Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum
Kabe Miller

Does objectivism find everything after death to be valueless?

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Does a correct follower of objectivism find value in anything that will exist after they die? I am under the understanding that the objectivist stance is that those types of thoughts to be better served focusing on the self in life?

Is this true, and if so are there exceptions to this?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The fundamental requirement of positive values is that they serve your life, meaning that the values that you choose and pursue should be beneficial to you on this earth. However, this does not necessitate an attitude of not caring what happens after you die. For example, if you have a romantic partner they should benefit your life (treat you well, make you happy, etc.), but it's perfectly rational that once you care about them and their well-being, you still care about their condition after you're gone. You should make your emotional investments in things and people that are good for you, but once you're invested it's natural and proper to care about the future of those things even after you're gone,

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The fundamental requirement of positive values is that they serve your life, meaning that the values that you choose and pursue should be beneficial to you on this earth. However, this does not necessitate an attitude of not caring what happens after you die. For example, if you have a romantic partner they should benefit your life (treat you well, make you happy, etc.), but it's perfectly rational that once you care about them and their well-being, you still care about their condition after you're gone. You should make your emotional investments in things and people that are good for you, but once you're invested it's natural and proper to care about the future of those things even after you're gone,

Allow me to take this a bit further and play devil's advocate for a moment. Why is it rational to care about what happens after you die? After all, you have no control over it one way or another, and you will not be there to experience the happiness or suffering that takes place in that time. Is it possible that it's a psychological aspect of humans that we have emotional attachments beyond when they are necessary or useful, and this would be an example of that?

Tristan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Interesting topic.

Consider this. Your children exist now, when you are alive. It's not for the peace-of-mind of your corpse that you bequeath your inheritance to them. It's for your peace-of-mind now, while you are alive, that you make such arrangements.

To the one who dies, no values are possible to him after death. If he attempts to arrange things to operate a certain way after his demise, it's only for his benefit now, in life. If he wants his classic car given to a museum, or his mechanic, it's not because he's worried about watching what's going to happen to it from above, when he's a ghost and his no-good son has ownership of it. It's because he values this thing in life that he takes the trouble to secure it after his death. It's for his peace-of-mind and well-being now.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not caring about what happens after you die would be tantamount to having no values whatsoever outside one's self. If there are some people you value, surely you would want them to do well in your absence; the attitude that the world--including all that you value--ends when you die, taken to its logical extreme, is really a primacy of consciousness error.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The fundamental requirement of positive values is that they serve your life, meaning that the values that you choose and pursue should be beneficial to you on this earth. However, this does not necessitate an attitude of not caring what happens after you die. For example, [...] You should make your emotional investments in things and people that are good for you, but once you're invested it's natural and proper to care about the future of those things even after you're gone,

Although it does not necessitate an attitude of not caring, wouldn't that level of caring rest below any benefit gained in life? Any mental thought that could be put towards others after death, and any money that could be put towards others after death, would be a missed oportunity to spend that thought and money on the self in life to promote ones happiness even to the last second.

Interesting topic.

Consider this. Your children exist now, when you are alive. It's not for the peace-of-mind of your corpse that you bequeath your inheritance to them. It's for your peace-of-mind now, while you are alive, that you make such arrangements.

To the one who dies, no values are possible to him after death. If he attempts to arrange things to operate a certain way after his demise, it's only for his benefit now, in life. If he wants his classic car given to a museum, or his mechanic, it's not because he's worried about watching what's going to happen to it from above, when he's a ghost and his no-good son has ownership of it. It's because he values this thing in life that he takes the trouble to secure it after his death. It's for his peace-of-mind and well-being now.

How does the state of his car or children after his death effect him in life? What value does peace of mind in regards to the state of anything after death have? Wouldn't that be a form of altruistic consideration?

Edited by Kabe Miller

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Not caring about what happens after you die would be tantamount to having no values whatsoever outside one's self. If there are some people you value, surely you would want them to do well in your absence; the attitude that the world--including all that you value--ends when you die, taken to its logical extreme, is really a primacy of consciousness error.

