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On 12/9/2016 at 2:23 PM, MisterSwig said:

I think you should study real examples of people who kill themselves for extraordinary reasons, before expecting resilience from such people. There are cases where these people were likely ten times more resilient than you or I could ever be. We're talking about people who went into battle as a career, either on the football field or in an actual war. And here you are pontificating on a philosophy forum, generally suggesting that they were cowards for committing suicide when they suffered from crippling diseases. 

12 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

OK, well, about a year ago I considered committing suicide. I didn't have any crippling or agonizing disease; I had moved back in with my parents, as I was filing for a divorce.

10 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I'm glad that you got out of your hell and turned your life around. But that's not a case study of an actual, extraordinary suicide. I think I'll take a break from this thread, since nobody seems interested in knowing what they're talking about.

 Please forgive me for having no terrible illness or from which to draw observations or conclusions; not even appendicitis. I do realize that my circumstances were far from "extraordinary" but it didn't seem like anyone else was going to offer any concretely empirical example, at all.

 

Do you have a sufficiently extraordinary tale to share or are you just pontificating on this philosophy forum?

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I can offer you a short take from Ayn Rand here on suicide:

 

22 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

Having reviewed the quote from OPAR (also provided by epistemologue in the OP) and listened to the podcast selections, I think that my views on suicide are in line with Peikoff's.

I did not re-review the thread from the beginning and lost track of the fact that the OPAR quote had already been cited.

As both Rand and Peikoff state/imply: the right to life belongs to the possessor. Context is imperative.

If an individual determines that suicide is the answer, you are welcome to offer reason for the alternative. Should they decide to disregard such advice, the right still belongs to them. To declare the act moral/immoral posthumously would come across as disingenuous barring mitigating factors that could actually be known in advance (rather than simply possibilities and/or presuppositions).

Edited by dream_weaver

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15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

If we are agreed on that, but only disagree on where precisely to draw the line at which "joy is no longer possible," then we are fundamentally agreed.

Indeed!

 

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Yes, so long as the context is preserved that this happens in time and space. The caveman could not have gone from stone tools to the light bulb in his lifetime, my grandfather could not have expected a cure for (or substantial relief from) Alzheimer's in his, and I do not anticipate a warp drive in my own. (On this last point, I would be happily wrong.)

Yes, but I think the necessary context you speak of is extremely wide; enough so that those problems which can't be fixed are a rare exception to the rule.

 

Firstly, technological progress is driven by human beings, and accordingly its velocity can vary as wildly as an individual mind can.

During the space race we invented a multitude of new things, in order to land on the moon, which we promptly lost all interest in and basically forgot about until the advent of Elon Musk (who's single-handedly reviving it). Our research into Alzheimer's has no such lack of interest, but is handicapped by its conceptualization as something distinct from "normal aging" (when, in fact, it appears to be all of the same processes happening at an accelerated rate). All of these things (such as proper conceptualization or holding firm to your goals) are within our own control; we can do them right.

No, a caveman couldn't leap from a burning stick to an electric light bulb; there are intermediate steps that he'd have to follow. I'd find it highly unlikely for a caveman to single-handedly bound through all those steps, culminating in his invention of the light bulb - but perhaps not impossible, depending on the sort of mind he had.

 

Secondly, there's more than one way to accomplish any given goal. Just because you can't cure a disease doesn't mean you can't suppress its symptoms and get it out of the way.

 

In conjunction, while these facts don't contradict the possibility of an unfixable problem outright, they do lead me to suspect that there can't be very many of them.

 

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

A game of chess in which you are reduced to your King is unwinnable, and a caveman who needs a heart transplant is SOL.

Yes, but you can still win with a king and a pawn (and with only your king you're still capable of forcing a stalemate). The caveman might be SOL, but I don't know; he could be someone like Imhotep or Hippocrates, who can up and invent such things if he has a good reason to.

 

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

The spirit and sense of life you express here is magnificent, and I flatter myself to say that it speaks to my own -- but when I am discussing reality (and an ethics based upon reality, like a proposed moral injunction against suicide), I must take pains (heh) to keep separate the poetry from the prose.

Sorry about that. I distinctly remember the conclusions I drew in my darkest hour, but I've lost most of the reasoning behind it in this swamp of memnonic gobbledygook; I've been untangling what I can on my cigarette breaks and such. The plan is to get it all boiled down to the bare facts.

 

15 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Just as I was beginning to despair, too...

The entire case I'm building is about why you shouldn't do that!

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10 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Please forgive me for having no terrible illness or from which to draw observations or conclusions; not even appendicitis.

Try harder next time. You could at least get some gallstones or something.

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I do realize that my circumstances were far from "extraordinary" but it didn't seem like anyone else was going to offer any concretely empirical example, at all.

This isn't (or it oughn't be, at least) any sort of pissing contest. There's no award for having endured the most pain, either physical or mental. And personally, I thought it was strikingly bold of you to relate such distressing experiences so directly. As someone who regularly invokes details of his personal life in order to help describe his beliefs, I know how difficult it can be. Yet if I had endured what you have, and felt as you did, I'm unsure that I would be willing to discuss it.

Beyond that, I don't know about this talk of "extraordinary." We each of us, individually, only ever deal with the circumstances of our own life. And when we're discussing our relationship to suicide -- or anything else, actually -- we can only ever really understand it in terms of our own experience... though it is crucial to try to understand the experience of others, and this is why we share. So thank you for sharing your own.

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Do you have a sufficiently extraordinary tale to share or are you just pontificating on this philosophy forum?

Hey now, don't put down pontification -- it's virtually the forum's lifeblood. :)

10 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

I can offer you a short take from Ayn Rand here on suicide:

I recognize that these are "off-the-cuff" comments, and not quite the same as a published essay on the topic, for instance... but it's interesting to hear Rand speak about "moral reasons" and "valid reasons" both for and against suicide (in individual cases, depending on context). Again, I think this squares largely with my views -- not that this would prove anything regardless; but where and when I conflict with Rand, or other prominent Objectivist thinkers, I like to be aware of the fact.

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I did not re-review the thread from the beginning and lost track of the fact that the OPAR quote had already been cited.

I only mentioned it to give epistemologue his due; he did not shy away from the fact of disagreeing with Peikoff (and perhaps Rand by extension, though I think only Peikoff is named). It is admirable.

9 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Yes, but I think the necessary context you speak of is extremely wide; enough so that those problems which can't be fixed are a rare exception to the rule.

Hmm...

