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3 hours ago, MisterSwig said:

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.

If possible (and sometimes it is not), I don't want to get too caught up in terminology. Here is what I'm saying:

At some point, Brittany Maynard decided that she wanted to end her life in a particular fashion. Thereafter, she took many steps specifically oriented to producing that outcome. And in fact, if it matters for this discussion, she did produce that outcome.

I think all of that is incontrovertible.

Now, in the other ongoing thread dedicated to this topic (or at least, a very similar one), I'd quoted Rand as saying:

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An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. An organism’s life is its standard of value: that which furthers its life is the good, that which threatens it is the evil.

and also

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Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.

I believe that many Objectivists would take these to mean that many of Maynard's actions (including moving to Oregon) would be immoral because as they conceive of "life as the standard of value," they would not consider those actions to "further" or "achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy" that life, being as they are designed to either end Maynard's life, or -- as you would have it -- "make it possible" for her to commit suicide. (I describe this conception of "life as the standard of value" as "life-as-survival.")

As I conceive of "life as the standard of value"? Yes. I believe that Maynard's actions do further, achieve, etc., her life; her actions win her peace of mind, among the other advantages that she cites in her essay.

But what made me uncomfortable with your treatment of it, was that you seemed to be positing that Maynard was acting in a way consonant with "life-as-survival" right up until the moment when she ingests her pills, at which point she has abandoned all of that, and with it, her concern for anything else (which you will recall was the context of our initial departure).

However, I believe that Maynard is acting on one continuous standard throughout, with "life as the standard of value," so long as that is understood to incorporate the value of experience, as I have described before. She is acting on that very same standard when she gets married, and when she moves to Oregon, and when she takes the pills. I believe that it is accounting to that standard that we can understand if Maynard does not suddenly abandon her principles when swallowing those pills (just as the spy would not abandon her principles if she had misfired her gun, and was questioned while bleeding out), or takes the time to scratch her nose, even in her final moments.

Because her experience continues to matter to her so long as she has experience, and accordingly, facts continue to have value.

Edited by DonAthos

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I've said this before, but it didn't really get addressed. When someone is subjected to the kind of prolonged, severe pain we are discussing in this thread, their mind gradually turns into a kind of funhouse mirror. This isn't speculation, you can study any number of examples of people who have been brutally tortured, raped, assaulted, etc. Severe stress is inconsistent with rationality, because it directly undermines a person's capacity to think rationally on the physical level.

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1 hour ago, William O said:

I've said this before, but it didn't really get addressed. When someone is subjected to the kind of prolonged, severe pain we are discussing in this thread, their mind gradually turns into a kind of funhouse mirror. This isn't speculation, you can study any number of examples of people who have been brutally tortured, raped, assaulted, etc. Severe stress is inconsistent with rationality, because it directly undermines a person's capacity to think rationally on the physical level.

I don't doubt any of what you say. I can at least confirm that my own thinking suffers under stress or pain or lack of sleep, or etc.; it makes sense to me that if these apparent causes were intensified (e.g. torture or sleep deprivation), their deleterious effects on rationality would increase accordingly. And this is perhaps not very surprising, generally speaking, given the relationship between "mind" and "body."

I suppose that this point wasn't addressed substantively for a couple of reasons. In the first place, it appears to rob those who wish to insist that "man can flourish despite all" of some of the grandeur of their claim. epistemologue seemed to present a mind almost floating within a body, which could reason and be happy all on its own, utterly irrespective of whatever was happening "out there." Eiuol seems to me to argue for the same sort of potential via a combination of Objectivist belief and Buddhist meditation. (And while I do not hold Eiuol consequently responsible for all Buddhist claims, I think it no coincidence that these meditative practices typically are associated with a philosophy that regards much of the physical world as "unreal.")

Insisting that there are these inescapable relationships between "mind" and "body" takes away from the project of asserting that the mind is all-powerful, that anything can be borne, that a True Moral Man can simply laugh off the very worst of life.

