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Harrison Danneskjold

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Everything posted by Harrison Danneskjold

  1. While I appreciate the sentiment, I've been using "poetry" as a gentler euphemism for the sloppiness you observed, here: And I'm sorry about that. Agreed. I've been reflecting on this, recently, and ultimately realized that the only "reification" in this thread was of my own sense of life. A sense of life seems like part of existence ("out there" to be proven) but it isn't. It can't really be proven, in the same sense and for the same reasons that colors can't be explained to the blind. One man's core can't be taken out and shared with another, no matter how much he may wish to. So I'm sorry that all my sexy, sexy poetry interfered with that whole "truth" business. With regard to raw sensory values, such as the physical stimuli of pleasure or pain, yes. We're all born with the evaluations of such sensations hardwired into our nervous systems (at least at first). With regard to conceptual values, I don't think so. Values like truth, integrity, justice, productive work, pride, beauty and romance (which are so much more meaningful than any isolated sensation could ever be) aren't universal or automatic, at all; they depend on volitional mental processes. Even those of us who have experienced that Aristotelean sort of "happiness" which we (Objectivists) all seek so fervently, won't necessarily continue to want it in the way we should; it depends on our thoughts and choices. We can kill it without even knowing that we are (which is actually far easier than preserving it), which is precisely what I believe Rand was arming us against when she wrote: “In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach." You underestimate the flexibility of the human mind. I believe I've already mentioned it elsewhere but at one point, when I was a little Mormon, I realized that God was demanding (via the scriptures I read) my own self-induced blindness and the unconditional surrender of my critical faculty. I didn't have those words for it, of course; all I knew was that the universe would give me infinite joy for doing what was obviously wrong, and infinite pain if I tried to do what was right. So if you can't imagine anyone who, when offered eternal bliss by God Himself, would spit in his eye... c'est moi! And I think the range of goals and attitudes which men can hold is much broader than you might currently suspect. Interestingly, though: The preceding dilemma is older and more common than any bromide; that's the choice every single Christian faces whenever they're asked to probe the issue too deeply. You can see it in their faces, if you're paying attention. And that's a source of unlimited amusement - for me. Yes, and "there, but for the grace of God, go I". Except it isn't God who shapes our souls; it's every single one of us. And it's important to keep track of who is an architect and who is an arsonist for the same reason that ruthless self-evaluation is important: They tell you the trajectory of things.
  2. Yes and no. What we're really discussing is the possibility of happiness. Everyone knows that suicide is moral when that possibility is gone; what we disagree about is where to draw the line that marks it. This is a particularly tricky question because it involves causality, free will, human efficacy, evaluation and a few other things, all tangled up together. Chronic pain and illness happens to be a convenient example; any situation that diminished the possibility of happiness far enough would work. What's essentially been argued is: 1: anybody can be happy, in any situation 2: anybody can move from any situation to one that allows for happiness 3: some people are just f***ed
  3. I agree with almost everything above. Actually, it's the best summary of Egoism that I've seen, to date. That "good" and "evil" are ultimately rooted in pleasure and pain, and that the good is to maximize the former; that the choice to live is also a moral choice; that this standard is different from (and superior to) mere survival, is all true. The only point I'm not sure about is whether men intrinsically want to live. Surely, people intrinsically want to experience pleasure and not pain (that's a built-in part of what those words mean), but there are so many different ways in which to do that. A desire is not a binary thing; it has an intensity which can vary wildly. Furthermore, even if two men held all of the same values, they could still prioritize them differently (which would still lead them to opposite choices). And to want to experience pleasure and not pain isn't the same as wanting to flourish, which is a much more specific (and volitional) attitude. I don't believe men intrinsically want to live, but I do think they should strive to. So (if I understand correctly), if Sweeney Todd wants these things then he should want life, but if not then morality sort of ceases to apply and anything goes. We'd defend ourselves against him, of course, and might have to kill him, but we couldn't really call him a bad guy; his goals were just different from ours. No, there is no Hell to threaten him with, but isn't he one of the bad guys? You're right that it depends on the motives which prompted such behavior, and that's where I think he committed the basic sin which enabled the rest: he gave up. In the face of pain and adversity, he gave up on ever trying to reach for anything better and devoted the remainder of his existence to - to what? Anger and pain. Regardless of when or how one eventually dies, one must never give up on life in that way. Absolutely. And right up until her last moment (regardless of when that moment came) she'd have choices to make; there would be alternatives open to her, and it'd be her responsibility to make the most she could of them. Even if this meant nothing more than winning one more game of Chess or formulating a parting statement to someone she cherished, she would still be in charge of the quality of the rest of her own life. And I don't think her death would necessarily be a form of surrender or renunciation, depending on how she spent the last of her time. --- Sensory values (such as the physical sensations of pleasure or pain) are built-in and automatic; we all know which of them to pursue and which to avoid. Conceptual values are not; they depend on our conscious convictions, and they aren't always right. It is possible for people to hate what's good for them and revel in their own destruction. We should want to live as men if we want to live at all; the only alternative is oblivion. We should want to live because it's the only opportunity for joy, beauty or meaning that any of us will ever have; the dead can't have fun. The very possibility of goodness, as such, rests on life. We should want the good (whatever extent is possible to us, in whatever form) because it is good. There is no inherent meaning built into life; only what we give it, by the way we spend it. Each of us invents the meaning of his own life (usually not intentionally). To want the best in all things, day after day, is to value your own meaning and your self. To hold onto that desire against hardships and adversity only multiplies your glory when they end but you don't. To give it all up over pain or ugliness is to incorporate that ugliness into your own identity and make it your meaning - and nothing could be uglier than that. When someone says "there is no good" or "it's just not worth it" it speaks less to the nature of reality than to the nature of their soul. That's where the bottom of it seems to be. Not in "life, if you want it" nor in "values, if you hold them" but the very possibility of goodness, as such (if there is ever to be such a thing as "the good"). Sorry for all the poetry.
  4. Of course. I am, in all likelihood, about to do the very same things. There's a time to take great, cautious deliberations in these things and a time to "take chances, make mistakes and get messy", and I believe we've arrived at the latter. Besides, I'm no stranger to 'rough rhetoric.' No. What Sweeney Todd experienced was not 'joy' in the sense we mean it; it was not a healthy or life-affirming thing, nor is a life devoted to revenge a true and flourishing life. In a sense, although his heart beat until the very end of the movie, I believe he died in that scene - and this is the very sort of 'suicide' which I am condemning (the fundamental thing). Hold on.
  5. Hell, yes! I have a thought experiment for you, though. Suppose someone wanted to blow themselves up, along with a number of innocent civilians. Let's say they aren't Muslim (so there isn't necessarily anything crooked in the reasoning behind it); they aren't doing it for 42 virgins, but simply because they want to kill and die. There's no reason for them to think about their own self-interest (since they want to die) nor to respect the rights of anyone else (since they want to die). What, if anything, would be immoral about blowing themselves up? At the end of this song, Todd declares that he's alive and full of joy... But is that true?
