also applies to deep kissing, heavy petting, and oral sex.”>

     During my adult life, there has never been a question in my mind about what kind of romance I want to pursue.  I want one woman, one wife, one life-long friend to grow old and raise a family with.  Most of us have dreamed about it since adolescence.  It’s way past time we recognized the evidence our emotions have provided all along: Monogamy is the way to go.     

--Dan Edge  

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In this context, I define monogamy as a long-term romantic relationship in which both partners preserve romantic and sexual exclusivity. [...]

Monogamy is the way to go.       

Before discussion begins, I would like a little clarification. You define monogamy as a long-term, romantically and sexually exclusive relationship. I am unsure what you mean by "long-term." Elsewhere you imply a life-time relationship.

If a man were to serially marry three women through a period of 50 years, and remain romantically and sexually exclusive in each marriage, would he be monogamous?

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Before discussion begins, I would like a little clarification. You define monogamy as a long-term, romantically and sexually exclusive relationship. I am unsure what you mean by "long-term." Elsewhere you imply a life-time relationship.

If a man were to serially marry three women through a period of 50 years, and remain romantically and sexually exclusive in each marriage, would he be monogamous?

I would say that the ideal would be a lifetime relationship, but this is not always possible. People grow apart, people marry too young and don't really know what they want, etc. So, yes, a man who is exclusive with his girlfriends/wives for as long as he is with them is monogamous. However, one does not tell oneself (hopefully): "my ideal in romantic love is to find a great woman to marry, then drift apart and divorce her, then find another great woman, then drift apart and divorce, etc, etc." This sometimes happens, but it's not what you're shooting for. I think we have to define the ideal situation before determining how to get there. I argue that a lifelong monogamous romantic relationship is the ideal.

--Dan Edge

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Monogamy ... Still, many in the objectivist community remain unconvinced.

Is that a small "o" "objectivist community," meaning those who are not actually Objectivists? If not, I am perplexed as where you find this "community." I have been involved with Objectivism for more than four decades and I cannot recall a single Objectivist who "remained unconvinced" about exclusivity in marriage, much less "many" such Objectivists. Where are you finding these people?

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Stephen,

I wrote a post that partially answers your question in the "Passion of AR's Critics" thread. As for the lower case use of the term Objectivism, no, I was not referring to a group of people who call themselves Objectivist who actually are not. It was a typo from a rough draft.

--Dan Edge

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Stephen,

I wrote a post that partially answers your question in the "Passion of AR's Critics" thread. 

You started this thread here for the explicit purpose of discussing monogamy. Here is where you should respond.

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You started this thread here for the explicit purpose of discussing monogamy. Here is where you should respond.

Stephen,

My response was relevant to the other thread. I just didn't duplicate the information. Here's a partial copy of my other post, since it is relevant here also:

Here are some quotes from earlier in this thread <The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics>:

---------------

JRoberts: "It is my understanding (though I don't remember where I read it) that he <O'Connor> knew and consented."

Burgess: "Marriage vows do not have intrinsic value, that is, regardless of context. If two people form a contract and later agree to change the terms temporarily, is there a problem?"

Betsy: "Any proper contract is made by mutual consent and the terms of the contract should be open to renegotiation if all the parties to it are willing to change them."

-----------------

I'm not trying to pick on these folks (each of whom I respect very much as far as I know them), but consider these responses, especially how they would be viewed by a newcomer to Objectivism. In each case, the quoted text represents the bulk of the writer's response to the issue (in this thread), and are seemingly blanket statements. One could induce, without much of a stretch that the operative principle with respect to polygamy is: as long as all parties agree, then there's no problem, moral or otherwise. I disagree with this. There are many cases in which a couple's mutual agreement to be polygamous would be profoundly immoral and self-destructive.

