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The unbearable absence of a beloved one

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Hotu Matua
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Please help me to solve this problem.

We know that a person can give his life to save his beloved person, beause life without her would be unbearable, and this is moral.

However, could the same be said about a man comitting suicide after the death of her beloved person, for the very same reason?

I am having difficulty in thinking in a heroe committing suicide after the loss of his lover/daugther/wife, etc.

I think he would suffer a lot but he would still go on with his life and carry out his projects.

We know that John Galt would have preferred to give his life so that Dagny could be saved.

But let's suppose Dagny had died of lung cancer or a car accident. Do you see John Galt committing suicide because life was unbearable to him?

What is the difference between the two situations (self-sacrifice for a beloved one vs. suicide after the loss of the beloved one)?

Certainly, my premise here is that the person self-sacrificying is doing it for a selfish reason (his own happiness), not for the mere survival of the other or following a mystical principle.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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'Hotu Matua'

We know that a person can give his life to save his beloved person, beause life without her would be unbearable, and this is moral. However, could the same be said about a man comitting suicide after the death of her beloved person, for the very same reason?

What is the difference between the two situations (self-sacrifice for a beloved one vs. suicide after the loss of the beloved one)?

Certainly, my premise here is that the person self-sacrificying is doing it for a selfish reason (his own happiness), not for the mere survival of the other or following a mystical principle.

In both cases, he is giving up his life for the same basic reason - life being unbearable without her.

He would not be sacrificing if she is of equal value to him.

Sacrificing for a selfish reason is a contradiction in terms.

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What is the difference between the two situations (self-sacrifice for a beloved one vs. suicide after the loss of the beloved one)?

One difference I can see -- in the first case, one would find it unbearable to live without the loved one knowing that one could have acted to save her, but chose not to do so. In the second, that choice is not part of the scenario. The loss of the loved one is simply a fact. In effect, in the first case one gives up one's life to save the loved one because not doing so would require a repudiation of her value; in the second case that does not apply.

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A different slant on a common theme, here. Morally, yes, the second scenario would involve a sacrifice of the lover's life, at least on the face of it.

But obviously he/she has come to the conclusion that life has no further value without the beloved in it. So, has death become the higher value? Is this no longer a sacrifice?

And looked at another way, would suicide be justified if he/she had merely been abandoned by the beloved? The loss remains the same.

My argument to someone I knew some time back who had lost his wife in an accident, and was seriously contemplating suicide was this one (essentially) : "Did your life have value, meaning, purpose, BEFORE you met and married your wife? Can you not find it in you to regain that value even after this terrible occurence?" Followed by an emotional appeal that she would have wanted him to continue to live - followed by pointing out the value that his friends and I saw in him, and selfishly would not want to lose.

He is a rational person, and ultimately agreed, thankfully. But in the end it was his decision to make, and all that anyone could say or do was to help him past the immediate grief he was feeling, and at the very least force him to re-assess when he was calmer.

Looked at objectively, given that one has suffered this death of a loved one, I'd agree with TLD that "sacrificing for a selfish reason is a contradiction in terms ". But it is an intensely personal matter.

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In both cases, he is giving up his life for the same basic reason - life being unbearable without her.

He would not be sacrificing if she is of equal value to him.

Sacrificing for a selfish reason is a contradiction in terms.

I disagree.

In the first case, he said he would give his life so that she might live, but the premise he was operating under is that she would live.

If she were already dead it is impossible for him to achieve anything but the end of his own existence. It is irrational to die for the sake of the dead.

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Well, no one can give you the choice to live so in that sense this is above analysis isn't an ethical choice. There isn't a should there.

I think a real difference here is that mortality is a given, while the untimely death of someone is not necessarily. In one case you act to preserve a value at the risk of your own life. In another the value is gone, and you must decide what to do next. Man's mortality is a fact that is known a priori. It is a fact that you will face in absolutely every relationship (either you'll die first or she will). Assuming you lived a life of self-esteem based upon rational principles, then I think to suggest that it is a rational option, it is to suggest that you can't deal with the reality of this fact. Not wanting to live because reality is what it is... hmmm. The untimely death however is not something that necessarily has to be.

This doesn't mean that life holds the same meaning afterwards however, but for it not to have meaning at all... hmm...

Here was Rand's personal take on the issue. at 7:45

Edited by KendallJ
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I disagree.

In the first case, he said he would give his life so that she might live, but the premise he was operating under is that she would live.

