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Standard of value : Life or Reproduction

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Lagroht
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All humans eventually die

You are human, you will die

The objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value-and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.

But what if your current actions are sufficient to sustain your life...until it ends?

Inevitable mortality posses a serious problem for the ethical purpose of my life, which is my own life. On any scale, whether you buy another company or just a bigger minivan, eat healthy,exercise, avoid stress...it won't make you immortal.

The closest thing to living on yourself, both physically (genetics) and spiritually (convictions) is having children of your own and raising them according to your values.

shouldn't the law of marginal utility be applied when achieving the conditions required for your life, for your lifespan, qua rational man, don't require all your time/resources (anymore)?

My conclusion is that surplus action capacity/resources should be deferred to reproduction and values that sustain that, like supporting a suitable mate, having children and taking care of them until they are able to do so themselves.

This seems to me a moral obligation, derived from man's life as the standard of value. This would mean that not pursuing a relation with a member of the opposite sex is morally bad, not having children when you are capable of supporting them is morally bad and not taking care of them, when you could is morally bad.

This is not the choice Ayn Rand made and frankly I think it is a pity she didn't have children, I would imagine that from the revenue of her books she should have been able to support children AND a household help which would made it possible for her to pursuit her career without impairment. That wouldn't have been a scarifies at all, but an extra value. It is also not the choice or path taken nowadays by a lot of highly intelligent woman (for instance Condoleezza Rice, Angela Merkel), the number of children by bachelor/master degree educated woman is far less then the number of children taken by woman of low intelligence/achievement. This is in total contradiction of the actual capacity of supporting children. If you cannot take care of them, you shouldn't take children, if you can you should.

Now...tell me what's wrong with this line of argument?

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So you are saying that because you will die you should attempt to live on in your children? Rather second-handed don't you think?

Isn't the decision to have children or not based on how much you will or won't value them as individuals not as some sort of DNA repository.

You can not live on through your kids. Anyone who has them will tell you. They are individuals with their own views and their own minds and capacities and interests etc. etc. etc.

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Now...tell me what's wrong with this line of argument?
Firstly, you seem to be assuming that life-span is the standard of value, according to Objectivism: it is not. Secondly, you're assuming that having children is a generally a higher value in one's life, compared to other options: it is not.
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A [second-hander] is one who regards the consciousness of other men as superior to his own and to the facts of reality. It is to a [second-hander] that the moral appraisal of himself by others is a primary concern which supersedes truth, facts, reason, logic. The disapproval of others is so shatteringly terrifying to him that nothing can withstand its impact within his consciousness; thus he would deny the evidence of his own eyes and invalidate his own consciousness for the sake of any stray charlatan’s moral sanction. It is only a [second-hander] who could conceive of such absurdity as hoping to win an intellectual argument by hinting: “But people won’t like you!”

“The Argument from Intimidation,”the virtue of selfishness"

...I don't think I fit the bill for second handednesses.

I really am not trying to say that I will live on in any children myself, like some sort of re-incarnation, but I'm saying it is the closest thing to it. I think it is beyond discussion that children are their own person and not the same as there parents. But I also think it is beyond discussion that children tend to resemble their parents. You will see fragments of yourself in your children. And I guess children brought up in an objectivist manner won't be going around claiming they have supernatural insight into the nature of things or start trying to establish a theocracy in your country. Quite the opposite, your children might even be upholding the secular state while you yourself are already being to feeble of old age to defend your freedom effectively.

"Firstly, you seem to be assuming that life-span is the standard of value, according to Objectivism: it is not. Secondly, you're assuming that having children is a generally a higher value in one's life, compared to other options: it is not." ~ softwareNerd

I take a look at page 25 of the virtue of selfishness and read 'the standard by which one judges what is good and evil-is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.' . Mortality isn't survival, hence mortality is evil. What rational action do we take to prevent it?, maybe genetic research will sometime find the answer, but till then we cannot do anything about it. So the whole enterprise of judging facts on the basis of the standard of life qua man ultimately seems useless, you will not succeed in surviving. That is of course no reason to nihilistic throw away the life span you do have, every drop of it is valuable.

I wouldn't say having children is a higher value than having a productive career, but I would say it certainly should beat watching tv, playing your cello, going on long foreign vacations and killing time in other non-productive indulgences.

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I wouldn't say having children is a higher value than having a productive career, but I would say it certainly should beat watching tv, playing your cello, going on long foreign vacations and killing time in other non-productive indulgences.
I don't think those are fair comparisons. To understand why I think so, what I were to re-frame your sentence as follows:

I wouldn't say having [a second productive career] is a higher value than having a [primary] productive career, but I would say it certainly should beat watching tv, playing your cello, going on long foreign vacations and killing time in other non-productive indulgences.

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I don't think those are fair comparisons. To understand why I think so, what I were to re-frame your sentence as follows:

I wouldn't say having [a second productive career] is a higher value than having a [primary] productive career, but I would say it certainly should beat watching tv, playing your cello, going on long foreign vacations and killing time in other non-productive indulgences.

I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at, I tried to use examples of other ways to spend the fruits of productive efforts to illustrate my point. I'm assuming a regular person who holds a job for 40 hours a week or perhaps runs his own business which perhaps require more of his time and puts his rational effort in doing this to the best of his ability. I am also under the assumption that being productive doesn't necessarily need to extend beyond that. This should be enough to provide for the values that survival requires, if it doesn't the argument to have children falls apart, then your not able to provide for them and they would also make your life miserable. This leaves like 32 waking hours in the weekends and maybe 40 disposable hours in de week day evenings (if you're superman ;-). Those could be allocated to extra productive activities, I think that in a formative stage of a career this could also be appropriate. But is it proper to keep this up for an entire lifespan?, beyond a certain threshold of wealth extra prosperity will not enhance survival very much, a small car for instance will drive a person to work just as effectively as a hummer. I would argue that when a person arrives at this situation in life that children should be higher valued than additional material values since children are life and hummers are not.