It is possible that we'll have to "agree to disagree" on this point, at least temporarily. I'm unsure. But I suspect that you're still conflating the two senses of the "no-win scenario": the idea that there are Kobayashi Marus -- no-win scenarios, as such, which I disavow -- and an unwinnable scenario in context, which I affirm.

A defective heart is a solvable problem. Man can develop heart transplant technology and he can perfect that technology (asymptotically, at least). A defective heart is not a no-win scenario -- it is a problem which can be fixed.

But in context? For much of human history, a defective heart was not a problem which could be corrected at the time, given the tools and know-how available. These are not "rare exceptions," but they are the circumstances of life. Everything may one day be cured, be solved, be fixed, and it is fine to hold that in mind (and soul) -- but it is a far cry from supposing that everything may be cured, solved, and fixed today, which is unreasonable to expect, given what we currently know.

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No, a caveman couldn't leap from a burning stick to an electric light bulb; there are intermediate steps that he'd have to follow. I'd find it highly unlikely for a caveman to single-handedly bound through all those steps, culminating in his invention of the light bulb - but perhaps not impossible, depending on the sort of mind he had.

Answering this sort of question properly would require research I'm not prepared to undertake at the moment, but do you understand what an expansive wealth of knowledge underlay an invention such as the light bulb? (I'm sure you do, but please take a moment to reflect on it.)

I'd expect that there were genius cavemen, doing genius things given the standards and conditions of the time (which is no knock; this could be said of the geniuses of any era). But a caveman capable of developing all of the preconditions necessary for a light bulb (in terms of scientific understanding; in terms of tools; in terms of production), let alone the invention itself...? It utterly beggars belief. It is a science-fiction more outlandish than any talented author could make either plausible or palatable, and if we were to discover a cave painting of a caveman holding aloft his electric light bulb, I'd think we'd sooner revisit the "ancient aliens" hypothesis than conclude he'd invented it himself.

I understand what you mean by "perhaps not impossible" in an analytic sense, but synthetically I would argue that this was not at all possible -- and, so far as we know, it did not happen in all of human history... until the 19th Century!

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The entire case I'm building is about why you shouldn't do that!

I hope you realize that I was fully aware of the irony of that statement when I wrote it; it was purposeful (and indeed, I had been contemplating a minor "suicide," in abandoning the thread to its own devices).

Really, though, while these things are routinely put together (and for good reason), I think I would like to make the case that suicide is not necessarily an act of despair -- or at least that it does not necessarily conform to the negative emotional connotations of the term.

Read over the essay I'd linked and ask yourself whether the author sounds despairing in her choice. It may be that she has no hope of surviving her brain cancer; it may be that she has no good reason to hope for it (whatever tricks Imhotep or Hippocrates may have whipped up in similar circumstances); but I think that what characterizes Maynard's approach to her own death is a sense of calm and acceptance -- that her recourse to suicide, and her ability to set the terms of her own exit, in fact, lends her a kind of strength. It is a powerful human statement, in my opinion: this is what I will allow to happen to me, this is what I will allow myself to become -- and this is not.

And whatever the bitter, pain-ridden, misanthropic Gregory House might feel about the subject, yes, there is even a dignity to it.

Edited by DonAthos

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21 hours ago, epistemologue said:

I'm not suggesting that one rationalistically ignore pain, guilt, or negative feelings as though they don't exist.

Now that I've refreshed myself a touch, I can come back around to this.

I think that you have been suggesting that one "rationalistically ignore pain," and etc., yes. (Perhaps not consistently, and perhaps you've also spoken against the same, or even have changed your mind, but then internal contradiction is also a possibility.) I've referred to the fact of the thread's title, which is "Reification and Suicide" -- where what is supposedly "reified" is, among other things, pain.

Here is your opening paragraph from your OP:

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

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.

You're saying that to assert the absence of a thing as an existent is to "reify zero," and a fallacy. Well, all right -- to what end? What "zero" are we meant to be reifying, exactly? How does this thesis inform the body of your argument?

Soon after, you state:

On 11/16/2016 at 0:08 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.

So how exactly is the reader meant to relate these passages?

I say that you're suggesting that "pain" (that which "simply does not offer us any pleasure") is the sort of "negative thing" you'd referred to initially, in that it is the "logical negation of some other object." This is what you mean when you say it is a "zero" (emphasized, no less), and this is what you argue we ought not "reify." This is why the thread is titled as it is, and this is why you opened your post in the manner you selected. That's the very point that you were making.

And it is incorrect. Pain is not the absence of pleasure or the "logical negation" of pleasure. It is an existent which is just as real as pleasure is. It is not a zero, and to assert that "pain exists" is not to "reify a zero."

Pain has a negative character, true, but this is not to say that it is a "negative concept." Rather, it is the fact that the character of pain is negative which gives rise to its incentivizing capacity, which is that it inspires in us the desire to avoid it.

21 hours ago, epistemologue said:

Pain is information, it's a signal that something is damaging (or interfering or threatening) your life, your values, the fullest good you are capable of achieving. You must actually pay attention to that information and understand where it's coming from and what it means.

If you're living a life of self-sacrifice when it comes to relationships and sex, or you're having your limbs chopped off, or your hand is on a stove, the origin of the pain is this improper action, and what it means is that you should stop what you're doing and change course (pursue a fulfilling relationship and sex life, pull your hand away from the stove, etc).

The idea that "pain doesn't matter" is to say that pain is not an incentive.

Pain is information just as pleasure is information, but this is not all we can -- or should -- say about them. Again: pain has a negative character (or we can perhaps think about it being "charged"), just as pleasure is positive. These absolutely do incentivize our behavior. We are drawn towards the pleasurable and repulsed from the painful, by the nature of what we are.

We can learn to endure pain and forego pleasure, according to our values ("I shall endure this painful surgery, because..."; "I will refrain from eating that slice of cheesecake, because..."), but this does not change the reality of what pleasure and pain are, or our natural orientation towards them.

Broadly (and a touch metaphorically/poetically), I would say that it is the character of various pleasures and pains which weave the experiential tapestry of life. I would even argue that it is through the experience of pain and pleasure that we give meaning to such ideas as "good" and "evil." As such, they absolutely do matter. They matter as much as what matters about our lives is not simply their duration, but whether we enjoy ourselves, whether we suffer, whether we laugh, whether we cry, whether we are able to honestly say that we love the fact of our own existence -- or wish ourselves quit of it.

