Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Rate this topic

Recommended Posts

Don, as far as extreme, I am not arguing that IF one has pain to such a degree that one is not at all able to direct attention to positive values, THEN suicide is okay. I agree with that as I stated it. My idea is that such situations do not exist, as long as you are able to have positive values and focus on them. The reason "pure" pain is nreal is that there are a multitude of experiences available. People who are literally tortured for years and have also had reasons to live in spite of the horror of that torture. Life still supercedes the pain as a whole. No pain overwhelms the inherent pleasure of life - the right attitude makes the difference.

You haven't addressed though how one is going to decide, objectively, that Maynard's or anyone else's pain is severe enough to make life a zero, to make life into suffering. If I were in her position, I'd avoid treatments that ruin my mind, but I'd never kill myself or try to die as fast as possible. Perhaps the obstacle cannot be cleared. So what? There are other things to do, a lot to think about, a lot to experience. It'd look awfully weak and cowardly to stop there. Hardships happen. People often surprise themselves at how much they can handle.

Happiness matters, except the Objectivist idea is that being virtuous always brings happiness. In that way, I am not arguing that one must suffer for the sake of morality. As long as you take the steps to think rationally, improve yourself, develop grit, and all that, you will be happy on the whole, or on the way to getting to the ideal state. Pain will exist, but it will not become an existential pain.

As far as I read, Maynard made a decision based on subjective standards and only feelings. She is an example of giving up on life and therefore morality.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Life still supercedes the pain as a whole. No pain overwhelms the inherent pleasure of life - the right attitude makes the difference.

There is no "inherent pleasure of life." Pleasure and pain are both constituent elements of human life; they are real things with actual causes, pleasure being inherently pleasurable and pain being inherently painful. A life that is mostly filled with pain is mostly filled with pain, "inherent pleasure" and "attitude" notwithstanding.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

If I were in her position, I'd avoid treatments that ruin my mind, but I'd never kill myself or try to die as fast as possible.

If you were in her position, you would be privy to new information. I wouldn't be surprised if that new information altered your current perspective.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

Perhaps the obstacle cannot be cleared. So what? There are other things to do, a lot to think about, a lot to experience. It'd look awfully weak and cowardly to stop there. Hardships happen. People often surprise themselves at how much they can handle.

Maynard is well aware that there is "a lot to experience" vis a vis her terminal diagnosis; indeed, that's the problem -- she does not want to experience it. She rejects the notion of "morality" which would have her suffer through things that she does not wish to endure. This rejection is not a cowardly act.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

...the Objectivist idea is that being virtuous always brings happiness.

For anyone else following along, this is precisely what "rationalism" looks like: "You can be tortured... and happy! The definitions make it so!" (Oh, and note the charming corollary -- if "being virtuous always brings happiness," then unhappiness must imply a lack of virtue. Not only wrong, but a perfect recipe for emotional repression and dishonesty.)

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

As far as I read, Maynard made a decision based on subjective standards and only feelings.

What "subjective standards" are you talking about? What are you talking about, at all?

She is taking her feelings into account, yes. Insofar as she is honest with herself, and understands herself, those feelings exist. They are real. She should take them into account in her decision making; that's rational.

1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

She is an example of giving up on life and therefore morality.

She's not giving up on life. She has brain cancer. She's not rejecting life, she's rejecting the pain and degeneracy that she expects -- that it is reasonable for her to expect.

On morality, Rand writes (via John Galt):

Quote

The purpose of morality is to teach you, not to suffer and die, but to enjoy yourself and live.

But Maynard is no longer in a position to enjoy herself. She expects that the last six months of her life will bring the very suffering morality is otherwise meant to help us avoid. And so, in taking action here to avoid it, she nonetheless acts morally, taking what she determines to be the best possible action for herself amidst a lousy set of circumstances.

I am certain that Maynard wishes that she did not have brain cancer. Short of that, I am certain that she wishes she could have brain cancer -- and live (so long as possible) happily with it. But she does not believe that she can have either of those: she does not believe that she will be happy while suffering through the last few months of her brain cancer. And so, she opts for the course of action which will bring her the most happiness available to her in reality (via the peace of mind that assisted suicide brings her, prior to that final act).

This is exactly how a rational ethics is meant to operate. You assess reality and then you make the best choice for yourself that you can, in whatever context you happen to find yourself, for the sake of your own, personal happiness.

But you would have her choose a greater suffering instead, in the name of "morality"? That is not Objectivism and it is not moral.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I see three basic positions on this thread:

1. Pain doesn't exist. It's a zero.

2. Pain exists, but it doesn't matter.

3. Pain exists, and it does matter.

Does that about sum it up?

Number 1 is flat-out wrong. Pain is not the absence of pleasure. It's the very real presence of a disruptive sensation on the physical level, and a discouraging emotion on the psychological level.

Numbers 2 and 3 are a false dichotomy. Pain can matter in some instances, and not matter in others. It depends on the context, because pain can only tell you that something is wrong. It doesn't tell you what exactly is wrong or what to do about it. In some cases, you might want to endure the pain. In other cases, you might not, depending on your options for dealing with it.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 hours ago, DonAthos said:

For anyone else following along, this is precisely what "rationalism" looks like: "You can be tortured... and happy! The definitions make it so!" (Oh, and note the charming corollary -- if "being virtuous always brings happiness," then unhappiness must imply a lack of virtue. Not only wrong, but a perfect recipe for emotional repression and dishonesty.)

Would you expand on this part before I say more?

A few parts I think need to be addressed still:

What is the difference between pain as a stimulus and existential pain? Is this a difference of degree, or a difference of kind?

If a difference of kind, which kind does a moral suicide apply to?

If a difference of degree, how does one measure when pain is something  to work through or something to stop working through? We'd need details here, that it feels daunting or not worth the effort doesn't mean it really is daunting. So far, you didn't bring in details in addition to feelings.

If you live by your nature, as in, virtuously, would you always be happy (as in, the overall state of well-being)?

What makes one unhappy (not momentary, but an overall state of well-being) if not a lack of virtue?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

I see three basic positions on this thread:

1. Pain doesn't exist. It's a zero.

2. Pain exists, but it doesn't matter.

3. Pain exists, and it does matter.

Does that about sum it up?