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A [second-hander] is one who regards the consciousness of other men as superior to his own and to the facts of reality. It is to a [second-hander] that the moral appraisal of himself by others is a primary concern which supersedes truth, facts, reason, logic. The disapproval of others is so shatteringly terrifying to him that nothing can withstand its impact within his consciousness; thus he would deny the evidence of his own eyes and invalidate his own consciousness for the sake of any stray charlatan’s moral sanction. It is only a [second-hander] who could conceive of such absurdity as hoping to win an intellectual argument by hinting: “But people won’t like you!”

“The Argument from Intimidation,”the virtue of selfishness"

...I don't think I fit the bill for second handednesses.

see below.

I really am not trying to say that I will live on in any children myself, like some sort of re-incarnation, but I'm saying it is the closest thing to it.

Either it is or it isn't. If it isn't, then would you be saying that you want to fake the idea of living forever, deny reality, and do so by putting a burden on yourself today? Having children, for this reason only, is a form of evasion and self-sacrifice. To substitute another's life as your own, which is what you are doing, is 2nd handed.

Life is life, things that are not life are not life. Doing something because it is "close to" being life is faking it.

I take a look at page 25 of the virtue of selfishness and read 'the standard by which one judges what is good and evil-is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.' . Mortality isn't survival, hence mortality is evil.

Something that is true of every "life" cannot be evil. It is a fact of reality. Mortality is something we do not have a choice about, therefore it cannot be evil. The choice of life is not hte same thing as mortality avoidance. Tara Smith in her books Viable Values, and the Normative Ethics of Ayn Rand covers this point very clearly. By that reasoning burdening yourself today to get the illusion of prolonged life is faking it.

I wouldn't say having children is a higher value than having a productive career, but I would say it certainly should beat watching tv, playing your cello, going on long foreign vacations and killing time in other non-productive indulgences.

This is intrincisism. You are essentially saying this value heirarcy should be true for everyone. Plus you are comparing them on non-essentials. Childrearing can be a very huge rewarding experience, and in that sense it probably always would trump any single TV episode. However, child-rearing is also a very large commitment requiring on some levels an awful lot of effort, and possible drudgery for that reward. FOr that effort you will necessarily forgo many other larger options. Especially for the very poor this may necessarily entail the giving up of other things which would be larger values.

I think this reason for having children sucks, personally. But then I know so many other viable reasons that children fill ones life, and by which they are values for the people who choose to have, and I also know so many Objectvists who gladly have kids (like that guy who answered your post who has "Proud Father" in his sig) that I think the idea of some sort of reporductive virtue in having them is useless, and not needed, and even pernicious.

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I'm not entirely sure what you are getting at, I tried to use examples of other ways to spend the fruits of productive efforts to illustrate my point. I'm assuming a regular person who holds a job for 40 hours a week or perhaps runs his own business which perhaps require more of his time and puts his rational effort in doing this to the best of his ability. I am also under the assumption that being productive doesn't necessarily need to extend beyond that. This should be enough to provide for the values that survival requires, if it doesn't the argument to have children falls apart, then your not able to provide for them and they would also make your life miserable. This leaves like 32 waking hours in the weekends and maybe 40 disposable hours in de week day evenings (if you're superman ;-). Those could be allocated to extra productive activities, I think that in a formative stage of a career this could also be appropriate. But is it proper to keep this up for an entire lifespan?, beyond a certain threshold of wealth extra prosperity will not enhance survival very much, a small car for instance will drive a person to work just as effectively as a hummer. I would argue that when a person arrives at this situation in life that children should be higher valued than additional material values since children are life and hummers are not.

You're probably also assuming that said person has found a mate, since all the material issues and the time issues are highly complicated by being a single parent.

Ah the incremental wealth argument. It is stil intrincisim. Children are not life. The basis by which you make this whole argument is false. IF this is the case then all sorts of other rewards from other activities can and may be more important and more viably fulfilling for someone than having children.

I appreciate if you hold childrearing as a very valuable activity. Why are you so hellbent on foisting that value heirachy on others. Do you really intend to then claim that not having children is immoral? since that is the implication of your argument.

Productiveness does not equate with wealth creation either.

I would highly, highly, highly suggest you read Viable Values. The whole book covers Objectivist meta-ethics and it is written by an Objectivist Professor of Philosophy. You have a very strong misunderstanding about what "life as the standard" actually means.

A pulse is not life.

Morgue-avoidance is not life.

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This should be enough to provide for the values that survival requires,...
Why are you going back to "survival". What has that got to do with Objectivist ethics?

It's one thing to argue that having kids ought to be a moral value, and it's quite different to argue that Objectivism implies that it ought to be a moral value. You're arguing the latter without showing how having kids has anything to do with the Objectivist standard of value (which is not survival, nor ensuring the survival and thriving of one's genetic material, nor a the thriving of human life as such).

This earlier topic probably covers the same ground.

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hmm, you guys do make me think...

Either it is or it isn't. If it isn't, then would you be saying that you want to fake the idea of living forever, deny reality, and do so by putting a burden on yourself today? Having children, for this reason only, is a form of evasion and self-sacrifice. To substitute another's life as your own, which is what you are doing, is 2nd handed.

