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I think that people who think long term _implicitly_ believe in another life. Not in a mystical sense, just in the sense that life doesn't just stop and turn into nothing.

By life, I mean the whole complex of cognitive and emotional experiences.

Edited by samr
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I think that people who think long term _implicitly_ believe in another life. Not in a mystical sense, just in the sense that life doesn't just stop and turn into nothing.

By life, I mean the whole complex of cognitive and emotional experiences.

Could you clarify what you mean here? I think long term, but I also believe that when a person dies, his life stops entirely - cognition and emotional experiences cease to exist.

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If life is a ultimate cause, then there are certain scenarios when one should choose to save his life, but act in a contrary way to his values.

The problem is, you are only equating life with mere physical existence and that's it. I would suggest you read some more about what Rand means when she refers to life, specifically man's life. She is NOT talking about morgue avoidance.

Edited by RationalBiker
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I think that people who think long term _implicitly_ believe in another life. Not in a mystical sense, just in the sense that life doesn't just stop and turn into nothing.

By life, I mean the whole complex of cognitive and emotional experiences.

Okay, you can think that if you like. However, you should realize there is an objective reality outside of your mind that may well not support your premise here. I think long term, but I EXPLICITLY think that when I'm dead, I'm dead... no more experiences, no more emotions, no more thinking... that's it, the whole enchilada is gone.

Edited by RationalBiker
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Think of a person who is threatened that if he does not kill a person he loves, he will be killed himself.

I would suggest in turn that you think of a set of conditions in which continued physical existence would be intolerable. Think about the mental and emotional consequences of the choice you are positing here as they are very much as metaphysically real as the physical existence that you are referring to as if it were in a vacuum. "Life", "man's life" specifically, is more than simply avoiding death.

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Could you clarify what you mean here? I think long term, but I also believe that when a person dies, his life stops entirely - cognition and emotional experiences cease to exist.

This is the emotional part :

Using introspection, for me at least, it is impossible to think simultaneously that life wil stop entirely, AND to think long term. Thinking that at some point life might stop entirely depresses me, thinking long term (about the things I want to do) elevates me. So, I deduce that the latter _implicitly_ denies the former.

This is the rational part :

If life stops entirely at some point, it doesn't have a ultimate goal. A ultimate goal would be something like that : before life you would think - what type of life do I want to live? And after death, you would reflect whether you have acomplished this goal or not. Also, you would remind yourself of this goal during life. If life stops entirely, then this attitude makes no sense (ontologically? Some word needed here). Seems people can have this attitude even if they do not believe in life continuation. But nevertheless, if this were true, then long term goals would be ontologically justified. The reverse means that since life has a distinct beginning and end, it cannot be lived for some other goal than itself, and if life itself is the goal (life in the narrow sense, in the sense of being endowed with cognition) then it logically means that it has to be prolonged for as long as possible, no matter what is the quality of it. A person who doesn't believe in the latter, I would say - implicitly accepts that life doesn't just STOP at some point, but is a continuity.

BTW, the religious idea of heaven seems to be also a stopping of some sort. Life ceases to be a process for them, but becomes a frozen eternity. Also, hell in a psychological sense.

These are ideas I got from buddhist texts, though I might read into them meanings that not necessarily exist in them.

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The reverse means that since life has a distinct beginning and end, it cannot be lived for some other goal than itself, and if life itself is the goal (life in the narrow sense, in the sense of being endowed with cognition) then it logically means that it has to be prolonged for as long as possible, no matter what is the quality of it.

I don't see that as the logical "reverse" at all. Please explain the logic.

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...if life itself is the goal (life in the narrow sense, in the sense of being endowed with cognition) then it logically means that it has to be prolonged for as long as possible, no matter what is the quality of it.

This is where I would disagree with you. Living is a process of working for and achieving values. That's part and parcel of what it means to sustain one's life. However, throughout our lives many of these values become an inherent part of our personal 'meaning of life.' Those values constitute our life, such that living without them would be inconceivable, intolerable for us. Our life is not some Platonic ideal value that we pursue in addition to our major values; living life consists of achieving and maintaining these values, and if you've done it right, they have massive personal, emotional importance to you. Risking or even sacrificing one's life to save or secure one of these values is consistent with, not contrary to, a morality with life as the central value, life properly understood as a process of achieving values and not just total time spent breathing.

Edited by Dante
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Using introspection, for me at least, it is impossible to think simultaneously that life wil stop entirely, AND to think long term. ...
Why would one want to think long term? Take an example: you buy an item because it is cheap and seems to work just as well as an item that is twice the price. However, the item you buy breaks easily, and over the time that you want to use it, (say) you have to buy it three times as frequently as the better-quality one. In such a situation, thinking long-term means you probably buy the longer-lasting one (if you can manage paying the higher price today). Thinking long term is the way to maximize your own value, over your life time; and, that is all it means. Your life will ultimately stop: this is true whether you like it or not, whether it depresses you or not. Secondly, you should act taking into consideration the values flowing from your actions across your life time: in other words the values flowing to you, not just in the current moment, but tomorrow and next year.