Number 1 is flat-out wrong. Pain is not the absence of pleasure. It's the very real presence of a disruptive sensation on the physical level, and a discouraging emotion on the psychological level.

Numbers 2 and 3 are a false dichotomy. Pain can matter in some instances, and not matter in others. It depends on the context, because pain can only tell you that something is wrong. It doesn't tell you what exactly is wrong or what to do about it. In some cases, you might want to endure the pain. In other cases, you might not, depending on your options for dealing with it.

We are agreed that Number 1 is flat-out wrong. Number 2 -- as expressed in this thread -- has meant: "pain may exist, technically, but it is moral to treat it as though it is a zero" or "it is a zero for practical/moral/ethical purposes." I hold that this isn't some half of a false dichotomy, but equally as wrong as Number 1. Number 3, in the sense that I would mean it, would be something like an application of Peikoff's central "Fact and Value" thesis, that "every fact bears on the choice to live." More specifically, when we make choices for ourselves in our lives, it is both moral and ethical to take pain into account; it is further right to want to avoid pain, all else being equal (being that it is a "disruptive sensation" and "a discouraging emotion," which I describe as "negative" in character); finally, it is possible to be in a situation -- such as the example I'd introduced in Brittany Maynard -- where pain (both physical and emotional) is such, in context, that it is rational and moral to wish to commit suicide.

This is not to suggest that a person might not rationally or morally choose to endure some level of pain for a specific purpose. But acknowledging this does not mean that "pain doesn't matter" or that "pain is a zero," not even in those cases. It is still a meaningful factor (which is again to say "it matters"), and if someone has made a reasonable decision to endure some pain, it can only be that they have found something of sufficient value to make that experience of pain worthwhile, not that they have ignored the pain, as such. (Opting to ignore the facts of reality when making decisions is precisely how we get ourselves into such trouble.)

10 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Would you expand on this part before I say more?

You've decided that "thinking rationally brings happiness" (or something like that), that "it is possible to think rationally while in pain" and therefore concluded that "it is possible to be happy while in pain" regardless of further context, regardless of what it is about rationality or virtue that allows a person to be happy, regardless of the nature or degree of the pain, or anything else. It is akin to working out a word problem and deciding that the answer is 2.3 children, not keeping in mind that children only actually come in positive integers.

You have "deduced" that a person can be in the worst possible torture, yet still happy, yet I contend that your results have nothing to do with reality. That this is an opportunity for you to "check your premises."

Quote

A few parts I think need to be addressed still:

What is the difference between pain as a stimulus and existential pain? Is this a difference of degree, or a difference of kind?

"Existential pain" is not a term I've introduced or used -- it is your own, which has seemingly been used to strawman and misunderstand and garble and impede, with reference to "nihilism" among other things. Pain is a negative physical sensation, and then there are emotional analogues to pain, such as sadness, misery and despair. These are not illusions or "zeroes" or etc., but actual human experiences in reality.

If you want to try to translate all of this into your own personal idiom, or any other, you're welcome to do so, but I'd advise you to keep things straight in your mind. Some pains (meaning actual, real pains) are chronic. Which is to say that they are not fleeting, and moreover they can be very powerful. "Torture" -- which, again, exists as a real thing on planet Earth -- is a method of causing human persons intense physical pain. Again, such pain does not have to be "fleeting." (And in epistemologue's introduced example, it is not.)

If you feel the need to try to conceive of this in terms of "stimulus and existential pain," for whatever reason, can you please try to retain both the meanings of these real phenomena and the context of the ongoing discussion?

Quote

If a difference of kind, which kind does a moral suicide apply to?

If a difference of degree, how does one measure when pain is something  to work through or something to stop working through? We'd need details here, that it feels daunting or not worth the effort doesn't mean it really is daunting. So far, you didn't bring in details in addition to feelings.

What happened to the conversation we had just been having, Eiuol? You'd been asking about Maynard and I responded, and... bloop! It's all seemingly vanished here, replaced by a fresh set of questions! (Is "bloop" an onomatopoeia suited to that experience?)

So, so frustrating.

Quote

If you live by your nature, as in, virtuously, would you always be happy (as in, the overall state of well-being)?

No.

Quote

What makes one unhappy (not momentary, but an overall state of well-being) if not a lack of virtue?

Error. Ignorance. Circumstance. Results.

Edited by DonAthos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

"Existential pain" is not a term I've introduced or used -- it is your own, which has seemingly been used to strawman and misunderstand and garble and impede, with reference to "nihilism" among other things. Pain is a negative physical sensation, and then there are emotional analogues to pain, such as sadness, misery and despair. These are not illusions or "zeroes" or etc., but actual human experiences in reality.

Right, it is my term, to detail my position as based on distinguishing two kinds of pain. I don't know if you agree these are kinds of pain, or if you see this as a pointless distinction.

"You'd been asking about Maynard and I responded, and... bloop! It's all seemingly vanished here, replaced by a fresh set of questions! (Is "bloop" an onomatopoeia suited to that experience?)"

I honestly don't know or missed how prior answers answered this part.

"Error. Ignorance. Circumstance. Results."

Error is not a hindrance to virtue; virtue is a method, not a result. It may turn out that the method was not virtue. But if it is virtue in fact, you won't be unhappy. To not try to fix error is vice.

Ignorance, if willful, is vice. Otherwise, it is error.

Circumstance only alter how to apply or discover virtue. It is not the cause of happiness. So, we go back to error.

Results are either error or vice.

Any disagreement there?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

Right, it is my term, to detail my position as based on distinguishing two kinds of pain. I don't know if you agree these are kinds of pain, or if you see this as a pointless distinction.

I don't understand your terms, or the manner in which you use them, to the point where I could say whether they are a "pointless distinction."

If "existential pain" is "a nihilist's sense of life" or etc., then that has nothing to do with this thread (or my participation in it, at least). If it is used to refer to the sadness that a rational human being might experience, being diagnosed with brain cancer, then it can be meaningful to that degree -- but then why not simply refer to sadness?

If it is meant to conflate these very different sorts of things, as I suspect you have done, then it does much more damage.