  6. In one sense, yes. If I take Advil in order to cure my headache, simply because I have one, I am not necessarily dedicating my entire life to the avoidance of pain. I am not saying "I'll never strive for virtue or greatness again"; all I am saying is "this specific thing hurts, so I'll take this concrete action to fix it". Yes, that's an "ultimate end" in that it is an end in itself, and I see nothing wrong with that. It is not my "ultimate end" as the meaning of my entire life, which would be extremely wrong. Even Howard Roark would put his architecture aside, from time to time, to have sex with Dominique (although he refused to give it up permanently). This is why I keep coming back to the distinction between how we treat our highest, most important goals, and those we hold as part of everyday life. For pain to count in both of these areas would condemn us to a life like Keating's; for it not to count in either, the Black Knight's. Yet those cannot be our only options, and they aren't - so long as we mind that distinction. Absolutely. To endure some pain in order to reach some goal, however, does not mean that the pain doesn't count; if that were the case then there would be nothing to endure; it only means that one holds a pair of mutually exclusive values (or, in this case, a value and a disvalue) and must give the lesser one up for the greater one. Furthermore, if pulling your hand out of a box of pain simply because it hurts constitutes a moral failure, then it's a sin every single human being on Earth has probably committed. I know I have; I suspect you also have. There are people to whom pain truly doesn't count because their ability to sense it was stunted from birth. We don't praise them for it, nor hold them up as moral exemplars; we give them medical attention. It's not a pleasant or happy thing. Now, in one sense it is true that avoiding pain does further one's own happiness, to the extent that it usually prevents damage and injury to one's body (which happens to be my entire point about the Black Knight). However, this is an abstract and conceptual connection, and to assert that every child and anti-conceptual mentality is aware of it is wrong; just as wrong as calling them wrong for removing their hands from hot stoves. Your position, taken as an absolute (as you seem eager to make it), is not tenable. You must either isolate and identify its literal and absolute grain of truth or else continue preaching an overgeneralization which no organism should ever attempt to practice.
  7. No problem. And I realize that it's not a pissing contest. I was not trying to point out that I've endured more than MisterSwig (which, in light of the nerve pain he mentioned, would almost certainly be false) but that I've explained what I did endure, in order to better ground this discussion in reality. In light of his nerve pain, I'm sure his experiences would be infinitely more useful here than my own. I have read the article you linked to. I'm not sure what to say about it, yet; there are a few more things I'm still chewing on.
  8. Yes. There's a difference between errors of ignorance and moral failures, which we'd be very wrong to omit. Even if suicide could be shown to be universally immoral, no such posthumous judgements would follow; like any other moral principle, one would have to carefully apply it to the context of every individual's life. You'd also be absolutely correct if you'd said that my entire epistemic argument revolves around "possibilities and presumptions". It does. That's not a bug, but a feature. Morality is about making choices. When we speak of moral principles, we're speaking of standards by which to judge our own choices and methods for improving them (according to those standards). We don't automatically know the consequences of our choices, in advance; if we did then neither epistemology (with which we predict such consequences) nor morality (with which we weigh them) would have any meaning, whatsoever. All we know about the future are possibilities and presumptions, in varying degrees of clarity and accuracy, and the aim of all such sciences is to improve them (since their quality is literally a matter of life and death). Although I'm usually not comfortable with dividing human inquiry up into separate areas which obey different rules, it does stand to reason that the distinguishing characteristic of "philosophy" is in the identification of those possibilities and presumptions which are universal to every man, in any possible situation. That's our cognitive gold standard. Now, if you were to deny that I've established the universality of some of my claims, you'd be completely correct. That's what I have left to debug, however; not their speculative nature. Certainly. You posited that someone who was completely cut off from reality could still enjoy contemplating the contents of their own cognition, but that content could only be drawn from their experiences in reality. They may choose to rearrange, integrate and restructure it however they pleased, but all of the raw material would have to come from their senses. If all they had to build with was pain and fear then no amount of thinking would transform it into anything else; they would have nothing to contemplate except more pain and fear. Garbage in, garbage out. This is what it means for an experience to provide "spiritual fuel" and what it means for such fuel to run out. Now, the process of burying a mind under such muck is a long, slow, gradual one, which can be resisted for a while; in this sense you're completely correct. But morality (and Egoism in particular) is not about what happens on this or that day, but over the course of an entire lifetime; all of the things which render "lifeboat scenarios" irrelevant also apply to however long a person can choose to be happy in spite of any external torment. Furthermore, if taken as the rule and not as the exception, your scenario amounts to a denial of the relationship between sensation and cognition. Hence the soul-body dichotomy. And to your credit, that error lines up perfectly consistently with quite a number of your statements on this thread (which leads me to suspect that it's an honest mistake, but not an isolated slip of the tongue). I completely agree with the spirit of those statements; that each of us is fundamentally in control of our own destinies and happiness; the masters of our own fate. But that control is not total or unilateral (not even within our own minds) specifically because it's connected to so many external things in so many ways. We accomplish nothing by pretending that the issue is simpler than it really is.
