My friend Nick Gall hates being called a fructivist, but not only is he one, he was the first one, because he invented it.
Here’s my own sloppy definition of fructivism:
Fructivism is an ethic that prioritizes fruitfulness — the proliferation of creative possibilities — over more traditional virtues.
I needed to define fructivism because I need to use it to restate an old thought that can be said way more elegantly in fructivist language.
The best, most mutually satisfying act of listening is not an altruistic “I’m listening to you because I want you to feel listened to,” or “I’m listening to you because I want to understand who you are,” but rather a fructivist “I’m listening to you because I think there is creative potential in us putting our heads together.” That creative potential might be a new idea, or a new plan — or it might be the creation of a new, better relationship: a shared We.
The shared We, in which each person plays a constrained part within a transcendent whole, created through participation, especially through dialogue, is the fructivist analogue to altruistic care for an Other. According to this view, care for Other outside of actual personal relationship is more an affair of an isolated self with its own imagination (including an abstract sense of justice) than it is concern for any real, existing person. There is nothing wrong with imagined Others and abstract principles of justice, but they should not be confused with caring for people or with love.
Any man (or woman) who tells a woman (or man) that if she will be happier without him than with him, that she should leave, because he only wants her to be happy demonstrates that 1) he hasn’t figured out what love is, 2) probably doesn’t understand what a relationship is enough to cultivate one, and 3) does not value her enough to try even harder to create a more compelling We with her, and consequently, that she should leave and stop wasting her time living an affectionate coexistence with him. He might “love” her the same way he politically cares about Others while enjoying her or even being addicted to her physicality.
This same opposition explains why charity is humiliating to recipients, and often inspires antipathy instead of gratitude. Giving should be an investment in We, not a mere transfer of resources from a wealthy powerful person to a person so needy and weak the charitable giver doesn’t even want reciprocity or relationship. From a fructivist perspective, charity contains an overtone of rejection and an undertone of contempt.