Even in exceptional cases when polygamy could be morally acceptable, it's a pickle that no one wants to be in. It's a "damned if ya do, damned if ya don't" situation. No matter how mature and introspecitive a man is, he's got to feel like crap when his wife tells him she wants to seek romantic gratification outside the relationship. Same with a woman and her husband. It's gotta be the toughest thing one can go through; a real tragedy.

I get all worked up about this issue because I view monogamous romantic love as the pinnacle of human existence. It's the brass ring of life; the ultimate reward for a life well-lived.

--Dan Edge

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Here are some quotes from earlier in this thread <The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics>:

---------------

JRoberts: "It is my understanding (though I don't remember where I read it) that he <O'Connor> knew and consented."

Burgess: "Marriage vows do not have intrinsic value, that is, regardless of context. If two people form a contract and later agree to change the terms temporarily, is there a problem?"

Betsy: "Any proper contract is made by mutual consent and the terms of the contract should be open to renegotiation if all the parties to it are willing to change them."

-----------------

I'm not trying to pick on these folks (each of whom I respect very much as far as I know them), but consider these responses, especially how they would be viewed by a newcomer to Objectivism.  In each case, the quoted text represents the bulk of the writer's response to the issue (in this thread), and are seemingly blanket statements.  One could induce, without much of a stretch that the operative principle with respect to polygamy is: as long as all parties agree, then there's no problem, moral or otherwise.  I disagree with this.

You are disagreeing with your own false induction (or, more properly, an unwarranted out of context generalization). Go back and read the specific context in which those various remarks were made. Perhaps this missing of context explains the strangeness of your statement that I questioned: "Still, many in the objectivist community remain unconvinced."

I get all worked up about this issue because I view monogamous romantic love as the pinnacle of human existence.  It's the brass ring of life; the ultimate reward for a life well-lived.

That's a fine attitude, but keep in mind that all value is contextual. Beware of holding a value as being intrinsic.

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This is a rough draft for a short essay I wrote a few years back endorsing monogamy in romantic relationships.  [...]

You make interesting and valid points, though I don't think you've actually "proved" your case. You haven't necessarily shown that such intimacy couldn't possibly exist among, say, a small polygamous marriage comprised of multiple husbands and wives who are all 100% consenting to each member of the marriage, say of the type explored in Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. I am not personally of the view that I would ever want such a thing, but one has to be careful to avoid rationalism in deducing the "only way" that rational people could ever live, particularly given the effects of acculturation on later life.

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[...] Here are some quotes from earlier in this thread <The Passion of Ayn Rand's Critics>:

---------------

[...] Burgess: "Marriage vows do not have intrinsic value, that is, regardless of context. If two people form a contract and later agree to change the terms temporarily, is there a problem?" [...]

-----------------

[...] In each case, the quoted text represents the bulk of the writer's response to the issue (in this thread), and are seemingly blanket statementsOne could induce, without much of a stretch that the operative principle with respect to polygamy is: as long as all parties agree, then there's no problem, moral or otherwise.  I disagree with this.  There are many cases in which a couple's mutual agreement to be polygamous would be profoundly immoral and self-destructive. 

[bold added for emphasis.]

In the quotation, I made one statement and I asked one question. First, do you agree or disagree with my statement? In other words, do you believe that monogamous relationships have intrinsic value?

Second, in your posts, you have repeatedly said that you believe that in "many cases" (or words to that effect) polygamous relationships are immoral. Have you anywhere said why you think they are immoral? In other words, what causes "many" polygamous relationships to be immoral rather than ill-informed or merely mistaken?

By the way, exactly what form does the immorality take for "many" polygamous relationships? Which vice in particular is involved?

Third, I would like to draw your attention again to the fact that you are forming a generalization ("many cases"), as Stephen Speicher observed, not a principle drawn from observing a (universal) cause-and-effect relationship. Some or even "many" polygamous relationships may have been formed immorally (for example, by evading facts about those relationships in particular or romantic relationships universally) -- but isn't that true of monogamy as well?