Life is life, things that are not life are not life. Doing something because it is "close to" being life is faking it.

I'm not saying I want to fake the idea of living forever, I started this thread with the statement 'all humans eventually die', how can you then say that I am being evasive, I would say I'm doing the opposite, explicitly recognizing the reality of my own mortality. I also do not think of it as being self-sacrifice, if a person already is able to have a rewarding career and has spare time left that can be utilized to take care of the children no sacrifice is required. In that case you are not substituting another's life for your own, you are adding another life to your own. But even if I did, that still wouldn't correspond to the definition of the second hander from the virtue of selfishness that I mentioned. For me to be a second hander I would have to value the opinion of others higher than my own, this has nothing to do with the decision about having children.

Something that is true of every "life" cannot be evil. It is a fact of reality. Mortality is something we do not have a choice about, therefore it cannot be evil. The choice of life is not the same thing as mortality avoidance. Tara Smith in her books Viable Values, and the Normative Ethics of Ayn Rand covers this point very clearly. By that reasoning burdening yourself today to get the illusion of prolonged life is faking it.

well, again. I'm not saying anybody with kids can point to them and say proudly; 'look I am living on forever'. I think you have a point in that something beyond choice cannot be part of moral evaluation and must be accepted. The choice to have children however is open to moral evaluation. Note by the way you are also saying death is part of life, that's a bit of definition stretching. Life and death are to mutually exclusive concepts. Death is not part of life.

'In a fundamental sense, stillness is the antithesis of life. Life can be kept in existence only by a constant process of self-sustaining action. The goal of that action, the ultimate value which, to be kept, must be gained through its every moment, is the organism’s life. ' ~ virtue of selfishness.

This is intrincisism. You are essentially saying this value heirarcy should be true for everyone. Plus you are comparing them on non-essentials. Childrearing can be a very huge rewarding experience, and in that sense it probably always would trump any single TV episode. However, child-rearing is also a very large commitment requiring on some levels an awful lot of effort, and possible drudgery for that reward. For that effort you will necessarily forgo many other larger options. Especially for the very poor this may necessarily entail the giving up of other things which would be larger values.

I think this reason for having children sucks, personally. But then I know so many other viable reasons that children fill ones life, and by which they are values for the people who choose to have, and I also know so many Objectvists who gladly have kids (like that guy who answered your post who has "Proud Father" in his sig) that I think the idea of some sort of reporductive virtue in having them is useless, and not needed, and even pernicious.

You do have a point, but I would call it absolutism, my line of though indeed seems to point in the direction of a value hierarchy that should be true for everyone. But there are also a lot of facts about different people that are the same, so why should that be surprising?, I suppose differences in value hierarchy should objectively only be derived from the circumstances that are different in different peoples lives. I realize this is all kind of emotionless, but isn't that the whole point of an objective ethics, that it is an intellectual issue, detached from likes and dislikes?

Why are you going back to "survival". What has that got to do with Objectivist ethics?

It's one thing to argue that having kids ought to be a moral value, and it's quite different to argue that Objectivism implies that it ought to be a moral value. You're arguing the latter without showing how having kids has anything to do with the Objectivist standard of value (which is not survival, nor ensuring the survival and thriving of one's genetic material, nor a the thriving of human life as such).

This earlier topic probably covers the same ground.

I'm going back to survival because to me this seems to be at the basis of the objectivist ethics (shoot me if I'm wrong :-), on page 27 virtue of selfishness it says; ''That which is required for the survival of man qua man"is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man. So to me it seems that there can be only room for the pursuit of other values when this requirement is successfully being achieved. I bring it up not to show that objectivism implies that it is good to have kids (in fact, I cannot find one statement claiming that), but to show that it doesn't exclude it. Than I try to proceed augmenting survival qua man with a secondary objective, to be pursuit when the primary objective is save; 'the next best thing'

You're probably also assuming that said person has found a mate, since all the material issues and the time issues are highly complicated by being a single parent.

Right, I don't think it is a good idea to have children if you cannot take care of them without sacrificing your own life, I guess a mate is like a pre-condition.

I appreciate if you hold childrearing as a very valuable activity. Why are you so hellbent on foisting that value heirachy on others. Do you really intend to then claim that not having children is immoral? since that is the implication of your argument.

What I am trying to do is set up an objective evaluation of the choice to have kids, it is open to moral evaluation exactly because it is optional. I think that because it is a choice open to all people the evaluation for different people in similar circumstances should turn out the same result.

Productiveness does not equate with wealth creation either.

that's a complicated subject on which even professional economists don't agree (see say's law, supply side economics). I rather won't get into that argument, I am afraid it would get way of topic...

Children are not life

A pulse is not life.

Morgue-avoidance is not life.

please give me your definition of life...

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Death is not part of life.

'In a fundamental sense, stillness is the antithesis of life. Life can be kept in existence only by a constant process of self-sustaining action. The goal of that action, the ultimate value which, to be kept, must be gained through its every moment, is the organism’s life. ' ~ virtue of selfishness.

Everything that lives, dies. This fact gives rise to the very concept of value. Without death there would be no ultimate value and no ethics.

I realize this is all kind of emotionless, but isn't that the whole point of an objective ethics, that it is an intellectual issue, detached from likes and dislikes?

No. Likes and dislikes are what the science of ethics is all about. "Objective" refers to a correspondence with reality. So an "objective ethics" refers to discovering what is objectively good, that is, what is actually good for your life.

I suppose differences in value hierarchy should objectively only be derived from the circumstances that are different in different peoples lives.

