Title: Why Choose Life?
DarkReaver13 - July 23, 2006 12:20 AM (GMT)
On ObjectivismOnline I read a topic about the basic choice between life and death. We also discussed it in the Starting From Scratch thread at one point. I've pretty much finished my writeup of Objectivism now, but some parts just need some tweaking. I'd appreciate some comments on what I've written. This is the part relevant to the above thread title:
Why Choose Life?:
The initial choice between life and death is not subject to morality. In most cases life is automatic. A new life lives, that is its nature, and it will live until it no longer meets the requirements for life. A new-born child is dependant on its parents to survive in the early stages; it has no choice, nor concept of life and death. Morality is only applicable once life is chosen, and it is meaningless to try and judge this choice in terms of ethics. It is a pre-moral choice. It may however be influenced by one's metaphysical nature. In most cases, any action which leads to death will cause a negative biological reaction: Pain. Aversion to pain is not a moral issue in this instance, but a purely biological one. Pain can be supressed and ignored however, and there are also life destroying actions which do not cause pain, so the choice does still remain between life and death, but our metaphysical natures support life on a basic biological level. It should be noted that pain does become a moral issue when life is chosen - it is immoral (in most cases) to seek pain because it is a signal that life is being threatened or destroyed. However in some cases pain may be necessary when considering life long-term. For example it would be rational to accept the small amount of pain caused by an injection of some form of medicine or vaccine.
Inspector - July 23, 2006 09:34 AM (GMT)
Here is the relevant passage you want to absorb and integrate when seeking your answer:
|QUOTE (Objectivism:The Philosophy of Ayn Rand Chapter 7—The Good)|
|Goal-directed entities do not exist in order to pursue values. They pursue values in order to exist.|
Only self-preservation can be an ultimate goal, which serves no end beyond itself. This follows from the unique nature of the goal. Philosophically speaking, the essence of self-preservation is: accepting the realm of reality.
Existence exists. The "realm of non-existence," if one wants to use such a term, is not a competitor to reality, as General Motors is to Ford, with some kind of advantages to be considered and weighed. The "realm of non-existence" is nothing; it isn't. Since only existence exists, it is the fundamental starting point in every branch of philosophy.
Metaphysically, one cannot go outside the realm of existence—e.g., by asking for its cause.
Epistemologically, one cannot employ the faculty of reason in such a quest—e.g., by asking for the "reason" why, in coming to conclusions, one should accept the realm of reality. This would be an attempt, futile on its face, to engage in reasoning while standing outside existence. The attempt is futile because reason cannot be neutral in this kind of issue, not even provisionally or momentarily; reason is the faculty of knowing that which is. A "reason" detached from reality, with no special allegiance to that which is, "impartial" and "unbiased" as between reality and unreality, would not be a cognitive faculty.
The same principle applies in regard to evaluation. Here, too, reality is the starting point, and one cannot engage in debates about why one should prefer it—to nothing. Nor can one ask for some more basic value the pursuit of which validates the decision to remain in reality. The commitment to remain in the realm of that which is is precisely what cannot be debated; because all debate (and all validation) takes place within that realm and rests on that commitment. About every concrete within the universe and about every human evaluation of these, one can in some context ask questions or demand proofs. In regard to the sum of reality as such, however, there is nothing to do but grasp: it is—and then, if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay."
It's not enough to say that it's a "pre-rational choice." The fact is, that by using reason, by attempting to make a choice at all, one is already chosen the side of life. (of reality... of reason)
Someone who made the other choice would collapse in a drooling heap. Remember that Ayn Rand said, "the only way to reject it is to shut one's mouth, expound no theories and die."
The fact is ethics and values are based on the fundamental value, which is life. Remember the immortal, indestructible robot, who had no fundamental value (because its life was unconditional)? It had no reason to do anything at all. So, too, with someone who does not choose life. What then? He has no reason to do anything at all, since everything we do is in pursuit of values, and all values are, ultimately, a function of the value of life.
Without life, there are no goals, no values, no ethics, no choices, no use for reason, no need to recognize reality, no purpose for coherant thought. There is nothing.
So there is no question: "Why choose life." You already have chosen it. If you haven't, then bloody die already and don't pester me with useless questions. :P
DarkReaver13 - July 23, 2006 10:34 AM (GMT)
But.... although death doesn't require any action at all (a la collapsing into a drooling heap), particular life-destroying actions do. A person who wants to die might not wish to simply wither away slowly, so he might jump of a bridge, or shoot himself. These actions do require thought, therefore surely reason can be used for death as well? A gun may be of value to a person who wants to die?