If she were already dead it is impossible for him to achieve anything but the end of his own existence. It is irrational to die for the sake of the dead.

My problem is that I see irrelevant (as the moral foundation of choosing to die) if she would be alive or not.

In both cases, it is my life wihouth her, my own misery without her, what is at stake.

When we say that it is morally OK to give your life for someone you love, it is not for the beloved one's sake, but for your own sake.

It has nothing to do with your beloved one's life after your death. She might as well fail in living a fulfilling life for other reasons such as taking wrong choices, becoming a Hare Krishna, or getting killed just two days later by a drunk driver on a highway.

If you say it is irrational to die for the sake of the dead, wouldn't be also irrational to die for the sake of the living?

And if you say, "I am not giving my life for a living either, I am giving my life for my own sake, because my life without her would be unbearable" then you could also use the same argument to commit suicide after the loss of your beloved one to cancer.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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My problem is that I see irrelevant (as the moral foundation of choosing to die) if she would be alive or not.

In both cases, it is my life wihouth her, my own misery without her, what is at stake.

When we say that it is morally OK to give your life for someone you love, it is not for the beloved one's sake, but for your own sake.

It has nothing to do with your beloved one's life after your death. She might as well fail in living a fulfilling life for other reasons such as taking wrong choices, becoming a Hare Krishna, or getting killed just two days later by a drunk driver on a highway.

If you say it is irrational to die for the sake of the dead, wouldn't be also irrational to die for the sake of the living?

And if you say, "I am not giving my life for a living either, I am giving my life for my own sake, because my life without her would be unbearable" then you could also use the same argument to commit suicide after the loss of your beloved one to cancer.

I think that this might be a matter of opinion or preference.

To me it is very important to know that there is a result other than my death. To know that the one I loved would still be alive would make my death meaningful - to me. To die to save myself the emotional pain of living without someone (anyone) is in my opinion stupid and a waste of the only existence any of us will ever know.

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In one case you act to preserve a value at the risk of your own life. In another the value is gone, and you must decide what to do next.

Thanks a lot, Kendall, for your answer and for the link to the video.

My question is why you should act to preserve a value at the risk of your own life? Is it because the pervival of the valued object itself, or the avoidance of your own misery/desolation/loneliness/lack of interest in life/suffering ?

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I think that this might be a matter of opinion or preference.

To me it is very important to know that there is a result other than my death. To know that the one I loved would still be alive would make my death meaningful - to me. To die to save myself the emotional pain of living without someone (anyone) is in my opinion stupid and a waste of the only existence any of us will ever know.

I agree with you completely, Zip.

My problem now is that I don't understand any more Ayn Rand's explanation or argument. She says:

"If the person to be saved is not a stranger, then the risk one should be willing to take is greater in proportion to the greatness of that person's value to oneself. If it is the man or woman one loves, then one can be willing to give one's own life to save him or her -- for the selfish reason that life without the loved person could be unbearable".

"The Ethics of Emergencies", VOS, 50: pb45 as quoted in the LEXICON compiled by Harris Binswanger.

I would understand it better if she had said:

"... for the selfish reason that witnessing his/her death, when you could have prevented it, would be unbearable"

In this late statement, the suffering would not be on the side of a lonely life that all widows will go through anyway, but the suffering would be on the side on the guilt of not performing a volitional action to preserve what you value. This volitional action is in the end product of your mind, of your free will, of your life qua man.

Thus, the suffering from letting a beloved one die has to do with giving up your condition as human. Denying yourself.

Something similar happens in the film "Braveheart" when the heroe is addressing his troops trying to lift their spirits to go to war. He says that they have the choice to surrender to the English conditions and go back home alive. But then, years later, when dieing old on their beds, they would regret having forsaken the chance to be at that battle, fighting for their freedom.

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To take one's life after losing a loved one - when you had nothing to do with their death, and did all you could to prevent it - implies that your life has no value without them. My query is "Why not ?"

As I tried to point out earlier, you had value before loving them, and you have developed further value since then, and with them, and YOU ARE STILL LIVING.

Why has this person you have loved replaced all your value in your own life?

No one, not even the next highest value in your life, should do this.

Therefore, suicide would be irrational, unselfish, and immoral.

Life is not theatre, or opera , nor some sentimentalist 'grande geste' like "Romeo and Juliet".

As I posted before, I have been through such a situation, in reality, up close, and despite (or because of) the terrible anguish involved, I consider that I have earned the right to be callous here. To one who has lost someone dear to them, I say - essentially- Get over it: choose life.