  9. I suppose we ought to celebrate the fact that our current president can openly praise Rand's work, without being tarred and feathered. It's quite a leap from Obama's snide dismissals, a few years ago, and everyone's silence before that. Somehow, though, I don't feel like celebrating quite yet.
  10. Indeed. I do agree that pain is a negative, that any course of action in which one's anticipated values sum to less than zero is wrong and that suicide is moral in any situation in which there is no net-positive course of action. I don't think you should revile her for it or anything like that; the sort of "immorality" I mean just isn't comparable to that of, say, Hitler. Also, regardless of the morality of suicide, I'd like to point out that everyone has the right to die; it's not anyone else's decision to make. We probably also agree on how one ought to feel about self-destruction (of anyone but Hitler). I'm not as sure about Galt's hypothetical suicide, and still less sure about Cheryl Taggart's.
  11. Absolutely. And in that specific sense, I wholeheartedly agree (both in your conclusion and your estimate of its importance). Like "value", what's "important" or "meaningful" depends on your purpose. Information that's relevant to a surgeon may not be relevant to an astrophysicist because they'd use it for different reasons, in pursuit of different goals. And pain is not the meaning of life. It's not relevant to our highest values. It does not matter in the long run, except as a possible impediment to one's pursuit of one's own happiness (and a problem to be disposed of). The fundamental distinction between Roark's response to pain and the Black Knight's is in the range of the goals for which they'll bear it. This is an "important" distinction if our moral code is meant to help real people make real choices, here on planet Earth. Of all the pains I have ever experienced, the achievement of my fullest potential has never been my primary reason for alleviating them. It has been one reason, but never the main one. My primary reason for wanting to avoid pain is because IT HURTS!!!
  12. Indeed! Yes, but I think the necessary context you speak of is extremely wide; enough so that those problems which can't be fixed are a rare exception to the rule. Firstly, technological progress is driven by human beings, and accordingly its velocity can vary as wildly as an individual mind can. During the space race we invented a multitude of new things, in order to land on the moon, which we promptly lost all interest in and basically forgot about until the advent of Elon Musk (who's single-handedly reviving it). Our research into Alzheimer's has no such lack of interest, but is handicapped by its conceptualization as something distinct from "normal aging" (when, in fact, it appears to be all of the same processes happening at an accelerated rate). All of these things (such as proper conceptualization or holding firm to your goals) are within our own control; we can do them right. No, a caveman couldn't leap from a burning stick to an electric light bulb; there are intermediate steps that he'd have to follow. I'd find it highly unlikely for a caveman to single-handedly bound through all those steps, culminating in his invention of the light bulb - but perhaps not impossible, depending on the sort of mind he had. Secondly, there's more than one way to accomplish any given goal. Just because you can't cure a disease doesn't mean you can't suppress its symptoms and get it out of the way. In conjunction, while these facts don't contradict the possibility of an unfixable problem outright, they do lead me to suspect that there can't be very many of them. Yes, but you can still win with a king and a pawn (and with only your king you're still capable of forcing a stalemate). The caveman might be SOL, but I don't know; he could be someone like Imhotep or Hippocrates, who can up and invent such things if he has a good reason to. Sorry about that. I distinctly remember the conclusions I drew in my darkest hour, but I've lost most of the reasoning behind it in this swamp of memnonic gobbledygook; I've been untangling what I can on my cigarette breaks and such. The plan is to get it all boiled down to the bare facts. The entire case I'm building is about why you shouldn't do that!
  13. Please forgive me for having no terrible illness or from which to draw observations or conclusions; not even appendicitis. I do realize that my circumstances were far from "extraordinary" but it didn't seem like anyone else was going to offer any concretely empirical example, at all. Do you have a sufficiently extraordinary tale to share or are you just pontificating on this philosophy forum?
