Guest Dan Edge

The Morality of Monogamy

369 posts in this topic

[...] I do not understand how everything that is good equates to love.

Who says it does? So far as I can tell, no one has said that it does.

Besides, love -- using Ayn Rand's broad definition -- doesn't equate with the valuable and pleasurable. Instead it is an emotional response to what we evaluate as valuable and pleasurable.

One last point to consider: A single word, such as "love," can name more than one idea. In this case "love" -- in Ayn Rand's writings -- sometimes has a broad meaning as well as, at other times, a narrow meaning (of romantic love).

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My question then is, where does like fit in to someone's vocabulary, if love encompasses all good values?

Keep in mind that my mission, at the moment, is to understand Ayn Rand's view of love (which is why I started the other thread).

Love, in its broadest meaning for Ayn Rand (if I have understood her), subsumes three main types: liking, affection, romantic love (for which we do not have a single word/concept). (I see nothing in her writings to suggest that she believed the list is exhaustive.)

So, does Ray love his beer? Yes, in the broad sense of "love." Specifically he likes his beer. That is what type of love it is. It (I hope) certainly isn't either affection or romantic love for his beer!

P. S. -- Years ago I had to give up all alcohol as a partial solution, so to speak, for medical issues. I miss it. Can we switch to another example, please?

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Burgess,

I grasp what you are saying and thank you for the enlightenment.

Also, sorry for the improper example. :D

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There's an aspect to this whole discussion which has been entirely missed, though it ought to be considered for completeness and to help illuminate the real issues; namely, it possible for romantic love to exist *without* a sexual relationship. As an excellent dramatized example of this, consider a really good movie (imo), The Notebook. It is clear that at some point in their long and powerful relationship (both before and after marriage), that due to age-related physiological problems a sexual relationship was no longer possible. But the depth of feeling expressed by the man towards his wife, up to the ends of their lives, was just as powerful as ever.

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Inspector,

First, I did answer you quote in my post numbered 156.

Yes, you said "A desire does not have to be tied to love" whereas Ayn Rand said that

"Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love."

While she does not say that desire HAS to be tied to love, she does say that if it isn't, it is "depravity."

Your "translation" is puzzling, as hope and desire are not the same thing. I would say that in that context, by "desire," she meant "sexual attraction."

To focus, then, on the part which concerns this discussion, I interpret her statement to mean "a desire for sex without love is depraved."

Under that definition, I think you will see why it is relevant to the discussion at hand.

If what you are trying to say is that I am depraved, which is how I objectively understood it, then you should expect a battle.

What I expect is that you will check your premises and retract your statements. I do not desire battle, but for you to realize the truth about what you are saying.

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Now, to address the relevant question that Burgess raises; i.e. what definition of "love" is Ayn Rand using in that statement?

I think we may need some more context, so I will pull it from the surrounding text:

You would be incapable of desire for a women you despise. Only the man who extols the purity of a love devoid of desire is capable of the depravity of a desire devoid of love. But observe that most people are creatures cut in half, who keep swinging desperately from one side or to the other. One kind of half is the man who despises money, factories, skyscrapers, and his own body. He holds undefined emotions about non-conceivable subjects as the meaning of life and as his claim to virtue. And he cries with despair because he can feel nothing for the women he respects, but finds himself in bondage to an irresistible passion for a slut from the gutter. He is the man whom people call an idealist. The other kind of half is the man people call practical. The man who despises principles, abstractions, art, philosophy, and his own mind. He regards the acquisition of material objects as the only goal of existence, and he laughs at the need to consider their purpose or their source. He expects them to give him pleasure, and he wonders why the more he gets the less he feels. He is the man who spends his time chasing women. Observe the triple fraud which he perpetrates upon himself. He will not acknowledge his need of self esteem, since he scoffs at such a concept as moral values, yet he feels the profound self contempt which comes from believing that he is a piece of meat. He will not acknowledge but he knows that sex is the physical expression of a tribute to personal values. So he tries by going through the motions of the effect, to acquire that which should have been the cause. He tries to gain a sense of his own value by the women that surrender to him, and he forgets that the women he picks have neither character nor judgment nor standard of value. He tells himself that all he is after is physical pleasure, but observe that he tires of his women in a week or a night. That he despises professional whores, and that he loves to imagine he is seducing virtuous girls who make a great exception for his sake. It is the feeling of achievement that he seeks but never finds. What glory can their be in the conquest of a mindless body. Now that is your women chaser, does the description fit me?

