“The decision to have and raise children is a selfless choice, and no one driven fundamentally by self-interest would ever assume the difficult responsibilities involved in parenting.” That is an influential conventional view about the relationship between parenting and self-interest.
It’s not difficult to give common sense reasons for why this view is flat wrong. For many people, raising children is an immense source of happiness. But this response still raises questions about why this joy reflects facts about one’s objective self-interest, not just subjective opinion. In a talk at the 2022 Summer Objectivist Conference in Washington, D.C., Dr. Greg Salmieri offered principled answers to these questions from an Objectivist perspective on “the facts of life.”
In the talk, Salmieri explains why confusion about this issue stems from an inadequate understanding of the nature of human self-interest. The requirements for human life are distinctive from those of any other living species. Creating new ways of fulfilling our needs is itself part of what it means to live the life of an individual human being and hence part of what fulfills our objective self-interest.
Salmieri goes on to explain how the choice to raise children can fulfill both our material and spiritual needs, distinguishing the way it does this from both career and other chosen personal relationships. In this portion of the talk, Salmieri adds fresh observations from his own experience as a father, especially regarding the way parenting reflects, reinforces, and helps the growth of one’s own individualistic values.
In the remainder of the talk and the Q&A session, Salmieri reflects on implications of the principles he has discussed for topics like abortion, the legal obligations and rights of parents, questions about future generations, and the definition of child abuse.