And your use of "stimulus" seems worthless at best. If we are discussing pain (e.g. "physical pain," like "torture"), why not use the word we already have for it? -- Pain.

And what's more (and worse), "stimulus" seems to capture part of pain, but not all of it. By describing pain as "stimulus," we are losing vital information. Only a Nazi "doctor" would think to describe the sensations of the thumbscrew he administers as a "stimulus," but at least there I can understand why; he seeks to hide himself from reality...

13 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

"You'd been asking about Maynard and I responded, and... bloop! It's all seemingly vanished here, replaced by a fresh set of questions! (Is "bloop" an onomatopoeia suited to that experience?)"

I honestly don't know or missed how prior answers answered this part.

It's not my intention to "answer this part." It is to express my frustration that I answer your questions and receive no feedback that relates to my responses, but only more questions. It seems an endless pit.

And moreover, your questions are increasingly abstract and vague. Why shouldn't we go back to discussing Maynard? Or the spies that MisterSwig introduced in... another thread? Or anything concrete?

This is a familiar pattern to me, Eiuol, and I have less and less patience for it.

13 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

"Error. Ignorance. Circumstance. Results."

Error is not a hindrance to virtue; virtue is a method, not a result.

You did not ask whether error was "a hindrance to virtue"; you asked "what makes one unhappy...if not a lack of virtue?"

One answer to that question is "error."

Let's work from something (Rand via Galt, again):

Quote

Happiness is the successful state of life, pain is an agent of death. Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.

If "happiness is the successful state of life" or "happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values," then another way of phrasing your initial question is "what can keep one from 'the successful state of life'" or "what can prevent one from the achievement of his values"?

Potentially, error can. As can "ignorance," "circumstance," and more generally, "results":

I attempt to achieve my values, acting virtuously, BUT...

...I make an error in my calculations, or
...I am ignorant of relevant information, or
...circumstances are unfavorable, and thus, in result...

...I fail to achieve my values, and thus I do not experience "that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one's values."

"Virtue is a method, not a result"? Yes. But happiness (as "success" as "achievement") is a result, and while virtuous action is a method of achieving happiness -- the best we can devise, and the only I would recommend -- it does not guarantee that result.

13 minutes ago, Eiuol said:

It may turn out that the method was not virtue. But if it is virtue in fact, you won't be unhappy. To not try to fix error is vice.

Ignorance, if willful, is vice. Otherwise, it is error.

Circumstance only alter how to apply or discover virtue. It is not the cause of happiness. So, we go back to error.

Results are either error or vice.

Any disagreement there?

This is utterly mind numbing. Let's get back to discussing concretes, please.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, DonAthos said:

And moreover, your questions are increasingly abstract and vague. Why shouldn't we go back to discussing Maynard? Or the spies that MisterSwig introduced in... another thread? Or anything concrete?

This is a familiar pattern to me, Eiuol, and I have less and less patience for it.

Then ask for clarifications; I admit, I am sometimes too abstract. I am trying to connect principles to concretes, ideally what a person like Maynard ought to do, and how to address pain. I was going to mix in concretes next big post.

Anyway, you write so much that I sometimes miss what you say, or I leave unanswered what is inessential to my response. I posed questions that would add detail to the part I wanted you to expand. I held off on a full response to your prior post until you could expand.

Edited by Eiuol

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I am trying to connect principles to concretes

Instead, try inducing them from the facts of reality. Objectivism is not a deductive philosophy. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
37 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Instead, try inducing them from the facts of reality. Objectivism is not a deductive philosophy. 

I did; I have talked to Don enough on many topics that we don't need to start from scratch about Objectivism's take on virtue - part of a philosophy we largely agree on in terms of essentials. Deduction is fine as long as the premises are valid. It helps for spotting what the premises are. By too abstract, I didn't mean ungrounded thought, I meant how I talk with people.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
7 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Number 3, in the sense that I would mean it, would be something like an application of Peikoff's central "Fact and Value" thesis, that "every fact bears on the choice to live."

Yes, but how does this relate to the choice to die? If I want to live, then the pain in my leg matters. I need to figure out what's wrong and do something about it. If I want to die, for whatever reason, then how does the pain in my leg, or much else, matter? It only matters if it's relevant to my choice to die.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Then ask for clarifications--

I don't always get what I ask for, Eiuol.

Here, I repeated questions, in dubious hope that you would answer them:

On 12/11/2016 at 0:39 PM, DonAthos said:

Anyways, I'm not certain -- have you answered the questions I'd asked, pursuant to that thought experiment? Here they are again:

On 12/11/2016 at 8:46 AM, DonAthos said:

Is the pain worth taking into account when making her decision? Or does the extra three months outweigh every other consideration?

Because I wanted to focus on the existence of pain, I didn't raise other matters which potentially would exist in a real life scenario. For instance, the proposed operation could come at a great cost; suppose it would bankrupt her family, or endanger their owning a home, or something similar -- should that matter? Or is it survival -- as long as possible, regardless of pain, regardless of cost -- which is necessarily the good?

Ideally, I would like your answers to both sections (which is why I've typed, and now copied, them both). Is "life-as-survival" the good, such that every other thing may morally be "sacrificed" for its sake? Or is there a moral standard higher than "life-as-survival," and if so, what?

It did me no good; my questions drew no reply. And as I've said, these patterns are familiar to me, and my patience for them has worn thin.

If you would like to be a better dance partner for me, I'm open to the idea that you have it within you. You can start with answering those questions that I've now put to you three times. Or you could refer back to this post, and provide some substantive response to it, or any portion of it. If I've written too much for you to respond to all at a go, fair enough -- but don't simply ignore the whole of it to pepper me with new questions instead. That makes me feel as though I've completely wasted my time in responding to you in the first place.

Why not focus on just the first paragraph, first? We can work through things slowly. Leisurely, even. You'd made an implicit claim for something called "the inherent pleasure of life," and I said in response that no such thing exists. Before we spiral down the unending rabbit hole of more and more questions, why not try to pin that down? "The inherent pleasure of life." Defend that proposition (if you can), or amend it, or concede the point, or something -- but a response!

