Bold Standard

Conservatives' War on Birth Control

192 posts in this topic

[...]

If your emotions are based on reason, the person you ought to love will be the person you do love.

I think of this as being the other way around, i.e. if your emotions are based on reason, the person you do love will be the person you ought to love.

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CF, I've a question for you. Imagine a situation where the long-term pursuit of a relationship is impossible (say she's moving away in a week). Would you still say sex is out of the question?

If we really love each other, then her moving away shouldn't stand in the way of our relationship. (That is, I trust that we'll find a way to be together eventually, since the will is there both on my side and hers.)

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I think it would be good to keep in mind that while sex is the highest expression of love, that does not mean that sex (or even passionate loving tenderness) should be expressed ONLY for the highest possible love.

So you're against monogamy?

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Is making out okay, for someone you love, but not the most? Holding hands? Where do you draw the line? Does there have to be a new, explicit level of commitment prior to each further display of intimacy? I'm curious, for instance, if you would stop a girlfriend from kissing your neck, saying something like, "I'm not ready for that commitment; lets stick to the cheeks and lips." Or would you avoid anything that might even "lead to sex" with someone before you're ready to make a commitment? (As I understand it, setting up a hierarchy of physical intimacy in proportion to commitment is the type of relationship principle recommended by Christian psychologist Dr. James Dobson; and though I understand your premises and motives are extremely different, I wonder if you would agree with this type of conclusion or behavior.)

I think one should find the right woman, marry her, and forget about the rest; one shouldn't keep a "hierarchical harem."

But the good doctor is right when he says that intimacy should be proportional to commitment--and this is really nothing groundbreaking; if you observe how a relationship is formed, you'll see that at the beginning, they may just touch each other's hands, then hold hands for a longer time, then kiss on the forehead, then on the neck ... and so on. The more they like each other, the more intimate they'll get.

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My assumption is that my emotions ARE rational because I trust my thinking and my own intellectual honesty. I don't question or doubt my emotions until and unless I have a reason to do so such as conflict between what I think and what I feel (which rarely ever happens) or an emotional conflict (usually due to two competing rational values).

Same here.

Reason and emotion are friends and working partners, not antagonists, in a well-integrated personality.

Right. That's why my emotions tell me the same thing my reason says: that I should only ever go to bed with the one woman I choose as my partner in life.

I don't think there is -- or ought to be -- someone you "ought to" love. You love who you love. Emotions like love are automatic and unaffected by "oughts" and "shoulds."

I'm not sure I understand your position. Are you saying that love is just something that "happens" to you--like in those pictures where Amor shoots an arrow through your heart--and is independent of your previous reasonings and value-judgments? You can't be saying that, because next you say this:

If what or who you love conflicts with reality or your other values, it's time to check the premises that gave rise to the emotion

But if it is your premises that give rise to your emotions, then there are a set of premises you ought to have (namely, the ones that correspond to reality), and these premises will tell you that you ought to value a particular person. So there IS someone you "ought to" love.

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I think of this as being the other way around, i.e. if your emotions are based on reason, the person you do love will be the person you ought to love.

Well, if x = y, then y = x, doesn't it? :)

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CF, you've originally said:

If I had sex with someone I wasn't committed to, then that would be a breach of my personal principles

This quote perhaps addresses a different issue (monogamy), but it is appropriate for me as well, because you subsequently said that "her moving away shouldn't stand in the way of our relationship". In other words, absence of long-term commitment would be no deterrent. So which view do you stand by?

The point I'm trying to make is that your approach seems too much to be starting from principles, rather than merely guided by principles.

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[...] your approach seems too much to be starting from principles, rather than merely guided by principles.

I haven't encountered this distinction before. Could you elaborate a little, and perhaps give an example of each?

Further, you say "too much." Do you see a sliding scale of some sort, a sliding scale that helps you decide when to start from principles and when to "merely [be] guided by principles"?

