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In the area of entrepreneurship and business, it is pretty easy to determine what productivity and achievement are. If your idea is good, people buy it and you become wealthy. That, in essence, is "good". Similarly in other professions such as medicine or law, you can be a skilled surgeon or a great lawyer with pretty objective measures of success. A great chef cooks great food and probably owns their own restaurant. You get the idea.

The question I want to ask is: what about the professions/careers where caring for people is the core skill? I am talking about nursing, teaching young kids, day care, elderly care etc. What is the criterion of productivity and achievement there ? An 80 year old person who is socially isolated or has poor vision could value someone just sitting down for a chat. Similarly, a young kid having trouble with a skill would greatly appreciate someone giving them a hug and caring enough to guide them. Showing love and affection to others matters in these jobs. How do objectivists see these kinds of professions? In my reading, it seems these areas were of very little interest to Ayn Rand (even the very important social function of parenting is not something she delves into very deeply). Her focus on the prime movers of humanity is certainly clear. The question I have is for the people who are passionate about helping and caring for others. Are they all defined as Eddie Willers or Catherine Halsey types? Is it possible to be a highly productive and achieving person if you passionately want to care for others? How will your success be measured?

[[ CLARIFICATION ]] Ideas for Life asked some good questions about the above. Here are some clarifications:

  1. I am assuming that the caring in question is fully paid for and not just some volunteer effort. This is why I referred to caring professions versus caring volunteers. The care givers get a salary (eg: nursing home workers) and a living. There is no force of any kind.

  2. I don't know why some people seem to passionately want to care for others. I just know that there are people who do and I have met them. Sometimes it is a nurse who spends some time reassuring you before a surgery. Sometimes it is a teacher who goes the extra mile to show he/she cares about you. I don't know, other than a salary what values these people "get out of it" (other than a smile or a feeling of gratitude from the recipient of their caring) but I have seen genuine caring and involvement from some people in these professions. It is helpful to contrast the "care" delivered by people who seem to love helping others versus from those that are grudgingly going through the motions. Maybe it's tied to some religious system or other system of philosophy but some people get genuine pleasure from helping other people succeed/get healed/learn/be happy/feel loved.

  3. Ideas mentions that people in these professions have a lower cognitive burden than Industrialists or Lawyers or Physicians. I agree. This is sort of why I asked the question. While I physically could not live without the effort of some (eg: Thomas Edison, Tesla etc.), I would hate to live in a world without day care workers who love kids genuinely and nurses who care for the sick. It's almost like science and art: one cannot live without science and one, perhaps, would not want to live without art and beauty. It is also worth pondering that even Hank Rearden or John Galt were once snotty little tykes and probably needed a hug and encouragement when they initially failed to stack their blocks up correctly and started to bawl in frustration (like all kids). In reading Rand, there is very little said about early development and one may even start to believe that productive heroes hatch out of eggs fully formed :-). Not so. Some cared for them just like someone cared for all the productive people when they were young and needed a lot of care. Thus my interest in this area.

Hope that clarifies.

asked Dec 27 '12 at 13:40

Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Danneskjold_repo
2481459

edited Dec 27 '12 at 19:50

1

I work with young children who have special needs - oh, Catherine Halsey! - so here's my perspective. That a career is defined as "care giving" doesn't mean that it can't be productive. The care is an aspect of the profession, not the sum total of it. "Giving a child a hug" means a lot less than imparting knowledge and inspiring, in this context. This work requires a sound theoretical knowledge, creative application and, at present, the challenge of working against an inefficient system and getting results anyway. I value it very highly, regardless of whether others consider it productive.

(Dec 28 '12 at 11:26) Arianna Arianna's gravatar image
1

Thanks Arianna. That is why I asked the question. I also see the work you do as important and I am trying to think it through. I also think there is wisdom in the realization that "care" is not all you do. If you can inspire someone with special needs and make them more and more productive and capable, isn't that a value?

(Dec 28 '12 at 14:44) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I'm confused as to what the distinction is that you're trying to draw with "caring professions". Would a psychologist be in a "caring profession"? What about a motivational speaker? Personal trainer?

(Dec 30 '12 at 08:21) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Good question Anthony. I am trying to focus the question on jobs that have a major component of "soft personal skills" vs. hard, scientific training. Psychology, I suppose, could be in (clearly there is a lot of scientific training but a lot of the job is listening and helping others). Motivational speaker is hard. Supposedly the job is about helping others succeed but some speakers I have seen seem to relish the acting and stage more than the caring part. As for personal trainer, again it depends. If you are truly engaged to help someone meet their goals, perhaps this is a caring job.

(Dec 30 '12 at 13:38) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

I don't think what you're distinguishing is the job so much as the person's motivations for performing it. All these jobs can be "treated as a science, not as a mere emotional indulgence" (http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/career.html), and that is the proper way to approach them, if that job happens to coincide with one's skills and interests.

(Dec 30 '12 at 15:46) anthony anthony's gravatar image

perhaps you are right. How would one measure these sorts of jobs where personal empathy and caring seem to be a huge part of whether you succeed/fail? That's the part where I am struggling with the "science" of it all. In some ways, I guess being an artist is also like this: you do it for whatever you get out of it. If you're happy, you're succeeding. If it makes you happy to take care of kids and provide them with a caring environment, then you are a success....