In the way your using the word "values," I don't believe a person can have values outside oneself. The idea of value requires the entity having values to posess that value. This does not mean you can't value things outside of yourself.

I am also not discussing the idea that the world ends when one dies.

Edited by Kabe Miller

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although it does not necessitate an attitude of not caring, wouldn't that level of caring rest below any benefit gained in life? Any mental thought that could be put towards others after death, and any money that could be put towards others after death, would be a missed oportunity to spend that thought and money on the self in life to promote ones happiness even to the last second.

How does the state of his car or children after his death effect him in life? What value does peace of mind in regards to the state of anything after death have? Wouldn't that be a form of altruistic consideration?

Huh, yes - there was a lengthy debate I had with the fellow who prided himself on taking out

a life insurance policy (his benefactor his wife) and patted himself on the back because it was "altruistic"!

The "self-sacrifice" as he called it, was grounded on him spending money now, for his wife's future which he

would not, perceivably, be a part of.

Her peace of mind, in the here and now? His pleasure at seeing that - as well as his peace of mind? No answers.

It seems like an altruist's (actually, incomplete altruist, as they all are) sense of values is so convoluted,

or non-existent, that one has to always enter a Twilight Zone to discuss anything with them.

In the end I had to ask if he really believed he loved his wife.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Although it does not necessitate an attitude of not caring, wouldn't that level of caring rest below any benefit gained in life? Any mental thought that could be put towards others after death, and any money that could be put towards others after death, would be a missed oportunity to spend that thought and money on the self in life to promote ones happiness even to the last second.

The point is that mental thought and money spent in this way are being spent to promote one's happiness. Caring about others means that their well-being directly affects one's own; it becomes integrated into one's structure of values. If you care about someone a lot, say you love them, then they're pretty damn high in that structure, and harming their well-being in order to die in luxury would be a betrayal of your own values. It would be passing up the opportunity to gain something you really care about, so that you can spend the money on something you kind of care about. How exactly is that selfish?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Allow me to take this a bit further and play devil's advocate for a moment. Why is it rational to care about what happens after you die? After all, you have no control over it one way or another, and you will not be there to experience the happiness or suffering that takes place in that time. Is it possible that it's a psychological aspect of humans that we have emotional attachments beyond when they are necessary or useful, and this would be an example of that?

But your emotional attachments to some individual (lets say) only exist as long as you do; it can't outlive its usefulness. The emotional attachment is useful in that you've formed it with someone who is good for your life and well-being. That attachment is to the person in general, and not just to them so long as you're around. The relationship is something more than a conscious trade of mutual values, some kind of mutual backscratching. It's a trader relationship in a much more metaphorical sense, in that you should only emotionally invest in someone who will be good for you in return, but the emotional investment itself isn't just in the aspects of the person that you can calculate will benefit you. You come to care about their well-being in general, and the rational thing to do at that point is to act on those values. Does that address your concern? It's definitely a tough question.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But your emotional attachments to some individual (lets say) only exist as long as you do; it can't outlive its usefulness. The emotional attachment is useful in that you've formed it with someone who is good for your life and well-being. That attachment is to the person in general, and not just to them so long as you're around. The relationship is something more than a conscious trade of mutual values, some kind of mutual backscratching. It's a trader relationship in a much more metaphorical sense, in that you should only emotionally invest in someone who will be good for you in return, but the emotional investment itself isn't just in the aspects of the person that you can calculate will benefit you. You come to care about their well-being in general, and the rational thing to do at that point is to act on those values. Does that address your concern? It's definitely a tough question.

That's much clearer, thanks.

Tristan

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I only read the first post. It asked three questions, however, the second sentence wasn't actually a question, it merely had the punctuation that traditionally identifies sentences as questions. So, I will only give two answers. Fortunately, they are the same, so in the interest of efficiency, I will only respond once. No. Life is everything.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

How does the state of his car or children after his death effect him in life? What value does peace of mind in regards to the state of anything after death have? Wouldn't that be a form of altruistic consideration?