Thinking that at some point life might stop entirely depresses me, thinking long term (about the things I want to do) elevates me. So, I deduce that the latter _implicitly_ denies the former.
Thinking about the pain of getting an injection (!) "depresses" me, but thinking how it will rid me of my current illness elevates me. One does not deny the other. Your life will end when you die. If that depresses you and stops you from thinking long-term, maybe you need to work on that... but it won't change the reality that your life will end and that it is best lived by acting in the context of your whole life.

This is the rational part : If life stops entirely at some point, it doesn't have a ultimate goal. A ultimate goal would be something like that : before life you would think - what type of life do I want to live? And after death, you would reflect whether you have acomplished this goal or not. Also, you would remind yourself of this goal during life. If life stops entirely, then this attitude makes no sense (ontologically? Some word needed here).
Reflecting on something before life or after death is a meaningless bunch of words. If this is how you define "ultimate goal", then life has no ultimate goal.In reality, you set your own goals and strive to achieve them, and reflect on your achievements while you're alive.
The reverse means that since life has a distinct beginning and end, it cannot be lived for some other goal than itself, and if life itself is the goal (life in the narrow sense, in the sense of being endowed with cognition) then it logically means that it has to be prolonged for as long as possible, no matter what is the quality of it.
As RationalBiker asked: it is not at all clear that this is so?

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This is where I would disagree with you. Living is a process of working for and achieving values. That's part and parcel of what it means to sustain one's life. However, throughout our lives many of these values become an inherent part of our personal 'meaning of life.' Those values constitute our life, such that living without them would be inconceivable, intolerable for us. Our life is not some Platonic ideal value that we pursue in addition to our major values; living life consists of achieving and maintaining these values, and if you've done it right, they have massive personal, emotional importance to you. Risking or even sacrificing one's life to save or secure one of these values is consistent with, not contrary to, a morality with life as the central value, life properly understood as a process of achieving values and not just total time spent breathing.

There is an equivocation here. In one sense of "life", it is the quality of breathing and not being a corpse. You are talking of "life" in another sense, "as a process of achieving values".

But this is my point exactly that there is no necessary correlation between them.

Long-term , I agree. But there are situations when one knows that his life will be short. A criminal about to be executed, an old person, a person at the last stages of a terminal illness and so on.

Therefore the objectivist idea that what is good for life in one sense is a good for life in the other sense doesn't always work. And therefore you must choose what your ultimate value is - not being a corpse, or achieving values. Unfortunately, it is just not true that there is _always_ harmony between the two. The tragedy of life, I think.

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...there are situations when one knows that his life will be short. A criminal about to be executed, an old person, a person at the last stages of a terminal illness and so on.

Therefore the objectivist idea that what is good for life in one sense is a good for life in the other sense doesn't always work. And therefore you must choose what your ultimate value is - not being a corpse, or achieving values. Unfortunately, it is just not true that there is _always_ harmony between the two. The tragedy of life, I think.

It is a mistake to attempt to interpret any Objectivist principles as acontextual, binding regardless of context. There are indeed contexts where the principles don't apply, or apply differently. Morality, conceived as a code of principles for guiding man's action through the whole span of his life, simply has nothing to say about some of the examples you've provided. For further on this, see Rand's essay on The Ethics of Emergencies in The Virtue of Selfishness.

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  • 1 year later...

Risking or even sacrificing one's life to save or secure one of these values is consistent with, not contrary to, a morality with life as the central value, life properly understood as a process of achieving values and not just total time spent breathing.

Sorry to resurrect an old thread, but I have a question regarding the line of thinking above. If I sacrifice my life for a value, I cease to exist and so does that value. The object I sacrificed my life for exists, but it is no longer a value to me as I can not have a value. So how can you sacrifice your life to secure a value? How can I achieve any value if I loss my life?

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If I sacrifice my life for a value, I cease to exist and so does that value. The object I sacrificed my life for exists, but it is no longer a value to me as I can not have a value. So how can you sacrifice your life to secure a value? How can I achieve any value if I loss my life?

There is a good explanation in Rand's Ethics of Emergencies. She says that if you deeply love your wife, you may choose to give up your life so that she may live. But is giving up your life actually a sacrifice, where sacrifice means giving up a higher value for a lesser one? In sum, she says that: 1) sacrifice is immoral (because it means you are not acting in your own self-interest, or according to your own desires and values), 2) because sacrifice is immoral and anti-self, you should never do it (meaning, never give up a greater value for a lesser one- that is self-defeating), and 3) giving up your life to save your wife may or may not be sacrificial. The extent to which it is depends on how much you value your wife. (In other words, it is only moral to give up your life to save your wife if it is not a sacrifice on your part.)

