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epistemologue

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  • Experience with Objectivism Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, Anthem, Philosophy: Who Needs It?, Virtue of Selfishness, The Romantic Manifesto, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, and others.

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  1. This accusation of intrinsicism does not make sense. Life is a value *to me*.
  2. It is a moral choice. See my section above on how "positive values are possible despite suffering". It's a mistake to think that the negative values can "outweigh" the positives, as I explained above. If you make that mistake of thinking that the negative can outweigh the positive then you could lose the desire to live. But that is an error in your reasoning, an irrational mistake. If you choose on the basis of this kind of error, you are choosing wrong - morally wrong, as much as any other immoral sacrifice or compromise that people make because of mistaken beliefs. The reality is that pleasure and pain are independent variables, and just because there is suffering, that does not take away from the positive values that are still possible. This is not a hypothetical "if" they happen to have any positive values - they *do* have positive values, and therefore they *should* pursue them.
  3. How is taxation a violation of rights? You can renounce your citizenship if you don't want to pay taxes anymore. Nobody is forcing you and "violating your rights" in order to make you pay taxes.
  4. Given this ethical foundation, there are a couple of important issues to derive: not only is the choice to live the most basic moral choice that one should make, but the choice to die (suicide), is the most immoral choice that one can make. And further, everyone should strive to live forever, through the pursuit of the scientific advancement of life extension, this should be one's central purpose in life. On suicide: Suicide is immoral Leonard Peikoff, "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand": "...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."" Peikoff's argument is a proof by contradiction: since you are already pre-committed to remaining in reality in the very act of debating the issue, any conclusion which denies that premise is self-contradictory. Since choosing to die implies a contradiction, it cannot be rationally justified, and therefore cannot be morally justified. No one can exit the realm of morality guiltlessly. Suicide cannot be an "affirmation of life" You cannot affirm your life by destroying it. Choosing to die is not a "pro-life choice", that is absurd. To act on the assumption that happiness is impossible, to act purely for the sake of escaping pain - so far from being an affirmation of what life ought to be, it would be a declaration that suffering *is* important and that it *does* matter. You are *rejecting* the belief that suffering is unimportant, and is only to be fought and thrown aside, and not accepted as a meaningful part of one's view of existence. It would not be an affirmation of a happy life - that would be in fact be the most damning *denial* that you could make. In such a tragic situation where happiness seems impossible, the way to affirm your life is to continue to seek your happiness *despite* the tragedy and hopelessness of the situation. To affirm life, even amidst the worst possible torture, is to bow one's head in a silent "amen" to life, amounting to the words: "This is where I shall stay to fight. Suffering does not matter. I exist for the sake of achieving values, and suicide is not going to serve that quest." Reducing suffering is a means to an end There is always room for rational risk-taking as a means to pursue one's values, even significant risks. Risking one's life in a military context, for example, is the *defense* of one's life, it is the *pursuit* of life and the *pursuit* of happiness. It's exactly the opposite of making a deliberate choice to die. An *irrational* risk is a tradeoff in which the reward, in terms of one's life and happiness, is less than what one is risking. In the case of suicide, one is *sacrificing* one's life and happiness entirely - there is no tradeoff at all there! A soldier is risking his life for the sake of his quest to pursue life and happiness. Suicide does not serve such a quest. And this is not to say that pain is a good thing, either; pain is a miserable evil that ought to be fought. Pain and suffering are a terrible affliction, and if someone you loved were suffering, you would want to do everything you can to help them find relief. People should be given as much pain medication as they want; it's not the government's job to prescribe how much pain medication a person gets to have. Even if they want to risk their life with a dangerously high dosage, it can be worth it to them. Pain interferes with our thinking, our values, and our actions. A person in tremendous pain can and sometimes should take a dangerous risk with pain medications in order to bring themselves to a more functional level, and it would be right to help them. There is always room for rational risk-taking, even significant risks like in military contexts, or in this case taking high doses of pain medication. There's a risk there, but it's for the sake of a reward, it's ultimately for the sake of life and happiness. The only issue with eliminating suffering is when it goes past the point of absurdity: where