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A negative concept identifies the negation of another concept, its object, on which it logically depends. Negative concepts refer only to an absence of the specific object, not to the presence of anything else - they are merely the logical negation of the object, not the assertion of the existence of some other object. To assert the existence of a negative thing, as a different kind of existent, is a fallacy of the Reification of the Zero, a variant of the fallacy of the Stolen Concept.

The concept "nothing" does not assert the existence of something called "nothing" - there is no such thing as "nothing" in and of itself, only the absence of a thing (the word literally means no-thing). The concept "non-existence" does not assert the existence of a "non-thing" - there is no such thing as "non-existence" in and of itself, only the absence of a thing in existence.

In the same way, the concept "evil" depends on the concept "good". Evil is a negative concept indicating the logical negation of the good. The concept "evil" does not assert the existence of a "non-good", there is no such thing as an "evil" in and of itself, only the absence or contradiction of a good.1

Pain and fear are innate capacities to alert us that something is wrong, that there is a potential threat to our life and our pursuit of the good, but they do not by themselves offer us any positive value to seek. Pleasure tells us what is good, what is right, but pain can only tell us that something is wrong - it cannot tell us what is good or right.2 Rationally we can identify pain and suffering as a contradiction to the good, as a negative and an impediment, but innately pain simply does not offer us any pleasure, that is, it is a zero. It do not offer us the presence of any incentive to seek, so it cannot logically be the source of any conceptual values, nor can it be the fuel that makes us function.3

Man is by nature faced with a fundamental alternative: identity or non-identity, existence or non-existence – life or death. The concept of value, of "good or evil", is not an arbitrary human invention, but rather is based on a metaphysical fact, on an unalterable condition of man's existence: his life. The ultimate value, the final goal or end to which all lesser goals are means, is man's life. His life is his standard of value: that which furthers his life is the good, and that which threatens it is the evil.4 The choice to live is therefore the most basic moral choice that one faces.5

Only in life do we have any possibility of acting to seek the good or to enjoy happiness. Death offers no possibility of action or enjoyment. Moral action means to act for one's own rational self-interest, but there are no interests to seek in death. Only life can offer us a positive incentive. Death, like pain, cannot offer any positive incentive, but rather it is a zero.

Suicide is the act of sacrificing life for deathSuicide is the sacrifice of the good for the sake of a zero. But it cannot be in one's self-interest to destroy one's self. One cannot rationally or morally act to end their life.

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To the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise directing his actions. To the extent to which he is irrational, the premise directing his actions is death.

...

Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man--for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life.

Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it- A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain.

...

The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.

John Galt
Atlas Shrugged 

 

Observe the contradiction present in Piekoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" (aka. OPAR): 

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The same principle applies in regard to evaluation. Here, too, reality is the starting point, and one cannot engage in debates about why one should prefer it—to nothing. Nor can one ask for some more basic value the pursuit of which validates the decision to remain in reality. The commitment to remain in the realm of that which is is precisely what cannot be debated; because all debate (and all validation) takes place within that realm and rests on that commitment. About every concrete within the universe and about every human evaluation of these, one can in some context ask questions or demand proofs. In regard to the sum of reality as such, however, there is nothing to do but grasp: it is—and then, if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay."

and later,

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Suicide is justified when man's life, owing to circumstances outside of a person's control, is no longer possible; an example might be a person with a painful terminal illness, or a prisoner in a concentration camp who sees no chance of escape. In cases such as these, suicide is not necessarily a philosophic rejection of life or of reality. On the contrary, it may very well be their tragic reaffirmation. Self-destruction in such contexts may amount to the tortured cry: "Man's life means so much to me that I will not settle for anything less. I will not accept a living death as a substitute."

On the one hand he says the commitment to life is essentially axiomatic, and that there's no basis for questioning it, and on the other hand that suicide is justified if you're suffering and your condition seems hopeless. This is an apparent contradiction. But Peikoff is not the pope, OPAR is not the Bible, and Ayn Rand is not God. It's possible that this is merely a contradiction. OPAR is not inerrant.