Which is almost everything, right? Otherwise everybody would be a doctor or a genius inventor.

I'm going back to survival because to me this seems to be at the basis of the objectivist ethics (shoot me if I'm wrong :-), on page 27 virtue of selfishness it says; ''That which is required for the survival of man qua man"is an abstract principle that applies to every individual man.

This is where you are going wrong and it is what the others are trying to point out to you. Read past the word "survival" and try to understand the phrase: "man qua man", what does that mean? It doesn't mean survival as an animal or survival as a thief, or survival as a slave and it most certainly doesn't mean survival as an unhappy father resentful of his child's existence because he feels chained to an undesired duty.

What I am trying to do is set up an objective evaluation of the choice to have kids, it is open to moral evaluation exactly because it is optional. I think that because it is a choice open to all people the evaluation for different people in similar circumstances should turn out the same result.

You are acknowledging that the choice is optional and then saying that it should turn out the same???

that's a complicated subject on which even professional economists don't agree (see say's law, supply side economics). I rather won't get into that argument, I am afraid it would get way of topic...

It really is the same issue, that of a hierarchy of values. Not all people want to be doctors or inventors. If these fields are of no interest you, then you shouldn't pursue them. Indeed even some doctors and inventors aren't happy.

You should pursue what rationally makes you happy.

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Everything that lives, dies. This fact gives rise to the very concept of value. Without death there would be no ultimate value and no ethics.

I do not agree with your formulation, if man was indestructible like the randian robot, but would be pre-programmed to die after 120 years then objectivist ethics wouldn't apply since that kind of death isn't open to choice, no action would be available for man to avoid it (exactly like no action is available for real man). So death as such isn't sufficient for objectivist ethics to apply, it has to be conditional life. Further I am inclined to argue that unavoidable death isn't an argument for man life as an end in itself, but for reproduction because it is the metaphysical fact that makes reproduction good for anything to begin with.

No. Likes and dislikes are what the science of ethics is all about. "Objective" refers to a correspondence with reality. So an "objective ethics" refers to discovering what is objectively good, that is, what is actually good for your life.

I don't see how you tie the 2th sentence to the 1th. The 2th sentence I entirely agree with.

Which is almost everything, right? Otherwise everybody would be a doctor or a genius inventor.

I don't think almost everything, but people situated in similar circumstances should reach similar conclusions about what is right for them. (but if their not all objective, they will not)

This is where you are going wrong and it is what the others are trying to point out to you. Read past the word "survival" and try to understand the phrase: "man qua man", what does that mean? It doesn't mean survival as an animal or survival as a thief, or survival as a slave and it most certainly doesn't mean survival as an unhappy father resentful of his child's existence because he feels chained to an undesired duty.

Is it allowed to mean a happy father who takes pleasure in his child's existence because it enriches his life?...I'm really not talking about an unconditional obligation/duty here, but if the only argument against having a child boils down to 'I just don't feel like it' then that's a very hedonistic viewpoint.

You are acknowledging that the choice is optional and then saying that it should turn out the same???

Maybe I wasn't expressing myself clearly. I'm referring to the fact that actions which are not open to man's choice can not be evaluated as good or bad (If I put a knife in your hand and physically force your arm to stab someone you are not the bad guy). Having children however is open to choice, so open to moral evaluation. If it is objectivity determined whether it is good or bad (given circumstances) then individuals choices in this regard can be evaluated. People who would agree on this principle will then make the same choice in the same circumstances.

It really is the same issue, that of a hierarchy of values. Not all people want to be doctors or inventors. If these fields are of no interest you, then you shouldn't pursue them. Indeed even some doctors and inventors aren't happy.

I don't understand how tie wealth creation not being equal with productivity to value hierarchy, but I agree with the general statements.

You should pursue what rationally makes you happy.

I'm trying to reach the logical conclusion....which gives me headache :-)

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People who would agree on this principle will then make the same choice in the same circumstances.
But people are not and cannot be "in the same circumstances". If Roark wants to be an Architect and Galt wants to be an engineer, their choices are equally moral, if they have been arrived at rationally, and with a view to their likes and dislikes.
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But people are not and cannot be "in the same circumstances". If Roark wants to be an Architect and Galt wants to be an engineer, their choices are equally moral, if they have been arrived at rationally, and with a view to their likes and dislikes.

You are right, exactly the same is not possible that was sloppy formulation of me, sorry :pimp:

But the thought that I try to convey is that if people apply the same objective moral standard they will make similar judgements when faced with similar circumstances. When faces with a choice of career you cannot deny the fact that every year lots of people chose the same profession, likely because they have similar talent and convictions.

You are also right that the choice of Roark is as moral as the Choice of Galt, but why is that?, I guess the unifying factor is the fact that both career choices when pursuit without compromise will inevitably produce objective values, which can be traded with other rational man for other values, values that sustain a man's life.

But when I am considering whether or not it is proper to have children then the actual profession someone has chosen seems irrelevant to me (as long as it is a moral one), as long as the fruits of the productive effort of a person can be traded for more value than required for the survival of the person qua man, I propose children would be the proper secondary beneficiary.