you're sacrificing your ultimate value - your life - for a lesser value, the relief of suffering. This is not a moral choice. Reducing suffering is only a means to a higher end: your life and your happiness. The ultimate standard: pursuing happiness vs. escaping pain The *ultimate* value and the *ultimate* purpose in ethics - the ultimate one, to which all others are means - is one's life and happiness. Reducing suffering is a means to life and happiness, reducing suffering is not an end in itself. It's a matter of choice whether we want to give more importance to the positives that are available to us at any time, or to the negatives that we are suffering. When a person commits suicide, they are choosing to value the importance of avoiding the negatives as higher than the pursuit of the positives. To reify pain, to make pain your ultimate standard, and to choose to die to avoid pain, rather than to choose to live and to pursue happiness, directly contradicts the ultimate standard of moral values. We ought to live for the sake of pursuing the positives, not for the sake of avoiding the negatives. Suffering ought not matter, down to a certain point yes, but not ultimately. You should never sacrifice your life and your pursuit of happiness for any reason, any suffering is worth enduring compared to that. Suicide is a bad trade. It's a sacrifice of your highest value, your life, for nothing in return but the mere relief of suffering. It's not worth it. It's not moral, and it's not rational. Suicide is not an expression of "love of life", it's an expression of a hatred of suffering. It's okay to hate suffering, but that is not the ultimate value. Hatred of suffering is trumped by something even more basic: a love of living. Positive values are possible despite suffering The purpose of enduring pain is for the sake of *joy* - it's not for "no end whatever", it's not the "mere continuation in hopeless agony". In psychology there is a concept known as "resilience". Resilience is the ability to adjust your expectations and your goals according to your circumstances - even in the face of a dramatic change of your circumstances, as in the case of devastating loss or extreme suffering. It's the ability to stay optimistic and look on the positive side - to seek and to find good things that are within your range. Consider the findings of a recent study: "Locked-in patients trapped inside their paralysed bodies have told doctors they are ‘happy’ using an astonishing new brain computer interface which deciphers their thoughts... On seven out of 10 occasions the patients said they were happy despite their utterly debilitating condition". Or consider the case of Christopher Reeves as Louie describes: "If you give up life because you were once a famous actor and are now a quadripalegic is plainly cowardly and foolish. Christopher Reeves still led a worthwhile life. To give up as soon as life is a bit tough or needing to alter what -usually- makes you happiest. Changing course isn't the end." If Reeves committed suicide he would have achieved less than he was capable of - it would have been self-sacrificial. And yet if Reeves held himself to the same standard of being an able-bodied Superman actor, something more than what he was capable of, he would have achieved nothing but failure - and still would not have achieved the things he could, which would be equally self-destructive and self-sacrificial. So the fault you would find with a former athlete or actor, for example, who decides to commit suicide because they can no longer pursue their previous career, is that they lack *resilience* (incidentally, watch the movie Me Before You for a dramatization of exactly this issue). Even in pain and suffering you can love life, and realize that it is priceless opportunity that you should get the most out of that you can before it's gone. A quote from Marie Bashkirtseff: "In this depression and dreadful uninterrupted suffering, I don't condemn life. On the contrary, I like it and find it good. Can you believe it? I find everything good and pleasant, even my tears, my grief. I enjoy weeping, I enjoy my despair. I enjoy being exasperated and sad. I feel as if these were so many diversions, and I love life in spite of them all. I want to live on. It would be cruel to have me die when I am so accommodating. I cry, I grieve, and at the same time I am pleased - no, not exactly that - I know not how to express it. But everything in life pleases me. I find everything agreeable, and in the very midst of my prayers for happiness, I find myself happy at being miserable. It is not I who undergo all this - my body weeps and cries; but something inside of me which is above me is glad of it all." Note that she said "I love life in spite of them all" - she loves the *positives* in life *in spite* of the suffering. To quote from Louie: "Other experiences are present despite that pain, and those are valuable to some degree. Better yet, with a proper mindset, that pain diminishes to entirely bearable. As a minor example, my knee hurts a bit if I focus on pain from a minor injury, but it goes to the back of my mind as other experiences matter more and are present as a degree of pleasure. The proper attitude would reduce it to manageable levels; only a real nihilist may say existing at all is an excruciating horror. I'm not saying pain is unreal, or only the fault of bad thinking. The point is that with a good attitude, the pain will be there, but it isn't going to be so bad that life is