Focus especially on the Materialist, as he is the one that is relevant to the discussion. I think it is reasonable for me to say that, due to the context, Ayn Rand meant the highest form of love, "romantic love."

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Inspector,

Through Burgess' examples I am willing to admit I was wrong on my definition and understanding of love, by Objectivist standards. But, a person that uses reason and logically defines their values and morals can still have sex with someone that they love, without it being the "romantic partner" of there life, without contradiction of their other values.

Morals are a standard that one lives by to achieve their chosen values. So, this means that I set my own values and then prioritize them to fit into my achievement of those goals and values. While not having cotradictions of my moral standards. So my number one value does not have to be the same as yours. The way I go about achieving my goals and values does not have to be the same as yours as long as I am using reason to logically define my morals and values.

If I love a woman (or have an affection toward her) but set other values higher than her at this point, and if I am pursuing her for sex, because I value many aspects about her, then where is the depravity? (This is almost like my earlier example except I now have inserted the word love.) In this example I love this woman very much, but not of the intensity of lets say a romantic partner. I am also taking the relationship very serious, because of the fact that I value her so highly, but still not above other values.

In no way is there any faking going on, as both parties are treating the achievement of values seriously. They both are available for the situation to be taken seriously. They are also seeking the value of sex with someone that they value very much.

If you still think it is wrong to have sex with different people beyond the one "romantic partner", I would love to here your interpretation on why Ayn Rand did so.

If you think that I am corrupt for having enjoyed achieving my own values which were logically laid out and obtained by me, which of course brings happiness as a secondary consequence, which is the moral purpose of ones life, than so be it!

Now, I request that you check your premise. And if you have nothing new to say, then we are done here!

p.s. I do value my wife as the romantic love in my life, and will not contradict the value I have in her as my romantic love.

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And if you have nothing new to say, then we are done here!

No, the only response I have to what you have said would be repeating myself. Good luck and good premises.

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..............

If I love a woman (or have an affection toward her) but set other values higher than her at this point, and if I am pursuing her for sex, because I value many aspects about her, then where is the depravity?  (This is almost like my earlier example except I now have inserted the word love.)  In this example I love this woman very much, but not of the intensity of lets say a romantic partner.  I am also taking the relationship very serious, because of the fact that I value her so highly, but still not above other values. 

.............

Ray,

I would like to change the tables a little. Suppose the woman would say the exact same thing to you. How would that make you feel? I'm curious what your response would be if she said to you, "I'm pursuing you for sex but I value other values above you." I'm curious as to what those other values would be that would be acceptable to you.

I don't think the scenario is necessarily immoral, but that judgement would depend on other factors, such as what values she would place higher than you and whether you'd accept that position. If she said, "I'm pursuing you for sex, but I like ice cream better than you" what would you think of that?

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Paul,

For her to value me she must have seen something in my character of high value. If I am a lower value than ice cream, then are values are definitely different and no use in proceeding.

I think it would take two people of like minded values. An example, we are both going into different fields and moving to different areas to carry out this work. Neither one wants to give up the pleasure they get from each other so when they do see each other they have a sexual relationship, as long as they both are being truthful with each other, I don't see why this can't be done.

What other values might be higher than me in her life, her life, so to answer your question a higher value than me is herself and her productive work. If she said something stupid like ice-cream I would not have wasted my time.

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Paul,

For her to value me she must have seen something in my character of high value.  If I am a lower value than ice cream, then are values are definitely different and no use in proceeding.

I think it would take two people of like minded values.  An example, we are both going into different fields and moving to different areas to carry out this work.  Neither one wants to give up the pleasure they get from each other so when they do see each other they have a sexual relationship, as long as they both are being truthful with each other, I don't see why this can't be done. 

What other values might be higher than me in her life, her life, so to answer your question a higher value than me is herself and her productive work.  If she said something stupid like ice-cream I would not have wasted my time.

Then it would seem that sex is not the only thing you're pursuing from her.

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I would have to say that you are correct.

My original intention was to try and show that it could be good to have sex with someone that you value, but was not your romantic love, as of yet. I was not trying to say that I agreed with the idea that you walk into a bar and grab a woman and say, "I want to have sex with you". But, that if two people valued each other and knew their values and why they value those values, than have sex, without any feelings of sin or guilt. At this point sex could become a value for its own end, with someone that you would already value. I did state this earlier in other terms, by stating that you would have to hold the person in "high regard".