I know I'm swimming against the current here, if I remember correctly Ayn Rand called objectivism "a philosophy for living on earth" and that is exactly what it is. I think it is the greatest body of thought I have ever encountered, it made me throw out the window some of the half baked thoughts I was carrying since adolescence and in other cases provided me with formulations that where better than my own. Her identification of the evil of altruism is monumental, I think if objectivism ever became mainstream that it would create a wonderful society. But objectivism skips unavoidable death like it doesn't exists and attaches no implications whatsoever to this undeniable metaphysical fact. To me objectivism as it stands seems to flow from the requirements of conditional life, while the properness of reproduction to me seems to flow from the fact of unavoidable death. Both conditionality of life and unavoidable death are facts of reality, reality is a whole, so there cannot be a contradiction between the two. Therefore I think there shouldn't be a contradition between objectivism and reproduction. In fact they have the same root, the root of value which is Life.

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I suppose differences in value hierarchy should objectively only be derived from the circumstances that are different in different peoples lives.

No. Differences in value hierarchies should be objectively derived from the values of individuals. If one man or one billion men choose to value having children that has no bearing on the second man or the 1,000,000,001st man.

I think that because it is a choice open to all people the evaluation for different people in similar circumstances should turn out the same result.

Why? We are both individuals with different values and different goals, are you saying that if we approach a stop sign and have the choice to turn right or left are you saying that we would turn the same way because our circumstances are similar?

I don't think almost everything, but people situated in similar circumstances should reach similar conclusions about what is right for them. (but if their not all objective, they will not)

Again, no. People… (actually scratch that word as you seem to be ascribing some sort of collective manifestation of “people”) Individuals (acting objectively and thinking rationally) reach conclusions which are right for them as individuals, and to hell with what other individuals do in similar situations.

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But objectivism skips unavoidable death like it doesn't exists and attaches no implications whatsoever to this undeniable metaphysical fact.
The implications of death is the ending of life. The certainty of death and the uncertainty of its arrival date is what makes life so valuable. Objectivism concerns itself with the living. If you are interested in a discussion of the hereafter, see Christianity.

To me objectivism as it stands seems to flow from the requirements of conditional life, while the properness of reproduction to me seems to flow from the fact of unavoidable death.
Having reproduced twice, with a slight assist from my wife, I can say that the idea of 'unavoidable death' was never a conscious factor. So, I dont see how they are in any way linked.

Therefore I think there shouldn't be a contradition between objectivism and reproduction.
I dont think there is.
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No. Differences in value hierarchies should be objectively derived from the values of individuals. If one man or one billion men choose to value having children that has no bearing on the second man or the 1,000,000,001st man.

But what caused this 1 man to values children?, if it has no bearing on anybody else surely he didn't use any objective standard...

Why? We are both individuals with different values and different goals, are you saying that if we approach a stop sign and have the choice to turn right or left are you saying that we would turn the same way because our circumstances are similar?

Well if we would both live in the same neighbourhood and have similar capabilities and convictions than it is more likely that we would have chosen the same

career path, for instance; being a doctor. If that would have been the case then we even might make the same choice at the stop sign; to for instance turn right, in the direction of the local hospital :P

Again, no. People… (actually scratch that word as you seem to be ascribing some sort of collective manifestation of “people”) Individuals (acting objectively and thinking rationally) reach conclusions which are right for them as individuals, and to hell with what other individuals do in similar situations.

hmm, you see I am not a native English speaker, could be that I use the word people in some places where it will be interpreted as a sort of 'we the people'.

I don't intend that.

You know, you are right; we are all different individuals, but we also have a lot of common characteristics and that is what I am trying to refer to...really not to 'what they would do'.

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The implications of death is the ending of life. The certainty of death and the uncertainty of its arrival date is what makes life so valuable. Objectivism concerns itself with the living. If you are interested in a discussion of the hereafter, see Christianity.

The hereafter consists of a rotting corpse, no point in discussing that, seems we can agree on something...

Having reproduced twice, with a slight assist from my wife, I can say that the idea of 'unavoidable death' was never a conscious factor. So, I dont see how they are in any way linked.

I dont think there is.

The French have the expression 'La petite mort' (the little death) to refer to the orgasm, maybe that was the unconscious factor :P

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I don't think almost everything, but people situated in similar circumstances should reach similar conclusions about what is right for them. (but if their not all objective, they will not)

I don't think you are using "objective" correctly throughout this thread. As I said "objective" means corresponding to reality. One of the things that corresponds to reality, one fact, is that man has to choose how to live. He has no choice in the fact that he must eat to live, he does have a choice in what to eat. He has no choice that in order to eat he must work to attain food, he does have a choice about what work he will do. How does he choose? The answer to this question comprises the field of ethics.

He should choose according to what is in his rational self-interest, by what makes him happy.

Is it allowed to mean a happy father who takes pleasure in his child's existence because it enriches his life?...I'm really not talking about an unconditional obligation/duty here, but if the only argument against having a child boils down to 'I just don't feel like it' then that's a very hedonistic viewpoint.

So yes, this is what it means to live "qua man", it means to live as a "rational man", as a "happy man". Now you just need to realize that the choice to have children does not appeal to everyone and it is not because these people (the rational ones) are hedonistic. There are many rational reasons why someone might choose not to have children. Maybe they are only 18, maybe they are not married, maybe they want to concentrate on their career right now, maybe they don't grasp the responsiblies enough...maybe, after having been exposed to children, they just don't like them.

When faces with a choice of career you cannot deny the fact that every year lots of people chose the same profession,

Nor can you deny the fact that many don't.

You are also right that the choice of Roark is as moral as the Choice of Galt, but why is that?, I guess the unifying factor is the fact that both career choices when pursuit without compromise will inevitably produce objective values, which can be traded with other rational man for other values, values that sustain a man's life.

Not really. The unifying factor is that the choice to pursue something you are interested in will make you happy. Would you "pursue without compromise" something you weren't interested in or something that someone else thought you should?