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Thanks a lot, Kendall, for your answer and for the link to the video.

My question is why you should act to preserve a value at the risk of your own life? Is it because the pervival of the valued object itself, or the avoidance of your own misery/desolation/loneliness/lack of interest in life/suffering ?

I don't think you can separate these aspects. The reason we pursue any values is to advance our lives, i.e. to flourish. That is the meaning of the concept in Objectivism. If our relationship with someone is a top value, then the death of that person prematurely is not only a loss of that person in and of themselves, but also simultaneously and inextricably the loss of the relationships and hence a diminshed level of life for ourselves. The answer to your question as I see it is "both". Unless of course you can think of any situation where one can lose the value and still retain the benefit of it.

In essence all value pursuit involves risk. How much is reasonable to take on is relative to how important a value it is in your value heirarchy.

I think the volitional aspect of the pursuit of values is what makes the distinction. It is in the course of pursuing our value that we risk death. Unlike the suicide case where we might have lost the will to live. Suicide is not the pursuit of a value. We are "risking" nothing.

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On the subject of how your life had value before you met that now dead person you loved, remember though that at that time you were going on living possibly with the prospect of going on to have just such a relationship in your life in the future. What about now that it is gone forever? It's one thing to not have something and go on biding your time while waiting on and/or pursuing it and looking forward to it, but what about having to go on when you no longer have any prospect of such a thing anymore? Or (another separate scenario to consider now) maybe even if you do hope you can find somebody else you will love still, it will still never get you back what you already lost so you will still always be living managing that pain possibly. A similar, though not quite the same question, what about somebody who acquires some type of disease or illness that will take away their ability to do what was easily their greatest passion in life, their central purpose, and/or will force them to live out the rest of their time in states of either great pain or being hardly aware of what is going on around them from all the medication? Suppose maybe this person has less time left that they could be expected to live than anybody sees realistically expectable a cure maybe found anyway. Overall I'm also trying to inquire into if there are any points where the quality of one's life can be so hopelessly deteriorated that going on would really not be living as a human and instead becomes mere survival by any means and thus not worth keeping up like that and if so, what point exactly is that point anyway?

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Please help me to solve this problem.

We know that a person can give his life to save his beloved person, beause life without her would be unbearable, and this is moral.

However, could the same be said about a man comitting suicide after the death of her beloved person, for the very same reason?

I am having difficulty in thinking in a heroe committing suicide after the loss of his lover/daugther/wife, etc.

I think he would suffer a lot but he would still go on with his life and carry out his projects.

We know that John Galt would have preferred to give his life so that Dagny could be saved.

But let's suppose Dagny had died of lung cancer or a car accident. Do you see John Galt committing suicide because life was unbearable to him?

What is the difference between the two situations (self-sacrifice for a beloved one vs. suicide after the loss of the beloved one)?

Certainly, my premise here is that the person self-sacrificying is doing it for a selfish reason (his own happiness), not for the mere survival of the other or following a mystical principle.

I don't think these situations are analogous. The first situation, (saving your loved one) is a lifeboat question, presupposing death. There, it's up to you to choose your values, and a hero can certainly make a rational choice to save a loved one at the cost of his or her own life.

The question of suicide, is an entirely different one because death is a choice, and the choice is death. Here, Rand's heroes would not choose death where life is possible. Even when in love, and giving their ego to another person, as Roark says "it goes only goes down to a certain point." Dominique 'owned every part of him that could be owned'; She was not the source of his values. The discussion in Atlas of Eric Starnes' suicide is also relevant here. Basically, that no man can fully know or judge another's suffering, and a suicide could be moral, but it's the individual's call. Rand said in her first public appearance after her husband's death (Somewhere in this Phil Donahue interview, probably toward part 5:

) that she had "lost her top value." She had not lost her capacity to value.
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My problem now is that I don't understand any more Ayn Rand's explanation or argument. She says:

"If the person to be saved is not a stranger, then the risk one should be willing to take is greater in proportion to the greatness of that person's value to oneself. If it is the man or woman one loves, then one can be willing to give one's own life to save him or her -- for the selfish reason that life without the loved person could be unbearable".

"The Ethics of Emergencies", VOS, 50: pb45 as quoted in the LEXICON compiled by Harris Binswanger.