  14. It can be. A person in such a state can grit their teeth and learn to live in such a state, for however long they must, or they can just die. Only one of these choices leaves any possibility of a recovery (while still leaving the alternative of suicide wide open). Death is always a viable option, you know, right up until the moment it happens. There is a real choice to be made, there. I'm not saying that one must necessarily survive as long as absolutely possible. What I am specifically objecting to is this notion that anybody can have "nothing to live for". She would have good reason to go on living, regardless of which option she chose. Well, it serves its purpose, doesn't it? Doesn't it make him feel better? No, not exactly; it makes him feel nothing. It wipes every thought and feeling he's ever had out of existence and destroys everything that was him. Still, a quick and painless oblivion is substantially better than a burning, but I have to wonder (since I haven't seen the movie) whether those were the only options. He was on fire, he knew he had something that'd make it stop and he acted on the first thought that entered his head. Now, I'm not saying he deserves our scorn and moral condemnation (nor that I'd necessarily do better), but I strongly suspect that he could've found a better alternative if he'd had the strength to consider it a moment longer. OK, well, about a year ago I considered committing suicide. I didn't have any crippling or agonizing disease; I had moved back in with my parents, as I was filing for a divorce. I left all of my possessions with my ex-wife, asking her only to give me our son. She refused; sending him, instead, to be raised by her fundamentalist-Christian family. When I arrived at their house, my parents declared that I was mentally defective and that it was their responsibility to fix me. They had devised a system for that purpose. My mother would ask what I thought or felt about something, I would answer and if my answer was deemed incorrect then my father would hurt me, after which my mother would repeat the question. That was how we made my decisions. It wasn't long (a few months or so) after my arrival that I began to be plagued by a constant, burning desire to scream; not to say any particular words, but just to scream at the top of my lungs. It wasn't much later that I started contemplating murder-suicide. It seemed like it had become impossible for me to ever achieve any of the goals I'd chosen, or even to escape; they wouldn't allow me to leave until I was "fixed" and I knew that this meant the unconditional surrender of my mind. It seemed like the only way for me to keep my own identity would be to get into the gun cabinet and blow everyone's brains out. I considered it. What I eventually concluded was that, although it seemed like I had nothing left to live for, it was still possible for me to live a long and prosperous life; that the thing to do was not to lay down and die, but to get up and throw everything I had into getting the Hell out (and that this would still be right even if it wasn't possible for me to flourish); that even if I ended up freezing to death in some gutter, it'd still be a better choice than suicide because it was the only choice that left me any chance of success. Obviously, I escaped, and I saw my son again (who's been teaching his elders a few things in my absence) several weeks ago. I maintain that I made exactly the right choice for exactly the right reasons, and that it doesn't just apply exclusively to me. It's because of that choice that I can slip completely irrelevant YouTube clips into places they have no business being in, whenever I happen to feel like it!