Finding such a contradiction does not fundamentally break the philosophy of Objectivism, either. On the contrary, the fundamental moral conviction of the Objectivist philosophy is that life is the ultimate standard. This defense of suicide is inconsistent with the basic moral premises of the philosophy. The mistake here is derivative, not fundamental. The philosophy as a whole is sound; only the position on suicide is not.

I submit to you that this position on suicide is a contradiction to the fundamental moral philosophy of Objectivism.

If you disagree, let's hear your arguments.

 

I'll start by responding to Peikoff's argument for suicide: can suicide be an "affirmation" of life if it's impossible to achieve happiness?

Suicide cannot be an affirmation of life - it's the deliberate choice to destroy life. You cannot affirm your life by destroying it.

As long as you are alive, and you are conscious to think and act, then you can either choose to act in the best interest of your life and happiness, no matter how tragically hopeless the situation may seem, or you can choose to sacrifice your best interest for something lesser. Suicide is the sacrifice of all possible interest. Death is non-existence, it knowably has no value at all - it is a zero. You cannot seek values in death. To act on the assumption that happiness is impossible would not be an affirmation of a happy life - that would be in fact be the most damning denial you could make.

In such a tragic situation where happiness seems impossible, the way to affirm your life is to continue to seek your happiness despite the tragedy and hopelessness of the situation. In Peikoff's own words:

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if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay."

That is an affirmation of life.

 

Footnotes:

(1)

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You who are worshippers of the zero—you have never discovered that achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. Joy is not 'the absence of pain,' intelligence is not 'the absence of stupidity,' light is not 'the absence of darkness,' an entity is not 'the absence of a nonentity.'

Building is not done by abstaining from demolition; centuries of sitting and waiting in such abstinence will not raise one single girder for you to abstain from demolishing--and now you can no longer say to me, the builder: 'Produce, and feed us in exchange for our not destroying your production.' I am answering in the name of all your victims: Perish with and in your own void. Existence is not a negation of negatives. Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation, evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from. us. Perish, because we have learned that a zero cannot hold a mortgage over life.

John Galt
Atlas Shrugged 

 

(2) 

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The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the wrong course of action, that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it. The best illustration of this can be seen in the rare, freak cases of children who are born without the capacity to experience physical pain; such children do not survive for long; they have no means of discovering what an injure them, no warning signals, and thus a minor cut can develop into a deadly infection, or a major illness can remain undetected until it is too late to fight it.

- The Objectivist Ethics, Ayn Rand

 

(3)

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You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive.

...

But to help a man who has no virtues, to help him on the ground of his suffering as such, to accept his faults, his need, as a claim - is to accept the mortgage of a zero on your values.

...

It's not that I don't suffer, it's that I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one's soul and as a permanent scar across one's view of existence.

John Galt
Atlas Shrugged 

 

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"I'm not capable of suffering completely. I never have. It goes only down to a certain point and then it stops. As long as there is that untouched point, it's not really pain.
"Where does it stop?"
"Where I can think of nothing and feel nothing except that I designed that temple. I built it. Nothing else can seem very important."

Howard Roark and Dominique Francon
The Fountainhead

 

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She survived it. She was able to survive it, because she did not believe in suffering. She faced with astonished indignation the ugly fact of feeling pain, and refused to let it matter. Suffering was a senseless accident, it was not part of life as she saw it. She would not allow pain to become important. She had no name for the kind of resistance she offered, for the emotion from which the resistance came; but the words that stood as its equivalent in her mind were: It does not count - it is not to be taken seriously. She knew these were the words, even in the moments when there was nothing left within her but screaming and she wished she could lose the faculty of consciousness so that it would not tell her that what could not be true was true. Not to be taken seriously - an immovable certainty within her kept repeating - pain and ugliness are never to be taken seriously.