Even the question of whether we live or die at any given moment (as any one of us could die at any moment) does not matter so much to me as whether we enjoy our lives, while we are able to do so.

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18 hours ago, dream_weaver said:

As both Rand and Peikoff state/imply: the right to life belongs to the possessor. Context is imperative.

Context is imperative, so at least I'm not saying that suicide is immoral because the "rules" say so. There are moral rules, but exist as the conditions and actions needed to attain a good life. Peikoff was saying how if all that left is pain and sorrow, it may be proper. Tara Smith wrote about it in a similar way, that it may be proper in those contexts. As stated, before any analysis this is fine. Epist said that if one loses their mental faculty, they're essentially dead. Another idea (my position) is that in a situation of only pain, nothing else, may qualify as "appropriate" suicide, or morally neutral.

Then with further analysis, you'd ask if that type of pain exists. This is where I say these possible contexts aren't real, even if imaginable. People talk about dying with dignity, but I don't know reasons to say this. Don mentioned that a person is declaring how they go, thus are taking control of their life. I don't see what is dignified about giving reasons to die over finding the depth of life that people in worse situations are able to find. The fact is, a person in "pure pain" doesn't exist - this at least tells us that one must first identify some good, some value, in order to live at all.

Let me add some context to my claims. I was unsure about bringing it up, but it applies to the real life example Harrison wanted to talk about. I've got a disability that makes me physically dependent on others to even live, e.g. to even get food in my mouth. At some point in my life, I may be presented an opportunity, by a doctor, for assisted suicide. To some, my life is already torturous. It is not. Objectivism, as a philosophy, helps one to feel, first-hand, the power of being alive and that experience - the fullest sense of existing. Only outright obliteration of one's mind erases that power. The presence of pain does not.

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20 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Do you have a sufficiently extraordinary tale to share or are you just pontificating on this philosophy forum?

If you're not interested in football players with CTE or soldiers with psychological problems who kill themselves, maybe you'll be interested in former BMX legend Dave Mirra's story. He got CTE from repeated crashes on his bicycle and killed himself earlier this year. He is the first BMX star whose suicide has been linked to CTE.

I could link to many stories like Mirra's about former NFL players. But all you have to do is google "CTE" and "suicide" to find them yourself.

This is now the third time, I believe, that I've mentioned such cases on this thread, along with soldier suicides due to psychological trauma. Maybe the third time will be the charm.

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Don pointed out the extemporaneous delivery contained in the video.

10 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I recognize that these are "off-the-cuff" comments, and not quite the same as a published essay on the topic, for instance... but it's interesting to hear Rand speak about "moral reasons" and "valid reasons" both for and against suicide (in individual cases, depending on context).

While not a published essay on the topic, Rand did use the elderly chief of police of Durance, Louisiana, a man "with a slow, firm manner and a look of bitterness acquired not in blind resentment, but in fidelity to clear-cut standards",  to pontificate on suicide. After setting down a number of details about Eric Starnes, (s)he wraps up by stating on pg. 300:

Now I say there might be forgiveness for a man who kills himself quietly. Who can pass judgment on another man's suffering and on the limit of what he can bear? But the man who kills himself, making a show of his death in order to hurt somebody, the man who gives his life for malice—there's no forgiveness for him, no excuse, he's rotten clear through, and what he deserves is that people spit at his memory, instead of feeling sorry for him and hurt, as he wanted them to be.

Remember too, {i}f life is what you want, you must pay for it, by accepting and practicing a code of rational behavior. Morality, too, is a must—if; it is the price of the choice to live. That choice itself, therefore, is not a moral choice; it precedes morality; it is the decision of consciousness that underlies the need of morality." — OPAR, pg. 245

 

Objectivism offers life as the reward for accepting its morality as outlined in Galt's Speech on page 941:

If you desire ever again to live in an industrial society, it will be on our moral terms. Our terms and our motive power are the antithesis of yours. You have been using fear as your weapon and have been bringing death to man as his punishment for rejecting your morality. We offer him life as his reward for accepting ours.

Granted, this moves the main fulcrum away from suicide, per se. The acceptance or rejection of altruism ultimately embraces a form of slow suicide, while embracing rational egoism has been posited as the hitherto unseen exploration outside of an otherwise false alternative.

Edited by dream_weaver
fix italics neuance.

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3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

There are moral rules, but exist as the conditions and actions needed to attain a good life.

IMO, this is a sound presentation of "moral rules." Or at least, the ones which make any sense. The case for suicide in these terms, then, is that when one is unable to attain a good life, or even a tolerable one, suicide may be rational.

I think that there have been claims in this thread (if not in these words) that "a good life is always attainable"; but I do not believe that is so.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Peikoff was saying how if all that left is pain and sorrow, it may be proper. Tara Smith wrote about it in a similar way, that it may be proper in those contexts. As stated, before any analysis this is fine. Epist said that if one loses their mental faculty, they're essentially dead. Another idea (my position) is that in a situation of only pain, nothing else, may qualify as "appropriate" suicide, or morally neutral.

Then with further analysis, you'd ask if that type of pain exists. This is where I say these possible contexts aren't real, even if imaginable.

The idea of nothing being left but pain and sorrow is the strongest case, but I don't think it's the only one (and I cannot say that it is not real, in any event). If a person looks forward -- again, in reason -- and expects pain and sorrow such that whatever else might be experienced pales in comparison, I would say that may be sufficient. I don't know whether you've read the case I'd linked (twice, now), but I would say that sits comfortably in this category.

3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Let me add some context to my claims. I was unsure about bringing it up, but it applies to the real life example Harrison wanted to talk about. I've got a disability that makes me physically dependent on others to even live, e.g. to even get food in my mouth. At some point in my life, I may be presented an opportunity, by a doctor, for assisted suicide. To some, my life is already torturous. It is not.

I don't know many details about your situation (and again, I applaud your bravery for sharing it), but the question of whether others would find your life torturous is moot; if it is not torturous to you, then the question of suicide in your case is equally moot. If your life is satisfactory to you, or wonderful, then that is satisfactory and/or wonderful. There would be no reason for you to take such a doctor up on his "opportunity."

What matters to the question of justifiable suicide is whether others' experiences of their own lives are torturous to them. It then further matters whether there are ways for them to improve that experience for themselves, or whether they are unable to do so. In the last case, suicide is a valid option. No one should be required to endure torture for the sake of "morality."

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3 hours ago, DonAthos said:

No one should be required to endure torture for the sake of "morality."