For example, if I suddenly did not value my life anymore and wanted to die, I wouldn't sit and wait around, I'd think "right, how can I die as quickly and painlessly as possible?" Just as a person who values life should think "right, how can I live for as long and as comfortably as possible?"
The end-goal is still death, but life becomes a means to that end since you need to be alive in order to find a gun and shoot yourself with it.
Doing absolutely nothing and starving to death would be irrational if death is the goal, since death being a goal implies minimizing the amount of life required to achieve it, just as life as a goal implies maximizing the amount of life.
Practically, this doesn't really change anything - people aiming for death still die - but I'm just not sure that thinking IS choosing life, nor that values are inapplicable to death.
Inspector - July 23, 2006 01:16 PM (GMT)
I think you have it wrong. Someone who wants to die, for a rational reason, is still valuing life. For instance, his life has become untenable and therefore he wants to end it as quickly as possible.
But absent a value of life, one couldn't even rationally desire suicide. All values, remember, are in service to the value of life. They all, in one way or another, advance that cause.
Remember, when one does not choose life, one is not "choosing death," one is simply choosing not to value one's life. If you don't value anything, then what do you care if you die now, or 10 minutes from now? Caring when you die is only possible with this-worldly values.
So is caring to be logically consistent: logic is used because it is our tool of survival. Absent the value of survival, there is no need for it.
I know it seems like it wouldn't make a difference, but it's important inasmuch as you see how all-encompassing the value of life is. Read through the quotes again and see if you can see what I mean this time.
DarkReaver13 - July 23, 2006 11:46 PM (GMT)
So is it impossible to value death?
It sort of makes sense, but I don't want to just accept it without properly examining it.
Life is a condition that you either have or do not have. If someone has it, but doesn't want it anymore, they'll try to get rid of it. Just as if someone is on fire, they'll try to put themselves out.
A person who no longer wishes to live may desire as such perhaps because they're in tremendous pain. Their goal then, surely, is to die as quickly as possible to make the pain stop? Their end goal isn't life, so I'm not sure how they can be still be valuing life in this instance. Life is still the standard of value, but death is the goal because non-existence is better than existing in the amount of pain as described.
Inspector - July 24, 2006 12:24 AM (GMT)
|QUOTE (DarkReaver13 @ Jul 23 2006, 05:46 PM)|
| A person who no longer wishes to live may desire as such perhaps because they're in tremendous pain. Their goal then, surely, is to die as quickly as possible to make the pain stop? |
Yes. This is still valuing life, however. If they didn't, why would they care to make the pain stop?
What is pain, after all, but an indicator of a threat to one's life? Non-nihilists who end their lives do so when they are unable to live efficacious lives. Remember that the Objectivist concept of the value of life means more than just grave-avoidance.
|Their end goal isn't life, so I'm not sure how they can be still be valuing life in this instance. Life is still the standard of value, but death is the goal because non-existence is better than existing in the amount of pain as described.|
In a way, their end goal is life, though. As you say, life is still the standard of value. They seek death because they value life: a certain level of life, which is no longer possible. This isn't valuing death.
DarkReaver13 - July 24, 2006 12:44 AM (GMT)
Okay I think that's clarified now.
You mind if I post anything else up here that I feel is a bit dodgy in my writeup?
Inspector - July 24, 2006 02:26 AM (GMT)
No problem. It's a tricky one to grasp, so I would almost expect as much.
I do notice you tend to take a very neutral tone. The trouble with this is that when you're discussing ideas and alternatives in metaphysics that are clearly, disasterously wrong, you seem to give them a lot of credence. As if they were just as valid as the next idea.
You might have some purpose in doing so, for all I know, but I figured you might want to know.
DarkReaver13 - July 24, 2006 08:55 AM (GMT)
Hmm, I didn't notice the neutrality. Maybe that comes across in the parts I'm not really certain about yet, as I think the rest is quite clear in perspective.
|Emotions are automated responses which correspond to one's values. They correspond to one's previous value judgements. Emotions are not tools of cognition, in that they can't be relied upon as a means to knowledge of reality as one's senses can. They are a guide, that reflect whether or not one is acting according to their values or against them, as well as whether their values are being threatened or contributed to by other people, events or circumstances.|
Inspector - July 24, 2006 09:13 AM (GMT)
|QUOTE (DarkReaver13 @ Jul 24 2006, 02:55 AM)|
| Hmm, I didn't notice the neutrality. Maybe that comes across in the parts I'm not really certain about yet, as I think the rest is quite clear in perspective. |
You're right. Looking at the parts you've edited and refined, they are a lot more solid.