Atlas Shrugged
 

(4)

See "The Objectivist Ethics", in "The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand

 

(5)

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This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice: thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A, entity or zero.

John Galt
Atlas Shrugged 

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Edited by epistemologue

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28 minutes ago, epistemologue said:

In the same way, the concept "evil" depends on the concept "good". Evil is a negative concept indicating the logical negation of the good. The concept "evil" does not assert the existence of a "non-good", there is no such thing as an "evil" in and of itself, only the absence or contradiction of a good.1

 

Disagree with the above said. I think the concept of evil, does not depend on the concept of good; rather both the concepts, depend on -- the standard of life. 

I understand when you say there is no such "thing" as nothing. But there are indeed fraudsters, thieves, plunderers, murders, dictators. The concept of "evil" has referents in reality. The concept of "nothing" -- does not. 

Edited by Anuj

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40 minutes ago, Anuj said:

 

Disagree with the above said. I think the concept of evil, does not depend on the concept of good; rather both the concepts, depend on -- the standard of life. 

I understand when you say there is no such "thing" as nothing. But there are indeed fraudsters, thieves, plunderers, murders, dictators. The concept of "evil" has referents in reality. The concept of "nothing" -- does not. 

I agree.

 

The "zero", itself is not "evil".  Men who ARE evil pursue the zero, "seek" the black nothing of death, and they DO exist.

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I'm surprised, Rand had a lot to say on this issue of the reification of evil. Rand talks about the basic vice being "evasion". This is not a positive "evil action" or "evil thought", but a failure to think.

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Thinking is man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice, the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice, but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking out, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do not pronounce the verdict “It is.”

John Galt
Atlas Shrugged

Evil is a failure, a refusal, a "stop". It's not asserting the truth. There is something you ought to do - complete a thought, acknowledge what you see, pronounce a judgment - and you don't do it. You stop, and you don't do what you should do. Evil acts aren't a commission, they are an omission. Evil people aren't born evil, there is no "original sin", there is no positive "force of evil" out there, there's only the stopping, the absence, the lack of the force of good, that is, the force of thinking.

Rand believed that evil is impotent. This theme of evil as a negative concept is absolutely pervasive in Atlas Shrugged:

See my quote in the footnote above from John Galt, stating this position explicitly: "Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation, evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us.", and, "I saw that evil was impotent—that evil was the irrational, the blind, the anti-real—and that the only weapon of its triumph was the willingness of the good to serve it."

Dagny was expecting to find an enemy responsible for all the problems she saw, a competent enemy who was evil, but who she could fight and defeat - but instead, all she found was a big, diffuse cloud of incompetence, irresponsibility, and evasion.

Wesley Mouch, one of the central people who went about backstabbing Rearden, enacting directive 10-289 and taking over the economy, finding and torturing Galt - was not some evil genius, but the opposite, the most unremarkable, mediocre, amorphous blob of a man imaginable.

The entire character of Jim Taggart is a psychological study in evasion. He is constantly evading and refusing to think or to come to any definite conclusions or knowledge. As reality closes in on him, it becomes more and more impossible for him to evade, until the scene when Galt repairs the device they are torturing him with. At that point he can't go on evading the reality that's pressing in on him from all sides, and he shuts down completely.

I don't really understand how it could be missed or argued against without taking down the entire Objectivist philosophy.

Edited by epistemologue

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Her fictional characters stylized the evil as impotent in Atlas Shrugged. Contrast Wesley Mouch and Jim Taggart with Attila and the Witch Doctor from The New Intellectual:

Since no man can fully escape the conceptual level of consciousness, it is not the case that Attila and the Witch Doctor cannot or do not think; they can and do—but thinking, to them, is not a means of perceiving reality, it is a means of justifying their escape from the necessity of rational perception. Reason, to them, is a means of defeating their victims, a menial servant charged with the task of rationalizing the metaphysical validity and power of their whims. Just as a bank robber will spend years of planning, ingenuity and effort in order to prove to himself that he can exist without effort, so both Attila and the Witch Doctor will go to any length of cunning, calculation and thought in order to demonstrate the impotence of thought and preserve the image of a pliable universe where miracles are possible and whims are efficacious.