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If we really love each other, then her moving away shouldn't stand in the way of our relationship. (That is, I trust that we'll find a way to be together eventually, since the will is there both on my side and hers.)

What if that's not possible? If Dagny is "the one" for Francisco, but she marries Galt, should Francisco stay celibate for the rest of his life?

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I don't think there is -- or ought to be -- someone you "ought to" love. You love who you love. Emotions like love are automatic and unaffected by "oughts" and "shoulds."
I'm not sure I understand your position. Are you saying that love is just something that "happens" to you--like in those pictures where Amor shoots an arrow through your heart--and is independent of your previous reasonings and value-judgments?

What I am saying is that emotions should not be judged but the value premises underlying them should.

I am making the distinction because most people are lousy introspectors and don't properly evaluate their value premises because they distrust and are afraid of their emotions.

It usually happens like this:

1. A person feels an emotion that he consciously thinks he"should" or "should not" feel, fears that it means there is something deeply wrong with him for feeling it, and disowns, represses, or denies what he feels. In fact, concepts like "should" and "ought" only apply to chosen actions and emotions are automatic. It is a mistake to morally evaluate an emotion and worse to judge oneself by what one feels.

2. After a person disowns or represses his emotion, he becomes unaware of, and thus cannot examine or evaluate, the value premises that gave rise to the emotion. Thus, when Rearden condemned himself for being attracted to Dagny before he understood where the attraction came from, he felt guilty and vulnerable. Eventually, Rearden did see the truth -- with Dagny and Francisco's help -- but most people never do that.

The right approach when confronted with an emotional conflict or an out of context emotion is not to label it (and oneself) "irrational" or "inappropriate." Instead, coolly, scientifically, and analytically ask, "Where the hell did THAT come from?" and examine what you think and feel until you understand everything that accounts for the emotion. The process of doing that generally resolves the matter but it requires treating emotions as simple facts with no moral implications.

But if it is your premises that give rise to your emotions, then there are a set of premises you ought to have (namely, the ones that correspond to reality), and these premises will tell you that you ought to value a particular person. So there IS someone you "ought to" love.

That's like saying, "If A is true, then B ought to be true" and not looking any further. The only way to know if B is true is to look at B.

Likewise, you cannot say that you "ought to have" certain value premises or "ought to" love a certain person. The only way to know that is to look at the value premises you actually have and what the person you love actually is. Sad to say, those who apply "shoulds" and "oughts" to emotions rarely get that far.

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The right approach when confronted with an emotional conflict or an out of context emotion is not to label it (and oneself) "irrational" or "inappropriate." Instead, coolly, scientifically, and analytically ask, "Where the hell did THAT come from?" and examine what you think and feel until you understand everything that accounts for the emotion. The process of doing that generally resolves the matter but it requires treating emotions as simple facts with no moral implications.

That's like saying, "If A is true, then B ought to be true" and not looking any further. The only way to know if B is true is to look at B.

Likewise, you cannot say that you "ought to have" certain value premises or "ought to" love a certain person. The only way to know that is to look at the value premises you actually have and what the person you love actually is. Sad to say, those who apply "shoulds" and "oughts" to emotions rarely get that far.

I agree with this post, especially with the process of evaluating any emotion that one doesn't understand. The emotional response I watch for these days is that quiet little alarm that goes off suddenly. When I was younger, I usually ignored that feeling that something wasn't right, didn't "ring true". It doesn't matter whether the alarm is about yourself or someone else. That is one of the chief values of an emotional response; there are times when your subconscious recognizes subtleties that you do not consciously see, but must focus on to define.

But I think it is a mistake to treat every waking moment like this, always checking yourself to determine what this or that means. That kind of over-thinking just sucks the joy right out of life. It is a real confidence killer to suppress one's emotions, or as Betsy wisely points out, attempt to morally evaluate them.

