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Why is life not intrinsically good?

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

simply because people choose not to recognize the value does not prove that it does not exist. plenty of people believe that the law of identity is false and logic is an irrelevant form of knowledge.. that doesnt change the axiomatic nature of either.

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.

you still havent answered my question of how objective rights are developed out of a life who's value is subjective

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you still havent answered my question of how objective rights are developed out of a life who's value is subjective

That may be because you haven't demonstrated how the choice to live is necessarily subjective as opposed to being based on an objective set of facts known to the valuer. You have merely auggested (or asserted) that the value of life is conditional and subjective, you haven't shown that it is.

Edited by RationalBiker

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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?

No, I have simply argued that for any individual person, their life is their core value, provided that they have some form of goals or purposes. People must choose to value their own lives, with purposeful action, in order to concretize the obligations of ethics. Ethics only applies once a person has chosen to live.

Rights do not arise from this same choice which forms the base of ethics. Rights are a political notion, which comes at a later stage in the chain of reasoning. This is because your choosing to live only confers value on your own life. At this point in the argument, other people haven't entered into it at all.

Once we establish that their own life has ultimate value for any rational being that adopts goals or purposes, we can then look at what people need to do in order to gain the value of their own lives. We find that pursuing the value of life means more than simply ensuring that we will be breathing for the next five minutes; it requires a person act with long-term goals and purposes, be able to produce the values his or her life needs; it requires someone who values themselves completely and consciously (this is not the same as placing some implicit value in your own life by virtue of having purposes; here we're talking about having a strong and complete sense of self-worth)... all the things that the Objectivist ethics elucidates.

Once all of that stuff is established, we can then ask about interaction with others. We find that in order for people to gain true values, they must consciously choose to pursue those values and understand how they relate to life. No person can be sustained, long-term, by another. Each requires the freedom to think for himself and bring his thoughts into physical reality in order to flourish. Thus, each person needs rights as a necessary condition for sustaining life long-term.

Thus, there is a long chain of reasoning separating the initial choice to live, which forms the basis for ethics and establishes each individual's ultimate value, from the conclusion that human beings need rights as a necessary condition for gaining values in a social context. You cannot simply jump to rights by saying people "choose to value others' lives." That is not the basis for rights. I have rights whether or not psychopaths and evil men choose to value my life, because objective human flourishing requires the presence of rights.

I've given an incredibly abridged version of the logic that leads from the choice to live, through ethics, to the political concept of rights. If you wish much more detail, I suggest The Virtue of Selfishness, and Tara Smith's works Viable Values (which is about the basis of ethics) and Moral Rights and Political Freedoms, which establishes the basis for rights from an Objectivist point of view.

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Dante:"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, "

Intrinsic value means value in itself, and in the case of life, values which sustain life cannot be separated from it. I prefer to call life-values intrinsic because that gives good, rational explanation why life and only life is the standard of value. (SOV). Life is SOV because life-values are axiomatic, irreducible primaries on which all other values depend. The reason why all other standards which are acceptable today as VOS (like god, state, society, future, race, ecology etc...) cannot perform this function is exactly because they are not intrinsic and depend on intrinsic value of life.

Edited by Leonid

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Dante:"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, "

Intrinsic value means value in itself, and in the case of life, values which sustain life cannot be separated from it. I prefer to call life-values intrinsic because that gives good, rational explanation why life and only life is the standard of value. (SOV). Life is SOV because life-values are axiomatic, irreducible primaries on which all other values depend. The reason why all other standards which acceptable today as VOS (like god, state, society, future, race, ecology etc...) cannot perform this function is exactly because they are not intrinsic and depend on intrinsic value of life.

How are "life-values," which you seem to define as values which sustain life, different from the "other values" on which they depend? Objective values are always life-promoting; that's why they're values.

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Dante :"How are "life-values," which you seem to define as values which sustain life, different from the "other values" on which they depend?

Other values are not primaries and could be reduced to the ultimate value which is life itself. Ayn Rand observed that "The intrinsic theory holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness." (“What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 22). Even if for some reason one decides to negate the value of life, in order to do so he has to be alive, in other words such a decision would be contradictory. That means value of life is irrefutable, independent from man's consciousness and therefore intrinsic. Unlike other values which are matter of choice, value of life itself is metaphysically given since life is a process to gain and keep itself.