While evil is impotent when opposed by the likes of the strikers in Atlas Shrugged, are the victims today armed intellectually to defend themselves from the A & W tactics? On omission versus commission, the commission of reason is not automatic. It has to be learned, i.e., discovered, or it has to be taught by those who have previously learned it. Aristotle taught it from the grave, so to speak.

The renaissance blasted the rule of the Witch Doctor and eventually dethroned Attila. As she wrote earlier in this article: " "The divine right of kings" was not much of a weapon against men who were discovering the rights of man." In order for man, as the new sovereign, to maintain his rightful throne of self-rule, the connections between his mind and reason as being the sole source of that seat of power needs to become explicit and absolute, or at bare minimum become the message resonating from the philosophical transmission belts.

This, however, diverges from individual suicide referenced in the OP, by following the evil bricked road.

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On 11/16/2016 at 0:08 PM, epistemologue said:

Suicide cannot be an affirmation of life - it's the deliberate choice to destroy life. You cannot affirm your life by destroying it.

You missed an important part of what Peikoff said. Suicide may not be a philosophic rejection of life. Obviously it's a physical rejection. But mentally it might be a statement on how life is too valuable to waste on neverending suffering. Life is supposed to be about achieving values and happiness. If that's not possible to you, then why suffer forever?

You could assert that given enough time and effort, one might escape such hopeless misery. But that's not your call to make. Each individual must determine for himself when life is not worth living.

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18 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

Life is supposed to be about achieving values and happiness. If that's not possible to you, then why suffer forever?

Let's concretize this issue. Suppose you are in extreme, persistent pain, and the most complete state of suffering possible, but you are still conscious (If you want to talk about pain disrupting the capacity for consciousness in the first place, note that if you are not capable of conscious awareness, then you are in essence already dead. But as long as you are effectively capable of consciousness, no matter how disruptive the pain is otherwise, you are still alive.)

Let's essentialize the issue further and suppose further that you are in a kind of hell, trapped in your own mind cut off from the world outside, unable to see, hear, or perceive anything extrospectively whatsoever.

Even trapped in your own head and in torturous pain you are still alive, you can still think, you can still imagine and create, you can still reason and come to conclusions.

Imagine for example the creative process of writing a story, and the achievements that are possible to you in this activity entirely contained within your own mind: the pleasure of contemplating a plot, a beautifully designed series of events and dramatic conflicts which logically follow one another until they reach a climax, or the enjoyment of contemplating a character and their triumph over evil or a mistake in their philosophy, or the sheer poetic achievement of an idea stated beautifully and perfectly.

Or imagine the achievements possible in pure mathematics: the excitement of tackling a hard problem, the triumph of solving a formula, or the joy of proving a proposition. As John Galt said, "the noblest act you have ever performed is the act of your mind in the process of grasping that two and two make four".

You can still appreciate your own thinking. The practice of every virtue is still morally necessary, whether it's honesty with yourself about the objects of your thought and the relationships among them, or the productiveness of applying your creative ability to a meaningful end. No matter what torture you are undergoing, even in the worst imaginable level of suffering and hell, the practice of these virtues still leads to the achievements of values within your mind, the pleasure of which is a non-contradictory joy - it is the achievement of happiness.

Take another example: the composition of music. From Atlas Shrugged:

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The Concerto was a great cry of rebellion. It was a "No" flung at some vast process of torture, a denial of suffering, a denial that held the agony of the struggle to break free. The sounds were like a voice saying: There is no necessity for pain--why, then, is the worst pain reserved for those who will not accept its necessity?--we who hold the love and the secret of joy, to what punishment have we been sentenced for it, and by whom? . . . The sounds of torture became defiance, the statement of agony became a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything was worth enduring, even this. It was the song of rebellion--and of a desperate quest.

