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I've been trying to follow the philosophy of objectivism for a couple of years now, and I accept the philosophy's beliefs. But I have a child, and now I am not so sure about one of the tenets of the philosophy, that man must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. But as a parent, am I obligated to sacrifice myself, in order to raise a child? And if I decide to get ride of the child, via adoption or other means, do I not have the legal, moral, and logical right to do so?

asked Jan 23 '11 at 15:49

Junky's gravatar image


edited Jan 23 '11 at 16:06

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

Absolutely, parents can be Objectivists. Or Objectivists can be--and are--parents.

Parenting does not necessarily involve sacrifice. (A sacrifice involves giving up a higher value for something of a lower value.) Certainly there are many trade-offs a parent must make because of their children. My husband and I do not have the level of disposable income we once had. We do not go out as often. We are not alone together as much as we once were.

But those are not sacrifices in the immoral sense. We willingly accepted this obligation to our children (as dependent human beings, they require our support) and given that our children are a tremendous value to us, the trade-offs in terms of money or free time are not sacrifices to us. They are totally and completely worth it.

By the way, such trade-offs are made all the time in other types of relationships and careers, too. If you join a baseball team, you'll be trading free time for practice and games--you won't have as much free time as before you joined the team, but if you're being selfish, the value you get from being on the team is greater than what else you might have done with your free time.

Parenting certainly takes a great deal of time and energy and effort. It also involves a unique kind of relationship due to the fact that children are dependent upon their parents for their care for a good many years. Because parenting takes up so much time and effort, and because there is a legitimate claim by the child upon the parent, it is something that should be entered into completely selfishly--that is, if you truly believe that the value you receive as a parent will be greater than the changes you will need to make in your life for many years. I am such a happily selfish parent.

Also, I should point you to my blog post on this subject: "Parenting and Homeschooling: Most Definitely NOT a Sacrifice."

As to your question about whether a parent can change his mind--I think a parent who has decided that he does not want to fulfill the obligation of raising his child has a legal and moral right to do so--but he also has an obligation to find someone else who will provide for the child in his stead first before dissolving the parental relationship.

answered Jan 23 '11 at 16:07

rationaljenn's gravatar image

rationaljenn ♦

Of what value are the children , to make it worth the sacrifice? Also, I have difficulty understanding the term "selfish". I was led to believe that the definition is harming others to benefit oneself, so if the objectivists use a different definition I would hear it. Thank you.

(Jan 23 '11 at 16:14) Junky Junky's gravatar image

As I said, they are not a sacrifice at all. They are of tremendous value.

Your definition of selfish is not the Objectivist definition. I recommend exploring the online Ayn Rand Lexicon (linked in the sidebar) or searching this site for questions about selfishness.

(Jan 23 '11 at 16:20) rationaljenn ♦ rationaljenn's gravatar image

Ok, thank you, for that has caused me considerable confusion. I shall visit the links soon enough. But one more thing, is it wrong for an objectivist to sacrifice himself to save the life of his child?

(Jan 23 '11 at 16:28) Junky Junky's gravatar image

By this I mean, your life for the child's life, maybe in a scenario where it would be impossible for you to survive and save your child at the same time, such as an attack by another person or a wild animal or some where the child could make a break for it and get to safety, but you would be defenceless

(Jan 23 '11 at 16:53) Junky Junky's gravatar image

Junky, a preliminary view of selfishness primary concern with one's self interest. As understood by the majority today, it package deals self interest with the violation of others. An exercise you can do for yourself is to imagine one of today's 'selfish' acts that does not violate others' individual rights.

(Jan 23 '11 at 16:55) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

"An exercise you can do for yourself is to imagine one of today's 'selfish' acts that does not violate others' individual rights."

Such as?...

(Jan 23 '11 at 17:14) Junky Junky's gravatar image

Also, I would like to note that I viewed some of my friends as selfish, because they were uninterested in the affairs of the world. Not necessarily violating other people's interests, but not caring one way or another whether people were being butchered by "evil selfish men" in a foreign country. I think it would be wise to create more definitions to differentiate between "evil(greed) selfish", "don't give a damn i couldn't care less about the world selfish" and "rational selfish".

(Jan 23 '11 at 17:19) Junky Junky's gravatar image

YES I CAN! I have three children and another on the way, and I am an objectivist. My husbandand I look at it this way; One day we will be old who will be running the world? Do you want the world left in the hands of the whining crying give-me give-me give-me children around you? I want the next generation to have good leaders as well as thinkers and doers so I am raising my children to be those kinds of people. I get an incalculable reward hearing my girls talk about their own personhood and thier right to make thier own choices for their own lives.

(Jul 30 '11 at 19:29) the unstep mom the%20unstep%20mom's gravatar image
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The question seems to center around the meaning of "sacrifice." Voluntarily raising a child (your own or someone else's) would not normally be a sacrifice.

Objectivism holds that people naturally build and maintain a hierarchy of values. In other words, some things are more important to you than others. A sacrifice is when you exchange a higher value for a lesser one; exchanging a lesser value for a higher one is simply a trade, where the lesser value is the price you pay.

For example, if your child is the most important thing in your life, and you give the last piece of food you have to your neighbor, knowing that your child will starve as a result, that's a sacrifice. However, if your child is more important to you than your own life, then it is not a sacrifice for you to give your life to save theirs. In a more everyday sense, giving up your free time or spending money on your child is not a sacrifice; it is a trade that parents who value their kids more than their time or money willingly and happily choose.

A parent is not morally obligated to value their child more than themselves. However, they are morally obligated to ensuring that their child receives appropriate care until they are mature enough to care for themselves, through a responsible third party (foster care, etc) if necessary.

answered Aug 01 '11 at 02:38

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Rick ♦

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Asked: Jan 23 '11 at 15:49

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Last updated: Aug 01 '11 at 02:38