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the question of why should I choose life

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LoBagola
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I thought I had figured out why it's not a question; because the concept of choice, why, I, should are all dependent on the concept of life. But this cannot be right because if someone says "I have a desire to die" they can still commit suicide even though the words I, have, desire are all dependent on life. Now I'm back to my original problem of why one chooses life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ability to choose presupposes that you already alive. You cannot choose to live, only to die. The question is why to choose to die, that is-to commit suicide? There are many reasons for such a choice, some of them are rational, some not. But this is always a moral choice.

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You're right; all of those things depend on life- and whoever says them must be alive when they do so.  A corpse has no desires or thought.

So the fact is that you are alive, as is everyone who makes any sort of choice.  How you feel about this fact is another matter.

 

The choice to live is not so much a "choice" which one is confronted with at any given moment (except under some extreme circumstances); you rarely ever notice it because it continually takes place throughout the course of your entire life.

 

It's like smoking.  When someone lights a cigarette, they are choosing to light that cigarette and not necessarily choosing to smoke, as a lifestyle, complete with all of the repercussions.  The choice to be a smoker (in the sense of a lifestyle, accumulated over great lengths of time) is the accumulative sum of each choice to smoke NOW which has been made.

 

The choice to live is analogous.

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Now, as for WHY one should choose to live, I'm not sure there is any single reason for it.

 

Infants instinctively know to pursue pleasure and avoid pain and, once they reach the perceptual level of awareness (walking, beginning to talk), this extends into the pursuit of happiness and the avoidance of unhappiness, and if you choose to pursue happiness then you must live in order to achieve it.

 

Life is necessary for happiness because corpses have no emotions.  But whether or not you should pursue happiness. . . I'm not sure any further reason can be given, except that happiness is good and simply worth pursuing.

 

If someone (such as a suicide bomber) has no desire to be happy, there's really nothing further you can say or do.  Just avoid them like the plague, because anyone who rejects happiness and rejects life can only bring misery to the people around them.

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I know what happened. It's subtle differences in the language, i.e. the concepts. I cannot "choose to live". It's an invalid statement, as, like I said, choice presupposes life. I can choose to die; I have life, I can destroy it. As to why one would choose to pursue happiness I think the answer lies in the definition of living not just being breathing and that happiness, through living, is an end in itself which you cannot "get underneath". Just like I would always try get underneath "existence exists"... "well why does existence exist?" which is no longer a question I keep feeling the need to answer. It's not a valid question and I'm comfortable with that. I think further study of epistemology and repair of conceptual mis-integrations will help me address this question too. 

Edited by LoBagola
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Existence exists is a metaphysically given reality, independent of human choices and actions. This reality is beyond the realm of morality. The pursuit of happiness is man-made chosen course of action. Therefore why choose this course of why to carry on living is a valid moral question. Man may not to take this course and often doesn't,  but from the point of view of Objectivist ethics it is a deeply immoral choice.

Edited by Leonid
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As Leonid said, you didn't choose to live. You are alive. You can choose to kill yourself, but is that rational? Dying is painful, and there is no gain to it, (unless you are already in extreme pain and there is no cure, or you are already on the verge of death, or some such reason as that). For someone to choose to kill himself is the height of contradiction. You couldn't choose to die, unless you were alive. Ultimately, it is a sign of a mental disorder, and therefore irrational and is the wrong choice to make. Once one kills himself, then of course there are no values or morals to conside. But the choice was wrong, objectively. 

Edited by secondhander
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... you didn't choose to live. You are alive.

 

You are alive today because you have chosen to live many times in the past, not because you haven't chosen to die.  Human beings don't live automatically, so choosing to die isn't the only way to end up dead.  Lack of choice is just as effective.

 

So why (continue to) choose life?

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So why (continue to) choose life?

 

Because you are alive now. That was my point.