  15. Well, on Alzheimer's... We've already developed certain medications which help with its symptoms, and we know that staying mentally and physically active will significantly slow it down (although it appears that conceptual exersize may help far more than anything else). Part of the difficulty in curing it is that all of its symptoms are also found in healthy brains, to a lesser degree (with the exception of inflammation); like ADHD or bipolar disorder, its only distinction from what healthy people do is one of degree. That being said, we know that the symptoms of Alzheimer's correspond to an increase of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles (as compared to a "normally-aging" brain) and inflammation (which is something your brain simply shouldn't do). A 2008 autopsy of five "super-agers" (who never showed any signs of cognitive decline, throughout their lives) found substantially fewer neurofibrillary tangles than those of a "normally-aging" brain, along with perfectly typical amyloid plaques, which would indicate tau misfolding as the primary cause of all age-related dementias (including those most severe cases of it which we call "Alzheimer's"). There are steps available to those who suffer from Alzheimer's, today, can slow their progression by orders of magnitude. A potential. By persevering through times of pain and anguish we earn a chance to be happy again, later; a chance we forfeit by committing suicide. Our current Alzheimer's medications, for example, can give people an extra year or two of consciousness (or, if it's in addition to certain lifestyle changes, maybe a decade). The time we may gain that way is also a potential; a chance to do something great and noble and beautiful; a bit more time (whether days or decades) with which to enjoy yourself. And I'm not suggesting that we enjoy ourselves while drooling and staring vacantly into space (nor while having our livers eaten by eagles); I mean an extension of our real, conscious, living lives. Whether you're struggling to survive a dictatorship or an aneurysm, the reward you should fight for is one more chance to experience all of the values that life has to offer. That was the opinion expressed in the OP, which I've already refuted. Actually (although this is purely tangential), if the Christians were right and their God had actually created us with our brains and then commanded us not to use them, the only degree of happiness that'd be open to any of us would be in Hell. A "blind rebellion" is superior to (IE leads to more happiness than) blind subservience. Any thing in nature can be controlled, if one understands how it works. From Alzheimer's to light bulbs to cloud seeding to warp drives, an understanding of it leads to a dominion over it. There is no thing in the universe that cannot be understood because contradictions cannot exist. The fact that every thing in the universe is open to our minds means that every thing is also, in principle, subject to our will (specifically the will of whatever individual can understand it). The biblical passage about man being the master of every plant, animal and inanimate object on Earth; its only inaccuracies were that God forgot to mention the lightning and the rain (or rather that we forgot to have the God we invented say it). If you get sick, take the cure. If the roads get covered in ice, spread salt on them. If your neighborhood is polluted with toxins, genetically engineer a microbe to eat them. If the rules of the game you're playing are wrong, change them. If your current conditions do not permit you to be happy, don't throw your own existence away; change them. Create the sort of world you want to live in.
  16. And to be excessively clear: I do not believe there is any situation in which it's impossible for someone to ever be happy again - regardless of their actions. There certainly are situations which will not lead to happiness, if left unchecked or handled stupidly. There is no such thing as a Kobayashi Maru.
  17. How do we know he'll be in despair? I mean, 99 years of constant physical pain is one thing (and even that seems wide open to solution), but 99 years of nonstop despair is quite a claim to make. What if he gets a hobby? What if he falls in love? What if he finds some really good drugs? What if, after the first year, he simply becomes accustomed to the pain and the despair - and they cease to actually impede him? I know this is one of those scientific details, but it's not actually possible to wire neurons up that way; if you keep stimulating one of them day and night, without rest, you'll kill that synapse and numb it to your stimulation. And the fact that individual neurons cannot receive a certain stimulus constantly, in perpetuity, provides ample grounds to question whether an entire brain could. I suspect you'd just stop caring about it, eventually. But this is why I'd like to get into some real-world examples.
  18. No, I think that is the central issue; I'm only postponing it because the epistemological part is both simpler and more fundamental. My primary argument (which I am still working up to) concerns precisely that. Well - yeah. Any morality that commands its adherents to suffer for the sake of suffering, itself, isn't worth any further consideration. I don't believe anyone has suggested that; even the strategy outlined in the OP was predicated on the (wrong) belief that it'd result in the happiness of the practitioner. And to be clear, I'm not proposing that anybody owes it to the universe to survive. I'm proposing that they owe it to themselves. As you pointed out, though, this is not to be taken lightly; it is, in fact, the weightiest matter anyone has or will ever consider. Nothing else even comes close. In law, we recognize that we cannot sentence another human being to death unless we know them to be completely irredeemable, without any shadow of a reasonable doubt. Shouldn't we pass the verdicts of our own lives with much higher standards than we'd use for any random psychopath? I agree, wholeheartedly. Let's delve into that. If you can find any situation in which we could know someone to be doomed to permanent misery, regardless of their actions, I'll concede the point. Since my point is that no such cases exist, a single example would suffice. You mentioned Alzheimer's, earlier. Let me brush up on the medical details and we can examine (probably in its own thread) whether or not it constitutes an unwinnable scenario.