Are there not "many cases" in which the one, exclusive marriage was formed immorally -- for example, because of the dependence of the married couple on the opinions of others, because of the dishonesty of the couple in evading the fact of their incompatibility, or because of the cowardice of two people who marry as a lazy way of avoiding the need to set ambitious goals for finding a partner who would bring happiness instead of boredom or suppression of feelings?

P. S. -- If you or anyone else infers from my comments that I advocate polygamy, then I suggest you doublecheck your inference. Your conclusion would be wrong, so the next question would have to be, where did your process of inference jump the track?

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[bold added for emphasis.] 

 

........... 

 

so the next question would have to be, where did your process of inference jump the track? 

 

As far as I could understand what Dan is trying to show is that "a monogamous relationship is the ideal channel for romantic love." He says he "will be inducing principles that relate to normal, natural, rational human beings."

Well, I didn't see any inductive inferences being made. Dan should give specific examples of individuals whose long term monogamous relationship was better than a polygamous long term relationship. These would have to be contrasted with short term relationships. A generalization would then be formed based upon the evidence. Where was that done in his presentation? The fact that he "has never heard of an attempt at sexual polygamy between rational people that did not end in intense pain or the destruction of a relationship" is not an example from which to form a generalization.

Dan starts by presenting monogamy in emotional terms, then states that he can't imagine polygamy as leading to happiness. He states "we don’t always 'trade up' to a different lover, even if someone else possesses traits and values that we wish our partner had." He gives an example of a superficial trait of watching football. Well, what happens if the values (not traits) are more important? Wanting to see values in another person who does not possess those values is not the basis for any relationship. Finding those values that you want in another person IS the basis for a relationship.

Assuming that both partners are rational, if one partner was able to show that another person was of greater value to him, then the other partner should rationally be able to understand why the relationship should end. This is illustrated by Rearden's understanding of Dagny's not informing him that she was alive, and that she had found her ideal man.

Lastly, the Topic is titled, The Morality of Monogamy. Nowhere is this issue discussed in this thread. I touched on this issue in the thread on The Passion of Ayn Rand Critics, and I won't go through the entire point. The only point I want to make is that monogamy is a relationship and cannot, per se, be classified as moral or immoral. Morality pertains to individual action and thought. A person can be moral (no lying, be rational, productive, etc.) or immoral (cheating, etc.) within a monogamous or polygamous relationship. The relationship is not moral or immoral, it is the reasons that a person enters into and what he does during a relationship that may be classified as moral or not.

The above should not be interpreted as an endorsement of polygamy. Dan makes several interesting observations. However, regarding his argument independently, in my opinion, he doesn't prove his thesis.

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Lastly, the Topic is titled, The Morality of Monogamy.  Nowhere is this issue discussed in this thread.

I'll start -- and I know a bit about the subject having been happily monogamous for 38+ years. :D

Let's ground this discussion in reality. What facts of reality give rise to the conclusion that monogamy is the most desirable sexual arrangement? Once we nail those facts down, we will know the context in which monogamy is the moral ideal and where it is not.

Some considerations:

1) A long-term relationship is better than a short-term relationship. You can take common values and build on them over time. There is time to get to know each other and each partner's personal values and to negotiate differences. He knows why she hates to do the dishes and how she likes her back scratched and she learns what kind of clothing really turns him on. You have common experiences and can develop a common history, reminisce, have inside jokes, and a personal language. You can undertake long-term projects like raising children and investing for retirement.

2) Sexual exclusivity has benefits. Most of all, it engenders trust and trust is probably THE most important requirement for a woman to be sexually responsive. Trust encourages openness and transparency. A good marriage is a place where you can let down your guard and be yourself and where you can share your thoughts and feelings with someone who accepts, cares for, and desires you. Non-exclusivity would require keeping parts of your life closed and hidden from your partner.