(Dec 30 '12 at 15:50) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

A day care worker would judge his/her success on the improvement in the kids' behavior, knowledge, sociability, etc. These criteria are somewhat fuzzy, but they're by no means impossible to observe.

(Dec 30 '12 at 16:53) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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The question asks:

Is it possible to be a highly productive and achieving person if you passionately want to care for others? How will your success be measured?

From the full statement of the question, "caring for others" evidently refers mainly to providing non-material companionship and comfort of some kind, not merely providing values to someone else and receiving values from them in return. That view of "caring for others" raises some issues that greatly affect the moral status of it:

  • Who is paying for the care? Are the "care givers" expected to be purely volunteers? How are the care givers supposed to live, i.e., eat, transport themselves from wherever they live to wherever they are needed, buy clothes to wear, and so on? Is the question referring to live-in caregivers who receive room and board from the care recipients -- or what? If the question is referring to caregivers funded by the government, then it's a form of dependence on physical force initiated by the government against others, and such use of force would not be tolerated in a free society. (Starting from a mixed economy, the process of reform toward a fully free society generally will need to occur in distinct steps or phases.)

  • Why does someone "passionately want to care for others," especially if the recipients are total strangers initially? Merely having a passion says nothing about whether or not it is a valid, rationally appropriate emotional state proceeding from rational values.

  • To what degree is the "care giving" rationally challenging and demanding? If it's just something that anyone can learn to do without a lot of cognitive effort (or something that only a few can do because they happen to have the right "personality" for it), then how can it be said to be a "productive achievement"? What did the "giver" actually do himself to achieve whatever results he has achieved? The descriptions in the question seem to suggest that such "care giving" might fall considerably short of what would constitute "productive achievement," and the question may be correct in that observation, depending on the details. But it does depend on the situation, i.e., on the answers to specific questions such as the ones I've listed. I certainly would not fault nurses, teachers or day care providers for their choices of profession, if it's what they want to do and they are conscientious about doing it well. But neither would I rank those kinds of productive work at the same level of productive achievement as the great industrialists, entrepreneurs, doctors, scientists, legal scholars, etc. I see a huge disparity in the degree of cognitive challenge in the latter kinds of professions compared to the traditionally classified "care givers," and in the scope and breadth of their influence on man's life. In the contrast between the question's two paragraphs, the question itself seems to acknowledge that it is a huge stretch to elevate simple "care giving" to the level of major productive achievement.

Objectivism (in my understanding) says, in essence: if you want to help others, go ahead; but do it for your own satisfaction and happiness first and foremost, not for any accolades from others (and especiallly not because anyone says self-sacrifice is a moral ideal).

Update: Fairness to Ayn Rand

In a "clarification" section added to the question, several points are well clarified. However, clarification item #3 states:

... [a] one cannot live without science and one, perhaps, would not want to live without art and beauty. [b] It is also worth pondering that even Hank Rearden or John Galt were once snotty little tykes and probably needed a hug and encouragement when they initially failed to stack their blocks up correctly and started to bawl in frustration (like all kids). In reading Rand, there is very little said about early development and one may even start to believe that productive heroes hatch out of eggs fully formed :-). Not so. Some cared for them just like someone cared for all the productive people when they were young and needed a lot of care.

I'm afraid I still see a substantial philosophical bias against Objectivist ideas in these two comments, especially [b]. It is possible and highly valuable to be objective even if one opposes some or many of Ayn Rand's ideas. It's true that Atlas Shrugged doesn't say much about the childhood development of Rearden and Galt, but the story provides a rich portrait of the childhood experiences of other key characters in the story, particularly Francisco, Dagny, Eddie and even James. I would heartily encourage anyone who is interested to read (or re-read) at least those chapters of Atlas Shrugged, if not the whole book. And none of the children in Atlas needed the services of professional "care givers" of the kind that the questioner seems to be focusing on. The main psychological and emotional support that they needed from others came from their parents and families, not from outside professional specialists, and that's where caring of that kind should come from in normal cases. A further concretization appears near the end of the story in the description of the bakery shop owner in Galt's Gulch and her two young children.

Regarding point [a] in the above excerpt, Objectivism's view is that philosophy is essential for all human living, and that art is vital for providing a concretization of philosophical abstractions, i.e., to show concretely (not merely describe in principles) what is possible to man and what it depends on. Art certainly can give man fuel for living, as Ayn Rand explains in The Romantic Manifesto and other works on esthetics.

answered Dec 27 '12 at 18:21

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

edited Dec 29 '12 at 13:41

I added some clarifications. Thanks for the observations and questions.

(Dec 27 '12 at 19:51) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

Thanks Ideas. Great points as always. I probably disagree that there is a rich portrait of childhood development painted in Atlas and/or any other AR works perhaps with the exception of "The Comprachicos" (a chilling exposition of education). I think there are important vignettes but not great clarity on the heroes' families. But that's OK, no one said that an author had to be all things to all people at all stages of life! My real question is not about childcare only, it is about "caring" work per se. That means nursing as much as day care/kindergarten teaching.

(Dec 29 '12 at 16:18) Danneskjold_repo Danneskjold_repo's gravatar image

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Asked: Dec 27 '12 at 13:40

Seen: 1,949 times

Last updated: Dec 30 '12 at 16:53