You see, I'm not arguing that it's for the sake of morality that one must endure torture. I mean to say that opting for death despite some values is itself torturous; life would not in fact be torturous if one has taken the time to build up a positive sense of life or healthy attitudes. The only arguments I saw against that is the expectation is unrealistic or pain can in theory outweigh one's pleasure in living. I believe that - but not for the most admirable people, or people that really and fully see life as joyful.

I read the article. Take this line: "I considered passing away in hospice care at my San Francisco Bay-area home. But even with palliative medication, I could develop potentially morphine-resistant pain and suffer personality changes and verbal, cognitive and motor loss of virtually any kind."

I understand and don't necessarily find it wrong to decide against palliative medication if death is near and the cognitive impact is major. It all depends on the evidence for the treatment, how well they work, etc. But to PICK a time to die and claim this makes death dignified? Terrible! Your funeral could be dignified or undignified, sure - but dying with dignity seems like an idea that one goes to heaven and is then able to see value in their death. It seems Christian in origin.

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10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

You see, I'm not arguing that it's for the sake of morality that one must endure torture. I mean to say that opting for death despite some values is itself torturous--

Except that it clearly isn't. Here is Maynard's description from the article we have both now read:

Quote

Having this choice at the end of my life has become incredibly important. It has given me a sense of peace during a tumultuous time that otherwise would be dominated by fear, uncertainty and pain.

Her opting for death -- or at least having it as a possibility -- is not a source of pain or torture for her. It is saving her from "fear, uncertainty and pain." It is providing her peace of mind.

Or maybe you would discount her description? But then, anyone could play that game; someone could disbelieve you when you report that your own life is not torturous. But no. I believe you when you say that your life is not torturous, and I believe Maynard when she says that her decision to commit suicide has given her a sense of peace, and is preferable to the alternative.

Beyond which -- and again, this provides the context for our present discussion -- we must remember that epistemologue was the one who invoked the word "torture" to describe that which must be endured (in a post that you "liked"):

On 11/19/2016 at 7:14 AM, epistemologue said:

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.

[...]

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 life, achieving values and happiness is always possible.

So yes, forgive me, Eiuol, but insofar as this represents your position, you are saying that torture must be endured for the sake of morality. (Or for the sake of "happiness," which is held here to be something almost wholly unrelated to actual earthly experience, but a virtually disembodied product of being able to reason, which is... a mistaken understanding, to put it as lightly as I can.)

Or, if we are cruel enough to imagine a person trapped "in a kind of hell," being "tortured and suffering the worst possible pain" while supposing that this person can still "think...imagine and create...reason and come to conclusions," then we cannot fault such a person from coming to the conclusion on the basis of that reason that they would rather die than continue on in such a sorry state. Hell is for escaping. And if the circumstances of such a hell are such that it cannot be escaped, except for death, then that is both a reasonable and moral choice.

Remember what you'd said earlier about moral rules having to do with attaining the good life? Just so. And when your "moral rules" lead to you suggesting that people live in "a kind of hell," that's when you know that there is a problem somewhere in your formulation, because "a kind of hell" is not the good life.

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...life would not in fact be torturous if one has taken the time to build up a positive sense of life or healthy attitudes.

No. I'm sorry, but no. There is so much that's wrong here, it's hard to know where to begin. (Though much of this is restatement, by now...)

This demonstrates no understanding of what "torture" is. Whatever your personal difficulties, whatever your daily experience, it is not akin to what you would experience if you were submitted to a torturer whose intentions were to make you feel pain. A "positive sense of life" and "healthy attitudes" are not an antidote against the thumbscrew. Again: being an Objectivist does not bring immunity from pain.

Whether there are natural conditions which can produce that level of pain--? I can again only directly report on my personal experiences, and that which I've suffered, and I can say that (through appendicitis and some other difficulties) what I've endured was quite torturous enough. If the worst pains I've experienced in my life were persistent, I would not be a happy camper.

And also this idea of "build[ing] up a positive sense of life" -- well, it would take us too far afield to get into substantively, but let's just say that I disagree that this is how "sense of life" works.

Finally, I think it preposterous that there is some reasonable expectation that a person should have an attitude that receives with equanimity the news that one has brain cancer and a six-month terminal prognosis. I disagree that this is anything like "healthy." The things that (for instance) Maynard describes, with her headaches, surgeries, proposed treatments, and expectation for the remainder of her too-short life are horrible. That she finds the prospect in toto "torturous" (though that remains epistemologue's word; Maynard describes it as a "nightmare scenario") is no sign of immorality -- and frankly, it's rather appalling that you would imply as much.

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The only arguments I saw against that is the expectation is unrealistic or pain can in theory outweigh one's pleasure in living. I believe that - but not for the most admirable people, or people that really and fully see life as joyful.

In addition to what I've already said on this subject, I'll add that there is something like a No True Scotsman about it: "if X committed suicide, they must not have been truly admirable."

I also believe that the evidence we have on hand suggests that both Rand and Peikoff (among others) were able to suppose cases in which pain could outweigh one's pleasure in living. I don't think the addendum was "...for a nihilist!" I think they were considering the case for a reasonable, moral man. Perhaps this is not an argument, per se, but maybe it's worth reflecting on?

And finally, suppose you're right. Suppose it's true that this only pertains to someone who is not among "the most admirable people," whatever that's supposed to mean. Well, what then? What would we suggest to Brittany Maynard, staring down six months of what to her is a "nightmare scenario," and brain cancer, and radiation, and morphine, and all that goes with it...? "Quick! Become more admirable! See life as more joyful!" Do you think that a practical solution? Are you going to say that suicide remains immoral in her case, even if she cannot amend her flawed sense of life in her last six months on Earth, while undergoing all of the awfulness she must (in order to satisfy Eiuol's value system, mind -- not her own)? Or would you allow that the morality or justifiability of suicide in her case must take the full context into account, including her apparently spotty sense of life, and her poor showing on the Grand Eiuol Admiration Scale?

Suppose, though not personally seeing the good in it, Maynard acquiesces to you that "suicide is never moral," and so decides to live out the remainder of her life. If she never manages to acquire the sense of life you believe she ought to have, but merely suffers in the name of a morality which is not her own, would you account that a mistake on her part? Or a good/moral decision (though with an unfortunate result)?

And supposing we could foresee that outcome -- according to our best understanding and predictive ability -- would you then say her suicide would be justified? Or would you yet insist that she undergo those six months of suffering -- for the sake of moral action?