  19. If you're thinking of the OP, it's possible, but either way it's not the essential problem with the original argument. In saying that even torture can be good, depending on what you spend that time contemplating, Epistemologue was chopping the realm of values in two (introspective and extraspective) and declaring that only one half actually matters; that while we may hold utilitarian goals in the other, they can only be means to the ends of the first, and never ends in themselves. This is a perfectly straightforward and internally consistent application of the soul-body split to the Objectivist Ethics. So I think there's a bit more to it than that, and although Epistemologue provided such an excellent example (sorry, E) it also seems to be an extremely common mistake; I suspect we'll be discussing it again at some point. It doesn't necessarily mean anything about suicide, though, and I have some alternative arguments to offer. Yes, she probably did, but still I disagree. Chess is a game of "perfect information" in that everybody can see the position of every piece. In theory, all the information either player might need is right there, in front of them. Yet there are mistakes, gambles, ploys, traps, and disguises; every shade and variation of uncertainty springs naturally from a game with allegedly perfect information, simply because we're fallible. It's often the case that what may seem at first glance like an unwinnable scenario, on closer inspection, turns out to not even be problematic. However, life is not quite like Chess; it's far more complicated and involves plenty of hidden variables; it's a game of extraordinarily imperfect information. And if it's difficult to judge the final outcome of the former then how much more difficult is it to predict the latter? Under what circumstances can we actually declare that someone will never again be happy, epistemologically speaking? Isn't a simulated value -although not as good as the value, itself- better than no values at all?
  20. Absolutely. And if you could show me a situation in which someone had no hope at all for any sort of joy, somewhere down the road, then I'd happily concede the morality of their suicide. So did my grandmother (and my mother had the same request for my siblings and I). For me, since Alzheimer's runs in my family and I've done plenty of heavy drinking (which, combined, make me almost certain to get it at some point), I've asked my closest friends to play Chess with me regularly, when I start to lose myself. That, along with certain dietary changes (which escape my memory, at present ), seems to significantly slow the process. If I was in chronic pain, I'd seek medical treatment. If I was in captivity, being tortured day and night, I'd seek to escape. Even without any cure, though; even if consigned to a permanent state of pain... We, in Objectivists circles, tend to give drug addicts a lot of flak. And for the most part, this is for good reason; they're crippling their only means of survival. However, if survival as "man qua man" ever becomes too painful to endure, isn't semi-consciousness Objectively better than the total and permanent blank of death? If it's wrong to partially destroy one's own brain then how can it be good to completely destroy it?
  21. It is possible to do otherwise; to mentally isolate the pain and disconnect it from one's self, refusing to take it seriously. We teach certain members of our armed forces to do this (the ones who're likely to actually be tortured) and I believe they teach similar exercises to pregnant women, for labor and delivery. However, even if one is using such a technique to control the pain, the whole of one's consciousness is still focused on it (which makes it hard to even contemplate anything pleasurable). Furthermore, as a general rule one shouldn't just shrug off any little pain one might experience on a daily basis (even if you can). I think Rearden's story demonstrates exactly where that policy leads. This is why I keep mentioning Rearden. Self-esteem comes from living up to your own moral code (regardless of which code you've accepted). To achieve your self-esteem at the price of unbearable pain doesn't sound healthy, non-contradictory or life-affirming at all, to me; it sounds a like a moral code that asks you to value the frustration of your values. Virtue is not its own reward; life and happiness are supposed to be the rewards that come from virtue. If you're practicing a virtue that brings you nothing but pain, as payment for your integrity, then I say you're better off ditching it. To paraphrase a more eloquent summary: 'What would you tell Atlas if you saw him; knees buckling, blood running down his chest; still struggling to hold the world with the last of his strength?' This is what I would actually dispute. I agree with Epistemologue, not because of any alleged value in martyrdom (martyrs don't mix well with Egoism) but because, as long as we are alive, I don't believe there is any pain that cannot be ended; no torment that can truly be final. There is no such thing as a Kobayashi Maru.