Even someone who is in the process of being tortured and suffering the worst possible pain, as long as they are alive, there are still values possible to them - in this case a work of art signifying a "great cry of rebellion", a defiant statement of someone who will not accept the necessity of suffering. One can still compose such art, or can at least sing such a hymn, "a hymn to a distant vision for whose sake anything was worth enduring, even this".

In life, achieving values and happiness is always possible.

Consider Roark, for whom suffering "only goes down to a certain point". Because he can create, because he can achieve positive values, nothing else can seem very important, and ultimately, "it's not really pain".

Or consider Dagny: she did not believe in suffering. She would not allow pain to become important. She knew that "it does not count - it is not to be taken seriously" - "even in the moments when there was nothing left within her but screaming and she wished she could lose the faculty of consciousness".  

As John Galt said, "I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one's soul and as a permanent scar across one's view of existence." We exist for earning rewards. That is what motivates us, that is why we act - not for escaping pain. Pain is not going to make us function; it's not an incentive.

To take any kind of positive action like committing suicide purely for the sake of escaping pain - so far from being an affirmation of what life ought to be, it would be a declaration that suffering is necessarily a part of life, that it is important and that it does matter. You are rejecting the belief that suffering is unimportant, and is only to be fought and thrown aside and not accepted as a meaningful part of one's view of existence.

To affirm life, even amidst the worst possible torture, is to bow one's head in a silent "amen" to life, amounting to the words: "This is where I shall stay to fight. Suffering does not matter. I exist for the sake of achieving values, and suicide is not going to serve that quest."

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I agree with almost everything that you just said. But keep in mind that one's values, beyond life, are chosen. Some people are not interested in an exclusively mental career. They want a fuller life. Stephen Hawking had a brilliant mind and could therefore adapt to his miserable physical condition. But physical specimens like former NFL players with CTE or former soldiers with terrible psychological issues, these types highly value their physical abilities and active life. Then they watch their minds degrade and lose control of their bodily actions, causing them to uncontrollably lash out at even their loved ones, and they can't take it anymore. They suicide, not because they suddenly gave up on the very standard of life, but because their doctors offer no cure and their deepest values are unattainable, and perhaps their values are even endangered by the athlete's continued existence.

So, this is why it's important to consider individual cases. People choose their values themselves, and it's not up to you to dictate to them what they should be. You can't say to someone, "But, look, you should be content with inventing stories in your head all day." That's not how values or life works. By the time tragedy strikes, these people already have their values, and it's up to them to decide whether they can be satisfied with whatever post-tragedy life awaits them.

Edited by MisterSwig

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6 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I agree with almost everything that you just said. But keep in mind that one's values, beyond life, are chosen.

...

By the time tragedy strikes, these people already have their values, and it's up to them to decide whether they can be satisfied with whatever post-tragedy life awaits them.

Yes, values are chosen, and the values people choose can be right or wrong in their context according to the objective standard of life. You ought to always be choosing values that are highest pursuit possible to you given your context. If you choose to pursue values either out of your reach, or less than your full capacity, then you will be acting self-destructively and self-sacrificially.

When tragedy strikes it changes a person's context dramatically, and it requires clear thinking to adjust to that new context, and to identify what is within your reach. And the achievement of values always is within your reach.

To quote from my post above:

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Even trapped in your own head and in torturous pain you are still alive, you can still think, you can still imagine and create, you can still reason and come to conclusions.

...

You can still appreciate your own thinking. The practice of every virtue is still morally necessary, whether it's honesty with yourself about the objects of your thought and the relationships among them, or the productiveness of applying your creative ability to a meaningful end. No matter what torture you are undergoing, even in the worst imaginable level of suffering and hell, the practice of these virtues still leads to the achievements of values within your mind, the pleasure of which is a non-contradictory joy - it is the achievement of happiness.