 

And life is better than non-life for a living entity. And, anyone who asks me "why continue to live?" has already chosen to continue to live. If they haven't, then they wouldn't be asking me that question. Ultimately, if someone "chooses" to die, then this isn't even a question to consider. The objective values we speak of are "to" something and "for" something. They are "to" a human, "for" the purpose of being a living human. They are fact-based, reality-based values. If you kill yourself, then the question of values becomes null and void.

 

But why should you not kill yourself? Because it's not rational to kill yourself, when you are currently alive. Why should you keep yourself alive? Because it's painful to die, and there is no benefit in death (in most cases).

Edited by secondhander
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anyone who asks me "why continue to live?" has already chosen to continue to live.

 

I wasn't asking whether you're currently alive or what decisions you've made in the past.  I was asking why you continue to choose to live.

 

 

If you kill yourself, then the question of values becomes null and void.

 

Yes it does, but that says nothing about what your choice should have been.

 

 

Why should you keep yourself alive? Because it's painful to die, and there is no benefit in death (in most cases).

 

This is question-begging hedonism.

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I wasn't asking whether you're currently alive or what decisions you've made in the past.  I was asking why you continue to choose to live.

 

Yes, but I was making the point that for someone to ask me that question, or to say anything at all to me, they have already accepted life as a presupposition. In other words, if they had chosen to end their life (or to stop living), they wouldn't be around to ask me anything.

 

But I know that isn't directly answering what you are asking. Which is why I tried to answer it in the other comments I made after that.

 

 

Me: "Why should you keep yourself alive? Because it's painful to die, and there is no benefit in death (in most cases)."

 

You: This is question-begging hedonism.

 

 

 

No it's not. It's a fact based in reality. Living organisms don't like to die. (If they didn't care one way or another, they would have died out by now and wouldn't have reproduced. Again, fact based in reality). So organisms have evolved processes of data input and analysis. If their senses detect stimuli that promote life, then their brain sends signals of pleasure. If they sense stimuli that promote death, their brain sends signals of pain. This is how your body, as a human, functions in the real world. Why, then, would you choose the pain of death?

 

As an infant, before you develop the ability to conceptualize and integrate concepts using rationality, you choose pleasure and life over pain and death in the same way animals do -- instinctively. So why then, when you are able to conceptualize and integrate concepts using rationality, would you then choose pain and death? It could only be due to irrationality and mental disorder (unless you are choosing euthanasia for rational reasons). 

 

This is not hedonism. Hedonism is purely subjective. Both hedonism and objectivism are after the goal of pleasure and self-interest, but objectivism uses rationality in a fact-based world to find rational self-interest, based on objective values. Hedonism is purely subjective. It does not utilize rationality and doesn't use objective values. Hedonism is, "if it feels good, do it." Objectivism is, "if it brings me life (not ONLY pleasurable sensory feelings), and is rational and not self-destructive, do it."

Edited by secondhander
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Why, then, would you choose the pain of death?

 

So why then, when you are able to conceptualize and integrate concepts using rationality, would you then choose pain and death?

 

I isolated these two questions to reiterate a point from earlier.  Human life is sustained volitionally, not automatically.  Staying alive is not the default state.  It requires knowledge of life's requirements and the choice to meet them.

 

I'm not defending the idea that one ought to die.  I'm asking you to defend the idea that he should live.  In other words, it's possible that neither of these options can be shown to be moral, so defeating the morality of one doesn't affirm the other's.

 

And as far as I understand it, your defense of choosing life is the hedonistic argument that death is painful and should therefore be avoided.  Well, it's a fact that death can be painful, but that fact doesn't make staying alive morally correct (and consider the absurdity that if this were the right argument, it would only be correct to avoid painful death.)

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I'm not defending the idea that one ought to die.  I'm asking you to defend the idea that he should live.

 

Because there are only two choices. And if one choice is objectively worse than the other, then the other is objectively better. 

 

We already know (I think you would agree) that for a person who chooses to continue to live, that life is objectively better than non-life. But your question is, "What about the person who chooses to die?"