Edited by Leonid

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Other values are not primaries and could be reduced to the ultimate value which is life itself. Ayn Rand observed that "The intrinsic theory holds that the good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness." (“What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 22).

Okay, so when you say "life-values," you mean life. Well, I agree that other values derive from the ultimate value of one's own life, but if that's the only life-value, I'd drop the term in favor of just life.

Even if for some reason one decides to negate the value of life, in order to do so he has to be alive, in other words such a decision would be contradictory. That means value of life is irrefutable, independent from man's consciousness and therefore intrinsic. Unlike other values which are matter of choice, value of life itself is metaphysically given.

Why should someone who rejects the value of life care about such a contradiction?

We all agree that contradictions cannot exist in reality. Thus, if we want to remain in reality, we should purge contradictions from our thinking as well, in order that our knowledge and values become more in line with reality. We would do this because this is a good strategy for remaining alive, when it is given that reality has no contradictions. However, there is only a reason to do this for people who wish to remain in reality; i.e., remain alive. If one wishes to die, there is no reason to care that you must use your life in order to die. It is the choice to live, the choice to remain in reality, which makes morality and reason binding on us. This is why the choice to remain in reality provides the foundation of the importance of reason and morality; it provides the reason that we should care at all.

Edited by Dante

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"If one wishes to die, there is no reason to care that you must use your life in order to die.” Indeed. I just brought this up as an example of independence of the value of life from the consciousness. Objectively life is valuable even to suicide bomber. He has to be alive in order to complete his mission. If, say, before mission he becomes sick, must probably he would seek the best available treatment in order to get well soon, so he would be able to proceed with his mission.

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"If one wishes to die, there is no reason to care that you must use your life in order to die.” Indeed. I just brought this up as an example of independence of the value of life from the consciousness. Objectively life is valuable even to suicide bomber. He has to be alive in order to complete his mission. If, say, before mission he becomes sick, must probably he would seek the best available treatment in order to get well soon, so he would be able to proceed with his mission.

I've already spoken about the suicide bomber example, I believe, where I tried to make the distinction between consciously valuing life and implicitly valuing life in some respect. I'll try to be more clear and connect that point with what I just said.

For any person that has any purposes at all, any whatsoever, they implicitly place value on their own life, if only as a means to whatever their end is. So, if I have purposes, I implicitly value life.

It is possible for my conscious purposes to conflict with the implicit value I have placed on life. This is the case of the suicide bomber. Here, the suicide bomber holds a contradiction in his thinking and in his hierarchy of values. Any person who does not wholly and explicitly value life holds a contradiction in their hierarchy of values.

We still must have a reason, as people, to care about such a contradiction. For people who explicitly value life (albeit inconsistently), there is a basis for caring about the contradiction. If they wish to remain alive, they must deal with the contradiction, because their values must be realistic in order to attain their explicit goals (remaining alive), and reality contains no contradictions.

Someone who does not explicitly value their own life in any respect wishes to die. He or she still holds a contradiction but has no reason to care. There is no way to reason this person into choosing life or rejecting the contradiction between implicit valuation of life and explicit rejection of it.

In all of the cases above, we are dealing with people with purposes. People who implicitly value life in some respect. If that were the only possible theoretical case, you might just successfully argue that life has intrinsic value. However, that is not the only possible case.

Someone devoid of any purposes, disinclined to take any conscious goal-oriented action whatsoever, places no value on life, implicit or explicit. I have never met someone like this, and never expect to. However, the case is theoretically possible. Adoption of goals is a conscious choice, and as such, either option is possible. Everyone who avoids this state of being devoid of purpose has done so by, consciously or unconsciously, accepting the value of life. They have accepted purposes and thus accepted life in some implicit fashion. Without this acceptance, life has no value.

Thus, simply because everyone you have ever met has placed instrumental value on their own life does not mean that it is theoretically impossible for a person to exist who places no value whatsoever on their life. Just because everyone ends up placing some value on life does not mean that they had no other choice. They did have another choice; it is possible to fail to adopt any purposes; the value is not intrinsic; it depends on a choice which everyone makes.

You essentially say this yourself, in your "getting sick" example. He would seek treatment, because he has adopted some purpose (blowing himself up) which he needs to be alive for. Without this purpose, he would have no reason to seek treatment.