  22. Values do not exist in a vacuum. In our every waking moment we hold a multitude of goals, desires, hopes and fears; everything from satiating one's physical hunger to creating the content of one's character. That is not optional. To disvalue pain and act to address it is metaphysically optional, but morally mandatory. The alternative is illustrated by Monty Python's Black Knight, whose absurdity is obvious. When Galt says "you exist for the sake of avoiding punishment; we exist for the sake of achieving rewards" the issue he indicates is not a binary question of which values to hold and which to discard, but a matter of primacy; of how to prioritize our values and commensurate disvalues, neither of which may be discarded altogether. It is a principle to guide the formation of a rational valuative hierarchy. To make the elimination of suffering your highest value is to attempt to stand still and hold yourself in a certain state of affairs. But life is motion; just as a single-celled amoeba or a corporation must pursue its values and expand its efficacy or else perish, so must a mind go on growing or else rot. Life does not permit stagnation. This is why we must prioritize our values and disvalues in the manner implied in Galt's speech. Now, the question of whether suicide can be moral is also about how to form a rational hierarchy of values, and the first step in answering it is to identify the values and disvalues involved. You already started that in the OP but I fear I'm out of time; I'll have to come back to it, soon.
  23. Would be. My reason for asking questions like that is that sometimes people (particularly moral and rational people) accidentally imply errors which, if named explicitly, they'd drop like a hot potato.
  24. That depends on what kind of pain you mean. When we say that "pain doesn't matter", that's conceptual shorthand for a much more complex and nuanced attitude (as exemplified by Rand's heroes). There was one character in Atlas Shrugged who would literally bear an unlimited amount of pain for whatever meager amount of joy he might experience - Hank Rearden. And that was what made him the guiltiest man at Taggart's wedding. As I said, you are onto something (which I'll come back to, shortly), but it's not as simple as "pain just doesn't matter". There are important details which, if omitted in haste, will leave us unable to identify what's wrong with this picture: But are all sensations equally pleasurable?
  25. Yes. More specifically, pleasure tells us what is of value; what is worth pursuing. It is true that sheer physical pleasure, without the application of reason, does not tell us how to survive as human beings; the fact that Coke tastes good will not enable us to create a single sugarcane, let alone the complex industrial process required to manufacture Coke. However, our very first acquaintance with "value" and the foundation of any higher values must ultimately come from physical sensations such as pleasure. I don't believe so. Evil is, in fact, a zero (the negation of virtue); pain is a negative value, in the same way and for the same reasons that pleasure is the original value. When a child touches a hot stove, they instantly receive a directly-percievable motivation to act. The pain tells them that their course of action was wrong; that they must immediately change it and remember to avoid it, from then on. If the pain was a zero then they wouldn't feel anything about it; it wouldn't even register as relevant information. If the pain of touching a hot stove is the negation of some other value then - which one? It's not a negation of cookies, bicycles, Lego's, or anything else a child may value. The only thing that would make any sense would be to call it "a negation of having healthy fingers" and -although most adults can grasp and hold such a value- to assert that very small children also somehow know this would seem to stretch either "knowledge" or "value" to the point of losing any specific meaning. This line of reasoning can be extended quite naturally into more complex and abstract values (where "ethics" and "virtue" come into play). If you have a headache, it is right to take some painkillers (just as it's right to wash them down with whatever you prefer to drink). If you're hungry, it is right to find a job. If your wife has just given away her bracelet of Rearden Metal, it is right to spit in her face. Notice that for each example there are right courses of action (those which eliminate whatever is hurting) and that the evil consists of failing to do these; a negation. The pain itself, however, is not. --- I do think you're onto something, there, only it isn't that pain is a zero; it's that pain is (and ought to be) less important than pleasure. Pain exists and ought to be avoided - just not at the price of your pleasure. Disvalues are not to be negated at the price of true values.