Egoism, Rationality, and Children

 Posted by on 20 June 2002 at 2:26 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 202002

The issue of the rationality of having children has popped up on the Nathaniel Branden Forum. I posted a quick bit yesterday, then this more philosophical bit in a message today:

The anti-children people tend to argue that parents are deluded about their own happiness, that they are rationalizing their terrible mistake of having children by claiming that they actually enjoy it. That claim requires substantial, empirical proof for two reasons.

First: Outsiders can’t see into the heads of parents to actually determine whether they are happy or not. Those parents, on the other hand, have direct access to their emotional states. To claim greater knowledge of their emotional states without concrete evidence is absurd. We must take parents at their word about their own happiness unless there is some *particular* reason to believe them deluded.

Second: Of course it is true that people can be made happy by irrational things. And surely some parents are irrationally happy in parenthood, perhaps because it allows them to live their long-extinguished dreams of becoming a musician through their child. But I know of many happy parents who live by the principles of a rational, egoistic morality in their daily lives. The idea that they have abandoned that rational egoism where their children are concerned is implausible. It is yet another bold claim that requires substantial proof.

Without proof of the above points, the basic argument of anti-childrenists is hopelessly circular. It presumes that parenting is so god-awful that no rational person could possible enjoy it. Hence parents who claim to enjoy it must be deluded. The argument presumes the very conclusion it attempts to prove. That’s a terribly fallacious argument!

Parenting is hard work. It can be aggravating and painful and inconvenient and expensive. But so are other things in life, from preparing philosophy lectures to caring for a sick dog. But I wouldn’t give up either philosophy or dogs simply because neither is perfectly delightful all the time. And I know many rational, egoistic parents who feel exactly the same way about their children.

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