Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

Life as ultimate value vs. life as means to an ultimate goal

Rate this topic


Thomas_Tallis
 Share

Recommended Posts

Hi everybody,

I'm new here (and new to Objectivism), signed up to share some thoughts and see if I got something right.

I have had an argument with a group of individuals who claimed that while life is a prerequisite for any goal, it's not necessary to hold one's life as the ultimate value, the primary goal.

Basically, you could say "I choose life because goal A (some change in the external world, not necessarily related to my existence) is of importance to me, otherwise life is irrelevant and therefore life isn't the ultimate value for me but a means to a different end".

This seemed daunting at first, but I tried to break it down and this is what I came up with:

To say you choose life for a goal means you already chose life as an ultimate value. The question of life vs. death could not rationally be answered as "life for goal A" as "for A" is only a valid reason in reality, i.e. if you already chose life as important in and of itself. To choose life for life is the only acceptable answer, and therefore you choose life as an ultimate value by choosing life.

You could not say you chose life and only then pondered what would you choose to be your goal without already accepting life as the ultimate value: by accepting life for life, every new ultimate goal you would consider has to be evaluated in light of that previous choice of life. If it defies it, you would have to deem it irrational and immoral.

Did I get it right? this critique of Rand seems to be everywhere, many are claiming she fails to present more than a subjective ultimate value.

Thank you,

Thomas.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also, it is worth asking how whatever standard is supposedly more important than life is justified itself. Why is that important to achieve? Basically anything besides life cannot be an ultimately value because it can't be good in itself; you can't say world peace (to give a nicely trite) is your ultimate value without justifying why it is important. How do you do that if not by placing it in relationship to some other value?

Rand makes the argument convincingly that life CAN be the ultimate value (and is), how do other people defend their "equally valid" ultimate values? I have never seen a rational argument for adopting any other value; I don't think it can be done without relying on intrinsic value theory to some extent, which is untenable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nothing is "irrelevant" to your life. Nothing is "value-neutral" in relationship to your life. Everything is directly or indirectly either good or bad for your life.

Should I pursue this woman? This job? This hobby? This house? This car? This education? Or should I not? Should I pursue something else? What? No matter what you consider, it is either good or bad for your life.

The situation that these people describe, doesn't exist to begin with, because when you choose a (life-promoting) value, you (implicitly) choose life as your ultimate life and, therefore, as the (implicit) standard of value.

Can you choose something else as your ultimate value? And if so, doesn't this imply that the choice of life as the ultimate value is merely a "subjective preference"? No.

Life *is*, as a matter of fact, ultimately what is at stake. Therefore, nothing else can, logically speaking, be chosen as an ultimate value.

This is fairly easy to prove because it is a matter of fact that nothing can possibly make more of a difference to you whether you exist or not.

Thus, when somebody suggest that something, anything, other than life, is the ultimate value then he has to prove it. He has to give a reason. He cannot merely assert something.

He has to answer the question: Does this goal make any difference to you? If so, why does it make a difference to you? By answering a series of questions such as: Why does it make a difference to you whether you pursue a job? Because it allows me to pay my rent. Why does that make any difference to you? Because... At the end of the day, he will discover that the only rational answer is: because it makes a difference to his *life*.

Edited by knast
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Hi everybody,

I'm new here (and new to Objectivism), signed up to share some thoughts and see if I got something right.

I have had an argument with a group of individuals who claimed that while life is a prerequisite for any goal, it's not necessary to hold one's life as the ultimate value, the primary goal.

Basically, you could say "I choose life because goal A (some change in the external world, not necessarily related to my existence) is of importance to me, otherwise life is irrelevant and therefore life isn't the ultimate value for me but a means to a different end".

This seemed daunting at first, but I tried to break it down and this is what I came up with:

To say you choose life for a goal means you already chose life as an ultimate value. The question of life vs. death could not rationally be answered as "life for goal A" as "for A" is only a valid reason in reality, i.e. if you already chose life as important in and of itself. To choose life for life is the only acceptable answer, and therefore you choose life as an ultimate value by choosing life.

You could not say you chose life and only then pondered what would you choose to be your goal without already accepting life as the ultimate value: by accepting life for life, every new ultimate goal you would consider has to be evaluated in light of that previous choice of life. If it defies it, you would have to deem it irrational and immoral.

You must have not understood the proof of man's ultimate value as his own life correctly.

The proof does not imply that life is an ultimate value because without life you cannot achieve any of the actions which you regard "values," whatever they are, but that they are not valuable to you as long as you are not alive.

The whole concept of value refers to and comes from life.

Consciousness is conscious is an axiom implied in all of your says and acts. Life is an end in itself. Without life, as far as you are concerned, there is absolutely nothing.