To illustrate this on the altruists' favorite example: the issue of saving a drowning person. If the person to be saved is a stranger, it is morally proper to save him only when the danger to one's own life is minimal; when the danger is great, it would be immoral to attempt it: only a lack of self-esteem could permit one to value one's life no higher than that of any random stranger. (And, conversely, if one is drowning, one cannot expect a stranger to risk his life for one's sake, remembering that one's life cannot be as valuable to him as his own.)

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.

Conversely, if a man is able to swim and to save his drowning wife, but becomes panicky, gives in to an unjustified, irrational fear and lets her drown, then spends his life in loneliness and misery—one would not call him "selfish"; one would condemn him morally for his treason to himself and to his own values, that is: his failure to fight for the preservation of a value crucial to his own happiness. Remember that values are that which one acts to gain and/ or keep, and that one's own happiness has to be achieved by one's own effort. Since one's own happiness is the moral purpose of one's life, the man who fails to achieve it because of his own default, because of his failure to fight for it, is morally guilty.

The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not "selflessness" or "sacrifice," but integrity. Integrity is loyalty to one's convictions and values; it is the policy of acting in accordance with one's values, of expressing, upholding and translating them into practical reality. If a man professes to love a woman, yet his actions are indifferent, inimical or damaging to her, it is his lack of integrity that makes him immoral.

Taken from Rand's Ethics of Emergencies

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... But is giving up your life actually a sacrifice, where sacrifice means giving up a higher value for a lesser one? ...

Presuming one doesn't believe in an afterlife, there's no personal value to be obtained by one's death. Death is a release of value. So yes, giving up your life is actually a sacrifice of one's life regardless of any reason for doing so, because there's nothing to gained and retained that is of value to a corpse.

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I agree with what Devil's Ad said.

If you are dealing with a situation where it is your life or your wife's (signification other), there is no value to be gained, there is only a negative to be avoided. You can avoid the pain of living the rest of your life without her by dying to save her, thus giving up all value, or you can go on living enduring the pain of loosing your wife.

I understand the reasons for wanting to give your life for a loved one, but since there is nothing after death, I do not see how to avoid calling it a sacrifice.

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"You seek escape from pain. We seek the achievement of happiness. You exist for the sake of avoiding punishment. We exist for the sake of earning rewards. Threats will not make us function; fear is not our incentive. It is not death that we wish to avoid, but life that we wish to live. You, who have lost the concept of the difference, you who claim that fear and joy are incentives of equal power—and secretly add that fear is the more “practical”—you do not wish to live, and only fear of death still holds you to the existence you have damned." ~John Galt

Take note that there is a crucial, in fact distinctive, difference in those who seek the avoidance of death as a shameful alternative to living life. Since life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action, life then entails certain values which we must achieve in order to survive; remember, life is given to man, survival is not. Furthermore, there can be no values without alternatives; growing crops for yourself could be of no value if the fact of dying were not everpresent. It is only the concept of life which makes the concept of value possible, it is the ultimate end "death" which makes all lesser ends possible. One is not productive without failure, one is not proud without achievement, one is not alive without mortality. Any individual who merely seeks to be the cockroach after a nuclear blast, will find that he never sought to defend the values which were destroyed in that blast, he merely wished to avoid values altogether. Pride is a value which must be earned, only a coward will avoid defending his own value in exchange for safety; only the man will know what it was like to be alive.

Edited by Prometheus88
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  • 2 weeks later...

I understand the reasons for wanting to give your life for a loved one, but since there is nothing after death, I do not see how to avoid calling it a sacrifice.

I think you can avoid calling it a sacrifice, because there can be value gained from that act. Not value after death, but value while you're still alive.

"To the one who dies, no values are possible to him after death. If he attempts to arrange things to operate a certain way after his demise, it's only for his benefit now, in life. If he wants his classic car given to a museum, or his mechanic, it's not because he's worried about watching what's going to happen to it from above, when he's a ghost and his no-good son has ownership of it. It's because he values this thing in life that he takes the trouble to secure it after his death. It's for his peace-of-mind and well-being now." -Jam Man

A person deeply in love with his wife will care about what happens to his wife after he's dead. "Caring about others means that their well-being directly affects one's own; it becomes integrated into one's structure of values." -Dante

An example of this from Rand's works is when Kira tries to escape from the USSR at the end of We the Living. She knew her chances of getting out alive were slim. So why did she decide to risk her life at that moment? Her highest values were her work, which she was never actually able to do in the USSR, and her love, Leo. She was able to survive in the USSR without doing what she loved because she had Leo.. and that was enough. But towards the end of the book, he gave up on his own life and left her. Kira had to escape after that because she couldn't bear to live without any value in her life. She didn't have Leo, and she didn't have her work. She had her life, yes, but that wasn't enough.

Edited by mdegges
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"Homo liber nulla de re minus quam de morte cogitat; et ejus sapientia non mortis sed vitae meditatio est."

SPINOZA'S Ethics, Pt IV, Prop. 67

There is nothing over which a free man ponders less than death; his wisdom is, to meditate not on death but on life.

Edited by Leonid
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