3) A long-term monogamous relationship serves as a value center and value focus. Spouses are sexual partners, friends, companions, participants in a household division of labor, partners in the ownership of a home or other investments, advocates for each other, confidants, partners in long-term activities like raising a family, and more.

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Let's ground this discussion in reality.  What facts of reality give rise to the conclusion that monogamy is the most desirable sexual arrangement?  Once we nail those facts down, we will know the context in which monogamy is the moral ideal and where it is not.

I agree with starting with reality, but first let's be clear about the topic of the thread. Is it:

1. Is polygamy necessarily immoral?

2. Is monogamy the most desirable sexual arrangement?

3. Is monogamy preferable to polygamy?

4. Are sexual relations outside of a serious, long-term, monogamous relationship immoral?

5. Is polygamy necessarily immoral if it is understood at the outset to be a temporary situation?

Given the genesis of the thread, I think question #1 is the central issue.

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Hello All,

I appreciate all the feedback. I've been wanting to go back and work on this essay for several years and just never done it. I'll respond at length in the next few days. This weekend has been a killer! Hope you are all doing well.

--Dan Edge

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Hello,

Just as a preliminary step, let me breakdown what I'm trying to argue here:

1) Psychological visibility is a need.

2) Romantic love is the best source of psychological visibility.

3) Monogamy is the ideal way to pursue, build, and preserve romantic love.

The above essay is intended to argue for point #3. But first, are we all in agreement on points #1 and #2? I wrote a background essay dealing with those earlier points, but didn't post it here.

--Dan Edge

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Just as a preliminary step, let me breakdown what I'm trying to argue here:

1) Psychological visibility is a need.

2) Romantic love is the best source of psychological visibility.

3) Monogamy is the ideal way to pursue, build, and preserve romantic love.

The above essay is intended to argue for point #3.  But first, are we all in agreement on points #1 and #2?

That depends on exactly what you mean by "psychological visibility." I have seen some use of that phrase that tends to almost trivialize the issue. Romantic love, just like art, is primarily a sense of life response, and thereby provides a means to objectify your own soul. If that is the sense in which you mean "psychological visibility," then I would agree.

But the broader issue, as I see the criticism that others have made of your essay, is that you neither dealt directly with the stated subject matter, nor did you adequately demonstrate your case. I think that those two issues are the ones that need to be addressed.

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Hello,

Just as a preliminary step, let me breakdown what I'm trying to argue here:

1) Psychological visibility is a need.

2) Romantic love is the best source of psychological visibility.

3) Monogamy is the ideal way to pursue, build, and preserve romantic love.

The above essay is intended to argue for point #3.  But first, are we all in agreement on points #1 and #2?  I wrote a background essay dealing with those earlier points, but didn't post it here.

--Dan Edge

On Dan's post: After 22 years of marriage, I can agree on all three points, with very few questions.

Ed's Post: #1: No; #2: Yes; #3: Yes; #4: No; #5: No.

Betsy's post: I agree with all your points. I'd like to add one more issue to consider. To a large extent, values, by their nature, are exclusive to the valuer. Some of you may have had parents tell you, when you were a child, to share your toys. Most kids resent having to share. That's because the value has implicit exclusivity to the valuer. (Not that more than one person can't value the same object, but the individual experience of valuing something is exclusive.) An old aphorism states that to say "I love you" you have to know how to say the "I." Well, I also think that in order to say "I love you" you have to know how how to say the "you." Meaning that you have to know the value of the other person in relation to one's own happiness and goals in life.

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I have seen some use of that phrase that tends to almost trivialize the issue. Romantic love, just like art, is primarily a sense of life response, and thereby provides a means to objectify your own soul. If that is the sense in which you mean "psychological visibility," then I would agree.

But the broader issue, as I see the criticism that others have made of your essay, is that you neither dealt directly with the stated subject matter, nor did you adequately demonstrate your case. I think that those two issues are the ones that need to be addressed.