In some of my earlier writing it would have been more correct to say, besides the other values that you enjoy in her you could also choose sex as a value. I did not agree with nor was I trying to stand on the side of no values, sex.

There could be a multitude of reasons why someone might value someone and enjoy having sex with them, but not value enough to take the next step to romantic lovers. I think that as long as they know what they are doing and can logically explain it, it is up to them to choose what to do, not me.

At this point in my life I would not enjoy being without the person I love. But, it is not up to me to make that moral and ethical decision for some other person/Objectivist.

If I have lead people in the wrong direction, it was not my intention to do so.

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I don't think the scenario is necessarily immoral, but that judgement would depend on other factors, such as what values she would place higher than you and whether you'd accept that position.  If she said, "I'm pursuing you for sex, but I like ice cream better than you" what would you think of that?

This question wasn't addressed to me, but my response would be: that must be some amazing ice cream! :D

Seriously, though, the ranking of one's romantic partner depends on context. Was Dominique Roark's top value? No, architecture was, but she became a very high value for him. Was Dagny Galt's top value, or Galt Dagny's? No again. They were very high values for each other, but not the very top ones. It can be perfectly proper that two individuals, in the context of pursuing their careers, end up having to end a relationship. That's a painful choice, but it is a reality of life that such is possible. Two good people can end a relationship for reasons that have nothing to do with a loss of feeling for each other.

Now if, as your example puts it, a woman pursues a man for sex but ranks him pretty low on her hierarchy, then she doesn't really want him that badly. That's like saying: "If I have nothing better to do, and there's nothing on TV, and my friends are busy, and I get bored, maybe I'll call you." If someone treated me that way, you can bet they wouldn't hear from me again.

A person (man or woman, but especially a woman) wants to be wanted in a romantic/sexual context. If a potential partner tells you explicitly that you aren't that appealing (e.g., less than ice cream), who would get turned on by that? Such a statement would have exactly the opposite effect of seduction: the object of this "affection" would be turned off, and rightly so.

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If a potential partner tells you explicitly that you aren't that appealing (e.g., less than ice cream), who would get turned on by that? 

Then again, among the people I grew up with, the general opinion was, "If sex with her is better than cheesecake, marry her!"

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First of all, thank you Stephen for defending my honor. I was not in any way advocating promiscuity. I advocated casual dating when one is young and still discovering what is attractive in a potential partner, not casual sex. I also stated that having a relationship with someone who shared important, key values ( such as sense of life, implicit or explicit moral standards, important-to-you optional values, etc.), but was not The One, may still be worthy of a romantic/physically intimate relationship in the absense of The One. These types of relationships, so long as both parties are rational (this is key!) and have the proper expectations, can be very satisfying. And by satisfying, I don't mean simple range of the moment sexual gratification, but emotional and spiritual satisfaction. You can be close to someone, share core values with them, be sexually attracted, yet not want to marry him or her. I hesitate to bring up personal experience again lest my virtue (which is indeed great) be called into question, so I will now speak in generalities.

RE: The potential pain and angst of relationships with non-ideal individuals

Inspector -- I am not going to address the morality of a romantic/sexual relationship with someone who is less than your ideal partner. Clearly, there isn't going to be agreement on this. However, for those who are still trying to work these things out, I would like to bring up the point of pain and disapointment in the context of relationships with 'ideal' vs. 'non-ideal' individuals.

I don't think this should come as a surprise to Objectivists, but values are not automatic, most especially in the context of romance. If we could not potentially lose that value, it would not be a value qua value (something one acts to gain or keep). The heartache and disapointment one experiences at the end of a relationship with a non-ideal individual is NOTHING compared to a divorce or losing someone you thought was going to be your partner for life. As Stepehen pointed, even Objectivists get divorced or end long term relationships. By only pursuing relationships with 'ideal' partners, you are by no means avoiding potential for pain and disapointment

YES, look for your soul mate. Find him or her and do everything in your power to make it work (finding that person is only half the battle - all relationships take work). However, realize that you are still subject to potential pain and disapointment. Perhaps she is your ideal, but after a time, she discovers that you are not hers (this happens!). The greater the value, the greater the pain experienced when that value is lost. Potential loss is no reason to avoid seeking value, regardless of whether that value is a romantic relationship with someone you simply value very highly or someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. Going after values means you open yourself up for potential loss. This is true of all values, not just romantic values

RE: Masturbation

I actually advocate healthy masturbation in the context of my profession. I advocate it for a variety reasons, from figuring out what is physically required for you to acheive orgasm (this one is pertinant to women especially) to using it as a release valve for pent up sexual tension. However, none of those reasons is as a substitute for a romantic/sexual relationship with another individual. There is absolutely, without a doubt, no substitute for that experience.

