Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Choosing life in order to accomplish a goal

Rate this topic


Randian
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi,

I've been a supporter of capitalism for a long time and recently came into contact with the philosophy of objectivism and this forum :) I'm currently reading Objectivism the Philosophy of Ayn Rand and I've come to wonder how one would morally evaluate a person A who:

1 - has chosen life

2 - lives in accordance to the ethics of objectivism

3 - chosen the murder of person B (whom he dislikes) as his goal in life

4 - commits suicide after the murder of person B as he has accomplished his goal

Now don't get me wrong, I consider this person a debauched and heinous man. It's just that I'm having problems motivating my evaluation in accordance to objectivist ethics, any help would be appreciated :)

My line of reasoning is similar to the following:

Person A chooses life ---> must adhere objective rights and values

Person A chooses murder of person B as his primary goal in life ---> life is his primary value (murder can't be commited if he's dead) until murder of person B is accomplished (then his life has no value) ---> Person A commits suicide

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Person A chooses murder of person B as his primary goal in life ---> life is his primary value (murder can't be commited if he's dead) until murder of person B is accomplished (then his life has no value) ---> Person A commits suicide

The central choice of Objectivist ethics is the choice to live. As far as I know, Objectivism will not tell you why you should choose to live. In fact, nothing will tell you that objectively, because (as Aristotle wrote) life is the ultimate end in itself. In other words, you don't choose to live in order to achieve a greater goal. You choose your goals so that you may live. Objectivism tells you: once you have choosen to live, here are the values and virtues you should pursue.

There is no objective justification of pursuing the murder of someone on the basis of "I don't like him because he smells bad." It is an irrational fantasy, and it is not a morally proper goal. In your scenario, if your guy has choosen 1 and 2, then he is morally forbidden to choose 3, and so 4 will never happen.

Edited by adrock3215
Link to comment
Share on other sites

If this hypothetical character has "chosen life" as you say, why does he want to kill someone merely because he dislikes him — then throw his own life away by committing suicide?

My thought was that perhaps a new "greater goal" could arise after being presented with the choice to live. If one was to pursue that "greater goal" wouldn't life become the highest value until that ultimate goal was reached (and then being of no value), and if so how would one condemn a man pursuing that goal when life is not his ultimate goal upon which ethics are based?

I don't want to play the devil's advocate but I really want to grasp this to the fullest :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

There have been a few threads that discuss what it means to say "Life is a standard". For instance, staying alive is a pre-requisite for many moralities: a good Nazi or Commie must stay alive to serve the state and Mother Teresa must stay alive to serve the poor Calcuttans. Therefore, Rand could not have meant... "stay alive, and then do whatever you feel like".

Here is one such previous thread that came up in search, but I know there are others.

Edited by softwareNerd
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The best work that explains this problem which you're facing is Tara Smith's Viable Values. In short, your clauses 1 and 3 contradict each other. You have to select an ultimate purpose, and then evaluate each secondary goal in terms of how it works towards the ultimate goal. 1 and 3 cannot both be ultimate goals. 3 does not support 1 as an ultimate goal. Suicide is actually irrelevant at that point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My thought was that perhaps a new "greater goal" could arise after being presented with the choice to live.

It would help you to read Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. Here is the relevant section:

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/ari/nico/nico007.htm

Here is the relevant quote:

So the argument has by a different course reached the same point; but we must try to state this even more clearly. Since there are evidently more than one end, and we choose some of these (e.g. wealth, flutes, and in general instruments) for the sake of something else, clearly not all ends are final ends; but the chief good is evidently something final. Therefore, if there is only one final end, this will be what we are seeking, and if there are more than one, the most final of these will be what we are seeking. Now we call that which is in itself worthy of pursuit more final than that which is worthy of pursuit for the sake of something else, and that which is never desirable for the sake of something else more final than the things that are desirable both in themselves and for the sake of that other thing, and therefore we call final without qualification that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else.

The rest of Chapter 7 is relevant as well.

Edited by adrock3215
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You have to select an ultimate purpose, and then evaluate each secondary goal in terms of how it works towards the ultimate goal.

I think it is inaccurate to state that "you have to select an ultimate purpose." There is no selectivity involved. Life is the final and ultimate goal for every rational being by default (law of identity). The issue at hand is whether or not one recognizes it as such. The only ultimate goal is life. If you want, you could state that your ultimate goal is getting an A in your college class, and you could evaluate your secondary goals in terms of how they work towards getting an A, but neither one (nor both together) makes getting an A in your college class your "ultimate goal". There is not a buffet of "ultimate goals" sitting around that you can walk by and pick and choose your own "ultimate goal". That's called Existentialism. An individual must evaluate secondary goals in terms of how they work toward furthering his life, if he wants to stay alive.

But let's say that he's in a concentration camp and is going to be gassed tomorrow, and therefore he plans on killing himself before the Nazi's can. We could say that he "values" suicide, but when we introduce the term "value" we are implicitly introducing the concept "life", since there can not be one without the other. Therefore, in so much as he is valuing his suicide, he is doing so in the context of comparing it to his ultimate goal, i.e. life. That's why Rand wrote (paraphrasing) that stepping in front of a gun pointed at your spouse is like saying: I can't live without this person, so I am willing to die. Despite the fact that the individual may die, his action is still evaluated in the context of furthering his life.

For the original poster's example, and going to what you said: 3 cannot be an ultimate goal because it is not his ultimate goal. Only 1 is his ultimate goal, so it's a matter of recognizing that fact and acting accordingly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My thought was that perhaps a new "greater goal" could arise after being presented with the choice to live.

Then you are not really talking about Objectivism. Objectivism is not a philosophy that addresses how to achieve (insert greater goal here). Objectivism is a philosophy that describes how a man who chooses LIFE as his goal should live, and not life as an animal or a plant stalk, but life as a man. You need to find some other philosophy for a person who, for instance, wants to make killing all the butterflies in the world his ultimate goal.

Edited by RationalBiker
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Then you are not really talking about Objectivism. Objectivism is not a philosophy that addresses how to achieve (insert greater goal here). Objectivism is a philosophy that describes how a man who chooses LIFE as his goal, and not life as an animal or a plant stalk, but life as a man. You need to find some other philosophy for a person who, for instance, wants to make killing all the butterflies in the world his ultimate goal.

Thanks for all replies! I now realize which premise was wrong :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...