17 minutes ago, MisterSwig said:

Yes, but how does this relate to the choice to die? If I want to live, then the pain in my leg matters. I need to figure out what's wrong and do something about it. If I want to die, for whatever reason, then how does the pain in my leg, or much else, matter? It only matters if it's relevant to my choice to die.

But the choice to die -- if it is in reason, and if we allow such a choice potentially to be moral -- depends upon the facts of reality as much as any decision undertaken when wanting to live. (And that choice to die may itself also be subject to revision, if the facts of reality change significantly.) And so it is still best policy to take those facts into account when making decisions -- which is what it means to say that they "matter."

And also, someone who decides to die may yet make any number of meaningful decisions. If your spies had chosen to kill themselves for the sake of escaping the pains of torture, that wouldn't necessarily mean that they would be willing to spill their guts to their captors just beforehand. Their secrecy, and all that it entails, may yet matter to them, even in their final moments. Though Brittany Maynard has chosen to die, that doesn't mean that she's suddenly willing to spend all her family's money -- and leave her husband with nothing -- because "how does much else matter"? That still matters to her, even as she has chosen death for herself. And indeed, even a day before her appointed death, if she had a pain in her leg -- one that she could tend to -- I'd bet you she would. The attitude would not be, "Well, I'm going to die tomorrow... so I may as well let this hurt, even though I could alleviate it in the meantime; it just doesn't matter."

Pain matters not because it is pain, but because it is factual, and when we make decisions -- if we want those decisions to be good ones -- the facts matter. Even if one has decided to die.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
16 minutes ago, DonAthos said:

But the choice to die -- if it is in reason, and if we allow such a choice potentially to be moral -- depends upon the facts of reality as much as any decision undertaken when wanting to live. (And that choice to die may itself also be subject to revision, if the facts of reality change significantly.) And so it is still best policy to take those facts into account when making decisions -- which is what it means to say that they "matter."

I'd like to narrow our focus to the time period in which the person is acting on the choice to die. Maynard moved to Oregon and got her pills in preparation for the choice to die. But wasn't she still choosing to live at that point? Indeed, wasn't she choosing to live right up until she decided enough was enough and took the pills? After she took the pills and was waiting to die, what if she suddenly developed a pain in her leg? Would it have mattered to her?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Don, I answer many questions in long form. Maybe that's why it seems like I didn't answer. I think you don't quite realize that some familiar patterns may be due to your own approach. Anyway, I said I wasn't going to respond before you said more, so you wouldn't think I was ignoring you.

My new "set" of questions were just one question with more to help you with my remaining questions about your position. It wasn't an argument or  a list of demands.  

*

I know I said that flourishing is good, not survival itself per se. Flourishing and being dead isn't good or even possible. So as far as three months of living life in comparison to dying willfully, three months matter more. Then the rest is that if one lives by one's nature, they will necessarily be flourishing. Even more, flourishing occurs with happiness and not any other state of mind. No one who is virtuous would suffer, by definition. So if one suffers, either virtue is a lie, or one is in error. By being in error, one would know to fix it or do something about it.  Working to fix it would be flourishing, allowing one to be happy as a whole. Not fixing it would be vice, evasion.

The stuff of flourishing is value. If virtue did not allow one to find value, it'd be meaningless. Similarly, if one was not able to harness virtue, value would not be attainable, thus one would have no way to be happy. The logic here should make sense and be familiar. It just doesn't fit well to also say virtue won't always lead to happiness - the whole point of virtue is that it is part of your nature, and living with virtue is pleasurable for this reason.

When I said inherent pleasure of life, I should've said the inherent pleasure of living virtuously. Nothing about virtue is displeasurable, and does not cause suffering. For the most part, pain is a stimulus, itself value-neutral - or zero-worth. Pain is part psychological as well. When people kill themselves, they speak about psychology - feeling bad, expectation of what to come as being bad, that there's no reason to live. They speak of pains besides the stimulus - about existing. I've been a counselor on a crisis hotline, I've spoken to suicidal people many times.

Pain itself is itself a negative, as in all that Epist spoke of pain providing information to overcome or avoid something.

So then we have people like Maynard. Is she even talking about pain? Not really! Just an evaluation of life's worth. She only explained why more treatment was not desirable at all. I don't see how this logically translates to ending your life. Sure, it'd seem scary, but in practice, it isn't. POWs being tortured manage, as do people after getting in accidents. People who get PTSD don't always manage - except PTSD is sometimes so bad those with it aren't really able to think rationally. Maynard wasn't a PTSD patient. Apparently, she still waited to kill herself, so we don't actually know if she was able to think any more, so at least here, we're talking about when she wrote the article.

*

Strictly speaking, happiness proceeds from achieving vale, that is, this is one way virtue works. It's a path to value, and this will always allow one to attain some values in the near-term.

*

If I stop responding, I just have nothing additional and will need to let it all "marinate" for a while.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/20/2016 at 8:43 PM, DonAthos said:

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.

Of course. I am, in all likelihood, about to do the very same things.

There's a time to take great, cautious deliberations in these things and a time to "take chances, make mistakes and get messy", and I believe we've arrived at the latter. Besides, I'm no stranger to 'rough rhetoric.' :twisted:

 

On 12/20/2016 at 8:43 PM, DonAthos said:

I do not believe so. Do you?

No.

 

What Sweeney Todd experienced was not 'joy' in the sense we mean it; it was not a healthy or life-affirming thing, nor is a life devoted to revenge a true and flourishing life. In a sense, although his heart beat until the very end of the movie, I believe he died in that scene - and this is the very sort of 'suicide' which I am condemning (the fundamental thing).

 

Hold on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

I'd like to narrow our focus to the time period in which the person is acting on the choice to die.

To be very honest, I feel as though this is becoming a touch fussy and technical. Especially given what seems to be a fair amount of concord between our basic positions. If it turns out that we agree that "pain matters" (or more broadly, "facts matter") right up to some point of x-length before actual death, then that's agreement enough for me -- on this day, at least.

But since I've enjoyed talking with you thus far, I won't mind another post or two to see if we can better flesh out even this point. Maybe it will provide grist for someone else's mill. Or who knows, maybe we can blow Objectivism up into new and exciting sects! :)

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

Maynard moved to Oregon and got her pills in preparation for the choice to die. But wasn't she still choosing to live at that point? Indeed, wasn't she choosing to live right up until she decided enough was enough and took the pills?