The other reason I expect your point wasn't addressed is because there are any number of interesting arguments which have been raised, both to attack and defend the idea that "suicide is immoral." It appears that most people participating in the thread would concede that if rationality is impossible or destroyed, suicide is acceptable at least -- so if we're discussing cases where pain simply destroys reason, that will not help us to investigate or illuminate or test those arguments. (Though it should at least put the lie to the "unreality" of pain that underlies many of them, or the argument that pain exists, but somehow "doesn't matter." Yet it will not help us to resolve whether the experience of pain in itself, apart from its effects on reason, ought to factor into ethical reasoning. I continue to argue that it should. I believe that our experience of life matters.)

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On 12/27/2016 at 8:41 PM, DonAthos said:

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

While I appreciate the sentiment, I've been using "poetry" as a gentler euphemism for the sloppiness you observed, here:

On 12/27/2016 at 0:36 PM, DonAthos said:

Typically, when I refer to suicide, I mean it literally.

And I'm sorry about that.

 

On 12/27/2016 at 0:36 PM, DonAthos said:

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).

On 12/27/2016 at 8:41 PM, DonAthos said:

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.

...

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

Agreed.

 

I've been reflecting on this, recently, and ultimately realized that the only "reification" in this thread was of my own sense of life.

A sense of life seems like part of existence ("out there" to be proven) but it isn't. It can't really be proven, in the same sense and for the same reasons that colors can't be explained to the blind. One man's core can't be taken out and shared with another, no matter how much he may wish to.

 

So I'm sorry that all my sexy, sexy poetry interfered with that whole "truth" business. B)

 

On 12/27/2016 at 0:36 PM, DonAthos said:

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.

With regard to raw sensory values, such as the physical stimuli of pleasure or pain, yes. We're all born with the evaluations of such sensations hardwired into our nervous systems (at least at first).

With regard to conceptual values, I don't think so. Values like truth, integrity, justice, productive work, pride, beauty and romance (which are so much more meaningful than any isolated sensation could ever be) aren't universal or automatic, at all; they depend on volitional mental processes.

 

Even those of us who have experienced that Aristotelean sort of "happiness" which we (Objectivists) all seek so fervently, won't necessarily continue to want it in the way we should; it depends on our thoughts and choices. We can kill it without even knowing that we are (which is actually far easier than preserving it), which is precisely what I believe Rand was arming us against when she wrote:

“In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach."

 

On 12/27/2016 at 0:36 PM, DonAthos said:

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.

 

You underestimate the flexibility of the human mind.

 

I believe I've already mentioned it elsewhere but at one point, when I was a little Mormon, I realized that God was demanding (via the scriptures I read) my own self-induced blindness and the unconditional surrender of my critical faculty. I didn't have those words for it, of course; all I knew was that the universe would give me infinite joy for doing what was obviously wrong, and infinite pain if I tried to do what was right.

So if you can't imagine anyone who, when offered eternal bliss by God Himself, would spit in his eye... c'est moi! And I think the range of goals and attitudes which men can hold is much broader than you might currently suspect.

 

Interestingly, though:

On 12/10/2016 at 5:04 PM, itsjames said:

I'm not sure I agree that the belief in God -- and the practice of this belief -- can ever be honest, especially when the believer claims they are "certain". Sure, many believers can be honest in other areas of their lives, making them "basically" honest. But if honesty is the devotion to reality, I don't see how believing in God can be an honest thing. Please enlighten me, if you think I'm wrong.

The preceding dilemma is older and more common than any bromide; that's the choice every single Christian faces whenever they're asked to probe the issue too deeply. You can see it in their faces, if you're paying attention. And that's a source of unlimited amusement - for me. :twisted:

 

On 12/27/2016 at 0:36 PM, DonAthos said:

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.)

Yes, and "there, but for the grace of God, go I".