And, yes, just as you can have unhealthy sex with entirely the wrong person, you can masturbate in a way that is just as unhealthy. Yes, there are people who use masturbation as a crutch. Yes, there are people indulge unhealthy and malevolent fantasies. Yes, people create for themselves entirely unrealistic expecations in their minds (this happens frequently with people who become dependent on pornagraphy). A vibrator, not matter how impressive its multi-speed Japanese motor, is no substitute for a man. Your right hand, no matter how lovingly the two of you are aquainted, is no substitute for a woman. A good friend of mine (also an Objectivist) once called masturbation 'sex with someone you love'. But it's not sex. It is not a substitute for sex in the long term. It can be a complement to sex. It is physically satisfying. It feels good. It's great for exploration. It's great for release. It is most assuredely preferable to sex with random men or women you don't share values with, but it is a poor substitute for sexual intimacy with another like minded individual. It will get you by short term, but not for the time it can take for those individuals who have very high, exacting standards to find that one person he or she wants to spend a lifetime with. If you've found your true love in your early twenties, that is wonderful. I am sure many here envy you. I congratulate you on your success and wish you a long, happy life with your love. However, I think it would be wrong to morally condemn that virtuous man or woman who is still searching for wanting that wonderful affirmation of life and shared values that only comes with sex with another person.

Random observations

I don't remember who brought this up (I think it may have been Stephen), but there are ways to be physically intimate and have mutual sexual pleasure without penetrative intercourse. That's a good point, and can be a satisfying option under certain circumstances.

Sometimes that non-ideal person becomes ideal, either as you get to know them or as they change and mature. Sometimes an ideal person becomes non-ideal as you change and mature. I am not the same person at 28 as I was at 20. Few people are, even those of us who discovered Objectivisism early in life :D

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Helen, I hope you don't feel that your honor is under attack by me. Let me emphasize some parts of my original statement.

I assume we are talking about sexual relationships here? If so, I disagree with your statement.

Thus, since you were not talking about casual sex, then don't sweat it!

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This question wasn't addressed to me, but my response would be: that must be some amazing ice cream!  :D 

.......

Rocky Road

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I would have to say that you are correct. 

My original intention was to try and show that it could be good to have sex with someone that you value, but was not your romantic love, as of yet.  I was not trying to say that I agreed with the idea that you walk into a bar and grab a woman and say, "I want to have sex with you".  But, that if two people valued each other and knew their values and why they value those values, than have sex, without any feelings of sin or guilt.  At this point sex could become a value for its own end, with someone that you would already value.  I did state this earlier in other terms, by stating that you would have to hold the person in "high regard". 

In some of my earlier writing it would have been more correct to say, besides the other values that you enjoy in her you could also choose sex as a value.  I did not agree with nor was I trying to stand on the side of no values, sex. 

There could be a multitude of reasons why someone might value someone and enjoy having sex with them, but not value enough to take the next step to romantic lovers.  I think that as long as they know what they are doing and can logically explain it, it is up to them to choose what to do, not me. 

At this point in my life I would not enjoy being without the person I love.  But, it is not up to me to make that moral and ethical decision for some other person/Objectivist.       

If I have lead people in the wrong direction, it was not my intention to do so.

I think you need to define more clearly what you mean by the distinction between "having sex with someone you value" and romantic love. Romantic love doesn't necessarily suggest that the person is your "final" choice in life. It almost sounds to me like there's a fear of emotional involvement or commitment. "Having sex" is usually intended to imply a lack of emotional involvement, so if that's what you're not talking about, then I'd suggest you not "have sex" but "make love."

I've read criticism of Objectivism by some who say that ordinary people just like to have sex, but Objectivists need to find a reason to have sex. For instance, one criticism says that the only thing Dagny ever wanted in life was to have sex with John Galt but couldn't just come out and say so. In a sense, that may be correct, but....... And that "but" involves defining and living according to a philosophy that makes the achievement have meaning. Most people don't define the requirements for the type of person that having sex with would have profound meaning. I'd suggest that you carefully define your philosophical principles before claiming that you "just wanna have sex" even if that person is someone you value.