An interesting bit of business here.

I would say that once Maynard has "chosen to die," that she is no longer "choosing to live"... or at least, not in the same sense we normally mean. In moving to Oregon and getting her pills and so forth, she is taking concrete steps towards death -- and her essay is evidence that this is her clear intention. It is equally clear that she still has many values (including valuing control over the circumstances and timing of her death), and I consider this related to my understanding of "life-as-experience" being the true standard of value as opposed to "life-as-survival," yet I am uncomfortable in describing this as "choosing to live," again, in the sense that we typically mean.

It is as though we imagine Kurt Cobain, or someone else, buying the shotgun... buying the shells... writing his suicide note... meticulously loading the gun...

...and we say, "Yeah, but until he pulls the trigger, he's choosing to live!"

There's something that's just not right about that.

1 hour ago, MisterSwig said:

After she took the pills and was waiting to die, what if she suddenly developed a pain in her leg? Would it have mattered to her?

Hmm. How long do the pills take to cause death? What's the nature of the pain (e.g. how intense is it? how easily can this pain be remedied)? How do the pills operate -- is there an analgesic or soporific effect? Etc...

But let's try to get past those sorts of details. Imagine a man set to die by firing squad. (To keep apples as close to apples as possible, let us say that this is his preferred method of suicide: he has arranged for everything and stands there willingly.) His hands are not bound, and... he has an itch on his nose.

Supposing death to happen at the instant the triggers are pulled, at what point up to that moment will the man not bother to scratch his itch? Perhaps you, or anyone else, might have another answer... but mine? I would scratch my nose at any instant up to the very last. Because all else being equal, I would prefer to have a scratched nose to an itchy one.

So I would say that "facts matter" so long as a person is able to make choices which can affect his experience of life, even if that experience of life reflects the very last few moments of life en route to death (whether that death is self-selected or not).

Or consider your spy, Sarah Aaronsohn. According to what you'd written in the other thread, she committed suicide by shooting herself in the head so as to not betray any secrets. Well, suppose (as sometimes happens in reality) that she flubbed the shot a bit. She shot herself so that she will die... but not immediately. There will be a bleeding out first, which might take as much as a few minutes, during which she will be conscious and subject to a final, frenzied questioning. In those few minutes -- "after she pulled the trigger and was waiting to die" -- will she be willing to betray her comrades, because "nothing matters"? I don't think so.

The experience of life yet matters to her (in this case, in what you'd termed elsewhere as a "final psychological satisfaction"), for howsoever long she has life. And if the experience of life matters to her, then so too do facts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/20/2016 at 8:43 PM, DonAthos said:

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.)

I agree with almost everything above. Actually, it's the best summary of Egoism that I've seen, to date. That "good" and "evil" are ultimately rooted in pleasure and pain, and that the good is to maximize the former; that the choice to live is also a moral choice; that this standard is different from (and superior to) mere survival, is all true.

 

The only point I'm not sure about is whether men intrinsically want to live.

Surely, people intrinsically want to experience pleasure and not pain (that's a built-in part of what those words mean), but there are so many different ways in which to do that. A desire is not a binary thing; it has an intensity which can vary wildly. Furthermore, even if two men held all of the same values, they could still prioritize them differently (which would still lead them to opposite choices). And to want to experience pleasure and not pain isn't the same as wanting to flourish, which is a much more specific (and volitional) attitude.

I don't believe men intrinsically want to live, but I do think they should strive to.

 

On 12/20/2016 at 8:43 PM, DonAthos said:

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.

So (if I understand correctly), if Sweeney Todd wants these things then he should want life, but if not then morality sort of ceases to apply and anything goes. We'd defend ourselves against him, of course, and might have to kill him, but we couldn't really call him a bad guy; his goals were just different from ours.

 

No, there is no Hell to threaten him with, but isn't he one of the bad guys?

 

You're right that it depends on the motives which prompted such behavior, and that's where I think he committed the basic sin which enabled the rest: he gave up.

In the face of pain and adversity, he gave up on ever trying to reach for anything better and devoted the remainder of his existence to - to what? Anger and pain.

Regardless of when or how one eventually dies, one must never give up on life in that way.

 

On 12/20/2016 at 8:43 PM, DonAthos said:

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.

Absolutely.

And right up until her last moment (regardless of when that moment came) she'd have choices to make; there would be alternatives open to her, and it'd be her responsibility to make the most she could of them. Even if this meant nothing more than winning one more game of Chess or formulating a parting statement to someone she cherished, she would still be in charge of the quality of the rest of her own life.

And I don't think her death would necessarily be a form of surrender or renunciation, depending on how she spent the last of her time.

 

---

 

Sensory values (such as the physical sensations of pleasure or pain) are built-in and automatic; we all know which of them to pursue and which to avoid. Conceptual values are not; they depend on our conscious convictions, and they aren't always right. It is possible for people to hate what's good for them and revel in their own destruction.

We should want to live as men if we want to live at all; the only alternative is oblivion. We should want to live because it's the only opportunity for joy, beauty or meaning that any of us will ever have; the dead can't have fun.

The very possibility of goodness, as such, rests on life. We should want the good (whatever extent is possible to us, in whatever form) because it is good.

 

There is no inherent meaning built into life; only what we give it, by the way we spend it. Each of us invents the meaning of his own life (usually not intentionally). To want the best in all things, day after day, is to value your own meaning and your self. To hold onto that desire against hardships and adversity only multiplies your glory when they end but you don't. 

To give it all up over pain or ugliness is to incorporate that ugliness into your own identity and make it your meaning - and nothing could be uglier than that. When someone says "there is no good" or "it's just not worth it" it speaks less to the nature of reality than to the nature of their soul.

 

That's where the bottom of it seems to be. Not in "life, if you want it" nor in "values, if you hold them" but the very possibility of goodness, as such (if there is ever to be such a thing as "the good").

 

Sorry for all the poetry.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/21/2016 at 9:06 PM, MisterSwig said:

I see three basic positions on this thread:

1. Pain doesn't exist. It's a zero.

2. Pain exists, but it doesn't matter.

3. Pain exists, and it does matter.

Does that about sum it up?