There is so much to life, and while romantic love is the highest joy, there is an enormous life beyond that, so many different kinds of joy along the continuum of possible relationships among people. Because we are sexual beings, sex is a part of that. It is true that sex with the chosen one is the greatest joy, but it is the joy it is because it is an expression of one's highest values when it is with one's chosen. That fact doesn't delimit sex to that expression alone. It certainly isn't defined by some rigid dogma of Objectivist moral constraint that binds one to strict sexual mores. There is a vast difference between trusting oneself enough to enjoy your life, including your sexual life, and the rigid, unchanging, morally constrained view of sex as confined to the marriage (or "committed relationship") bed. If you can't find joy in your life without your chosen partner, you won't suddenly be capable of it with that person.

Understand that I'm not advocating promiscuity. That is a behavior that does requires evaluation, in the strict meaning of the word. But having different sexual partners before you commit to one person isn't promiscuity unless you are indiscriminate, and/or are having sex for reasons other than your own fulfillment and enjoyment.

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I haven't encountered this distinction before. Could you elaborate a little, and perhaps give an example of each?

Further, you say "too much." Do you see a sliding scale of some sort, a sliding scale that helps you decide when to start from principles and when to "merely [be] guided by principles"?

What I have in mind is something like what Betsy said, that a person may begin all their thinking with -- what ought I be feeling right now, given my premises? Whom ought I be attracted to, of those that I know, given my values? This is in big contrast to the opposite approach -- who am I attracted to? In the former approach a person attempts to deduce one's life from one's convictions, whereas in the latter approach a person simply lives, and the convictions play a background confirmatory role to the choices one makes.

But I wouldn't say that "starting from principles" is wrong, as it can often help with subjects that the person as little inductive (personal) experience with, or with abstract subjects like philosophy. It's simply another thinking method, and it can help make things clearer. But even with philosophy, this approach is to blame for why a lot of people try to view philosophy deductively.

So, as with all things in life, it's a balance. For example, I wrote this post mostly "starting from principles", which in this case provided me with a hierarchical structure of my values and principles, and helped me clarify first to myself, and then to others, what I had said before.

P.S. As an aside, I agree with everything Betsy says in this thread entirely.

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I don't know if this is gender-related or what -- but I agree with the women here. I think that men, including Objectivist men, should, for their own sakes, be careful about trying to figure out what the perfect woman will be like before they meet her. I do not think this can be known, though perhaps someone will prove me wrong -- but I doubt it.

Is there any man out there, who now has the perfect woman, who knew what she would be like before he met her? And I am not talking about the feeling of closeness and compatibility you have after meeting someone.

My husband, whom I met in 1985, is the perfect man for me. But if anyone had ever described him, as a list of traits, before I met him, I would not have thought: Oh, the perfect man for me to marry! Before I met him, had I been asked to describe my "perfect man" I could not have conceived of my husband. Why? Because I'd never met him, and I didn't know that he existed. Yet, here he is -- the perfect man for me.

In order for me to know that he was the right one for me, I had to meet him first. And, in our case, we had to have five and a half years together before marriage - to know that marriage was right for us.

But I shudder to think what I could have lost if I'd been so wedded to some pre-conceived idea about what a man should be like, that I had rejected him for not conforming to some pre-formed list of traits that I'd decided, without context, were more important to me than an actual individual man grasped as an integrated whole.

The emotion of romantic love cannot be completely understood in advance of feeling it. It is a response to a unique integrated whole, not to a disembodied list of traits.

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I think it is also true that you can't really know if a woman (or man) is the one for you until you have made love to her. How she accepts and responds to your love-making, how she expresses her desire, can be so important. After sex, one might feel a love which is even stronger than one had anticipated, or experienced before.

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[...] what the perfect woman will be like before they meet her. I do not think this can be known, [...]