But when I am considering whether or not it is proper to have children then the actual profession someone has chosen seems irrelevant to me (as long as it is a moral one), as long as the fruits of the productive effort of a person can be traded for more value than required for the survival of the person qua man, I propose children would be the proper secondary beneficiary.

According to Objectivism the proper beneficiary of one's actions is oneself. Others, like children, may also benefit but this is a consequence not a primary.

Both conditionality of life and unavoidable death are facts of reality,

This is the same fact ... at least here on earth.

The French have the expression 'La petite mort' (the little death) to refer to the orgasm, maybe that was the unconscious factor :P

Yes, typical of the French, what a terrible sense of life that conveys. I would rather it be called "the great life" as indeed, if you are doing it right, all of life should feel like an orgasm.

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“Value”is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept of “Value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question; of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible. ~ virtue of selfishness

It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible. It is only to a living entity that things can be good or evil. ~ virtue of selfishness

Imagine a robot irremovable preprogrammed to explode after a 120 year lifespan, which is at the same time entirely indestructible by outside forces, has its own unlimited power supply and can move and act. Such an entity would not be able to have any values; it would have nothing to gain or lose; it would not regard anything as for or against it during its lifespan and no actions are possible to prevent its eventual demise; where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.

Hence, a predestined-finite existence (unavoidable death ) by itself is not sufficient to require a science of ethics (according to objectivism).

But if the robot would have the option of creating another robot, but only entirely in its image, then robot could have hold a value, the value of its own basic form that can remain instantiated in another entity after its own existence would end.

Now Imagine a robot without a self destruct mechanism, which is not indestructible by outside forces, which runs on a battery that needs a regular recharge and has parts that wear out and need replacement now and then. It can stay in existence forever, provided it ensures its own maintenance and keeps save. Such an entity would be able to have values; it would have something to gain or lose; it would regard many things as for or against it and would take all kinds of actions to support and safeguard its existence; where an alternative exist, goals and values are possible.

Hence, a potential infinite, but conditional existence (conditional life) is sufficient to require a science of ethics.

It is the exploding robot, not the self maintaining robot which captures the essence of the indestructible randian robot, it is unavoidable death that is outside the real of ethics according to objectivism. It is conditional life which according to objectivism requires a science of ethics.

With regard to living entities; it is not the inevitability of eventual death that gives rise to ethics, it is the fact that it is possible, but not certain to stay alive until the inevitable death occurs.

On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex- from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man-are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal; the maintenance of the organism's life. ~ virtue of selfishness

This is not true, the maintenance of the organism's life is not the only goal, it is a fact that organisms also pursuit reproduction. The pleasure pain mechanism induces the lower life forms to procreate. To them, quote; 'the physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action' .

Note that fundamentally the maintenance of an organisms life cannot on principle be in conflict with reproduction, in most lower life forms the offspring is not taken care of by the parents. In higher animals the parents take care of their young when they are in their infancy and dependent for their survival on their parents. So if the parent dies, so will the offspring, so reproduction and parenting do never fundamentally require sacrifies of the parents life.

It is only to entities with an inevitable finite existence that reproduction be a value, if it fails in producing offspring it distinctive features go out of existence when it dies; If it succeeds its distinctive features will be passed on. Reproduction is the cause of an entities life, it was enacted by another entity that enacted the antecedent causes that lead its life to the act of reproduction and it took care of the its offspring until it was capable of doing so itself, thereby passing on its own features. These features become both cause and consequence of reproduction; an entity possessing them will reproduce, passing on those features to a new entity which possesses them. Life is an end in itself in a wider sense than A life is an end in itself. Reproduction is required for A life to come into existence, selfish action is required for A life to stay in existence.

The simpler organisms, such as plants, can reproduce by means of their automatic physical functions. The higher organisms, such as animals and man, cannot; their needs are more complex and the range of their action is wider. (sentence structure borrowed from virtue of selfishness)

Man, the rational animal, capable of controlling its environment superlatively is born completely dependent and helpless. He depends for many year on his parents before he can eventually take successfully take control of its own life. Just like the exploding robot he's life is inevitable finite and just like the self repairing robot, he has to take constant action to maintain it own life. He has an incentive to act to have a flourishing life and an incentive to procreate. Those are not in conflict; those that place procreation before own flourishing attempt to procreate by the means of lower life forms; they will not be able to take good care of their offspring, which in turn will flourish even less. If pride is the consequence of being worthy of living, then it is an indication of ones worthiness of romantic love. If love of the other is a response to the our values reflected in others than our love of a person of the other sex is a response to their worthiness of living, which indicates their worthiness of being a mate in a union that produces offspring.

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Hence, a predestined-finite existence (unavoidable death ) by itself is not sufficient to require a science of ethics (according to objectivism).

Hence, a potential infinite, but conditional existence (conditional life) is sufficient to require a science of ethics.

I really think you should forget about robots for now and concentrate on life here on earth. These examples do not apply to man in any way whatsoever. Man's life is not predestined nor is it infinite so using this analogy only confuses the matter.

Ayn Rand used that thought experiment to illustrate one thing only: that there are no values for anything who's life is not conditional upon the actions it takes. But this is not the proper way to develop an ethics. You should do as she did and start with reality and observe what kinds of things value and how man is similar to those things and how he is different.

In that vein, you have missed a crucial aspect of ethics here:

It is conditional life which according to objectivism requires a science of ethics.