Edited by DonAthos

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12 hours ago, Eiuol said:

I believe that - but not for the most admirable people, or people that really and fully see life as joyful.

This view sounds like idealism, as if life is intrinsically joyful, a conception which leads to the deductive notion that life itself has intrinsic value, despite the objective condition of one's particular body and mind.

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On 12/7/2016 at 0:24 AM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

If saying that even torture can be good, depending on what you spend that time contemplating, Epistemologue was chopping the realm of values in two (introspective and extraspective) and declaring that only one half actually matters; that while we may hold utilitarian goals in the other, they can only be means to the ends of the first, and never ends in themselves.

This is a perfectly straightforward and internally consistent application of the soul-body split to the Objectivist Ethics.

Can you explain what you meant here? I'm not really following.

The concretes I offered in my second post in this thread, the value of contemplating things purely in your mind, were chosen specifically to address the most extreme hypothetical I could think of, that you were trapped in your own mind and that's all you had available. That wasn't intended to be a complete statement of what values are and where you can achieve them, as though they are limited to purely those concretes I gave.

I tried to clarify my overall point here:

The pain of a headache does matter in the sense that it's interfering with the fullest pursuit and experience of positive values throughout the day - and by values I mean either introspectively or extrospectively, the pursuit of life and happiness, and the entire conceptual hierarchy of values that one has as an adult. So this isn't meant to "split" anything along the lines of introspective or extrospective, or to say that either is merely a means to the other.

 

 

 

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You wrote a lot Don, so I'll respond in bullet points that are a general response to the entire thing.

Opting for death as providing peace - Absolutely, some people will find solace and peace of mind from an earlier death. That doesn't mean it's right to do, nor does it mean there are not other ways to feel some kind of calm and acceptance. Buddhist monks for example attain similar peace by outright seeing value as a human illusion. Or another thing is samurai may kill themselves after humiliation because the pain of dishonor is too great.

Enduring torture - A purely physical torture that lasts as long as a stimulus is not itself a choice. The pain that matters as far as suicide is an existential pain, or pain deeper than a stimulus. Maynard was presumably avoiding an existential pain for existing at all in a sorry state. But why assume such pain will have to be the case or that it -really- is a hell.

A "positive sense of life" and "healthy attitudes" are not an antidote against the thumbscrew - No, but it is for existential pain. Remember, opting for no treatment past a certain point isn't necessarily bad or suicide.

Peikoff et al. were considering the case for a moral man - Indeed, but I'm going further to say that those possible justifications aren't real. If "pure pain" were real or one lacked values at all, it'd be fine, but I don't think such a case exists for an integrated mind.

People who are unable to attain a joyful sense of life - This is the importance of habit and practice in being moral. But perhaps this is a weak part of Objectivist ethics, or it is not addressed enough. If a person will not be able to fix or alter something as deep as sense of life before they die, what can they do? Perhaps the good life in that span will be unattainable, and then suicide for these flawed individuals may be proper. Peter Keating was essentially "too late" at the end of The Fountainhead - but Rand was probably mistaken about that, but it's okay for art. For now, my stance is the unwavering effort to be moral is joyful. That joy is why even making errors doesn't prevent moral perfection and the good life.

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On 12/13/2016 at 11:23 AM, epistemologue said:

There can come a point where someone is overwhelmed by pain, and they switch their ultimate motivation from the pursuit of values, of life and happiness - even seeking to avoid and escape from pain as a means to these ultimate ends - to regarding the escape from pain as the ultimate end instead. And the consequences of this switch are devastating to the ultimate end one ought to have, morally, by your nature as a living organism and as a man.

Absolutely. And in that specific sense, I wholeheartedly agree (both in your conclusion and your estimate of its importance).

 

Like "value", what's "important" or "meaningful" depends on your purpose. Information that's relevant to a surgeon may not be relevant to an astrophysicist because they'd use it for different reasons, in pursuit of different goals.

And pain is not the meaning of life. It's not relevant to our highest values. It does not matter in the long run, except as a possible impediment to one's pursuit of one's own happiness (and a problem to be disposed of). The fundamental distinction between Roark's response to pain and the Black Knight's is in the range of the goals for which they'll bear it.

 

This is an "important" distinction if our moral code is meant to help real people make real choices, here on planet Earth.

 

On 12/13/2016 at 11:23 AM, epistemologue said:

In particular, it's not providing, in itself, an intrinsic motivation to avoid the pain - the motivation to avoid the pain comes from your positive values, those positive incentives which are being damaged, threatened, and interfered with by this pain, your inability to achieve everything you want to achieve, to experience the fullest good you are capable of experiencing by nature.

 

Of all the pains I have ever experienced, the achievement of my fullest potential has never been my primary reason for alleviating them. It has been one reason, but never the main one.

 

My primary reason for wanting to avoid pain is because IT HURTS!!!

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On 12/13/2016 at 4:12 PM, DonAthos said:

I think that in saying that there is a real choice to be made between three pain-free months and six painful months, you would agree with me that pain is real and that it matters. (If pain were "a zero" with respect to value or incentive, why should there be any real choice at all? 6 > 3.)

Indeed. I do agree that pain is a negative, that any course of action in which one's anticipated values sum to less than zero is wrong and that suicide is moral in any situation in which there is no net-positive course of action.

 

On 12/13/2016 at 4:12 PM, DonAthos said:

Take my wife (please! ...but not really, I love her, and that's an awful joke now that I think about it) -- suppose she got depressed in the near future and, in a fit of despondency, took her own life? What an unbelievable tragedy that would be for her, for me, for our child, for our respective families, for our friends, for her work, for her community, and so forth. Unconscionable.

But suppose we fast forward several decades, and she was approaching the end of her life, and suppose she was battling some degenerative disease that left her in constant pain. If at that point she decided (after some measure of counseling and reflection) that she wanted to put an end to things, how should I feel about it?

I don't think you should revile her for it or anything like that; the sort of "immorality" I mean just isn't comparable to that of, say, Hitler. Also, regardless of the morality of suicide, I'd like to point out that everyone has the right to die; it's not anyone else's decision to make. We probably also agree on how one ought to feel about self-destruction (of anyone but Hitler).

 

I'm not as sure about Galt's hypothetical suicide, and still less sure about Cheryl Taggart's.

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3 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Of all the pains I have ever experienced, the achievement of my fullest potential has never been my primary reason for alleviating them. It has been one reason, but never the main one.

 

My primary reason for wanting to avoid pain is because IT HURTS!!!