Affirm life. Stay and fight. Suffering and loss do not matter. You exist for the sake of achieving values, and suicide cannot serve you in that quest.

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23 minutes ago, epistemologue said:

You exist for the sake of achieving values

No. People exist to pursue their own happiness, and they choose values based on that pursuit.

You have made dutifully achieving values the very standard of value, when the standard of value should be an individual person's own life and happiness.

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1 hour ago, epistemologue said:

When tragedy strikes it changes a person's context dramatically, and it requires clear thinking to adjust to that new context, and to identify what is within your reach.

 

In extreme cases, clear thinking might not be possible, even if you are still conscious. There is a scene from the movie "Fury" that comes to mind, where a soldier is burning alive, and without a second's thought he pulls out his pistol and shoots himself in the head. I'm not an expert on Objectivism's views on morality, but in my view, calling what that soldier did a "moral" issue is quite silly. There was no planning or thinking there, he just did it. Does that make him "immoral"? Does morality even apply in such a crazy situation? I don't see how it could.

 

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44 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

No. People exist to pursue their own happiness, and they choose values based on that pursuit.

You have made dutifully achieving values the very standard of value, when the standard of value should be an individual person's own life and happiness.

Preface: I say suicide is applicable as morally neutral in cases where pain literally dominates capacity to think about things besides pain. Epist said this is effectively being dead, so it isn't suicide. So, that's a minor disagreement - and neither of us consider it to be life. Perhaps there are one or two other contexts, but definitely not what you listed. Once suicide is chosen, it's weird to call it moral, but it does deny one's life such that morality is effectively dead, too.

With that in mind, it is one's nature as a human to pursue life, implying ceaseless pursuit of values. As long as you are able to think rationally, pursuing life and values is always possible. Anything less is a denial of one's nature, what we already know of man's nature. I don't see a reason to object to this so far, or to think that a lesser value is taken in exchange for a greater one.

It isn't quite duty to pursue value's ceaselessly, it's not any denial of life as standard as value. It's your life, you pursue it. If you give up life because you were once a famous actor and are now a quadripalegic is plainly cowardly and foolish. Christopher Reeves still led a worthwhile life - that's who I am referring to. To give up as soon as life is a bit tough or needing to alter what -usually- makes you happiest. Changing course isn't the end.

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15 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I say suicide is applicable as morally neutral in cases where pain literally dominates capacity to think about things besides pain. Epist said this is effectively being dead, so it isn't suicide. So, that's a minor disagreement - and neither of us consider it to be life.

You seem to redefine terms to suit your theory. Suicide is suddenly not suicide when the self-destroyer can think of nothing but pain. And life is suddenly not life when the pain-feeler cannot escape this condition.

It's a sign that you don't actually have a solid conception of life or suicide, but are willing to remake the concept, as needed, to fit your theory.

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43 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Suicide is suddenly not suicide when the self-destroyer can think of nothing but pain.

It's suicide, Epist disagrees though. The person is alive, but nothing at all like life, the process, because their rational capacity is destroyed. So, ending one's own life in that case isn't foolish.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

It's suicide, Epist disagrees though. The person is alive, but nothing at all like life, the process, because their rational capacity is destroyed.

Okay. I would extend this idea to other cases, such as the ones I provided (NFL players with CTE, and soldiers with dangerous psychological disorders). I'm less sympathetic to people with tolerable pain or tolerable physical injuries. But it's hard to fault a former athlete for wanting to die because he has no use of his legs or arms, or both. I mostly wanted to stress the importance of treating these cases on an individual basis.

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On 11/19/2016 at 6:21 PM, MisterSwig said:

No. People exist to pursue their own happiness, and they choose values based on that pursuit.

You have made dutifully achieving values the very standard of value, when the standard of value should be an individual person's own life and happiness.

Can you explain the difference? I don't understand how "exist for the sake of pursuing values" (paraphrasing Galt, "We exist for the sake of earning rewards.") is any different than "exist to pursue their own happiness". By "values" I just mean life and happiness.