The state of his car after his death has no effect whatsoever on his life. The anticipated state of his car after his death can have a variety of effects, from anxiety to apathy: he may worry a great deal, or not care at all. Rationally, he knows he won't exist to see the ultimate fate of his car, whether it's to be preserved and admired for centuries, or sold for scrap before he's even cold. Does this mean he should not care what happens to it? That's up to him: it's his property. He is free to concern himself with its fate, or not be concerned at all, depending upon which option permits him the most satisfaction in life.

But is it irrational, then, for him to care? Is there a good reason why he should? I say, his own contentment at the anticipated state of his property is reason enough. A spiteful old rich aunt may delight in leaving her fortune to her cat, instead of her actual family. The operative motive isn't the state of her cat or the state of her family after her death, but the delight she takes, in life, in anticipating the results. The motive is the same if she left her fortune to her family, or to her bridge club: her own satisfaction.

Peace-of-mind is, in itself, a value, regardless of what it's about. Whatever circumstances are before you, to have peace-of-mind about them is to know that things are under a certain amount of control, or you that have a certain amount of understanding about them: they are known and identified and the outcome ought to be roughly what you expect it to be (be it good or bad). Peace-of-mind is the absence of worry, a "stillness" or "quietness" of things which cause you stress (due to their being beyond your control or understanding); it's almost like a soft, thick mattress thrown over a bed of nails, leaving you free to lie down and concern yourself not with bothersome things, but with things concerning your own happiness.

So. I worry that my death will cause financial hardship to my family, who I love: I buy life insurance and gain peace-of-mind. I worry that upon my death, no one will work to prevent the decay of this fine automotive machine, which I cherish and wish would last forever: I see to it, by arranging the transfer of ownership, upon my death, to someone I trust to cherish this machine as much as I did, and I gain peace-of-mind. The worry may or not be rational; but, you've been a lifelong member of the West Jybip Tree Squirrel Admiration Society, and you worry that they won't have the funding they need in the future to....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Well explained. "Worry", "stress" or anxiety may have irrational roots, but taking

physical action to alleviate them is entirely rational, and essential.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

[...]

But is it irrational, then, for him to care? Is there a good reason why he should? I say, his own contentment at the anticipated state of his property is reason enough. A spiteful old rich aunt may delight in leaving her fortune to her cat, instead of her actual family. The operative motive isn't the state of her cat or the state of her family after her death, but the delight she takes, in life, in anticipating the results. The motive is the same if she left her fortune to her family, or to her bridge club: her own satisfaction.

[...]

Thank you for the thought put into your post. I admire this position. I hold values and aspirations that would extend benefit farther then that of my personal life. Although all personal desires, these goals will tangibly benefit me in varying degrees. I've been wrestling with trying to create a metric to help me filter through these values. It's a comforting reminder that the metric is still returned to an achievement in personal happiness and I too find peace of mind in the state of things I value something worthy of value.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Does a correct follower of objectivism find value in anything that will exist after they die?

Only if there is an emotional attachment. I place no value on whether my washing machine will still work after I die or not. But that's because, lovely as it is, I have no feelings for it.

I do care if my loved ones will live and be happy. It would be impossible to value someone (or something) you love only up to an arbitrary point in time (and I say arbitrary, because the time of your death has no significant bearing on who your loved one is - it would be possible to stop loving them if they change enough). That's because when you love someone, you value them for who they are, not just for what they can do for you. Love is an emotion, and that is what it does: it makes you care for someone no matter what.

So, let's sum it up: if you don't have any feelings for things, then you only value them to the point in time (or space, for that matter) they are useful. But if you do have feelings, then it is physically impossible to do that. Add to that the fact that humans aren't robots, but creatures who thrive on emotional fulfillment, and I believe you have your answer: it is our self interest to not only coldly value people when and where they are of use to us, but to find people who share the same values as us, and fall in love with them (value them unconditionally).