I would understand it better if she had said:

"... for the selfish reason that witnessing his/her death, when you could have prevented it, would be unbearable"

Let me commit the heresy of correcting Rand, but to be consequent with objectivism,you can give your life only to save the life of a person of the highest value to you.

In a life-boat scenario, you're giving a high value (your life) in exchange for a higher value (to you). That's a moral selfish exchange.

You're trading lives because the loved one's life is a higher value to you, not because "life without the loved person could be unbearable".

I guess suicide is one of th most anti-objectivism things you can do.

I would understand it better if she had said:

"... for the selfish reason that his/her life is a higher value (to you) than your own life"

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Let me commit the heresy of correcting Rand, but to be consequent with objectivism,you can give your life only to save the life of a person of the highest value to you.

In a life-boat scenario, you're giving a high value (your life) in exchange for a higher value (to you). That's a moral selfish exchange.

You're trading lives because the loved one's life is a higher value to you, not because "life without the loved person could be unbearable".

I guess suicide is one of th most anti-objectivism things you can do.

I would understand it better if she had said:

"... for the selfish reason that his/her life is a higher value (to you) than your own life"

Objectively, there is, and can be, no higher value than than your own life. Objectively, your life should be risked to save your next highest value (or values, in the case of your beloved, your child, a worthy friend), but not thrown away needlessly after their death. After all, that's what a value is.

The 'world has ended' for him or her, why should it end for you too?

Subjectively, it is far more intricate than this, and not so easy to pass a blanket judgement; however, that grief-motivated sense that life is not worth living, and without purpose, because of your beloved's death, will nearly always lessen, given time, - even if the pain never fades...

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Objectively, there is, and can be, no higher value than than your own life. Objectively, your life should be risked to save your next highest value (or values, in the case of your beloved, your child, a worthy friend), but not thrown away needlessly after their death. After all, that's what a value is.

The 'world has ended' for him or her, why should it end for you too?

Subjectively, it is far more intricate than this, and not so easy to pass a blanket judgement; however, that grief-motivated sense that life is not worth living, and without purpose, because of your beloved's death, will nearly always lessen, given time, - even if the pain never fades...

Wait. I've started with the same reasoning as you:

"Objectively, there is, and can be, no higher value than than your own life", but -and sorry to come up with a life-boat scenario-

if your children are in danger you do not stop as "risking".

Could it be that the life of your children IS a higher value than your own life?

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Let me commit the heresy of correcting Rand, but to be consequent with objectivism,you can give your life only to save the life of a person of the highest value to you.

In a life-boat scenario, you're giving a high value (your life) in exchange for a higher value (to you). That's a moral selfish exchange.

You're trading lives because the loved one's life is a higher value to you, not because "life without the loved person could be unbearable".

I guess suicide is one of th most anti-objectivism things you can do.

I would understand it better if she had said:

"... for the selfish reason that his/her life is a higher value (to you) than your own life"

Your quote should be read in context with the entire article. By saying "life without the loved person could be unbearable", she simply means that that one values that person enough to make risking his life for that person a selfish act rather than a sacrifice. No, it does not require (nor should) that person to be of greater value....

The fact that one's grief might later fade (as suggested by Whynot) does not enter the equation when focusing on that risk.

And no Whynot, it is not anti-Objectivist if it is a selfish act.

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And no Whynot, it is not anti-Objectivist if it is a selfish act.

?? Not sure if you misunderstand me, or if I'm not getting you. The OP put forward two scenarios; on the first, doubtless there is scarcely one O'ist who will not risk his life to defend his beloved - the ultimate in selfishness.

On the second, following the death of such a person, that no action could have forestalled, one's suicide is a self-indulgent, not selfish, act . I maintain that this would be an irrational sacrifice of one's highest value, one's self.

Which are you referring to?

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?? Not sure if you misunderstand me, or if I'm not getting you. The OP put forward two scenarios; on the first, doubtless there is scarcely one O'ist who will not risk his life to defend his beloved - the ultimate in selfishness.

On the second, following the death of such a person, that no action could have forestalled, one's suicide is a self-indulgent, not selfish, act . I maintain that this would be an irrational sacrifice of one's highest value, one's self.

Which are you referring to?

Your distinction is acknowledged.

However, I can see a situation where the loss of a loved one is so great that one would find life of too little value without the other person, leading to suicide. Where one believes that he will suffer more by staying alive than by dying (just as in a poor medical condition), then dying could not be viewed as a sacrifice. In the example presented here, I would certainly hope that someone would provide the necessary support/therapy to show such a person why life is still of value.