Edited by epistemologue

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On 11/19/2016 at 7:45 PM, Eiuol said:

I say suicide is applicable as morally neutral in cases where pain literally dominates capacity to think about things besides pain. Epist said this is effectively being dead, so it isn't suicide.

 

22 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It's suicide, Epist disagrees though. The person is alive, but nothing at all like life, the process, because their rational capacity is destroyed. So, ending one's own life in that case isn't foolish.

"suicide" means you volitionally choose to kill yourself. If the pain is so overwhelming that it completely disrupts your conscious awareness (and by this I mean that conscious awareness isn't even possible, not that you are conscious and thinking, but there's just a lot of pain), then you aren't even "alive" in the sense of being conscious, and certainly cannot take any volition action.

I probably shouldn't have even mentioned this sort of case, since it only seems to be causing confusion and giving you an "out" to argue that suicide is "morally neutral" in certain certain extreme/emergency situations, which I completely reject.

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1 hour ago, epistemologue said:

Can you explain the difference? I don't understand how "I exist to pursue values" (paraphrasing Galt, "We exist for the sake of earning rewards.") is any different than "exist to pursue their own happiness". By "values" I just mean life and happiness.

Life is the ultimate value which you already have and are trying to keep. It serves as a standard for choosing other values in the pursuit of your purpose in life, which should be your own happiness. The other values you choose and pursue are not your purpose or your ultimate value. They serve your particular life and help you achieve your happiness.

Galt can talk like he does in a work of fiction, because he's the ideal, stylized man. He's not a real case of mental or physical hopelessness. He's also trying to emphasize the difference between two moral systems. In a line immediately before the one you picked out Galt says, "We seek the achievement of happiness." So he's talking about people for whom happiness is possible. In another statement you quoted, he says that "to the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise directing his actions." This acknowledges the fact that man is a rational animal, and that an irrational person will act in contradiction to his life. So, I ask you, if the football player with CTE or the soldier with dangerous psychological problems cannot sustain even a minimum, safe level of rationality, how can they be expected to operate on the premise of life? They were once a sort of superhuman, but now they've been reduced to the subhuman level, where a proper human existence is not available to them.

I could also argue that to the extent that a man is emotionally and physically healthy, life is the premise directing his actions. Human life is not only about rationality. But I'll reserve that argument for later. I'd prefer to focus on the specific cases I mentioned (involving the destruction of one's rational capacity) and see if you agree that these could be cases where suicide is not necessarily a philosophical rejection of life. 

Edited by MisterSwig

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3 hours ago, epistemologue said:

 

"suicide" means you volitionally choose to kill yourself.

Anyway, for the sake of discussion here on the morality of suicide, it is a rejection of life. It is not ever morally good. That's what the thread is about really - is it ever morally GOOD? I say never, as do you. What you say isn't suicide is still suicide to me literally speaking (and I don't think volition ceases even with insurmountable pain), and we both see this as "okay" as in you are already surviving a less-than-human life. To irrationally see your life as over (e.g. a football player turned quadripalegic), and then kill yourself, that would be wildly immoral.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

What you say isn't suicide is still suicide to me literally speaking (and I don't think volition ceases even with insurmountable pain), and we both see this as "okay" as in you are already surviving a less-than-human life.

I don't think we're on the same page about this at all. But maybe this should be a separate thread.

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I mean "okay" in the sense you don't blame a corpse for kicking you from rigor mortis. Anything else you say I agree with. This is a distraction from the main idea.

I don't see why we should agree with Swig that it's at all rational to say severe issues makes someone exist at a subhuman level. If you have a rational capacity, value - life - is possible. That seems to be a main point of yours.

Edited by Eiuol

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I'm going to have to break my points up across multiple posts; please bear with me.

