Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Eiuol

Why is life not intrinsically good?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

It's silly even to say that life can be intrinsically valuable. The very fact that people choose to commit suicide and sometimes do so for very good reasons (they are in intolerable pain, for instance) means that life, their life, is no longer of any value to them--it is a heavy weight that they no longer feel strong enough to carry.

So, no, life is not "intrinsically" valuable. It is the standard of value and necessary for the formulation of ethics--meaning that a proper ethics is structured to sustain life. Suicides don't need or want ethics, they have stepped outside of the need for a guide to living and seek only an exit.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I disagree, and the simple argument that people commit suicide does mean that life is not intrinsically valuable. many people have a hard time understanding the facts of reality and therefore do not recognize things with intrinsic values. i do not believe that there is any logical contradiction inherent value of life but i am definitely open to be proven wrong if there is

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree, and the simple argument that people commit suicide does mean that life is not intrinsically valuable. many people have a hard time understanding the facts of reality and therefore do not recognize things with intrinsic values. i do not believe that there is any logical contradiction inherent value of life but i am definitely open to be proven wrong if there is

If a person commits suicide, they have not chosen life. Thus life has no value to such an individual.

Choosing life is a pre-rational and also pre-ethical, which is a big part of why life isn't intrinsically good. Morality's standard is life, but before anyone has chosen life, you can't say they should or should not choose life. Making this fundamental choice is what then allows you to say life is good and valuable, in addition to the fact that life is good for a particular person. Before that choice is made though, life cannot be evaluated as good or bad. Why people, as babies, tend to choose life in the first place before they have developed any values may be a difficult question to answer, though. I suppose it is because it's the easiest choice to make, as all your organs function whether you like it or not, in the sense that your heart beats whether or not you tell it to.

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
If a person commits suicide, they have not chosen life. Thus life has no value to such an individual.

Choosing life is a pre-rational and also pre-ethical, which is a big part of why life isn't intrinsically good. Morality's standard is life, but before anyone has chosen life, you can't say they should or should not choose life. Making this fundamental choice is what then allows you to say life is good and valuable, in addition to the fact that life is good for a particular person. Before that choice is made though, life cannot be evaluated as good or bad. Why people, as babies, tend to choose life in the first place before they have developed any values may be a difficult question to answer, though. I suppose it is because it's the easiest choice to make, as all your organs function whether you like it or not, in the sense that your heart beats whether or not you tell it to.

I still have issue with the fact that while one does not act to gain life, one still acts to keep it. if you are given something (ie, you do not act to gain it) but then act to keep it, does that thing not have value?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree, and the simple argument that people commit suicide does mean that life is not intrinsically valuable. many people have a hard time understanding the facts of reality and therefore do not recognize things with intrinsic values. i do not believe that there is any logical contradiction inherent value of life but i am definitely open to be proven wrong if there is
Here are some simple examples that refute the concept of "intrinsic value". Salt water is good for a salt-water fish, and deadly to a fresh-water fish. And vice versa. Chocolate of good for people and bad for dogs. The lives of Adolf Hitler and Kim Jong-il are good only for those individuals, and not good for any other human being. As a starter, you have to grasp the fact that a thing is only good to an individual for a purpose. "Intrinsic good" would mean something that is universally good, to all people and for all purposes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
But life is not a value just because you happen to have it.

Life is not a value just because it fell on your lap as a gift from your parents.

A value is a value because you choose to pursue it, to gain it or, having gained it, to keep it.