A conditional life (which we can shorten to just "life" since this is the only kind of life there is) is what gives rise to the concept of value. Plants and animals have values but ethics does not apply to them, why is that? Because ethics, the science of how to act, is also dependent upon an alternative action. The entity in question must have a choice in the way it acts. Only man has a choice, plants and animals do not.

On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex- from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man-are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal; the maintenance of the organism's life. ~ virtue of selfishness

This is a good quote but please keep the entire context. There are several paragraphs before and after this one that can help. Also, Miss Rand was sure to emphasize this paragraph by directing us to an explanation of it. She wanted to make sure that none who read it mistook "goal directed" to mean "purposive" which seems to be where you are headed.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but with your emphasis on reproduction and evolution you appear to imply some sort of purpose to our genes besides enabling the individual to live:

He has an incentive to act to have a flourishing life and an incentive to procreate.

What is the incentive that is separate from life? Are you implying genetic determinism? Are you saying that there is some "goal" to evolution? There is not. There can only be one ultimate goal, that is the definition of "ultimate".

I'm sorry, I don't mean to parse your words but you seem to be in conflict with yourself. This is an appropriate observation:

Those are not in conflict; those that place procreation before own flourishing attempt to procreate by the means of lower life forms; they will not be able to take good care of their offspring, which in turn will flourish even less.

Life comes before reproduction. But you also seem to imply that reproduction comes before life, here:

Reproduction is the cause of an entities life, it was enacted by another entity that enacted the antecedent causes that lead its life to the act of reproduction and it took care of the its offspring until it was capable of doing so itself, thereby passing on its own features. These features become both cause and consequence of reproduction; an entity possessing them will reproduce, passing on those features to a new entity which possesses them. [...] Reproduction is required for A life to come into existence, [...].

Life is primary, it comes before reproduction. One epistemological clue to this is that you can define reproduction without reference to life since living things are the only things that reproduce. This is also what the theory of evolution says. Darwin speaks of the struggle for existence and survival of the fittest because these are the goals that animals pursue. They struggle to survive and if they do survive, then they reproduce, but they must be alive to reproduce.

Evolution is the man-made observation of what occurs when individual animals succeed at staying alive. Those that survive are necessarily the fittest and if they are alive then they reproduce and pass on their genes as part of their natural behavior. There is no teleological principle acting in insentient nature. And again, there is no determinism or genetic determinism.

It is only to entities with an inevitable finite existence that reproduction be a value, if it fails in producing offspring it distinctive features go out of existence when it dies; If it succeeds its distinctive features will be passed on.

So to reemphasize: if an animal succeeds at living, it then has the ability to pass on its genes. Evolution doesn't say that if an animal is successful at reproducing it will live it says that if an animal is successful at living it can reproduce.

If pride is the consequence of being worthy of living, then it is an indication of ones worthiness of romantic love. If love of the other is a response to the our values reflected in others than our love of a person of the other sex is a response to their worthiness of living, which indicates their worthiness of being a mate in a union that produces offspring.

I like how poetic this is but it is even more poetic if you leave off the last six words, they really seem forced and I don't think they follow.

You are implying that any union that doesn't produce offspring is a failure of pride and love and values. What about all those relationships that do produce offspring but that are actually failures as far as pride and love and values are concerned?

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Life is primary, it comes before reproduction. One epistemological clue to this is that you can define reproduction without reference to life since living things are the only things that reproduce. [emphasis added]

Warning!!!!!!

I made a huge mistake here in my previous post.

The emphasized word should be: "cannot".

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  • 10 months later...

I guess a late response is better than never....

I really think you should forget about robots for now and concentrate on life here on earth. These examples do not apply to man in any way whatsoever. Man's life is not predestined nor is it infinite so using this analogy only confuses the matter.

Ayn Rand used that thought experiment to illustrate one thing only: that there are no values for anything who's life is not conditional upon the actions it takes. But this is not the proper way to develop an ethics. You should do as she did and start with reality and observe what kinds of things value and how man is similar to those things and how he is different.

I seem to have utterly failed, I introduced the analogy to clarify what I mean with the terms 'unavoidable death' and 'conditional life', not to confuse the matter.

In that vein, you have missed a crucial aspect of ethics here:

A conditional life (which we can shorten to just "life" since this is the only kind of life there is) is what gives rise to the concept of value. Plants and animals have values but ethics does not apply to them, why is that? Because ethics, the science of how to act, is also dependent upon an alternative action. The entity in question must have a choice in the way it acts. Only man has a choice, plants and animals do not.

I agree with what you say, I would also say 'unavoidable death' is part of just 'life'.

This is a good quote but please keep the entire context. There are several paragraphs before and after this one that can help. Also, Miss Rand was sure to emphasize this paragraph by directing us to an explanation of it. She wanted to make sure that none who read it mistook "goal directed" to mean "purposive" which seems to be where you are headed.

how did she direct us?, is that explanation in some other text?

Correct me if I'm wrong, but with your emphasis on reproduction and evolution you appear to imply some sort of purpose to our genes besides enabling the individual to live:

What is the incentive that is separate from life? Are you implying genetic determinism? Are you saying that there is some "goal" to evolution? There is not. There can only be one ultimate goal, that is the definition of "ultimate".

I'm sorry, I don't mean to parse your words but you seem to be in conflict with yourself. This is an appropriate observation:

I don't think the word 'purpose' applies to the complex self sustaining process called life, for it to have a purpose it would have to been designed for some utility outside itself. I think life is an end in itself. But I guess you are right if you taste a Darwinian favour in my argumentation, I am fully convinced genes matter, if they didn't monkeys would be designing spaceships.