Yes and no.

 

What we're really discussing is the possibility of happiness. Everyone knows that suicide is moral when that possibility is gone; what we disagree about is where to draw the line that marks it. This is a particularly tricky question because it involves causality, free will, human efficacy, evaluation and a few other things, all tangled up together.

Chronic pain and illness happens to be a convenient example; any situation that diminished the possibility of happiness far enough would work. What's essentially been argued is:

 

1: anybody can be happy, in any situation

2: anybody can move from any situation to one that allows for happiness

3: some people are just f***ed

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

I think you don't quite realize that some familiar patterns may be due to your own approach.

Believe me, I'm well aware that I contribute to my woes. (And this isn't about you alone, either.) Probably I contribute in a number of ways, but the nearest at hand that I can recognize is that I allow my own questions to go unanswered and then continue to participate in discussions, answering other peoples' questions, following their trains of thought, responding to their examples and thought experiments, and etc.... So by degrees I grow frustrated at what seems unfair and uneven treatment, but in many respects, I let it happen.

Maybe I just need to become sterner and less accommodating. But I would also appreciate it if you could resolve to answer questions when I pose them to you.

Quote

I know I said that flourishing is good, not survival itself per se. Flourishing and being dead isn't good or even possible. So as far as three months of living life in comparison to dying willfully, three months matter more.

It is true that "flourishing and being dead" isn't possible.

I do not agree that this necessarily means that six additional months of life is preferable to three months of life, regardless of the circumstances.

Quote

Then the rest is that if one lives by one's nature, they will necessarily be flourishing.

I completely disagree with this -- and I further believe that this idea of "living by one's nature" reflects an error that has crept into Objectivist debate in a number of ways (including controversies I know you to be familiar with, such as masculinity/femininity, sexual orientation, and etc.).

Besides which, Brittany Maynard in her last half-year of life with brain cancer, and regardless of whether she opted for suicide or not, can hardly said to have been "flourishing." That's just an utter perversion of meaning. ("Yeah, the plants are blighted... but they're living according to their nature, so really, they're flourishing!")

Quote

No one who is virtuous would suffer, by definition.

This. This right here, Eiuol. This is the point at which you need to stop yourself and recognize that you've made a colossal mistake, somewhere earlier in the chain of reasoning.

No one who is virtuous would suffer? ("By definition"???) Is it possible that you really believe that Objectivists neither feel pain, nor experience sadness? That cannot be. Can it?

Or consider the Holocaust and all of the suffering it caused (to such a degree, and on such a scope, that it is nigh unimaginable in totality, but do your best) -- you would account that suffering to a lack of virtue of the part of the victims?

There must be some part of you that rejects these sorts of conclusions; I have to believe it.

Quote

It just doesn't fit well to also say virtue won't always lead to happiness...

"Fit well"? I don't know about "fitting well." But I can say that virtuous action will not always lead one to happiness. It may not "fit well," whatever that otherwise means, but it is true.

Look. Imagine if I were to say that "following the rules of the road" will always guarantee safe driving. Would that be true? No, it wouldn't. There are other factors which are crucial -- factors which could be deciding. You can be sitting at a red light and someone behind you fails to stop, and they slam into you.

Is there a better method of safe driving than "following the rules of the road"? (Generally speaking.) No. If I were teaching my daughter to drive -- as I anticipate that one day I will -- I would teach her to do just that. I would teach her to stop at red lights, because that's her best means to avoid accidents.

But will it mean that she never gets into an accident (even if she always does her best to drive safely)? No. She might yet get into an accident, through no fault of her own.

Quote

When I said inherent pleasure of life, I should've said the inherent pleasure of living virtuously.

There's something in this worth exploring.

You'd described earlier how virtue is a "method." Just so. Virtue is a method by which we acquire what we value -- and among other values are various types of pleasures. Virtue, in and of itself, is not pleasurable, per se -- it is the means by which we acquire or achieve those things that are pleasurable or otherwise valuable... if we succeed! (Success, as indicated earlier, is not guaranteed.)

Consider (from Galt's speech):

Quote

Virtue is not an end in itself. Virtue is not its own reward.... Life is the reward of virtue—and happiness is the goal and the reward of life.

Is there something about virtue which is pleasurable on contemplation? Yes, I think that's so. But I think it has to do with the connection we ordinarily draw between virtue and success... which yet does not guarantee that success. It is, in a sense, borrowed.

Again, imagine the new driver, proud of herself for stopping successfully at the red light. Yes, it is the right thing to do, and she takes a kind of pleasure in acting rightly... which sources from a notion that stopping at red lights will keep her safe from accident, free from injury, and that a life free from that injury will be filled with actual pleasure. This is what is reflected in the "pleasure of virtue."

Yet that won't help her much when the bus right behind her fails to brake in time.

Quote

Nothing about virtue is displeasurable, and does not cause suffering.

I agree.

Quote

For the most part, pain is a stimulus, itself value-neutral - or zero-worth.

LOL

"For the most part, pain is value-neutral -- if the part of pain we choose not to consider is the part which is charged with respect to value."

Quote

Pain is part psychological as well. When people kill themselves, they speak about psychology - feeling bad, expectation of what to come as being bad, that there's no reason to live. They speak of pains besides the stimulus - about existing.

What you speak of certainly can be the case. I do not believe that this describes Brittany Maynard, however. She was not frantically calling into suicide crisis hotlines, or espousing "nihilist" rhetoric, but composing an essay on the selfish reasoning behind her patient decision to end her own life, on her own terms.

Edited by DonAthos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/22/2016 at 6:32 PM, DonAthos said:

It is as though we imagine Kurt Cobain, or someone else, buying the shotgun... buying the shells... writing his suicide note... meticulously loading the gun...

...and we say, "Yeah, but until he pulls the trigger, he's choosing to live!"

There's something that's just not right about that.

I think Cobain chose to die once he made suicide his purpose and began acting toward that goal. He could have changed his mind and purpose by putting down the gun and moving on with his life. He had free will. But doing that would have required finding something to live for, such as his wife and daughter. And I guess he decided that wasn't enough. Apparently the pain was too much for him. I understand he had some bad health problems.