Stephen,

I use the term "psychological visibility" as it is defined in The Psychology of Self-Esteem. In the background essay I for the above essay, I explain psychological visibility in this way:

--------------------

"Psychological visibility is the experience of perceiving a psychological "mirror" in reality, one that reflects many or all of our most fundamental values.  This experience has epistemological and psychological significance because, as stated earlier, we need a direct perceptual experience of the connection between our minds and reality.  We are only able to focus on a relatively limited number of entities at one time.  The contents of your mind are vast and, in the privacy of your own mind, you are able to consider only a few aspects of your own consciousness at once.  Through another living being you can experience the reflection of many of your values, all at the same time.

     We get this experience on a limited level when looking at a plant or lush landscape.  A tree grows towards the sun and pushes its roots deep into the earth, in an effort to gain those minerals and chemicals that sustain its life.  We share with a tree our struggle for survival.  We perceive in that tree a miniature mirror of our own values and experience the actualization of those values as an emotional sum.  We share even more values with animals, which have the capacity of perception and locomotion.  They also possess a rudimentary form of emotion, which is obvious to anyone who has ever owned a dog.  The dog can often tell if you're happy or sad, excited or stagnant, and it responds in kind.  We experience pleasure when the animal displays recognition of our intentions, recognition of who we are. 

     Through another human being, we are able to directly experience almost all of our most treasured values.  Your good friend not only possesses intelligence, but also knows those aspects of your personality that make you different from any other entity in the universe.  We may naturally think of ourselves as a disconnected flow of thoughts and perceptions, but we think of others as a united whole, like “Dan,” “Hawk,” and “Melanie.”  When we lay our eyes on a close friend, we often feel as if all is right in the world, that we share this struggle with another being who truly understands us.  THIS is greatest experience and potential of psychological visibility."

--------------------

So, that's my (somewhat longwinded) definition. I think you would agree with the statements above, perhaps you just wanted to know if I knew their meaning fully. Or maybe you're just giving me a hard time to encourage to me express my ideas more clearly? Such encouragement (and advice on how to improve) is welcome, in any case.

--Dan Edge

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[bold added for emphasis.]

In the quotation, I made one statement and I asked one question. First, do you agree or disagree with my statement? In other words, do you believe that monogamous relationships have intrinsic value?

Second, in your posts, you have repeatedly said that you believe that in "many cases" (or words to that effect) polygamous relationships are immoral. Have you anywhere said why you think they are immoral? In other words, what causes "many" polygamous relationships to be immoral rather than ill-informed or merely mistaken?

By the way, exactly what form does the immorality take for "many" polygamous relationships? Which vice in particular is involved?

Third, I would like to draw your attention again to the fact that you are forming a generalization ("many cases"), as Stephen Speicher observed, not a principle drawn from observing a (universal) cause-and-effect relationship. Some or even "many" polygamous relationships may have been formed immorally (for example, by evading facts about those relationships in particular or romantic relationships universally) -- but isn't that true of monogamy as well?

Are there not "many cases" in which the one, exclusive marriage was formed immorally -- for example, because of the dependence of the married couple on the opinions of others, because of the dishonesty of the couple in evading the fact of their incompatibility, or because of the cowardice of two people who marry as a lazy way of avoiding the need to set ambitious goals for finding a partner who would bring happiness instead of boredom or suppression of feelings?

P. S. -- If you or anyone else infers from my comments that I advocate polygamy, then I suggest you doublecheck your inference. Your conclusion would be wrong, so the next question would have to be, where did your process of inference jump the track?

Burgess,

Just a quick response here, it's late! I assumed that your question "If two people form a contract and later agree to change the terms temporarily, is there a problem?" was rhetorical, implying that there was no problem if two married folks agree to be polygamous. Note that right after my post in the "Passion of AR's Critics" thread, a young Objectivist did reach that conclusion regarding your comment and others'. I know that you don't advocate polygamy as an ideal, and no one would think that reading your post. But one could reach the conclusion that it is totally OK to be polygamous if both partners in a relationship agree to it. You would agree that this is not the case.