I think I know what you mean, but I also think clarification -- through distinction -- is important here. Can't you know that a suitable romantic partner will value reason, for example? That's distinct from knowing what he will look like, his style of speaking, his level of income, and his tastes in art. The distinction is between (1) being able to know (and demand) adherence to philosophical values (applicable to everyone, everywhere, at all times) and (2) not being able to predict individual, personal characteristics.

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I don't know if this is gender-related or what -- but I agree with the women here. I think that men, including Objectivist men, should, for their own sakes, be careful about trying to figure out what the perfect woman will be like before they meet her. I do not think this can be known, though perhaps someone will prove me wrong -- but I doubt it.

Is there any man out there, who now has the perfect woman, who knew what she would be like before he met her? And I am not talking about the feeling of closeness and compatibility you have after meeting someone.

My husband, whom I met in 1985, is the perfect man for me. But if anyone had ever described him, as a list of traits, before I met him, I would not have thought: Oh, the perfect man for me to marry! Before I met him, had I been asked to describe my "perfect man" I could not have conceived of my husband. Why? Because I'd never met him, and I didn't know that he existed. Yet, here he is -- the perfect man for me.

In order for me to know that he was the right one for me, I had to meet him first. And, in our case, we had to have five and a half years together before marriage - to know that marriage was right for us.

But I shudder to think what I could have lost if I'd been so wedded to some pre-conceived idea about what a man should be like, that I had rejected him for not conforming to some pre-formed list of traits that I'd decided, without context, were more important to me than an actual individual man grasped as an integrated whole.

The emotion of romantic love cannot be completely understood in advance of feeling it. It is a response to a unique integrated whole, not to a disembodied list of traits.

That was beautiful.

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I think I know what you mean, but I also think clarification -- through distinction -- is important here. Can't you know that a suitable romantic partner will value reason, for example? That's distinct from knowing what he will look like, his style of speaking, his level of income, and his tastes in art. The distinction is between (1) being able to know (and demand) adherence to philosophical values (applicable to everyone, everywhere, at all times) and (2) not being able to predict individual, personal characteristics.

Burgess, I think you have defined the difference we are discussing here. It is that which is always required for the whole: the universal and the particular. It is one thing to know what the universal principles are, but we do not live universals; life consists of particulars. It is the universals that help us to understand the particulars in our life, to make our choices from among particulars, etc. Without experience, however, we end up in Plato's cave.

We may know that we will only be happy with someone who has the proper respect for reason, independence, productive work, etc., but that leaves open a world of particulars to choose from in the way each of us live those virtues, and the characteristics we enjoy in others.

Do I understand what you mean?

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We may know that we will only be happy with someone who has the proper respect for reason, independence, productive work, etc., but that leaves open a world of particulars to choose from in the way each of us live those virtues, and the characteristics we enjoy in others.

And, as Ayn Rand pointed out:

It is with a person's sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which illuminates an entire personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person's character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness. ("Philosophy And Sense Of Life," in The Romanic Manifesto, p. 31)

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Do I understand what you mean?

I think so. Philosophical values and virtues are necessary but not sufficient. The appropriate personal characteristics are required too. The most fundamental (causal) of all the personal characteristics is sense of life -- as the quotation from Ayn Rand, which Stephen provided, observes.

Which particular sense of life in a romantic partner is appropriate for a particular person? I am not sure, but tentatively I think the answer is that the other's sense of life must, at a minimum, be compatible or complementary with but not necessarily identical with one's own.

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CF, you've originally said:
If I had sex with someone I wasn't committed to, then that would be a breach of my personal principles

This quote perhaps addresses a different issue (monogamy), but it is appropriate for me as well, because you subsequently said that "her moving away shouldn't stand in the way of our relationship". In other words, absence of long-term commitment would be no deterrent.

Look a bit more carefully: :)

If we really love each other, then her moving away shouldn't stand in the way of our relationship. (That is, I trust that we'll find a way to be together eventually, since the will is there both on my side and hers.)