It should not be a philosophical conundrum that the choice to die usually doesn't last long. If you are serious about wanting to die, then, in normal circumstances, you should be able to achieve your purpose rather quickly. This is why people tend to operate on the premise of life until mere moments before they commit suicide, as long as they have the freedom to do so.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/22/2016 at 6:32 PM, DonAthos said:

Imagine a man set to die by firing squad. (To keep apples as close to apples as possible, let us say that this is his preferred method of suicide: he has arranged for everything and stands there willingly.) His hands are not bound, and... he has an itch on his nose.

Supposing death to happen at the instant the triggers are pulled, at what point up to that moment will the man not bother to scratch his itch?

It probably depends on why he wants to die that way, which is perhaps the most important factor. Assuming that he doesn't scratch his nose reflexively, but puts actual thought into it, it would matter whether he wanted to possibly die while scratching his nose, which might seem silly or undignified. Maybe he doesn't want to be remembered that way, that his last act was scratching his nose. It depends on why and how he plans to die. Maybe he wants to die in complete physical comfort, and so he will absolutely die scratching an itch.

Edited by MisterSwig

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/22/2016 at 5:35 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

What Sweeney Todd experienced was not 'joy' in the sense we mean it; it was not a healthy or life-affirming thing, nor is a life devoted to revenge a true and flourishing life. In a sense, although his heart beat until the very end of the movie, I believe he died in that scene - and this is the very sort of 'suicide' which I am condemning (the fundamental thing).

Typically, when I refer to suicide, I mean it literally. I believe that there are times and places when opting to kill oneself may be the rational and moral thing to do.

But the kind of "suicide" that you're referring to? (A kind that one may yet survive.) I condemn it too -- and you're right that it is more fundamental.

A good test for Todd (or others) might be: if we allow that he thinks of himself as "full of joy" (though even that is debatable), in the name of wanting joy -- and who does not want to be joyful? -- would we take his lot?

On 12/23/2016 at 7:33 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

The only point I'm not sure about is whether men intrinsically want to live.

Surely, people intrinsically want to experience pleasure and not pain (that's a built-in part of what those words mean), but there are so many different ways in which to do that.

I think that no one who has experienced pleasure does not want it. I think that no one who has experienced happiness does not want it.

These goods are "good" according to their nature (or more specifically, according to our nature); we derive our concept of good from them. I also believe men can reject many -- or all -- of the things which will allow him to achieve these goods. And that's the pity.

But is a True Nihilist possible, who would not even want pleasure and happiness for himself? That... rather beggars my belief -- and though I can imagine a hipster pretending, "Yeah, man. If God Himself offered me eternal bliss, I'd spit in his eye, 'cause that's just how hardcore I am" -- I believe that the same person on the cusp of actual happiness would not reject that experience, as such, but instead amend his mistaken beliefs, insofar as he is able. And that is what gives me hope.

Quote

And to want to experience pleasure and not pain isn't the same as wanting to flourish, which is a much more specific (and volitional) attitude.

I agree, but what does this "flourishing" consist of, if we were to examine it in terms of its constituent parts? I suspect it ultimately relates to pleasures and pains (speaking both physically and emotionally).

Quote

So (if I understand correctly), if Sweeney Todd wants these things then he should want life, but if not then morality sort of ceases to apply and anything goes. We'd defend ourselves against him, of course, and might have to kill him, but we couldn't really call him a bad guy; his goals were just different from ours.

Well, that's the direction that I think a lot of Objectivists take (wittingly or not, whether they realize that this follows from their premises or not). Because they insist that the choice to live is amoral or pre-moral, then someone who explicitly rejects life -- or his own life -- can no longer be evaluated by the same moral standards. If the Objectivist were to tell Todd, "But if you keep up like this, you won't survive," Todd could easily reply, "I don't care." Or even: "I'm counting on it."

But here's what I would say fundamentally about Todd: his choices will not make him happy. Because I believe that "the good" is rooted in happiness (which is a kind of pleasure), and cannot conceive of morality outside of human experience, it is enough for me to say that he is "immoral." But what of that? I'm no Christian. I'm not consigning him to hell. To say that someone is "immoral" does not initially contain anything beyond the tautology that Todd's choices will not make him happy -- which is enough. (Which is everything.)

Is that sufficient to be a "bad guy"? Perhaps, in the sense that a mop may be a bad mop (one which will not draw water). He isn't "being a guy" very well. But that's more for Todd's sake than my own; and in truth, if Todd could somehow find his way to actual Earthly happiness, I think he would want to do so. He may reject survival, because he cannot find his way to happiness, but I do not believe he would reject happiness, as such.

When Todd decides to murder, he crosses another kind of line. Do I think Todd is a "bad guy" because he threatens the innocent (which I can relate to myself, as I do not believe I deserve what Todd's victims receive, and do not want their fates for myself)? I do. I evaluate things primarily as they relate to me and my experiences, and Todd's actions put him on track to destroy everything I find of value in the world -- everything which I would call "good." And politically, yes, we must certainly defend ourselves against Todd. (Even if we can sympathize with him to any extent, which I do. It is not for nothing that he is the protagonist of the tale.)

But it's worth keeping in mind that the root of ethical discussion is an individual's quest for "the good life," and that this applies to Sweeney Todd as much as anyone else. We cannot ask him to change his methods because it is better or worse for us if he does; we can only try to help him understand that changing his methods would be better for him -- insofar as that is true.

Quote

In the face of pain and adversity, he gave up on ever trying to reach for anything better and devoted the remainder of his existence to - to what? Anger and pain.

Regardless of when or how one eventually dies, one must never give up on life in that way.

I agree wholeheartedly.

Edited by DonAthos

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/23/2016 at 7:33 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

And right up until her last moment (regardless of when that moment came) she'd have choices to make; there would be alternatives open to her, and it'd be her responsibility to make the most she could of them. Even if this meant nothing more than winning one more game of Chess or formulating a parting statement to someone she cherished, she would still be in charge of the quality of the rest of her own life.

And I don't think her death would necessarily be a form of surrender or renunciation, depending on how she spent the last of her time.

Agreed on all counts, including when you say that it would be Maynard's "responsibility to make the most" of the alternatives available to her, so long as we remember that this is only her responsibility to herself.