 

Let me get at it philosophically this way. What if someone said to you, "Words are meaningless." You could say to them, "But you just use words to say that words are meaningless. You borrowed the presupposition that words do have meaning, in order to contradict that very presupposition. Your position, therefore, is self-referentially incoherent." This is a type of transcendental argumentation. You point out that a person must accept as a presupposition the very concept they are trying to deny. They cannot deny it, without affirming it. Therefore, they can't deny it.

 

Now, having that as a background, let's examine a living, breathing person who thinks to himself, "Death is better than life." But, in order to reason that, to draw that conclusion, he had to affirm life. He had to use life. He couldn't have even chosen death, without using life. He used reason -- badly. But reason is an aspect of human life. He used life, to destroy itself. He used irrationality.  

 

I partly agree with you that the choice to live is volitional. It is both instinctive and volitional. The desire for life is instinctive for all animals. It is instinctive for humans. I explained above how we have evolved sense perceptions and a brain that categorizes stimuli as pleasurable or not-pleasurable. But the process of living for humans, the way we continue to live, is volitional, because our means of survival is the use of our reason.

 

But while we can use our conceptual mind to find ways to live, and find better ways to live, so too can we use our conceptual mind (or twist our mind) to find better ways for us to die. But should we? And if we shouldn't, and our current state is life, then it follows that we should not kill ourselves and should continue to live, by the desire of instinct and by the process of volition and rationality. 

 

So if you agree with me that one (who is alive) ought not to die, then there is only one other choice, right?

 

In other words, it's possible that neither of these options can be shown to be moral, so defeating the morality of one doesn't affirm the other's.

 

 

It does, if there are only two choices and they are mutually exclusive. Particularly when you consider what I've already said: You are in a state of life now. For all your life, your desire for life has been instinctive. You always chose life instinctively, until the point where you were old enough to conceptualize and think about life and realize that you could, if you chose, end it. Now, let's say you're a teenager, and you realize that you could end it if you chose. Since you are alive in order to be pondering this question, and we know that you, as a living being, should use rationality in your thoughts and actions. What, then, is the rationality of choosing (using life to think about it and choose and act) to end life (end the ability to think, to choose, to act)?

 

One other point here. Rand argued the point rightly that values only have meaning because they can be lost. The value of life has meaning because it can be lost. She wrote:

 

“Value” is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. The concept “value” is not a primary; it presupposes an answer to the question: of value to whom and for what? It presupposes an entity capable of acting to achieve a goal in the face of an alternative. Where no alternative exists, no goals and no values are possible.

 

 

She asks the reader to imagine an indestructible robot, incapable of ceasing to exist. How could it have any values if it has nothing to lose? So, in this way, life as a positive value can only be known and understood in relationship to death. Life is a value for a living organism, because death is possible. So to choose death, is to choose the anti-value. She said that it is only the concept of life that makes the concept of value possible. We both agree that a person who is dead has the same values as a person who was never born -- the same values as nothingness -- the dead have no values. It is for these very reasons that while alive, life is a value, and death is the antithesis of that value.

 

 

And as far as I understand it, your defense of choosing life is the hedonistic argument that death is painful and should therefore be avoided.

 

 

I don't think so. What I said is in line with Rand's own arguments. I think you might be confusing the differences between objectivism and hedonism. 

 

Now in what manner does a human being discover the concept of “value”? By what means does he first become aware of the issue of “good or evil” in its simplest form? By means of the physical sensations of pleasure or pain. Just as sensations are the first step of the development of a human consciousness in the realm of cognition,so they are its first step in the realm of evaluation. The capacity to experience pleasure or pain is innate in a man’s body; it is part of his nature, part of the kind of entity he is. He has no choice about it, and he has no choice about the standard that determines what will make him experience the physical sensation of pleasure or of pain. What is that standard? His life.

 

This is the fallacy inherent in hedonism—in any variant of ethical hedonism, personal or social, individual or collective. “Happiness” can properly be the purpose of ethics, but not the standard. The task of ethics is to define man’s proper code of values and thus to give him the means of achieving happiness. To declare, as the ethical hedonists do, that “the proper value is whatever gives you pleasure” is to declare that “the proper value is whatever you happen to value”—which is an act of intellectual and philosophical abdication, an act which merely proclaims the futility of ethics and invites all men to play it deuces wild.