Edited by Dante

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The topic of this thread is “Why is life not intrinsically good?” My claim that it is. Please note, we are not discussing the conscious life but life as such. Every living organism inherently has a purpose-life itself. Life is an self-generated action of the living entity to gain and keep values. Since one cannot separate the living actor from the process of life, life has a value in itself, that is-intrinsic value. If one explicitly or implicitly denies value of life he simply fakes reality, since even in order to do so he has to be alive. That makes value of life axiomatic, irrefutable and irreducible. Maybe life should be defined as basic axiom and consciousness as life's corollary since only living entities could be conscious and consciousness as faculty of life is reducible to it.

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There is what some philosophers call the "ontological good" and then the "ethical good".

If you give life the meaning of biological life, all living things are ontologically good, as they seek to keep alive.

Sheep, sequoias and amebas are all good.

They all act according to their nature, which axiomatically leads them to seek life, or, if we want to use the term, to "value" life.

Human volitional conciousness brings, however, an unusual twist in context and meaning of life, value, and goodness.

By having volition, man can alter his biological nature. Man has to choose life as a value. Man has entered into a new dimension: the ethical one.

In Ethics, all actions aiming at keeping alive are the result of choices.

So, if you want to say "life has intrinsic value" you are talking in metaphysical terms.

If you say "life has value for those who value it" you are talking in ethical terms.

Things pertaining to men have to be not only metaphysical but ethical as well.

Man's nature is not only dictated by his genes and external influences but, in a more fundamental fashion, by his choices.

Therefore, when talking about the value of man's life, in opposition to a dog's life, life cannot be considered to have intrinsic value.

Edited by Hotu Matua

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"If one wishes to die, there is no reason to care that you must use your life in order to die.” Indeed. I just brought this up as an example of independence of the value of life from the consciousness. Objectively life is valuable even to suicide bomber. He has to be alive in order to complete his mission. If, say, before mission he becomes sick, must probably he would seek the best available treatment in order to get well soon, so he would be able to proceed with his mission.

This is perverse. The suicide bomber is an example of not valuing life. Objectively, human life is lived on the long term. Suicide missions are not compatible with life in the long run.

The topic of this thread is “Why is life not intrinsically good?” My claim that it is. Please note, we are not discussing the conscious life but life as such. Every living organism inherently has a purpose-life itself. Life is an self-generated action of the living entity to gain and keep values. Since one cannot separate the living actor from the process of life, life has a value in itself, that is-intrinsic value. If one explicitly or implicitly denies value of life he simply fakes reality, since even in order to do so he has to be alive. That makes value of life axiomatic, irrefutable and irreducible. Maybe life should be defined as basic axiom and consciousness as life's corollary since only living entities could be conscious and consciousness as faculty of life is reducible to it.

The error here is that "intrinsic value" also claims to be universal value, but value is always relative to a particular valuer. One might say a tree values its own life, but I value my life when I chop it down to build a house or a fire. Each living organism's values are its own values, held privately not universally.

edit: You might want to consider the difference between the words intrinsic and inherent. I would agree value is inherent in living organisms, but not intrinsic.

Edited by Grames

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I love how the people who are claiming that life is "intrinsically" good in this thread are using the term "value" INTERCHANGEABLY as a noun and a verb and ascribing AUTOMATIC VOLUNTARY ACTION (i.e. the VERB) to someone on the basis that they have someTHING which OTHER PEOPLE WOULD CONSIDER A VALUE, THE NOUN. This entire thread is nothing but a tremendous rationalistic pile.

Think for just a second what it would actually mean if it were true that people automatically "value" (the verb) life *because* they are alive. Well, for one thing, it'd mean that there are no irrational values--that ANY action you take MUST be directed at sustaining/promoting your life BECAUSE you "value" said life without any choice about the matter. This is obviously bunk. People can and do act to gain and keep irrational things that do not sustain OR promote their lives.

Learn the difference between nouns and verbs.

