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the question of why should I choose life

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LoBagola
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How so?

 

 

Citation/explanation please.

 

 

In Galt's speech, Rand specifically formulated her fundamental choice:

 

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists - and in a single choice: to live.  The rest proceeds from these.  To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason - Purpose - Self-esteem.

In Objectivism, the choice to live means to accept that the nature of human life, qua rational being, requires specific values and virtues.  It may be classified as a meta-ethical choice since pursuing rational values would make no sense without such a choice.  Without such a choice, ethics would be duty-bound, a kind of Kantian imperative.  The choice to live is the first choice of a volitional being to be ethical and pursue values required for a rational life.  The question "why choose to live" is a question involving context dropping: "why" presupposes purpose, reason, self-esteem.  On the same grounds, one cannot ask "why not choose not to live?"

 

"Choosing life" does not carry such implications.  It is open ended to any interpretation of values, to any ethics, to any living being, in virtually all situations (short of suicide).  "Choosing life" simply means that one has acquired a set of values during one's existence and that one's values serve as motivation to keep going and achieving more values.  Values, or thee lack of, serve to pursue similar values.   In this case, motivation is a strong influence.  If life is going great and one feels happy, one naturally chooses life rather than giving up.  One these grounds, there may be a time when it would be proper to choose death: such as when various health or psychological problems arise in one's life.  There are many ethical systems, such as fundamental religious or totalitarian doctrines, where death is what people value and choose to pursue.  The choice to live does not enter into their ethical systems.  Nor is the choice to live at the base of their ethics.

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Not to speak for him, but I think he means the difference between biological life and living in its fullest sense, where biological life is the beginning point and a necessary attribute, but not the whole idea.

Not really.  Plants and animals are biologically alive and pursue values but do not face the requirement to make the choice to live.

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The question "why choose to live" is a question involving context dropping: "why" presupposes purpose, reason, self-esteem.

 

"Why choose to (continue to) live?" doesn't presuppose purpose.  It's a question about the possibility of objective purpose, which is given rise to by the existence of choice and the recognition that man makes a fundamental one with regard to his life.

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"Why choose to (continue to) live?" doesn't presuppose purpose.  It's a question about the possibility of objective purpose, which is given rise to by the existence of choice and the recognition that man makes a fundamental one with regard to his life.

My dictionary defines "why" as "for what purpose or reason." Also, "for what cause."  The question you seem to ask should be properly formulated as "what gives rise to choice?" My dictionary defines "what" as "used as an interrogative expressing inquiry about the identity, nature, or value of an object or matter." Again, this is answered by Rand in her analysis of value and life in Galt's speech prior to the quote about the two presuppositions of her morality. That is the reason she discusses such subjects prior to presenting her morality.  She is justifying it by basing it on reality: the nature of reality, of life, and of man's life.

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My dictionary defines "why" as "for what purpose or reason." Also, "for what cause."

 

If you prefer, we can substitute one for the other.  For what reason should one continue to live?

 

 

The question you seem to ask should be properly formulated as "what gives rise to choice?"

 

The existence of the faculty of reason gives rise to choice, but says nothing about what choices should be made.

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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.

 

The meaning of a concept is what it refers to.  It is helpful then to study Rand's given examples from her fiction of people choosing to live and people who do not choose to live.   That is the approach taken in Greg Salmieri's talk "Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing".  The ARI bookstore does not seem to offer that anymore, so I can only refer to my notes here: Notes on Ayn Rand's Conception of Valuing.  

 

Some particular lines from my Notes that are most relevant here:

 

Valuing is what living things do and what living consists of in its moment-by-moment activity.

Choosing to live is choosing to value, which is choosing a value, a particular value.

 

Study of valuing:

  • there are valuers and nonvaluers, not everybody does it, or not enough or not at all
  • valuers are moralistic/idealistic/effacacious
  • nonvaluers are zeroes/of the mass
  • values evoke immediate emotional responses
  • values/valuing is a result of a process/skill/knowledge
  • valuing and thinking are nearly the same thing
  • valuing requires standards
  • standards of value impose hierarchy on values
  • means-ends relations impose hierarchy on values
  • valuing is inherently self assertive/individualistic/egoistic
  • there exists such a thing as second handedness - action in the absence of values, it causes evil

 

Ayn Rand's villains (Keating, Jim Taggart) are in an real sense not living because they are not valuing. This is NOT a metaphor. Blood and breath continue but those are subsystems, parts not a whole person so long as a central integrating purpose is absent.

 

My own summary statement: 

 

{Summary statement:

What it means "to live" is to integrate the details of your life with a central purpose by practicing the act and habit of valuing by selecting and producing your own values. Enthusiasm for life comes from the fact they are your own values, not conforming to someone else's.}

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  • valuing and thinking are nearly the same thing
  • valuing requires standards

 

When you say valuing and thinking are nearly the same, are you implying that valuing is a very large subset of thinking?  If so, what does man think about when he's not valuing?