That's not a moral reason to avoid pain - to avoid pain just because it hurts, for its own sake, is to place the avoidance of pain on the level of an ultimate end!

The cause of the pain can be something you ought to avoid, for example if your hand is burning because you accidentally placed it on a hot stove, you ought to avoid burning your hand because of its value to you. Since the nature of pain is to indicate that there is something wrong, some struggle or damage or a threat of damage, thinking you ought to avoid it is a natural inference to make, but it's not always the case. Sometimes pain simply comes from a struggle and there is no damage, or there is damage but it's recoverable (think of muscle soreness from working out). There are many pains you ought to endure because you have some positive goal you are pursuing. If instead your hand is burning because you're being tested with gom jabber (the Bene Gesserit torture test from the book Dune, for which the penalty of failure is death), you had better not avoid the pain just because it hurts. That's exactly the moral failure for which the test is designed.

Pain, by itself, is not a morally valid reason or motivation to stop. If your ultimate end is the pursuit of happiness and your ultimate standard of morality is life, then the moral reason to avoid pain is as a means to these ultimate ends, not as an end in itself.

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2 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Indeed. I do agree that pain is a negative, that any course of action in which one's anticipated values sum to less than zero is wrong and that suicide is moral in any situation in which there is no net-positive course of action.

Precisely. This is my position in a nutshell.

If I ever sit down to write my analysis of Objectivism -- as I sometimes imagine that I may one day attempt -- remind me to hire you as my editor.

2 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

I don't think you should revile her for it or anything like that; the sort of "immorality" I mean just isn't comparable to that of, say, Hitler.

I didn't take you to mean that anyone who commits suicide is immoral on the level of Hitler -- though with other Objectivists, I would be far less certain. (We are an eclectic bunch, and many of us have... intriguing notions! :))

But I also don't think that the scenario I'd presented -- my wife at advanced age, suffering from degeneration and constant pain, opting for suicide -- is immoral at all. Rather, I think it satisfies (or has the potential to satisfy, at least) what we'd agreed upon immediately above -- a situation in which there is no net-positive course of action, but only sums less than zero. I think it is a sign of rationality (and even morality) not to accept such a fate.

2 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Also, regardless of the morality of suicide, I'd like to point out that everyone has the right to die; it's not anyone else's decision to make.

So far as I understand, that position (thankfully) is not in contention.

36 minutes ago, epistemologue said:

That's not a moral reason to avoid pain - to avoid pain just because it hurts, for its own sake, is to place the avoidance of pain on the level of an ultimate end!

This nears the central issue, I think. When we discuss the "ultimate end" that is "life," what precisely do we mean? The bare fact of survival? That's how David Kelley understood it, according to my reading of him, so if that's your position -- as I suspect it is -- you're in intelligent and well-argued company. Yet I disagree.

I believe that life itself has value, and is the source of value, due to the experience of life (as opposed to "life-as-survival"; there is no value in a persistent vegetative state, though technical life; there is even less value -- or negative value -- in a life of constant misery). And importantly that pleasures and pains contribute directly to one's experience of life, as do one's emotional analogues to pleasure and pain -- happiness and sadness (along with all of the other associated emotions).

Here's Rand on "happiness" (The Virtue of Selfishness, 29):

Quote

...when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself—the kind that makes one think: “This is worth living for”—what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.

So, life is "an end in itself" as is "pure happiness," in that it makes one think "this is worth living for." Just so.

Note the similarity in language when Rand describes the experience of great art (The Romantic Manifesto, 170):

Quote

The importance of that experience is not in what he learns from it, but in that he experiences it. The fuel is not a theoretical principle, not a didactic “message,” but the life-giving fact of experiencing a moment of metaphysical joy—a moment of love for existence.

A moment of love for existence. Just so.

These are the experiences that make life worth living, these experiences which both provide and reaffirm one's "love for existence." And to them I would add bodily, physical pleasures: Sexual climax. The taste and texture of chocolate cake. The feeling of sunlight, gently warming the skin.

It would be sacrifice (and consequently immoral) to pursue such pleasures (or avoid pains) without consideration of long-term value, and their relationship to survival -- and happiness. Yet it would be equally sacrificial to live a life devoid of such pleasures, or without taking such pleasures into account in one's ethical reasoning. Not for what the pleasures "provide" qua survival, in the hopes that such rational calculation will bring "happiness," but for the sake of the pleasure itself -- for the sake of experiencing "moments of metaphysical joy," for its own sake, because that is what "life" is. Or what it ought to be, and why we value it in the first place.

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Don, what makes metaphysical joy impossible with extreme pain *and* positive values being present? Aren't values pleasures? If values are present, then life isn't devoid of pleasures!

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Don, what makes metaphysical joy impossible with extreme pain *and* positive values being present?

I don't know that such "moments of metaphysical joy," such as the contemplation of great art or achieving orgasm, are necessarily impossible with pain, per se. I think that they are harder to achieve, due to the nature of pain, e.g. directing one's focus sufficiently upon art to receive such pleasures as are available -- which is typically rendered more difficult by, among other things, lacking sleep, or being very hungry, or having a headache. This is true, too, for sex, and I've been distracted enough at times in my life such that I've had sex without taking too much pleasure in it, I report regretfully.

The more "extreme" the pain involved, however, the harder it becomes to focus elsewhere or take pleasure elsewhere, so that, in context, some particular "metaphysical joy" may well and truly be impossible for a person to experience as such. Again with the thumbscrews: they leave one in a position unable to contemplate the chiaroscuro of Caravaggio, or the ironies in Jane Austen; erection may be hard to come by, too, let alone climax.

As for "positive values" and happiness? What gives a particular value its positive character -- and happiness its emotional depth -- is that it reflects on its relationship to the long-term, and the overall. While I was not in a position to take any sort of pleasure in it directly (speaking physically or spiritually), I could have been said to be "happy," even when suffering from appendicitis, because I knew that at some point I would clear that obstacle. I knew that the pain would eventually subside. When I discovered that it was appendicitis that ailed me, I knew that I could have an appendectomy; I knew that I would soon be free again to take actual, direct, real pleasure in my life.

In a sense, the "happiness" I could describe myself as having, while in that extreme pain, was on loan from the future. It was based upon my assessment of that future, and by way of contrast, if there was no appendectomy to be had, if I knew that my pain would not be corrected, but persist indefinitely, then I might not be able to answer that I was happy at all.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Aren't values pleasures? If values are present, then life isn't devoid of pleasures!