That life you are referring to, which is a precondition, a metaphysically given, is not a value unless man turns it into a value. There has to be a volitional exercise of man's mind, expressed in concrete actions: "I choose life, and I am doing this for my love to it"

The value is what one acts on in order to gain and /or to keep it. It doesn't mean than each and every such an action has always to be volitional. In the case of life many such actions are automatic, vegetative, like breathing for example One can volitionally stop to breathe only for very short period. Man isn't alive by choice, but exactly because he happens to be alive. He may choose to die, but that would require from him a complicated action of his mind and body. Therefore even if one negates the value of life, he has to use its qualities for this very purpose, in other words he has to recognize, that life has value, in spite of his denial. The meaning of this situation is that life has axiomatic, undeniable value, value in itself or intrinsic value. Usually valuator is separated from the thing of value. In the case of life value and valuator are the same inseparable entity. If one values his life he's an entity who possesses a value of himself, in other words his life has intrinsic value. This is the metaethical basis for rational egoism and self-esteem. Even if he doesn't, life is still valuable since he has to act in order to keep it if only for a period which is needed to end it.

Edited by Leonid

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Why people, as babies, tend to choose life in the first place before they have developed any values may be a difficult question to answer, though. I suppose it is because it's the easiest choice to make, as all your organs function whether you like it or not, in the sense that your heart beats whether or not you tell it to.

Babies do not truly "choose" life. They cannot tell themselves "I have decided that it is about time for another breast feeding session".

Babies, as other animals, seek survival, without truly choosing life. They seek it through physiological mechanisms outside the realm of volition.

The same can be said about an ameba.

Having said that, it is fair to admit that babies do not settle with this. They start early enough to identify themselves as beings living a separate life from their mothers and other people. They quickly begin to understand that they are capable of self-sustaining actions, like crying. If they cry loud enough and longer enough and with certain pitch, the mother will come and feed them. By the time they are two and begin to speak, they are able to form sentences containing "I " or "me" or even "mine". They are ready to start making basic choices. And from that time onwards, they will now live only if they choose to live.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
. Even if he doesn't, life is still valuable since he has to act in order to keep it if only for a period which is needed to end it.

Hence, it has no intrinsic value, or he would act to gain or keep it over death. The fact that he is seeking to END life demonstrates why that is NOT intrinsically valuable. You keep demonstrate why life is valuable in a specific context, not how it is valuable, at all times, to all people, for all purposes; in other words, intrinsically. You seem to be overlooking that once you go about setting up a context in which life is valuable, you are negating the intrinsic characteristic you are trying to prove.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Man isn't alive by choice, but exactly because he happens to be alive.

Man remains alive entirely by choice. His biological functions alone are not enough to keep him going. He must act by choice. Even further, to live qua man, he must act on specific rational choices, ones which do not come automatically to him.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The value of life is inescapable even for suicide bomber.

A suicide bomber has chosen to accomplish something with his death. He has chosen some purpose which involves being alive.

"Someone who does not choose life in any respect" doesn't just mean someone who chooses to bring about their own death; that suicidal someone has placed some value on their life as an instrument to achieving something. "Someone who doesn't choose life" means someone taking no actions, accepting no purposes, valuing nothing. This person is theoretically possible, and life for them would have no value. Life is only valuable to those with purposes, and purposes are chosen, so life is not intrinsic.

Edited by Dante

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
He may choose to die, but that would require from him a complicated action of his mind and body.

Just sitting there isn't complicated, and that will eventually bring about one's death.

Therefore even if one negates the value of life, he has to use its qualities for this very purpose, in other words he has to recognize, that life has value, in spite of his denial.

That is exactly why we don't consider suicidal people to have consistently placed no value in life; it is only one who adopts no purposes at all, and therefore takes no purposeful action (killing oneself included) that life truly has no value.

The meaning of this situation is that life has axiomatic, undeniable value, value in itself or intrinsic value. Usually valuator is separated from the thing of value. In the case of life value and valuator are the same inseparable entity. If one values his life he's an entity who possesses a value of himself, in other words his life has intrinsic value. This is the metaethical basis for rational egoism and self-esteem. Even if he doesn't, life is still valuable since he has to act in order to keep it if only for a period which is needed to end it.