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However, I can see a situation where the loss of a loved one is so great that one would find life of too little value without the other person, leading to suicide. Where one believes that he will suffer more by staying alive than by dying (just as in a poor medical condition), then dying could not be viewed as a sacrifice. In the example presented here, I would certainly hope that someone would provide the necessary support/therapy to show such a person why life is still of value.

This is more a psychological question. Maybe you can say:

"How would have feel your loved one if you were the one who died? Do you want to impose such a pain on her memory?. You must live because is what she wanted you to do. You were a value to her, you must honor that value making the best of your life".

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Here was Rand's personal take on the issue. at 7:45

I wouldn't give up the world either, though I can understand some contexts, if one chooses to end their lives after a loved one passes. I have been independently studying suicide in literature - authors or writers suicides, character suicides, and so on. Others in the literature community have intro'd me to such suicides that I wouldn't have found on my own. One girl I know will be arguing her dissertation soon in comp lit on suicide. Suicide, suicide, suicide. All this, all the many situations that I have read, from centuries ago, to Werther, to Th1rteen R3asons Why and there is not a person, no matter how highly I value her, that could possibly bring me to put a bullet through my head after her passing. I love living the loner life, a reclusive introverted life, being alone is what I want, need, yearn, fight for - in death, I could not read anymore, couldn't view art, couldn't make love to a RealDoll, couldn't listen to music - if someone I know, or is my highest value, passes away, then they pass away, and I stay. But things have changed drastically in my life in the last year, for the better this time, and I have learned more about myself this year, than ever, and my highest value is NOT another person, so I never will be in this type of situation.

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Dear all

I gave myself a Christmas present: an Spanish version of "The Virtue of Selfishness".

So I read the whole text and then I arrived to a different appreciation on what Ayn Rand said.

It is all about ACTION.

A man that risks his life for his wife is actively looking for her wife to live and ALSO for him to live. He knows that there is a risk that his life will be lost, but he courageously takes the risk.

Taking a risk, even when the risk is high, doesn't equal committing suicide. The man hopes to get away with it, to be spared, to go around the problem and come out alive and ready to enjoy the company of the beloved one.

If the man doesn't take the risk for some irrational fear (meaning, if he is coward enough to give up a value) then the pain of not having her for not having acted will be unbearable.

So the main difference I see now between the suicide of the widow and the couragous defense of the beloved one is that in the case of the suicide, there is no volitional activity directed to preserving a value, while in the second one it is essential.

This doesn't mean that suicide is right or wrong in itself. It stills depends on the context: how is my life now without THAT lost value? Is it still a rational life, the life of a man?

It just means that Ayn Rand was clearly not endorsing suicide in the widows by using this example.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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  • 1 month later...

I will refer something I witnessed first hand.

About a couple months ago, in august to be specific, a friend of mine (whom I consider one of my best friends) was left by his 4 year time girlfriend. He then thought his life had ended, that every single thing of value in his life, meaning her, had abandoned him, and he started to consider suicide.

Now, he might be a good friend, but the reasons were just stupid. His ex grilfriend didn't die, instead she decided to end the relationship to focus on her career on medicine. She said "I want to expand my life, my ambitions, my expectations" She was feeling trapped by the relationship.

This friend of mine feel into the worst depression I have ver seen. He thought that neither his family, his friends, even his life, was worthy enough without her. He had turned her into what he could have called "his only value". H spent months like this, and I tried to help him, until the moment came when I said. "you know what, is your life, do whatever you please with it, but I won't mourn you".

He didn't do it. But even by this time, he considers it from time to time, calling his ex girlfriend and saying, "I cannot live without you". Her answer: "I can".

Of course is a thousand times more stupid to consider suicide with a simple break up than with the death of the loved one, but my point is this: when a person falls in love with another, he (or she) must do it completely aware of their own lifes and values. In short, a person whitout and individuality and self steem should never fall in love. My friend had none of these, and he projected every value he might've had into her. She became his whole universe, because he didn't had any. He was even willing to give up music, the only thing he has considered his long life dream, and sacrifice every sinlge thing in his existence for her.

I think something similar happens when a person loses a loved one. But here's the thing: if someone without own values and own perpectives on life loses a loved one out of an accident or disease, they could commit suicide because they might believed their only purpose to live is gone. If a person with previous values, objectives, and self steem loses somenone, they will mourn the person of course, but they will go on living.

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