 

There's a distinction between "value" and "virtue" which seems to have been glossed over, in this thread, and which will make things much clearer. For example:

On 11/19/2016 at 5:21 PM, MisterSwig said:

You have made dutifully achieving values the very standard of value, when the standard of value should be an individual person's own life and happiness.

Epistemologue does not appear to be using 'the achievement of values' as the standard of value.

The Christian conception of "virtue" as obedience to the word of God, on the basis of His moral perfection (which is also known to us only through the word of God), is a perfect structural anologue of defining "value" as "the achievement of value". One consequence of attempting to use such a construct is that it leads one to spew unintelligible gibberish (because it logically supports such nonsense) - and, truth or falsehood of Epistemologue's statements aside, they are perfectly coherent.

Rather, he appears to be using 'the achievement of values' as the standard of virtue, which is consistent with Rand's definition:

 

Quote

"Value" is that which one acts to gain and keep. "Virtue" is the method by which one gains and keeps it.

 

I'll build on this point, shortly.

 

-postscript:

 

I've omitted the "dutiful" because the pursuit of values (not any specific value nor any specific method of pursuit, but the pursuit of values as such) is not optional; as long as we remain alive, we remain engaged in such pursuits; it's part of our nature.

Since attempting to achieve values is not open to our choice, to describe it as "dutiful" serves only to attach the vague aroma of Mysticism (to connote Kant, but denote absolutely nothing). So I did not think you'd mind if I cleaned it up a bit.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Postscript

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On 11/16/2016 at 2:08 PM, epistemologue said:

Pleasure tells us what is good, what is right...

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.

 

On 11/16/2016 at 2:08 PM, epistemologue said:

Rationally we can identify pain and suffering as a contradiction to the good, as a negative and an impediment, but innately pain simply does not offer us any pleasure, that is, it is a zero. It do not offer us the presence of any incentive to seek, so it cannot logically be the source of any conceptual values, nor can it be the fuel that makes us function.3

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.

 

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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12 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

However, our very first acquaintance with "value" and the foundation of any higher values must ultimately come from physical sensations such as pleasure.

I've said this myself previously, but I'd go a lot further than this now.

There are no "pleasure receptors". There is no such special "physical sensation of pleasure" - every sensation is pleasurable. Awareness itself regardless of any extrospective sensation, is pleasurable. The sheer state of "being aware", like "being awake", just that sheer fact of having a subjective experience, independent of any object whatsoever - that is valuable in itself. I want to be. I like existing.

Even in pain and suffering you can be enjoying yourself. Marie Bashkirtseff:

"In this depression and dreadful uninterrupted suffering, I don't condemn life. On the contrary, I like it and find it good. Can you believe it? I find everything good and pleasant, even my tears, my grief. I enjoy weeping, I enjoy my despair. I enjoy being exasperated and sad. I feel as if these were so many diversions, and I love life in spite of them all. I want to live on. It would be cruel to have me die when I am so accommodating. I cry, I grieve, and at the same time I am pleased - not, not exactly that - I know not how to express it. But everything in life pleases me. I find everything agreeable, and in the very midst of my prayers for happiness, I find myself happy at being miserable. It is not I who undergo all this - my body weeps and cries; but something inside of me which is above me is glad of it all."

 

12 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

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.

This conclusion is only consistent with pain being a zero. If pain were a negative, commensurable value with pleasure, then it would entirely make sense to trade away a positive value in exchange for the subtraction of a negative, i.e. avoiding pain at the price of pleasure, or a disvalue being negated at the price of a true value. 

Pain is information. In absolute terms, it's even a positive experience, since every experience is positive to some extent. In relative terms, it tells you that something is wrong, something is interfering with your health, your fullest experience of pleasure, your positive pursuit of life. 

If you have a headache, the pain is a negative value merely instrumentally toward your other positive ends of the day; you won't be able to think as well because of the distraction. The value of negating that negative is entirely instrumental - it's measured by the increase in positive value you get by freeing yourself of that distraction.

Edited by epistemologue

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