Life comes before reproduction. But you also seem to imply that reproduction comes before life, here:

Life is primary, it comes before reproduction. One epistemological clue to this is that you can define reproduction without reference to life since living things are the only things that reproduce. This is also what the theory of evolution says. Darwin speaks of the struggle for existence and survival of the fittest because these are the goals that animals pursue. They struggle to survive and if they do survive, then they reproduce, but they must be alive to reproduce.

Evolution is the man-made observation of what occurs when individual animals succeed at staying alive. Those that survive are necessarily the fittest and if they are alive then they reproduce and pass on their genes as part of their natural behavior. There is no teleological principle acting in insentient nature. And again, there is no determinism or genetic determinism.

So to reemphasize: if an animal succeeds at living, it then has the ability to pass on its genes. Evolution doesn't say that if an animal is successful at reproducing it will live it says that if an animal is successful at living it can reproduce.

you are right about life being primary. It is just that once the first (reproductive) organism has come into being, subsequently you get this causal chain of life-reproduction-life-reproduction-etc...

I don't exactly understand what you mean with genetic determinism... If I don't have genes for blue eyes I will not have blue eyes, that sounds like genetic determinism to me, but I suspect you refer to something else....

I like how poetic this is but it is even more poetic if you leave off the last six words, they really seem forced and I don't think they follow.

You are implying that any union that doesn't produce offspring is a failure of pride and love and values. What about all those relationships that do produce offspring but that are actually failures as far as pride and love and values are concerned?

actually I was getting a little tired of writing that piece of prose when I got to that part, it was my 'you get the picture', wrap it up ending :P

I know real life isn't so clean cut, people sometimes make bad choices, sometimes relationships fall apart, some people are poor, others infertile or have physical limitations that make it hard to find a partner, the list goes on and on. I like to limit moral judgement only to the choices people have concious control over and can reasonably be expected to predict the consequences of. (But I depart from this when ignorant people fail to see their stupid choices hurt others)

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Lagroht, I might be able to add a little more to the above posters to help clarify things.

It seems you have got to know "The Virtue of Selfishness" well. I haven't read my copy for a while, but I think that you could be mis-reading Ayn Rand's central emphasis.

When you read "Man qua Man", she is of course identifying the nature of our species - but her vastly higher concern is you (or me) 'the Individual'. She is relating the generic to what is really important, the specific.

So, when one reads of the critical importance of living up to the values of Rational Selfishness, she is not only writing of those 'others' that exist here and now; she implicitly (IMO), includes all those yet unborn.

Effectively, and morally, they are not our concern, either.

When you posted (about a year ago!) :- " If love of the other is a response to their worthiness......of being a mate in a union that produces offspring"- Marc K. was spot-on in replying that that was fine --- if you dropped the last six words.

I may be opening myself to debate here: I believe that the purpose of sex is not to procreate. [PRIMARILY]. If Nature could be said to have a "Purpose" (which it of course doesn't ), then it might be argued that 'her purpose' is procreation. This is the determinist's position.

My purpose in sex, and everyone's surely, is pleasure, intimacy, bonding, delight in learning about my partner... and increasing mutual Value with her.

Nature, to be commanded, must first be obeyed (A.Rand), and for not very long now, we have learned to command Nature in this respect, which follows that conception, and procreation are largely under our control. The Mind has released us from mere survival, individually, and generally. Having a child is now purely and simply about choice and value.

But the popular idea of procreating 'to live on' through one's DNA is of little value, Objectively speaking; as someone here noted, this is Intrinsicist - and at its most extreme, has a narcissistic (as opposed to rationally selfish) leaning, IMO.

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how did she direct us?, is that explanation in some other text?

Nope, its right there. In my book on page 17 at the end of the first paragraph are the words ":the maintenance of the organism's life.*" And the * directs you to another paragraph at the bottom of the page which explains that: "... the term 'goal-directed' is not to be taken to mean 'purposive'... and is not to imply the existence of any teleological principle operating in insentient nature. ..."

But I guess you are right if you taste a Darwinian favour in my argumentation, I am fully convinced genes matter,

Well, I guess it depends on what you mean by "genes matter", for instance I think the choices we make matter much more but I just wanted to make sure that you understand that evolution has no "purpose" either, just like gravity has no purpose.

you are right about life being primary. It is just that once the first (reproductive) organism has come into being, subsequently you get this causal chain of life-reproduction-life-reproduction-etc...

Here I just wanted to make sure that you weren't reversing cause and effect. Life is the cause, reproduction is the effect. Evolution is what we observe happens when individual animals pursue their own survival.

I don't exactly understand what you mean with genetic determinism... If I don't have genes for blue eyes I will not have blue eyes, that sounds like genetic determinism to me, but I suspect you refer to something else....

Determinism is the view that every event, including human cognition, behavior, decision, and action, is causally determined by an unbroken chain of prior occurrences. Genetic determinism says that your actions are caused by your genes. Both notions are false since both deny human volition. Your human physiology is a result of your genes but even your existence was subject to your parent's choice.

Genes determine nothing important, they may limit the actions available to us in certain ways, such as the fact that we can't fly but even that limitation can be overcome by human choice and ingenuity.

I know real life isn't so clean cut, people sometimes make bad choices, sometimes relationships fall apart, some people are poor, others infertile or have physical limitations that make it hard to find a partner, the list goes on and on. I like to limit moral judgement only to the choices people have concious control over and can reasonably be expected to predict the consequences of. (But I depart from this when ignorant people fail to see their stupid choices hurt others)

I agree and if our identities were that of deterministic creatures, then moral judgement would not only by inapplicable, it would be non-existent.

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