This argument presupposes that man has some purposes, even if they involve killing himself. However, purposes are chosen. They are adopted through volition. One need not take any purposes at all. It is this adopting of purpose which gives value to life; it is not intrinsic to man, valuable regardless of whether he adopts purposes or not. He must adopt some purpose to make life valuable for fulfilling that purpose.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just sitting there isn't complicated, and that will eventually bring about one's death.

Exactly. In fact, politically it has a name; hunger strike. :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
The value is what one acts on in order to gain and /or to keep it. It doesn't mean than each and every such an action has always to be volitional. In the case of life many such actions are automatic, vegetative, like breathing for example One can volitionally stop to breathe only for very short period. Man isn't alive by choice, but exactly because he happens to be alive. He may choose to die, but that would require from him a complicated action of his mind and body. Therefore even if one negates the value of life, he has to use its qualities for this very purpose, in other words he has to recognize, that life has value, in spite of his denial. The meaning of this situation is that life has axiomatic, undeniable value, value in itself or intrinsic value. Usually valuator is separated from the thing of value. In the case of life value and valuator are the same inseparable entity. If one values his life he's an entity who possesses a value of himself, in other words his life has intrinsic value. This is the metaethical basis for rational egoism and self-esteem. Even if he doesn't, life is still valuable since he has to act in order to keep it if only for a period which is needed to end it.

I agree, one's self and one's life are inseparable, for that reason anyone who value's their self, even at a very minor/subconscious level is placing value on life itself. the concept of value is not possible without the concept of life. the value of life is axiomatic.. you cannot dispute it without first accepting the premise.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree, one's self and one's life are inseparable, for that reason anyone who value's their self, even at a very minor/subconscious level is placing value on life itself. the concept of value is not possible without the concept of life. the value of life is axiomatic.. you cannot dispute it without first accepting the premise.

I cannot argue against the value of my own life without implicitly accepting some value in my own life, if only for the purpose of argument. I value arguing, I therefore must value the life that I do it with. I have implicitly accepted the value of life for a particular purpose which I have placed value in. So... how exactly do I have to assume that life is intrinsically valuable (i.e. without reference to a purpose) by using it for a purpose (to argue against intrinsic value).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I cannot argue against the value of my own life without implicitly accepting some value in my own life, if only for the purpose of argument. I value arguing, I therefore must value the life that I do it with. I have implicitly accepted the value of life for a particular purpose which I have placed value in. So... how exactly do I have to assume that life is intrinsically valuable (i.e. without reference to a purpose) by using it for a purpose (to argue against intrinsic value).

I'm sorry, was that last question rhetorical? haha, I'm a little confused

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Hence, it has no intrinsic value, or he would act to gain or keep it over death. The fact that he is seeking to END life demonstrates why that is NOT intrinsically valuable. You keep demonstrate why life is valuable in a specific context, not how it is valuable, at all times, to all people, for all purposes; in other words, intrinsically. You seem to be overlooking that once you go about setting up a context in which life is valuable, you are negating the intrinsic characteristic you are trying to prove.

Intrinsic value doesn't mean value "at all times, to all people, for all purposes;” it only means value in itself. In the case of life value and valuator cannot be separated. As long as valuator is alive he acts in order to sustain it, even if he's unconscious. In other words life has build-in mechanisms for self-valuation, regardless to the valuator's choice of value-standard. This is sine qua none of intrinsic value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Intrinsic value doesn't mean value "at all times, to all people, for all purposes;” it only means value in itself.

I agree, there seems to be some misuse of the term "intrinsic" in this thread. in these cases (all places, all times, all people) i believe the term that should be used is "universal" not "intrinsic"

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Intrinsic value doesn't mean value "at all times, to all people, for all purposes;” it only means value in itself. In the case of life value and valuator cannot be separated.

On the contrary, when you say it has value "in itself" you are separating that value from the valuator. These two sentences contradict each other.

In other words life has build-in mechanisms for self-valuation, regardless to the valuator's choice of value-standard.

This again contradicts the idea that life has value "in itself", and again demonstrates a separation between the value and the valuator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On the contrary, when you say it has value "in itself" you are separating that value from the valuator. These two sentences contradict each other.