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Ed from OC,

First of all, Dominique and Roark were actually right for eachother. Second, her evaluation stemmed from the mixed premises that she had. On one hand, she loved and worshipped the heroic in man, I think that is why she loved him so. But her false premise was making her hope he was a criminal (Which I don't thoroughly understand) :D

No, I do not think Dagny and Hank immoral. They were eachothers highest ideal at the time of being together.

If you don't think that sexual desire can be supressed, how do you think Galt waited for Dagny? Of course it's not fun, but if you are waiting for the love of your life, it is possible. And it doesn't necessarily come out in warped ways. Those warped priests are acting on false premises to begin with, I don't think that's a proper example of what happens when you don't have sex for a period of time.

Of course, I agree that there is no substitute for making love with your loved one, nor should there be one. I think that if one regards their body as a sacred temple, masturbation can involve other things like a foot massage, and indulgence of the senses. I think that being aware of your likes and dislikes is a great thing. I don't equate pleasuring oneself with something like relieving oneself.

~Carrie~

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I think you need to define more clearly what you mean by the distinction between "having sex with someone you value" and romantic love.  [...] "Having sex" is usually intended to imply a lack of emotional involvement, so if that's what you're not talking about, then I'd suggest you not "have sex" but "make love."

Following is my summary of what I have concluded from thinking about this thread.

If I were to be sexually involved with a woman without seeing her as a positive value and a source of pleasure in my life, I would be a materialist, which is immoral. However, seeing her as a positive value and source of pleasure is love. It is not romantic love, but it is nevertheless love (which is the emotion that comes from recognizing something or someone as a positive value and source of pleasure in one's life).

The intensity of the love here is another matter, one that does not change the identification of the emotion as love, except to suggest a subtype -- "liking" or "affection," in the case of "casual sex" (as I use the term/idea, not as materialists use it).

What distinguishes romantic love from other types (levels) of love is (1) its higher intensity, and, as the essential characteristic, (2) its underlying recognition that one's partner is a soul-mate, that is, a person whose sense of life (and all it implies) is basically the same as or complementary to one's own.

In conclusion, first, I see no conflict between objective morality and having "casual sex" (that is, sexual involvement in a relationship without long-term commitment, but with a level of love lower than romantic love).

Second, I think offering materialism in sex versus romantic love with sex as the only two choices available to all individuals, everywhere, and at all times, is a false dichotomy. I reject it.

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No, they didn't have long meaningful conversations before that. But what they saw in eachother in that first moment was a very big clue. By the way each person held themselves. That was partly why they were so entranced with and curious about eachother.

~C~

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I've been holding back, but I really should speak up:

Isn't the whole answer to this Roark-Dominique situation that Miss Rand just had them glean more about each other, in their various conversations and meetings, than would probably have been realistic in a non-fiction setting? For example: why else did Dominique fight against Roark's sexual advance (while wanting it all along), but because she knew what kind of man he was? (We are, after all, talking about a woman who destroyed her statute of a Greek god precisely because she was in love with it.) Also, observe that Roark knew Dominique wanted to have sex with him, despite her violent resistance -- which also indicates that Roark understood Dominique on a very deep level. In this sense, I think it's quite important for understanding the "rape scene" that one grasp the deep glimpse that Miss Rand had already made Roark and Dominique take into the other's soul. Otherwise, what is the purpose of even including the "rape scene" in the novel to begin with?

This is why I strongly object to the idea that has been expressed by some in this thread -- namely, that Roark and Dominique, in the context of the novel, practically knew nothing about each other. On that interpretation, one might as well conclude that Miss Rand was in favor of promiscuity, despite her explicit non-fiction statements to the contrary. This alone should give one pause.

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free spirit, right there certainly was a clue for each of them about the other's personality to suggest there might be something special there. But by your standard, they would have to be absolutely ideal for one another, would they not? How could they determine the precise contents of each other's values without any profound conversations? You said they were curious about one another. Are you now saying that curiosity is enough for a sexual encounter? Seems to me you were arguing completely opposite all this time...

I strongly object to the idea that has been expressed by some in this thread -- namely, that Roark and Dominique, in the context of the novel, practically knew nothing about each other. On that interpretation, one might as well conclude that Miss Rand was in favor of promiscuity
Not that anyone in this thread has argued in favor of it, or I have used the Roark/Dominique example to argue for it either...

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Not that anyone in this thread has argued in favor of it, or I have used the Roark/Dominique example to argue for it either...

...which was the point I was making.

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