--Dan Edge

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I have seen some use of that phrase that tends to almost trivialize the issue. Romantic love, just like art, is primarily a sense of life response, and thereby provides a means to objectify your own soul. If that is the sense in which you mean "psychological visibility," then I would agree.

Psychological visibility is the experience of perceiving a psychological "mirror" in reality, one that reflects many or all of our most fundamental values....

So, that's my (somewhat longwinded) definition. I think you would agree with the statements above ...

I think you should have stopped with your very first sentence, with which I essentially agree. I found the added paragraphs more confusing than enlightening, and they added nothing of value that was not already contained in the first sentence.

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I am a little lost, but I believe the term 'polygamy' is not what is meant here as it is specifically a situation where a man has more than one wife. It is not a general term for non-exclusive relationships.

While I do think that long term monogamous relationships are ideal for reasons similar to Betsy's, I don't think non-exclusive relationships are immoral or undesirable under certain circumstances. Certainly non-serious, transient relationships (casually dating several people at once, for instance) can be perfectly moral so long as there is honesty and good intent. In my younger days, I had a relationship lasting over a year with someone that was not exclusive (we agreed to date others, yet still see one another). While we enjoyed one another's company very much, we both knew that there were some fundamental differences that could not be reconciled in a marriage. We eventually parted ways (amicably), as we both expected would happen eventually. I don't consider that transient, short term relationship to be immoral. In fact, it was very successful in the sense that we both got out of it exactly what we wanted and I look upon the relationship fondly. That said, would a serious, life-long relationship with someone more compatible be preferable? Of course! However, it can take many years and several tries to find someone you want to spend your life with. In the meantime, I think it is perfectly moral to enjoy relationships with others who may not be ideal as a life partner.

As for open marriages or group marriages, I am not really sure. Hypothetically, if three people all love each other, could they form a successful triad marriage? I don't know. However, I can see how there would be more potential for future problems, moreso than the usual issues that come up in a monogamous relationship. However, difficult or challenging doesn't make the relationship or the individuals involved immoral. Can you have deep, romantic love for more than one person at a time? I haven't experienced this personally, but I certainly don't think it is impossible by any means. In such an instance of three-way romantic love between rational people, I certainly wouldn't consider such a relationship immoral.

I have known people with 'open' marriages that are succesful, or at least they claim success. My understanding is that the trust issue is handled by setting up rules, being open, honest, etc. Again, this isn't for me. However, I am not so quick to morally condemn these individuals if they are happy with this arrangement, are honest with their intentions and it works for them. What reason would a rational person have to desire such an arrangement? I suppose that is the real question.

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I am a little lost, but I believe the term 'polygamy' is not what is meant here as it is specifically a situation where a man has more than one wife. It is not a general term for non-exclusive relationships. 

While I do think that long term monogamous relationships are ideal for reasons similar to Betsy's, I don't think non-exclusive relationships are immoral or undesirable under certain circumstances. Certainly non-serious, transient relationships (casually dating several people at once, for instance) can be perfectly moral so long as there is honesty and good intent. In my younger days, I had a relationship lasting over a year with someone that was not exclusive (we agreed to date others, yet still see one another). While we enjoyed one another's company very much, we both knew that there were some fundamental differences that could not be reconciled in a marriage. We eventually parted ways (amicably), as we both expected would happen eventually. I don't consider that transient, short term relationship to be immoral. In fact, it was very successful in the sense that we both got out of it exactly what we wanted and I look upon the relationship fondly. That said, would a serious, life-long relationship with someone more compatible be preferable? Of course! However, it can take many years and several tries to find someone you want to spend your life with. In the meantime, I think it is perfectly moral to enjoy relationships with others who may not be ideal as a life partner.