Except it isn't God who shapes our souls; it's every single one of us. And it's important to keep track of who is an architect and who is an arsonist for the same reason that ruthless self-evaluation is important:

 

They tell you the trajectory of things.

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
Backreference to itsjames & music

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A sense of life seems like part of existence ("out there" to be proven) but it isn't. It can't really be proven, in the same sense and for the same reasons that colors can't be explained to the blind. One man's core can't be taken out and shared with another, no matter how much he may wish to.

Agreed.

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So I'm sorry that all my sexy, sexy poetry interfered with that whole "truth" business. B)

LOL

I'm still not certain how much you ought apologize for (honest confusion has a rightful place in discourse), but if there is anything for me to forgive, you're forgiven.

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On 12/27/2016 at 10:36 AM, DonAthos said:

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.

With regard to raw sensory values, such as the physical stimuli of pleasure or pain, yes. We're all born with the evaluations of such sensations hardwired into our nervous systems (at least at first).

Exactly. We do not "choose" our fundamental orientation to pleasure or pain. This is what allows us to eventually conceive of things in terms of "good" and "evil."

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With regard to conceptual values, I don't think so. Values like truth, integrity, justice, productive work, pride, beauty and romance (which are so much more meaningful than any isolated sensation could ever be) aren't universal or automatic, at all; they depend on volitional mental processes.

I agree with you that such conceptual values depend upon volitional mental processes, yet note that I did not refer to "truth, integrity, justice, productive work, pride, beauty and romance," but happiness. And my point about happiness was not that it is automatic, or achieved in a non-volitional manner, but that "no one who has experienced happiness does not want it."

What happiness is, is good. I've not yet worked out the position in full, either in my own mind or in argument, but I suspect that happiness is the emotional concomitant of the mental projection of pleasure over time. Consider the "roots" of happiness, as a child. When are you "happy"? When you know that, tonight, you're getting ice cream after dinner; when you know that you're going to Disney World for your birthday; when it's the cusp of summer vacation, which means that you're going to spend your days swimming and fishing instead of listening to boring lectures. (And what is "sadness"? When you expect a punishment tonight, when Dad gets home.) I've a long ways to go from here, potentially, but this is the avenue of thought I'm exploring.

In any case, such is fully volitional and not automatic. Is it "universal"? I suspect it is, or nearly so, at least. Insofar as all human beings are equipped to experience pleasure, and insofar all human beings develop the wherewithal (and make subconscious "choices") such that they can predict the experience of some pleasure or pain over time, then I would expect them to experience the same fundamental emotional state.

This is why Rand can depend upon "happiness" as the purpose of ethics, philosophy, and life itself, without having to make an argument for happiness, as such. She knows that her audience will have some experience of/understanding of what happiness is like, and she knows that happiness argues for itself, just as pleasure does, in that our experience of it is the good.

(I think it likely that some -- or even most -- people never experience a full adult happiness, where the evaluation is based upon a projection over one's entire lifetime; but then, the childhood experience is likely enough to compensate for this, at least in providing the "purpose" for adult ethical reasoning.)

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Even those of us who have experienced that Aristotelean sort of "happiness" which we (Objectivists) all seek so fervently, won't necessarily continue to want it in the way we should; it depends on our thoughts and choices.

I agree that consciously we may not "continue to want it in the way we should." We can convince ourselves that all manner of things are more important than our happiness. (Including, funnily enough, our own technical survival.)

And certainly our thoughts and choices are instrumental in one's pursuit of happiness (even if, as I argue, right thought and choice does not guarantee it). We can prevent ourselves from achieving happiness in innumerable ways, and especially if we consciously reject the idea that happiness is of value (let alone our ultimate value), or place something above it.