(emphasis added)

I'm not saying that absence of long-term commitment is no deterrent to having sex. I'm saying that--if we really love each other--her moving away is no deterrent to making a long-term commitment! Because I know that, if we really love each other, we'll both want to re-unite.

The point I'm trying to make is that your approach seems too much to be starting from principles, rather than merely guided by principles.

Actually, what I do is end up with principles. My starting point has been my psychological inability to visualize having and enjoying sex with a woman I don't love. I can visualize having sex, but I feel that I would not enjoy it if I didn't value her enough to be willing to marry her. When I ask myself why I feel this way--when I look at what I see as wrong with such an act--the answer I get is that I wouldn't want to express love for that person because I don't actually love her. And then, when I take a conscious, rational look at the emotions I've just identified, I find that they are consistent with reality, so I can continue to act on them.

And when somebody asks me why I feel that way, I formulate my reason as the principle "Sex is the highest expression of love, and therefore one should have sex with the woman one loves and not with others."

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What if that's not possible? If Dagny is "the one" for Francisco, but she marries Galt, should Francisco stay celibate for the rest of his life?

No, it's very simple: it means that Dagny isn't "the one" for Francisco after all. :)

Since no one is omniscient, sometimes you'll be incorrect in your identification of the best choice for your partner in life. (Obviously, one of the criteria should be that she shouldn't marry someone else!) The right thing to do, as with all mistaken identifications, is to accept the newly-discovered reality and move on.

The same thing applies if your chosen partner dies. Obviously, these kinds of events place a great emotional toll on you, which is likely to take a lot of time to overcome, so you don't hope for something like this to happen. At least as far as I'm concerned, I hope to have just one woman in my life. But if your hope doesn't come true, you can still try and make the best of the rest of your life.

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What I am saying is that emotions should not be judged but the value premises underlying them should.

Thanks for the clarification, and I agree, of course.

Likewise, you cannot say that you "ought to have" certain value premises or "ought to" love a certain person.

Does "ought to" refer to one's internal deliberations before making decisions? If yes, then I agree that you can't decide that you "ought to" love a particular person and then go on to love her. Since love is an automatic response arising out of your value premises, you just identify your love for the person in question.

You don't say, "For reasons X and Y, I ought to love this person, so now let me start loving her." Rather, you say: "It looks like I've fallen in love with this person." (And then you ask yourself: "What made me fall in love with her? Are those indeed the right things to value about my future wife, or do I need to correct my premises?")

Which brings us to the issue of value premises. I think those can be consciously revised and altered if necessary. You can ask yourself whether your value premises are in correspondence with your nature as a rational being, and your specific personal nature and circumstances, and if some of them aren't, you can decide to value something else (and your emotions will soon change accordingly).

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It is true that sex with the chosen one is the greatest joy, but it is the joy it is because it is an expression of one's highest values when it is with one's chosen. That fact doesn't delimit sex to that expression alone.

But you must draw the line somewhere. Somewhere along these points:

  1. Your chosen one
  2. A person who could almost be your chosen one
  3. A person you mostly like, but there are some things you dislike about
  4. A person whose body you like (from the neck down)
  5. Anyone

Where is your line drawn? My psychology just flatly refuses to let the line go any lower than #2. I could imagine having sex with a person who could almost be my chosen one, but when I get to choose between having sex with my chosen one only and having sex with my chosen one plus one or two others, the first option always winds hands down.

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I don't know if this is gender-related or what -- but I agree with the women here. I think that men, including Objectivist men, should, for their own sakes, be careful about trying to figure out what the perfect woman will be like before they meet her.

Was any of the men suggesting otherwise on this thread?

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One final quote from Ayn Rand. (1968 Ford Hall Forum speech Q & A, transcribed in Ayn Rand Answers, p. 137)

Marriage is not the only proper form of romantic love. There is nothing wrong with romantic affairs.

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