This again contradicts the idea that life has value "in itself", and again demonstrates a separation between the value and the valuator.

I disagree. I think, and if im wrong then please correct me Leonid, that life has intrinsic value specifically BECAUSE you cannot separate the value and the valuator. in this way the value of life becomes axiomatic, a being without the value being held would have no ability to judge it as valuable or not, because it would have no life.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Intrinsic value doesn't mean value "at all times, to all people, for all purposes;” it only means value in itself. In the case of life value and valuator cannot be separated. As long as valuator is alive he acts in order to sustain it, even if he's unconscious. In other words life has build-in mechanisms for self-valuation, regardless to the valuator's choice of value-standard. This is sine qua none of intrinsic value.

But it is precisely the case that for man, not all such mechanisms for self-preservation are automatic. Specifically, his rationality is not, and this is what makes man special, and what creates the need to choose to value himself.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Cmac19 " life has intrinsic value specifically BECAUSE you cannot separate the value and the valuator. "

That right. Here is another line of argument in favor of life's intrinsic value. Life, any life (not only human) is " a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action."(GS). "“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep." (VOS). That means life is a process of self-generated actions in order to gain and keep itself. In other words, by definition life is a process of self-generated values or intrinsic values.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Cmac19 " life has intrinsic value specifically BECAUSE you cannot separate the value and the valuator. "

That right. Here is another line of argument in favor of life's intrinsic value. Life, any life (not only human) is " a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action."(GS). "“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep." (VOS). That means life is a process of self-generated actions in order to gain and keep itself. In other words, by definition life is a process of self-generated values or intrinsic values.

When Ayn Rand differentiated her view on value from intrinsic value theory, she clearly stated that she was defining the idea of intrinsic value as "possessing value regardless of the purposes and goals of the valuators." She would not have disagreed with the proposition that the presence of the value "life" always requires an organism which is alive, in which such "life" inheres. Your argument and her own are in agreement that life is automatically pursued by the biological workings of organisms (excepting man's rationality, which is subject to volition); you choose to call this type of value "intrinsic" for some reason. Okay... but you're no longer arguing with her; you're no longer defending the "intrinsic" value concept which she opposed. You're simply renaming a property of some values, such as life, from "self-generated" to "intrinsic." I don't understand the motivation behind this redefinition, but you've left the intrinsic-subjective-objective value debate for a different debate, one about how some values are always present when there is a valuator (namely life), while others are more easily separable from a valuator (I can lose a material value without losing my ability to value). That's an important distinction to make, but it's not usually referred to as a distinction between "intrinsic" and non-intrinsic in Objectivist discussions. Additionally, intrinsic value has been used quite commonly to refer to a different concept. I'd find a better word than intrinsic to refer to a value which must always be present in any given valuator.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
When Ayn Rand differentiated her view on value from intrinsic value theory, she clearly stated that she was defining the idea of intrinsic value as "possessing value regardless of the purposes and goals of the valuators."

So is your argument then that life's value is dependent upon any individuals desire to value it? if that is the case then how does your decision to value your own life super-cede any other persons decision that your life is not valuable at all? if the value of life is conditional and subjective then how does the concept of objective rights evolve out of the nature of the value of life?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I disagree. I think, and if im wrong then please correct me Leonid, that life has intrinsic value specifically BECAUSE you cannot separate the value and the valuator. in this way the value of life becomes axiomatic, a being without the value being held would have no ability to judge it as valuable or not, because it would have no life.

You're forgetting that plenty of people don't value their own life. What happens to your intrinsic value theory in their case?

So is your argument then that life's value is dependent upon any individuals desire to value it? if that is the case then how does your decision to value your own life super-cede any other persons decision that your life is not valuable at all?

It doesn't supersede it. To plenty of people my life is not valuable at all, and I'm fine with that. In fact, I prefer it that way.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×