A life does not have to be absolutely "devoid of pleasures" to be, on the whole, characterized by pain or other disvalues. To go back again to Maynard's case, if she could project (as I'm sure she did) that she might have moments of lucidity or genuine joy, offset by hours and days and weeks of suffering and increasing disrepair, that might not have been enough to make the journey worthwhile for her on the whole. When considering that whole, she was not able to take happiness in it.

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On 12/13/2016 at 9:04 PM, dream_weaver said:

To declare the act moral/immoral posthumously would come across as disingenuous barring mitigating factors that could actually be known in advance (rather than simply possibilities and/or presuppositions).

 

Yes. There's a difference between errors of ignorance and moral failures, which we'd be very wrong to omit. Even if suicide could be shown to be universally immoral, no such posthumous judgements would follow; like any other moral principle, one would have to carefully apply it to the context of every individual's life.

You'd also be absolutely correct if you'd said that my entire epistemic argument revolves around "possibilities and presumptions". It does. That's not a bug, but a feature.

 

Morality is about making choices. When we speak of moral principles, we're speaking of standards by which to judge our own choices and methods for improving them (according to those standards).

We don't automatically know the consequences of our choices, in advance; if we did then neither epistemology (with which we predict such consequences) nor morality (with which we weigh them) would have any meaning, whatsoever. All we know about the future are possibilities and presumptions, in varying degrees of clarity and accuracy, and the aim of all such sciences is to improve them (since their quality is literally a matter of life and death).

Although I'm usually not comfortable with dividing human inquiry up into separate areas which obey different rules, it does stand to reason that the distinguishing characteristic of "philosophy" is in the identification of those possibilities and presumptions which are universal to every man, in any possible situation. That's our cognitive gold standard.

 

Now, if you were to deny that I've established the universality of some of my claims, you'd be completely correct. That's what I have left to debug, however; not their speculative nature.

 

On 12/15/2016 at 4:29 PM, epistemologue said:

Can you explain what you meant here? I'm not really following.

Certainly.

 

You posited that someone who was completely cut off from reality could still enjoy contemplating the contents of their own cognition, but that content could only be drawn from their experiences in reality. They may choose to rearrange, integrate and restructure it however they pleased, but all of the raw material would have to come from their senses. If all they had to build with was pain and fear then no amount of thinking would transform it into anything else; they would have nothing to contemplate except more pain and fear. Garbage in, garbage out.

This is what it means for an experience to provide "spiritual fuel" and what it means for such fuel to run out.

 

Now, the process of burying a mind under such muck is a long, slow, gradual one, which can be resisted for a while; in this sense you're completely correct. But morality (and Egoism in particular) is not about what happens on this or that day, but over the course of an entire lifetime; all of the things which render "lifeboat scenarios" irrelevant also apply to however long a person can choose to be happy in spite of any external torment.

Furthermore, if taken as the rule and not as the exception, your scenario amounts to a denial of the relationship between sensation and cognition. Hence the soul-body dichotomy. And to your credit, that error lines up perfectly consistently with quite a number of your statements on this thread (which leads me to suspect that it's an honest mistake, but not an isolated slip of the tongue).

 

I completely agree with the spirit of those statements; that each of us is fundamentally in control of our own destinies and happiness; the masters of our own fate. But that control is not total or unilateral (not even within our own minds) specifically because it's connected to so many external things in so many ways.

We accomplish nothing by pretending that the issue is simpler than it really is.

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On 12/14/2016 at 7:39 AM, DonAthos said:

This isn't (or it oughn't be, at least) any sort of pissing contest. There's no award for having endured the most pain, either physical or mental. And personally, I thought it was strikingly bold of you to relate such distressing experiences so directly. As someone who regularly invokes details of his personal life in order to help describe his beliefs, I know how difficult it can be. Yet if I had endured what you have, and felt as you did, I'm unsure that I would be willing to discuss it.

Beyond that, I don't know about this talk of "extraordinary." We each of us, individually, only ever deal with the circumstances of our own life. And when we're discussing our relationship to suicide -- or anything else, actually -- we can only ever really understand it in terms of our own experience... though it is crucial to try to understand the experience of others, and this is why we share. So thank you for sharing your own.

No problem.

 

And I realize that it's not a pissing contest. I was not trying to point out that I've endured more than MisterSwig (which, in light of the nerve pain he mentioned, would almost certainly be false) but that I've explained what I did endure, in order to better ground this discussion in reality. In light of his nerve pain, I'm sure his experiences would be infinitely more useful here than my own.

 

I have read the article you linked to. I'm not sure what to say about it, yet; there are a few more things I'm still chewing on.

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On 12/17/2016 at 1:03 PM, epistemologue said:

That's not a moral reason to avoid pain - to avoid pain just because it hurts, for its own sake, is to place the avoidance of pain on the level of an ultimate end!

In one sense, yes.

 

If I take Advil in order to cure my headache, simply because I have one, I am not necessarily dedicating my entire life to the avoidance of pain. I am not saying "I'll never strive for virtue or greatness again"; all I am saying is "this specific thing hurts, so I'll take this concrete action to fix it".

Yes, that's an "ultimate end" in that it is an end in itself, and I see nothing wrong with that. It is not my "ultimate end" as the meaning of my entire life, which would be extremely wrong.

 

Even Howard Roark would put his architecture aside, from time to time, to have sex with Dominique (although he refused to give it up permanently).

This is why I keep coming back to the distinction between how we treat our highest, most important goals, and those we hold as part of everyday life. For pain to count in both of these areas would condemn us to a life like Keating's; for it not to count in either, the Black Knight's. Yet those cannot be our only options, and they aren't - so long as we mind that distinction.

 

On 12/17/2016 at 1:03 PM, epistemologue said:

There are many pains you ought to endure because you have some positive goal you are pursuing. If instead your hand is burning because you're being tested with gom jabber (the Bene Gesserit torture test from the book Dune, for which the penalty of failure is death), you had better not avoid the pain just because it hurts. That's exactly the moral failure for which the test is designed.

Absolutely.

 

To endure some pain in order to reach some goal, however, does not mean that the pain doesn't count; if that were the case then there would be nothing to endure; it only means that one holds a pair of mutually exclusive values (or, in this case, a value and a disvalue) and must give the lesser one up for the greater one.

 

Furthermore, if pulling your hand out of a box of pain simply because it hurts constitutes a moral failure, then it's a sin every single human being on Earth has probably committed. I know I have; I suspect you also have.