That ultimate value is called ultimate because there is only one such value, and it constitutes the basis and standard for all else.

Nor can there possibly be any other ultimate value: values are hierarchical since they are never automatic. Without choosing between values, you will gain and keep nothing.

Did I get it right? this critique of Rand seems to be everywhere, many are claiming she fails to present more than a subjective ultimate value.
The terms "objective" and "subjective" are highly equivocated today.

Sometimes certain fields of thought are meant by "subjective," sometimes, as in your case, it stands for something regarding a specific, contextual entity (as opposed to an "absolute"), and at times it describes whatever involves "personal-judgment."

The purpose of these variants is one: either making some nonsense whims acceptable or causing logical reasoning to seem detached from reality (there is no essential dichotomy between the two).

But in fact, the sole definition of "objective" is: based upon the facts of reality, whereas subjective is the opposite.

Conclusion: I suggest you be careful and focused while using these abstract concepts.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Life as ultimate value vs. life as means to an ultimate goal

This is a false dichotomy. Life is a self-initiated and goal-orientated process when the goal is a preservation and bettering of life itself, . “Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible. (AS). Therefore life is not means to some other ultimate goal, life is an ultimate goal itself.

Edited by Leonid
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think your question has a lot to do with the meaning of life. Where do we come from? Why are we here? What is it all about? Is life the ultimate goal of living, or is there some broader picture that we're missing? If there is, what is the ultimate goal?

I haven't been convinced one way or the other. You can take a scientific approach, and say that everything in the universe aligned in just the right way to create Earth & make it possible to support life. Little tiny microorganisms came to be, and through natural selection, these evolved into more and more advanced organisms (while billions of not-so-hot species died off entirely). Humans are currently at the top of the chain because of this process.

but..This still doesn't answer any questions about the meaning of life. In life, all animals have to make decisions which will lead them to either keep living or to die. But in the end, whether you live (either happily, or not so much) to be 15 or 85, you'll eventually die, and things will keep on rolling without you.

As for the human life, it's hard to be concerned with what's going to happen after you die, because you won't be around to see it. So any (religions) assumptions you might have can't be proven.

When I think about it, human lives seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things.. yet their cumulative actions affect many other generations (and Earth itself).

The Objectivist take would be that life is the ultimate goal for yourself (as you can either keep yourself alive or die), which is all you are really concerned with.. but I think it's impossible to say whether there's a bigger picture, a larger meaning to each individual life as we know it. The idea of an afterlife (heaven) makes this a lot less scary, because it's a concrete place that people can visualize, where "people" or "angels" are there waiting for them. AR says that these people view death as the ultimate goal, because that is ultimately where they will go. But I don't think these people are living just to die! Death is a given.. and although heaven is irrational, it makes it easier to deal with.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The idea of an afterlife (heaven) makes this a lot less scary, because it's a concrete place that people can visualize, where "people" or "angels" are there waiting for them. AR says that these people view death as the ultimate goal, because that is ultimately where they will go.

This reminds me of something I was thinking about a long while ago. People often look for some meaning to life so actions become purposeful. Coming up with ideas of heaven, or hell, or any post-life existence, all add some kind of purpose for action. Not only that, but those ideas are easier to conceptualize than not existing after you die (or before you were born). Most people I bet are able to think of life in the abstract sense of their own total existence, but the issue comes in about what life even is. Life in itself isn't any kind of concrete and distinct goal like a job, as it is an abstraction. Deifying reality as I like to say is what goes on for people who try to seek out some deep meaning to the purpose of life. By giving reality a mystical quality, anything goes really (even if it's subtle like being good means bad things won't happen to you). Extreme (implicit) subjectivity is what it leads to, because there isn't any real fact to say a mystic quality is wrong.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

People often look for some meaning to life so actions become purposeful. Coming up with ideas of heaven, or hell, or any post-life existence, all add some kind of purpose for action. Not only that, but those ideas are easier to conceptualize than not existing after you die (or before you were born).

In addition to that, I think these ideas also help people cope with traumatic experiences (ie when a child dies, it's easier to imagine him in a nice place up above, instead of decomposing in the ground). :( I know many people who strongly believe in heaven, but I also know some who just believe in it when they need to, as in the example. They don't put too much faith in it, but it's a nice idea in troubled times.

It's only natural to think about the meaning of life and try to understand it.. but no one can say for sure what it is, or if it even exists. I just don't think it's healthy to take it to an extreme, one way or another, either strongly believing or strongly disbelieving. Then again.. it's probably better to have strong opinions, instead of sitting in the middle with a compromise. But both ways, imo, seem a little unnatural.

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...