I would expect that she views her own suicide, in fact, as making good on that responsibility.

On 12/23/2016 at 7:33 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Sensory values (such as the physical sensations of pleasure or pain) are built-in and automatic; we all know which of them to pursue and which to avoid. Conceptual values are not; they depend on our conscious convictions, and they aren't always right. It is possible for people to hate what's good for them and revel in their own destruction.

We should want to live as men if we want to live at all; the only alternative is oblivion. We should want to live because it's the only opportunity for joy, beauty or meaning that any of us will ever have; the dead can't have fun.

The very possibility of goodness, as such, rests on life. We should want the good (whatever extent is possible to us, in whatever form) because it is good.

Yes to all of this. Given the nature of the thread, I would add that while "the possibility of goodness...rests on life," that does not mean that all life guarantees "the possibility of goodness" when that goodness is understood to be "joy, beauty, meaning," or etc.

It is further my contention that the possibility of some amount of goodness, in select situations, may not be worth enduring the certainty of much badness.

On 12/23/2016 at 7:33 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

There is no inherent meaning built into life; only what we give it, by the way we spend it. Each of us invents the meaning of his own life (usually not intentionally). To want the best in all things, day after day, is to value your own meaning and your self. To hold onto that desire against hardships and adversity only multiplies your glory when they end but you don't. 

To give it all up over pain or ugliness is to incorporate that ugliness into your own identity and make it your meaning - and nothing could be uglier than that. When someone says "there is no good" or "it's just not worth it" it speaks less to the nature of reality than to the nature of their soul.

 

That's where the bottom of it seems to be. Not in "life, if you want it" nor in "values, if you hold them" but the very possibility of goodness, as such (if there is ever to be such a thing as "the good").

I'm not entirely certain I have the meaning here, but I would insist that there are things which are "just not worth it."

Is it worth it to put oneself through the rigors of college for a four year degree? Potentially. How about eight years of schooling for the same reward? Or twenty? Or eighty? (So that, perhaps, just before death, one may graduate.) At some point, a person may well decide that the benefits of his college education are not worth the hardships.

And Brittany Maynard may see one last game of chess in her future, though surrounded by hours, days, weeks, months of suffering. And it may not be worthwhile to her to endure that much suffering for the sake of that game of chess -- and whether you or I believe that we would make the same decision in her situation, I respect her choice.

Apart from that, I invite you to read Maynard's essay again and ask yourself whether it seems to you to be a rejection of the good of life... or an affirmation of the good (albeit in a tragic way). Is Maynard saying "there is no good" through her words and actions, do you think? Or something else?

On 12/23/2016 at 7:33 PM, Harrison Danneskjold said:

Sorry for all the poetry.

There are many things in life a man might rightly apologize for. Poetry is not among them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/25/2016 at 1:22 PM, MisterSwig said:

I think Cobain chose to die once he made suicide his purpose and began acting toward that goal.

I agree.

Brittany Maynard similarly made suicide her purpose, when given her diagnosis, and began acting toward that goal. She made large changes to her life, in fact, to facilitate the specific end of life that she desired. She moved from California to Oregon -- why? Not to join the logging industry. Not because the Ducks were having a good year. But because "Oregon is one of only five states where death with dignity is authorized."

On 12/25/2016 at 1:22 PM, MisterSwig said:

It should not be a philosophical conundrum that the choice to die usually doesn't last long. If you are serious about wanting to die, then, in normal circumstances, you should be able to achieve your purpose rather quickly. This is why people tend to operate on the premise of life until mere moments before they commit suicide, as long as they have the freedom to do so.

I don't find any "philosophical conundrum" here, but neither would I agree that Maynard was operating on "the premise of life" (in the sense of survival; my account of "life-as-experience" is something else) in moving to Oregon and taking a series of steps consciously and specifically designed to end her life. It is only a "conundrum" if we observe people taking clear steps in order to commit suicide and wish to say (for whatever reason) that they are yet "choosing to live."

Maynard was not choosing to live -- she was choosing to die.

On 12/25/2016 at 1:43 PM, MisterSwig said:

It probably depends on why he wants to die that way, which is perhaps the most important factor. Assuming that he doesn't scratch his nose reflexively, but puts actual thought into it, it would matter whether he wanted to possibly die while scratching his nose, which might seem silly or undignified. Maybe he doesn't want to be remembered that way, that his last act was scratching his nose. It depends on why and how he plans to die. Maybe he wants to die in complete physical comfort, and so he will absolutely die scratching an itch.

Certainly, all of those things are possible. But the point is: the facts matter right up until the end, because the facts bear on our experience. (If this man does not want to die while scratching his nose, finding it undignified, but faces the possibility of a "reflex action," then it might take an act of focus/will to stop himself from scratching his nose in the face of an itch.)

Remember: we are discussing this scenario currently because you'd asked whether, once someone has decided to die, things like "pain" (or "much else"... which presumably includes an itchy nose) matter. My answer was -- and remains -- that yes, these things matter. They matter so long as we have an experience of them, and insofar as our choices may affect our experiences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
On 12/28/2016 at 7:53 AM, DonAthos said:

Brittany Maynard similarly made suicide her purpose, when given her diagnosis, and began acting toward that goal.

I guess I'm still a little unclear in my own mind about when the choice to die is made. Perhaps there is a transitional period in which the choice to live is more like the choice to live while making suicide possible. I don't think moving to Oregon and all that qualifies as choosing to die, because Maynard is not acting toward suicide yet. She's acting toward making it possible. There is a difference. Cobain had already made suicide possible by purchasing a gun. Then he started acting toward suicide when he decided it was time to do the actual deed and killed himself.

It must be a very hard thing to switch from wanting to live to wanting to die. And psychologically that switch might take several days or weeks to finalize. But in terms of physical actions taken which reflect the switch, I'm not sure that suicide has been chosen until the person performs the actual act of killing themself.

I'm thinking of the spy who acquires and carries around a cyanide pill in case of capture. Would we say that they chose to die and are acting toward suicide from the moment they thought of getting the pill? Or simply that they were making suicide a possibility while still choosing to live?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

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

Create an account

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

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×