It also may help you to understand that there is a sort of hierarchy of action involved here. To humans, what matters is not the automatic functions of body but the volitional functions of mind. Your body may keep struggling to live against your choice, but this is not the same thing as valuing life in the human sense, or even in the animal sense. This is "value" in the sense that a vegetable "values" it's life. Ayn Rand felt the need to differentiate this sort of automatic functioning from value-seeking behavior, and referred to it in her writings as "goal-directed" behavior, which she took to be a broader term than true value-seeking behavior. Some people aren't even capable of this true "goal-directed" behavior because their bodies are messed up in some way and they must volitionally intercede with their "automatic" mechanisms in order to stay alive.

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Since one cannot separate the living actor from the process of life, life has a value in itself, that is-intrinsic value.

Except that life can be separated from the actor by means of death. When the actor values death over life, life no longer has value (the actor is not longer acting to gain or keep life) defeating the claim that life has intrinsic value.

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This is Objectivist definition of value:

"“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.I quote from Galt’s speech: “There is only one fundamental alternative in the universe: existence or nonexistence—and it pertains to a single class of entities: to living organisms. The existence of inanimate matter is unconditional, the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action... It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible." ( “The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 15.)

Observe that in this definition is nothing which demands existence of human mind or even consciousness. The only prerequisite of value is life itself. Rand defines intrinsic value as "good resides in some sort of reality, independent of man’s consciousness." (“What Is Capitalism?” Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, 22.). Life represents such a reality. It cannot be be reduced to human consciousness; on the contrary-consciousness depends on life. To say "To humans, what matters is not the automatic functions of body but the volitional functions of mind." is to accept the notion of mind-body dichotomy. Mind cannot exist without body and its functions.

Therefore life, which is an action " to gain and keep" itself is value in itself, or intrinsic value. Man's ability to make anti-life choices and to act toward self-destruction is based on the fact that he's alive. From the ethical point of view such a choice is wrong exactly because ontologically it represents contradiction in terms, that is-an attemt to refute irrefutable intrinsic value of life. All actions of all living organisms are goal-directed. "It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself".(“The Objectivist Ethics,” The Virtue of Selfishness, 17). Rand, however differentiated goal and purpose which is goal accepted by choice.

Edited by Leonid

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Therefore life, which is an action " to gain and keep" itself is value in itself, or intrinsic value.

You seem to quite hung up on the intrinsic value theory, but a value which has a cause cannot be intrinsic. If a living organism has built-in values because they further its life, then those are instrumental values not intrinsic. Intrinsic values just float out there, good but not good for anything. To accept the intrinsic worth of anything requires a leap of faith, not a reason.

There are, in essence, three schools of thought on the nature of the good: the intrinsic, the subjective, and the objective. The intrinsic theory holds that the good is inherent in certain things or actions as such, regardless of their context and consequences, regardless of any benefit or injury they may cause to the actors and subjects involved. It is a theory that divorces the concept of "good" from beneficiaries, and the concept of "value" from valuer and purpose—claiming that the good is good in, by, and of itself.

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However, wouldn't this line of reasoning, that all life is intrinsically valuable, give very similar rights that humans have to any living thing? Isn't the value of our life the foundation for all of our rights? Therefore if we extend that value to everything else, don't we also have to extend the same rights?

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Intrinsic value is an ethical and philosophic property.The value of human life is supreme and takes precedence over virtually all other considerations.Life is intrinsically good and you must with all of your strength do your utmost best to believe in this truth.I guess its too truthful for you to accept that life doesn't have intrinsic value.If you think it has, then the burden of proof is on you.Deal with it.I await arguments for the idea that life is intrinsically good.

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Observe that in this definition is nothing which demands existence of human mind or even consciousness.

Completely and utterly false. This is because you are taking out of context all of the things subsumed by Objectivism in the definition and phrases you are quoting. Addtionally, for someone trying to argue that Objectivism supports your claim, you seem to ignore all of the things Objectivism has to say against the idea of "instrinsic value".

The concept “value” is not a primary;

For the concept "value" to even be a concept in the first place requires something capable of understanding concepts; a cognitive rational being. Without a cognitive entity, the concept "value" does not exist; no concepts would exist.

the existence of life is not: it depends on a specific course of action...

For man to live qua man, these specific courses of action require cognitive, rational thinking, an understanding of context, an understanding of reality. Sometimes that reality dictates that for a specific man in a specific context, his life no longer has value to him. According to Objectivism, the concept value subsumes the idea "of value to whom and for what purpose". Even though you included that in your quote, you are conveniently divorcing that part of Objectivism from your argument. The concept "value" is entirely dependent upon an entity capable of conceptual thinking, not simply automated life processes.

