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"I will not die. The world will end"

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When talking about death... well... specifically, HER death, Ayn Rand said that, actually, "I will not die. The world will end".

In the context of the primacy of existence over conciousness, I find these words puzzling.

Of course, the world will keep rolling. It is my conciousness which will end at the moment of my death.

That is why I should make the appropriate arrangements about my legacy to those who will remain.

Acting rationally entails planning for the future of my children, wife, even friends and people I value for any reason.

Ayn Rand made appropriate arrangements for the custody of her literary work, for example. She knew that the world would not end. SHE would die.

So, how do you interpret her words?

Maybe she was taking poetic license to express something. What was that something?

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Thanks for asking, Dante.

I have met this sentence twice.

The first was in a TV show. It is/was posted in Youtube. The interviewer was asking Ayn if she was afraid of death. She said she wasn't because she had already enjoyed life ("I had my chance") and at some point she uttered the words, but she uttered them as if the interviewer also knew them. So I don't know if this is a popular saying in the USA or a popular cliché. The point is that she seemed all right with the saying.

The second time was in the last chapter of the biography of Ayn Rand ("Ayn Rand and the World she made") by Anne C. Heller. It is the chapter when she describes her last days.

( I lost my iPad ten days ago :( I am buying a Kindle to recover my books. So I can't quote it now).

In that chapter Anne C Heller claims Ayn Rand usually said that, and then says (with certain irony) "...but the world, of course, did not end."

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Yeah, I think you're right, Mikee.

However, I remember quite well that she wasn't rejecting or condemning that expression, but she was using it to address her own lack of fear in the face of death.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Dr. Peikoff addressed this question briefly in his podcast, Episode 53 - March 16, 2009

06:54: "'Ayn Rand once said that her view on death was something she had heard from a poet whose name she could not remember.' (The poet, by the way, is Badger Clark, and the poem was called "The Westerner.") 'And the line she quoted was, "The world will end the day I die." I never understood it. Could you explain?'"

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In Badger Clark's The Westerner poem, the end of the stanzas is - "The sun wheels swift from morn to morn,/And the world began when I was born,/And the world is mine to win." Well, if the world began when one is born [to that person, obviously], then the world ends when that person dies...

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I have always viewed her statement as a tongue-in-cheek 'hat tip' to primacy of consciousness. It has a certain artistic elegance - and truth, too - that probably appealed to her. After all, she was an artist, as well.

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She was making a poetic statement, not a philosophical one. Of course reality keeps going on when you die. But you won't be there to see it. When you die, from your perspective, it's as if the world ends. The person who utters such a statement firmly rejects any notion of an afterlife. They know they won't be looking down upon the world or themselves after they die.

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Thank you very much, Trebor for the useful link to Peikoff's explanation. Sorry for coming back to you so late.

I understand that Ayn Rand wasn't making a metaphysical statement, but a selfish one using poetic license, in the sense that with her dead the world would end for her.

Things do not have an intrinsic value. Therefore, in the abscense of a valuer, there are no possible values for her: the world would be valueless, and hence, not metaphysically but ethically, non-existent.

- You seem to claim this is obvious, to what extent do you mean and why?

Well, rationality is also about making long-term plans based on current facts and ongoing trends. We make the best possible predictions and make decisions accordingly.

So, if I am an old and ill, and my children are healthy and young, the most likely thing is that they will outlive me. Since I love them, I should act now to ensure, to the best of my abilities and in a non-sacrificial way, that after my death they keep getting benefit from my works, properties, ideas, etc.

While I am alive, it favours my happiness to know that everything or everyone I hold as highly valuable will keep going.

It is true that I won't be there to enjoy it, but it is also true that I am here now, reasoning, and that I can take decisions now.

Edited by Hotu Matua
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Well, rationality is also about making long-term plans based on current facts and ongoing trends. We make the best possible predictions and make decisions accordingly.

So, if I am an old and ill, and my children are healthy and young, the most likely thing is that they will outlive me. Since I love them, I should act now to ensure, to the best of my abilities and in a non-sacrificial way, that after my death they keep getting benefit from my works, properties, ideas, etc.

- I can see how it would give you great pride to know that you've managed to keep your familiy financially secure, and that they will lead great lives partly as a consequence of your sucess if you should somehow die.

But there seems alot of people are taking this way to far, why not take a mortage on your house and go have a great time with your money while your still alive?

Certainly seems like a superior option, yet seems it is considered morally repulsive by most people.

It seems somewhat of a strange virtue to make an effort to leave behind alot of money when you die.

Sure it can provide happiness to know they'll come to good use, but that does not mean it wouldnt make you happier to spend it yourself..?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Obviously poetic statement, but with deep philosophical meaning. "I" cannot die. As long as person is alive he possesses self-awareness, his "I". When he dead, "I" already not there. In other words, person cannot be aware that he's dead.

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Here is one way I can rationalize her quote.

Existence and consciousness are the two primary axioms—identity being a corollary between the two. Existence only has meaning/value because we (as conscious beings) give it meaning/value; which is identity. There are two ways to undermine identity; one, take away existence; two, take away consciousness. Therefore to say I will not die, but the world will end, I take it to mean that the world will cease to have any value since I will not be able to assign a value any longer.

Also, using Einstein’s theory of equivalence, we will not be able to distinguish (as an individual consciousness) the difference between existence ending and our consciousness ending. So her quote may not be correct, but what difference does it make?

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