As for open marriages or group marriages, I am not really sure.  Hypothetically, if three people all love each other, could they form a successful triad marriage? I don't know. However, I can see how there would be more potential for future problems, moreso than the usual issues that come up in a monogamous relationship.  However, difficult or challenging doesn't make the relationship or the individuals involved immoral. Can you have deep, romantic love for more than one person at a time? I haven't experienced this personally, but I certainly don't think it is impossible by any means. In such an instance of three-way romantic love between rational people, I certainly wouldn't consider such a relationship immoral. 

I have known people with 'open' marriages that are succesful, or at least they claim success. My understanding is that the trust issue is handled by setting up rules, being open, honest, etc. Again, this isn't for me. However, I am not so quick to morally condemn these individuals if they are happy with this arrangement, are honest with their intentions and it works for them. What reason would a rational person have to desire such an arrangement? I suppose that is the real question.

My online dictionary defines monogamy as: "1 The practice or condition of having a single sexual partner during a period of time.

2

a. The practice or condition of being married to only one person at a time.

b. The practice of marrying only once in a lifetime."

So polygamy is either multiple sexual partners or multiple spouses.

I don't see anything wrong with what you talked about in the second paragraph. Makes senses to me.

As I've said in other posts, I don't think that the morality of the relationship can be asserted simply by the relationship. It is the actions that those involve in the relationship take that should be classified as moral or not. Many people who are monogamous can be rational or irrational, and the relationship has nothing to do with whether they are so classified. I would trust an honest polygamist more than I would a dishonest monogamist.

Your last question is a good one. Perhaps Hugh Hefner can offer some answers.

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Certainly non-serious, transient relationships (casually dating several people at once, for instance) can be perfectly moral so long as there is honesty and good intent.

I assume we are talking about sexual relationships here? If so, I disagree with your statement. I think the very idea of a casual sexual relationship is, itself, profoundly immoral.

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I assume we are talking about sexual relationships here? If so, I disagree with your statement. I think the very idea of a casual sexual relationship is, itself, profoundly immoral.

Your position on the issue is clear. What are your reasons for saying that a casual sexual relationship is immoral -- under any circumstances, for anyone, at any time?

And would you explain what you mean by profoundly immoral? As opposed to what and by what standard?

Even more puzzling is how an idea can be immoral. But I should wait to hear your reasons for your position before asking about that puzzle.

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Your position on the issue is clear. What are your reasons for saying that a casual sexual relationship is immoral -- under any circumstances, for anyone, at any time?

And would you explain what you mean by profoundly immoral? As opposed to what and by what standard?

Even more puzzling is how an idea can be immoral. But I should wait to hear your reasons for your position before asking about that puzzle.

My reasons can best be summed up by pages 343-349 of OPAR, in the sub-chapter entitled "Sex as Metaphysical." Sex, properly, is the result of romantic love between two people who have EARNED it.

It is presented as the final reward for the sum of the values achieved by the people involved. "Sex is an end in itself... a function so important must be granted the respect it deserves." What does respect mean in this context? For one thing, it "excludes indiscriminate sexual indulgence and any form of destructiveness or faking, such as, among other examples, the chaser's promiscuity..."

To sum:

1) Sex is only proper when it is the result of the feelings of romantic love that were gained in a rational, non-contradictory manner.

2) Romantic love is exclusive and CANNOT be engaged in "casually."

3) Sex is profoundly important enough that it qualifies as "an end in itself." That alone should exclude the possibility of being "casual" about it.

Now, to answer your other questions, by profoundly, I mean to a great degree. By the standard of what is good for the live of a rational man. As opposed to a minor act, such as eating too much cake and getting a little bit sick.

What I mean by the idea being immoral is that the very concept itself, casual sex or a casual sexual relationship, is necessarily immoral, improper, damaging to the life of a rational man. Perhaps there is a better way to express this? Have I accidentally implied something intrincist?

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