But the "wanting of happiness" I mean is not true wanting, in the full sense of the term. Maybe it's my turn for poetry now? But I mean to point at the root of what allows for wanting in the first place. It is as "the choice to focus" is to actual, conscious, volitional choice. It is in the same sense as "liking" pleasure. (Pleasure is what enables us to "like"; we cannot opt not to "like" pleasure. "Liking" pleasure and "liking" happiness are both redundant, and insipid.)

In a metaphorical way of thinking, I would hold that the (actual) experience of happiness is utterly seductive to the human mind. Whatever thoughts a person holds about why he doesn't care for happiness would melt utterly away in the face of the real McCoy, because just like pleasure, happiness cannot be denied.*

____________________

* More poetry, perhaps. The experience of happiness could yet be denied on a conscious level, just like a person may tell himself "this is not pleasurable" when experiencing pleasure, or "this is not painful" when experiencing pain -- but such fundamentally dishonest denials can only get a man so far.

How deep can evasion run? That's an interesting question...

Edited to add: Just as the above with respect to pleasure, try to imagine someone experiencing happiness (or something like it -- perhaps some variant of "joy"), like, say, a young child on Christmas morning, unwrapping his presents. Imagine that child saying to himself something like, "I do not like this experience of 'joy'; I do not like this feeling, and I do not want it again."

Does such a scenario seem realistic -- at all? If you could picture such a thing, such a child saying that to himself (maybe because he's been taught to do so), could he say so honestly?

If we could imagine some early-twenties philosophy student saying the same thing on a Christmas morn, smiling despite himself in a feeling of earnest joy that he otherwise, and as a matter of principle, would resent, maybe that's a touch truer to reality. I'm sure that people talk themselves out of pleasures all the time.

Yet I believe that the evasion of one's own actual experience can only run so deep. And where and when someone experiences happiness, I believe it beyond our ability to (honestly) say that we do not like it -- because happiness is good of our nature.

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You underestimate the flexibility of the human mind.

Maybe I do.

But I believe that even the mind has a nature; that it is not infinitely malleable (just as happiness is not).

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I believe I've already mentioned it elsewhere but at one point, when I was a little Mormon, I realized that God was demanding (via the scriptures I read) my own self-induced blindness and the unconditional surrender of my critical faculty. I didn't have those words for it, of course; all I knew was that the universe would give me infinite joy for doing what was obviously wrong, and infinite pain if I tried to do what was right.

So if you can't imagine anyone who, when offered eternal bliss by God Himself, would spit in his eye... c'est moi!

Yes, but look.

Look at where you are now. Look at what you believe now. Even if you believe that at one point you committed yourself to "unconditional surrender," apparently the surrender was not, in fact, unconditional.

I don't doubt that a person can believe himself to reject all good, but I do doubt whether a person can actually reject all good.

It could be as you say that I underestimate the flexibility of the human mind, but insofar as I believe that we cannot "choose against pleasure" (in that we experience it as good, of our nature), and insofar as I believe that happiness finds its own roots in pleasure, then I believe that there must remain within a human mind, howsoever twisted, some capacity to yet recognize and respond to that which is in fact good. (This is what allows those who have "surrendered unconditionally" to yet overcome it; it is what allows people who have made themselves "blind" able to see.)

What the good is (including pleasure, including happiness), is not up for debate. It is not a matter of subjective choice. It is not arbitrary. It is a fact of our nature. And any individual may believe himself to be outside of that nature or not subject to it, or to be the one radical for whom "the bad is the good" and "the good the bad," and he may act accordingly (to his own woe), but he cannot actually excuse himself from his own nature.

Edited by DonAthos

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Locked-in patients trapped inside their paralysed bodies have told doctors they are ‘happy’ using an astonishing new brain computer interface which deciphers their thoughts.

In a groundbreaking experiment, four people who were incapable of even moving their eyes, were able to respond with ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to spoken questions.

On seven out of 10 occasions the patients said they were happy despite their utterly debilitating condition which means they require round the clock care for all their basic needs.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/01/31/locked-in-patients-tell-doctors-happy-computer-reads-thoughts/

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