P.S. We can love things, not just people. For instance a lot of rational people love their work, or a field of activity, or science, or human advancement as a whole, and care deeply what happens to those things after they die.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

it is our self interest to not only coldly value people when and where they are of use to us, but to find people who share the same values as us, and fall in love with them (value them unconditionally).

From my understanding of Objectivism there is no such thing as valuing or loving something "unconditionally". Perhaps you mean that you value a virtue so much you would put up with smaller inconveniences or faults? Could you clarify what you mean in this case?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One key point in this discussion is that we act ethically when we act expecting that our action will make us succeed in surviving and living qua man.

In principle, I act to pursue life qua man, not just today, but every day. I don't stop pursuing life when I get 80, or when I get metastatic cancer.

For life lovers, death is not respectable. Death is not a shrine where we, as humble lambs, merrily sacrifice our minds. Death is an undesirable happening.

Death is something that happens AGAINST our will to live. Death is our enemy and not , as Orientalists want us to think, just "something that happens and we should not resist". A true man will not just "let it go".

This is why the pursuit of immortality is a natrual, though not widely recognized, corollary of an Objectivist ethics.

Unless we recognize this, we wil be struggling with the ethical issue of valuing something that will outlast our deaths.

Every day we enjoy life, we win.

And the day we die, we lose. Death entails defeat.

John Galt might have been a winner 90% of his life. But that last 10%, when he gets Alzheimer disease and he loses his memory, his long-term planning capacity, his mood, his conceptual abilities, he is a loser. That is why we make research on Alzheimer and the biology of aging. We understand nature only to be able to command it.

We are not to obey death, as dictated in our cells. We are to understand it and command it.

For the context of the discussion, I value my daughters regardless of my personal death. I value them as if I would always value them, because in principle, I don't settle down with death.

Edited by Hotu Matua

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

From my understanding of Objectivism there is no such thing as valuing or loving something "unconditionally". Perhaps you mean that you value a virtue so much you would put up with smaller inconveniences or faults? Could you clarify what you mean in this case?

When Ayn Rand was railing against the notion that love is unconditional, I believe she was railing against the position that love has no visible, knowable cause, and she pointed out what that cause is (shared values, etc.). In that sense, nothing is unconditional, because everything has a cause.

You love someone for a reason, sure (this reason is probably explained on the Ayn Rand Lexicon website, so I won't go into it). If that reason disappears, then you will feel pain and, over time, your love (which is now very painful) will hopefully fade. But that is the only "condition" your love depends on.

Aside from that, love is unconditional (I hate putting it this way, because it's about as elegant as an elephant in a dress, but it gets the point across).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
the pursuit of immortality is a natrual, though not widely recognized, corollary of an Objectivist ethics.

+1 on this, as long as by pursuit of immortality you mean something well defined: prolonging one's life indefinitely.

Edited by Nicky

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I woudl say that love is the most conditional thing in life.

It is not found just in a "ON/OFF" mode. The options are not limited to "existing" and "fading away".

Love is exquisitely sensitive to the degree in which you see your own values, mind and existence reflected in the other person.

That is why there is an infinite variety of relationships you can establish with colleagues, buddies, friends, lovers, or life-long companions.

And that's why love changes so much over time. The love you had for your one-week-old baby is not that same the one you have for your 8-year-old son and will not be the same when he is a 35-year-old man who is now an alcoholic and has quitted his job.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

+1 on this, as long as by pursuit of immortality you mean something well defined: prolonging one's life indefinitely.

What is the real difference between "prolonging one's life indefinitely" and "seeking immortality"?

Let me put it this way: when I say "pursuing immortality" I mean "pursuing to live as long as YOU want to live", and not as long as your body is programmed to live.

.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What is the real difference between "prolonging one's life indefinitely" and "seeking immortality"?

I don't know, because I don't know what immortality is. I don't know of anything or anyone with that attribute.

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.

×