There are people to whom pain truly doesn't count because their ability to sense it was stunted from birth. We don't praise them for it, nor hold them up as moral exemplars; we give them medical attention. It's not a pleasant or happy thing.

 

Now, in one sense it is true that avoiding pain does further one's own happiness, to the extent that it usually prevents damage and injury to one's body (which happens to be my entire point about the Black Knight). However, this is an abstract and conceptual connection, and to assert that every child and anti-conceptual mentality is aware of it is wrong; just as wrong as calling them wrong for removing their hands from hot stoves.

 

Your position, taken as an absolute (as you seem eager to make it), is not tenable. You must either isolate and identify its literal and absolute grain of truth or else continue preaching an overgeneralization which no organism should ever attempt to practice.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Bah! Humbug!

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On 12/17/2016 at 2:21 PM, DonAthos said:

If I ever sit down to write my analysis of Objectivism -- as I sometimes imagine that I may one day attempt -- remind me to hire you as my editor.

Hell, yes!

 

I have a thought experiment for you, though.

 

Suppose someone wanted to blow themselves up, along with a number of innocent civilians. Let's say they aren't Muslim (so there isn't necessarily anything crooked in the reasoning behind it); they aren't doing it for 42 virgins, but simply because they want to kill and die. There's no reason for them to think about their own self-interest (since they want to die) nor to respect the rights of anyone else (since they want to die).

What, if anything, would be immoral about blowing themselves up?

At the end of this song, Todd declares that he's alive and full of joy... But is that true?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Example

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21 hours ago, Harrison Danneskjold said:

I have a thought experiment for you, though.

I will attempt a response to it. I will attempt it, in part, because I pride myself upon a willingness to explore (almost) any line of sincere argumentation. Also because you are asking, Harrison, and no other.

But if I otherwise seem a bit reluctant, it is because... this is the kind of question -- or thought experiment -- that seems to me potentially to be at least as contentious and complicated as the main topic of discussion. I expect that several separate threads could be launched trying to deal with what you've described (plus one for Sweeney Todd, to boot). Furthermore, my own views on this subject are still developing and evolving, and I haven't tried explaining them before, or even elaborating upon them for my own benefit; I fear that my rhetoric is going to be much rougher and more opaque than I would otherwise prefer.

It is uncharted territory, and I ask for your patience while I explore it.

Quote

There's no reason for them to think about their own self-interest (since they want to die) nor to respect the rights of anyone else (since they want to die).

This reflects a common -- but mistaken -- Objectivist understanding, in my opinion:

That understanding is that the desire to live (or to die) is "pre-moral" and consequently amoral. One cannot argue to choose life or death, that one is better than the other, but only that, when one chooses life (howsoever this is managed, left as a mystery), we can then develop/assess an ethics to help one achieve it.

So if one has chosen death (or otherwise rejected "life as the standard," which is held to amount to the same thing), there are no more ethics to discuss. A funny thing, that, almost like a loophole. Any apparently "immoral" behavior can be reassessed as "amoral," if it's concluded that the actor does not hold life as the standard of his ethical choices; if the actor doesn't seek life in the first place, then how could his actions be said to be "wrong" by that standard?

In other words, it is as "good" for Maynard to end her life quietly, surrounded by the people she loves, as it is for her to detonate a nuclear device in the middle of town, surrounded by the people she loves. We suppose these to be equivalent -- equally amoral (or immoral) -- because neither allow for her survival, which is what all moral action is supposed to be oriented towards.

Yet I don't agree with this understanding. I believe that it removes "whim" from the whole of ethical decision making only to return it to the very heart. Rather, I believe that men intrinsically want life, which relies upon, but is broader than, "survival." Life is instead the experience of living, in totality. And we are able to conceive of the good, ultimately, accounting to that which I'd discussed earlier: that pleasure is positive (that which we desire; that which draws us) and pain negative (that which we wish to avoid; that which repels us), according to the nature of what we are. We know "good" because we have experienced pleasure; we know "evil" due to pain. We can then conceptualize these pleasures and pains long term, and over the course of a human life, and we can assess our calculations emotionally, resulting in "happiness" and "sadness."

What we want is positive experience: happiness and pleasure and every other variant on that theme, and as much of it as we can get, for as long as we can. Negative experience also exists, and we seek to avoid it in like fashion.

I consequently believe that men always have a self-interest, which is to maximize this experience of life, making it as "positive" as possible, given our context, and that "the good" is that which serves our self-interest. The trick is to discover the nature/mechanism of this self-interest and how best to achieve it, and our means for doing this is reason. I believe that the rest of the Objectivist Ethics roughly follow. (And further, that this accounts for apparent "contradictions" within, such as an apparent allowance for suicide in certain scenarios, a willingness for "self-sacrifice" to save certain loved ones from destruction, and etc. These cannot be understood when we hold "survival" alone as the standard of value, but they can be understood when we conceive of "life" in terms of maximizing our experience of it.)

For Maynard, wanting to die (because of pain, or anticipated pain, and etc.) does not mean that there remains nothing else in her self-interest. So long as she lives, and so long as she has the capacity to experience that life (meaning: taking pleasures or pains in it, whether physical or emotional) -- regardless of whether she intends her own death -- to have a positive experience of life, the most positive experience possible, while possible, remains in her self-interest. There is potentially a world of difference for Maynard between knowing that what she chooses will not harm the ones she loves, versus causing them harm, even in a final few seconds of conscious existence.

And that experience matters. In a sense, it is the only thing that does.

Quote

What, if anything, would be immoral about blowing themselves up?

If they love, if they value, then the immorality is in the knowing that they are destroying that which they love, that which they value (and the concomitant negative emotional experience of this knowing). Immorality, here as everywhere else, is ultimately self harm.

If we posit a person who has no reason to wish to live (let us say due to brain cancer, a la Maynard), and no love for anything else, who finds no value in anything, such that he could watch the world burn and not care... or even take a kind of pleasure in it -- and perhaps it is possible to pervert an unfortunate soul so -- then there is nothing left to argue against actions which would harm others, is there? (Outside of inventing an eternal hell, and trying to convince them of it, I suppose. ;)) Such a person is already so benighted and so lost that further self harm isn't possible.

At such a point, and with such a being, our recourse is no longer to ethics, but self-defense.

Quote

At the end of this song, Todd declares that he's alive and full of joy... But is that true?

I do not believe so. Do you?

Edited by DonAthos

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