It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.

Observe that you bolded a quote which in no way establishs your "intrinsic" argument, neither by itself, nor with the whole of the other parts of the quote you provided. The fact that life (more specifically, cognitive rational life) must exist as a prerequisite to value establishes only that, the existence of value, not its quantative measurement, not that life has "intrinsic value".

that is-an attemt to refute irrefutable intrinsic value of life.

Except that life does not have intrinsic value, which refutes the very refutable claim you are making.

Edited by RationalBiker

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However, wouldn't this line of reasoning, that all life is intrinsically valuable, give very similar rights that humans have to any living thing? Isn't the value of our life the foundation for all of our rights? Therefore if we extend that value to everything else, don't we also have to extend the same rights?

It is not valid to reject a conclusion because you don't like where it leads. You need to find the actual mistake.

Methodologically, this brings up two issues. First, one should integrate conclusions 'horizontally' to check the consistency of one's knowledge. For example, if you thought you already understood why rights only apply to people and this line of reasoning leads to rights for plants and animals, then that is a clue that there is a contradiction somewhere. Second, you locate for certain what the contradiction is by performing the 'vertical' integration on this line of reasoning, (or the other line of reasoning). In this example, any proof of intrinsic value would render that value no longer intrinsic by relating it to something, rendering the idea of such proof self-refuting.

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Grames “a value which has a cause cannot be intrinsic.”

It can if it final cause. Life is self-initiated process, undetermined by antecedent causes. It’s driven by intrinsic cause.

Cmac19 “However, wouldn't this line of reasoning, that all life is intrinsically valuable, give very similar rights that humans have to any living thing?”

No. Rights are social concept. It also presupposes freedom of choice.

RationalBiker “For the concept "value" to even be a concept in the first place requires something capable of understanding concepts; a cognitive rational being. Without a cognitive entity, the concept "value" does not exist; no concepts would exist.”

That’s true, but I discuss value in metaphysical, not epistemic terms. Sunlight has value for plant even if plant doesn’t know that.

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Grames “a value which has a cause cannot be intrinsic.”

It can if it final cause. Life is self-initiated process, undetermined by antecedent causes. It’s driven by intrinsic cause.

Ah, so you officially declare you believe in magic. My work here is done. :lol:

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Ah, so you officially declare you believe in magic. My work here is done. :lol:

If I do, then Harry Binswanger, the Objectivist philosopher and biologist also does. In his book " The Biological Basis of Theleological Concepts" he dedicated the whole chapter to goal-causation. According to Aristotle, the final cause is thelos, end goal. Since actions of all living organisms are self-generated and goal-orientated, they are driven by self-causation which is goal projected into the future. In case of man the process is volitional. As Dr. Peikoff observed in OPAR " Man chooses the causes that shape his actions" (pg 65) Self generated goal is final cause of action for all living organisms, man included. So it seems that your work is hardly started yet.

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Let's say for a second that life is an intrinsic value. That must mean that there's a way to measure value, say, with precise, unbiased instruments. Like you'd measure the weight of a gold nugget with a scale, there must be a similar device that will give you a readout of an item's value, yes?

Even if only life has this value out there in reality, the value is actually out there, right? Devise an instrument for me that will give me a readout of a living being's value when it scans or weighs or otherwise interacts with a living being.

Seriously. Life cannot be an intrinsic value, because intrinsic value is impossible. As Peikoff said, there is no nugget or packet of value that you can pull out of an object to examine. A value must be a value to a living being, for some reason. Of value to whom, and for what?

If you're trying to say that life is valuable to every living being, just say that life is an objective value to every living being. Objective, not intrinsic. Objective.

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Amarog"Let's say for a second that life is an intrinsic value. That must mean that there's a way to measure value, say, with precise, unbiased instruments. Like you'd measure the weight of a gold nugget with a scale, there must be a similar device that will give you a readout of an item's value, yes?"

To measure the weight of a gold nugget you need standard of weight measurement-say gram. But can you measure standard itself? No, you only can define it. Life is standard of value by definition. The value to a living being is life itself; thus by definition intrinsic value, metaphysically given, independent of consciousness.

Edited by Leonid

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