 

Edited by secondhander
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And as far as I understand it, your defense of choosing life is the hedonistic argument that death is painful and should therefore be avoided.  Well, it's a fact that death can be painful, but that fact doesn't make staying alive morally correct (and consider the absurdity that if this were the right argument, it would only be correct to avoid painful death.)

Because there is no particular *reason* to choose life, the reality is that pleasure or pain are generally how people end up "choosing" life as babies. That doesn't mean the standard of morality is hedonistic, it's just that there is no rational (or irrational!) reason for choosing to live, so it will sound subjective. Objectivist ethics only revolves around how you need a code of ethics to live, but it makes no argument for why one should choose life. Rand is pretty specific that the choice to live in her view begins with pleasure versus pain. Anything else would be a glaring example of an is-ought fallacy (secondhander elaborates pretty well).

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Let me get at it philosophically this way. What if someone said to you, "Words are meaningless." You could say to them, "But you just use words to say that words are meaningless. You borrowed the presupposition that words do have meaning, in order to contradict that very presupposition. Your position, therefore, is self-referentially incoherent." This is a type of transcendental argumentation. You point out that a person must accept as a presupposition the very concept they are trying to deny. They cannot deny it, without affirming it. Therefore, they can't deny it.

 

"Words are meaningless" is, as you point out, self-defeating.  It relies on the meaningfulness of words to declare them non-meaningful.

 

"There's no reason to choose to continue to live" is not.  Yes, I'm alive while saying that, but being alive isn't the same thing as relying on the morality of being alive.

 

 

So if you agree with me that one (who is alive) ought not to die, then there is only one other choice, right?

 

You're continuing to equate "It can't be shown that one ought to die" with "One ought not to die."  It being morally correct to live and it being morally correct to die are not all-encompassing.  It's possible that neither is moral.

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the reality is that pleasure or pain are generally how people end up "choosing" life as babies.

 

What infants do and why is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not continuing to choose life as an adult human being is moral.

 

Objectivist ethics only revolves around how you need a code of ethics to live, but it makes no argument for why one should choose life.

 

 If Objectivism can't support choosing life over death (never mind choosing to live it fully with, paraphrasing Allison, happiness as the end of the game), then the morality of capitalism and Romanticism vanishes in a puff of smoke.

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What infants do and why is irrelevant to the issue of whether or not continuing to choose life as an adult human being is moral.

 

 

 If Objectivism can't support choosing life over death (never mind choosing to live it fully with, paraphrasing Allison, happiness as the end of the game), then the morality of capitalism and Romanticism vanishes in a puff of smoke.

Just curious but how much of Objectivism have you studied?  Such a question implies not much.

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 If Objectivism can't support choosing life over death (never mind choosing to live it fully with, paraphrasing Allison, happiness as the end of the game), then the morality of capitalism and Romanticism vanishes in a puff of smoke.

There is no support, at least not moral support (any argument is circular). The only idea like support is that death requires no action, while life does, so if you choose life for whatever reason, how to maintain that is morality. I only brought up infants because it's worth saying why the choice to live is not limited to adults.

Edited by Eiuol
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I thought I had figured out why it's not a question; because the concept of choice, why, I, should are all dependent on the concept of life. But this cannot be right because if someone says "I have a desire to die" they can still commit suicide even though the words I, have, desire are all dependent on life. Now I'm back to my original problem of why one chooses life.

Because it's better than the alternative.

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Because it's better than the alternative.

 

 

This.  Either you choose to live, or die.  It's either-or.  Outside of extreme circumstances the choice to live should be clear.  Otherwise why would anyone want to cease to be?  

 

The greater question under Objectivism is the full definition of "live" as it applies to being human, and that is to thrive instead of simple exist. 

Edited by Spiral Architect
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