impossible. Difficult, yes, but people can cope. Attaining and reaching for value is always possible. This may appear awful, terrible, a "clawing for life" perhaps. Here is where I agree with the word "reification", that is, making pain into something more than it is. In fact, the pursuit of life is there, the values are there - life didn't stop. Nothing about her nature as a person ceased." What these people are reporting, and others can personally corroborate, is that pain and pleasure are not mutually exclusive values on a single continuum. One can be in pain, and yet feel pleasure. One can be suffering, but happy. They are independent variables. *Every* positive thing you can experience, from the simplest joy of opening your eyes and enjoying the view, *is* still a positive, despite any level of suffering that's happening at the time. The pain cannot take that positive away. Joy is not "the absence of pain". Such positives do exist for anyone who is conscious at all. As I quoted from Louie, "only a real nihilist may say existing at all is an excruciating horror." You exist for the sake of enjoying those values, and every action you take should be for the sake of that end. There should be no law against it No law should prohibit someone from choosing to commit suicide. Nobody should be "forced to live" against their will. Everyone's individual rights, to be free from compulsion, should be respected by law to the fullest extent in a proper government. On moral condemnation Choosing to commit suicide could be based on an error of knowledge or reasoning, rather than a purely moral failing per se. Someone who committed suicide should not necessarily be condemned as an immoral person.But suicide is a morally wrong choice in principle. There is a fault in the choice to commit suicide, it is a sacrifice of your values. There is a better choice, one that we are free to make, though it may be difficult. We can choose to live. Even if that choice is so much harder, that is the one we ought to take.
  5. bluecherry, I just showed how Peikoff's argument *is* a proof. Since you are already pre-committed to reality in the very act of debating the issue, any conclusion which goes against that is self-contradictory, and therefore cannot be morally or rationally justified. So choosing not to live is immoral, and choosing to live, and all of the moral commitments that come with that choice, is moral. Here's my answer to the "is-ought" problem more generally: moral claims of "you ought to do X" must be claims that you ought to act according to your nature. A claim that you ought to act in contradiction to your nature is self-contradictory: the action contradicts the identity of the subject. For this reason, moral necessity derives not from the alternative of *physical* life or death, as Objectivists try to argue, but from the alternative of *identity or non-identity*. Any action you take has to be consistent with what you are. A human being is a living organism. Life is one of the most fundamental characteristics of human identity, and so the choice to live is one of the most fundamental moral choices.
  6. There's no law against non-citizens owning property.
  7. Louie, since life is the ultimate value, to which all others are means, the choice to commit one's self to that ultimate value is the most basic decision, from which all other moral decisions should follow. Choosing to live is the most fundamental good choice that you can make, choosing not to live is the most fundamental bad choice that you can make. Peikoff's argument *is* a proof. It's a proof by contradiction. Any moral argument you make carries certain presuppositions, that existence exists, that you are alive, that you are capable of making a choice, etc. So you are already pre-committed to reality in the very act of debating the issue, and any conclusion which goes against that is self-contradictory. Where did this commitment originate? Well you were born as a living thing. So for us, it's just metaphysically given, that's what we are.
  8. What are you referring to? People can and do renounce their citizenship peacefully and without trouble all the time. I don't understand why you guys are suggesting that this is impossible or crazy, it's legal and it does happen. The state department even has a website on it: https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/legal-considerations/us-citizenship-laws-policies/renunciation-of-citizenship.html
  9. I'm curious, why do you say this?
  10. ???
  11. @softwareNerd what do you mean? I'm not following you at all. I'm not taking the consent of laws as a premise, I've been arguing how and why they are consensual. From your last post: No, I was never arguing about whether one should follow the law or not. I have not addressed that issue whatsoever.
  12. I was arguing neither about the morality of the law, nor whether you should follow it. I was arguing whether the laws are consensual. I don't know why this is unclear, I haven't discussed whether or when one should follows laws or not at all.
  13. In the US today, you are free to renounce your citizenship and become stateless. Of course they have a lot of disclaimers about how incredibly stupid that would be. But you're free to do it.
  14. Yes, it is essentially voluntary. The US was founded on the principle of consent of the governed, and you have a right to renounce your citizenship. So taxes are being levied on you with your consent. Taxation, today in the US, is not theft.
  15. Agreed with all of the above.