 

Is the answer (as suggested by the second bullet point) that he thinks about what his standard of value should be?  If so, is this an implicit admission that his choice of standards is arbitrary?

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When you say valuing and thinking are nearly the same, are you implying that valuing is a very large subset of thinking?  If so, what does man think about when he's not valuing?

 

Is the answer (as suggested by the second bullet point) that he thinks about what his standard of value should be?  If so, is this an implicit admission that his choice of standards is arbitrary?

 

For human beings, valuing requires acts of and by the consciousness.  Plants value but do not need to think, but people cannot value without thinking.  Also note that the phrase "nearly the same" means that the two things compared are not in fact the same.

 

In reply to the second part of your post, a choice of standards is a choice. The only way you could leap to your wild inference that thinking about standards implies the choice of standards is arbitrary is if you believe that thought itself is necessarily wild, uncontrollable and always produces arbitrary results.  That is an indefensible premise and no further response need be made.

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The only way you could leap to your wild inference that thinking about standards implies the choice of standards is arbitrary is if you believe that thought itself is necessarily wild, uncontrollable and always produces arbitrary results.  That is an indefensible premise and no further response need be made.

 

I don't think thought is uncontrollable.  What I'm trying to figure out is whether or not morality is objective.

 

And I think the way I got to my inference was by misunderstanding your bullet points.  Maybe I can clarify by asking this: Is every instance of human thought an example of moral evaluation? If not, what can a human think about that doesn't involve moral evaluation?

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The default state is death.

Life requires perpetual motion, growth and exploration. All death requires is surrender.

Suicide is never moral; it isn't about avoiding pain. It's about pursuing happiness.

The difference is literally one of life and death.

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Bkildahl:

All human thought is about existentials and normatives [idk oist synonyms]; facts and evaluations of facts.

It all boils down to those, which usually (but don't always) happen simultaneously. Facts can be conceived without evaluation but not vice versa.

---

So if i told you that Mars is covered in iron oxide you probably wouldn't feel anything in particular about it. If i added that this includes enough oxygen to liberate as a gas (ala terraforming) this knowledge might acquire new meaning.

That's what i mean.

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Okay, so how do we get from those facts to objective morality?  Or do Objectivists claim we don't need to?

 

I think you might be stuck on thinking of morality from a mystical standpoint. That's not how O'ism views "morality." There is no mystical component to "morality." What O'ism says is that if you want to achieve X, you must do what is necessary for X. If Y is necessary for X, then you must do Y in order to achieve X. 

 

For an examlpe: Let's say X is, "eating an apple from that apple tree over there." Let's say that Y is, "what is necessary to accomplish X." If X is your value (something you want to achieve), then you must do Y. In a sense, then, if X is your value, the Y is your "morality." Nothing mystical is implied. If X is your value, then a "morality" is that which is "good" in relation to that value.

 

I quote from Galt’s speech: “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice; he has to learn to sustain it—by choice; he has to discover the values it requires and practice his virtues—by choice. A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality.”

 

 

 

Now, you might say "well, all that is subjective, because maybe not everyone wants to eat that apple from that apple tree." You're right, in that limited example of the apple tree. But you're wrong about subjectivity with regard to what we could call the ultimate value of life. Don't forget that Rand said:

 

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.

 

 

It's important to see the difference, then, between mystical morality (where moral values are set by some mystical force or god, by the whim of that god or mystical force), and objectivist morality, where morality is rooted in the reality of the world -- if you want the effect, you must do the things that bring about (or sustain) the effect. 

 

Ok, so let's look at that question from before. Doesn't this mean everything is subjective, because everyone might want different effects -- different values? 

 

No. Because there's one fundamental thing that is an end in itself (metaphysically speaking) -- Life.  If there is an ultimate goal, an ultimate value that a human works to gain or keep, not because of subjective whim but because of objective fact, then every other value that is necessary for that ultimate value is objectively required as well. Life is that ultimate value that every human works to gain or keep. If you didn't have the value of "life," then you wouldn't be human (you'd die or be dead already). So long as you choose to be a living (present continuous) human, you don't have a choice in the matter. It is not up to your subjective desire. Your value is life. If it isn't, you die, and you are not a human, so the question of values for the dead is a non-issue (as is every other question or concept).

 

It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. Metaphysically, life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself: a value gained and kept by a constant process of action. Epistemologically, the concept of “value” is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of “life.” To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.”

 

 

So, while you are a present continuous living human, while you are seeking life, the values that sustain life and help life to thrive for you are objective values, not subjective. 

 

So now, to your question: "How do we get from those facts to objective morality?"

 

It might be clear already. We live in a real world, where A=A. Facts of reality don't change based on subjective whim. They are what they are, separate from anyone's mind or wishes. So, in order to sustain the ultimate value of life, you must recognize facts of reality and bring your life into accordance with reality in order to achieve the ultimate value of life.

 

Is the universe intelligible to man, or unintelligible and unknowable? Can man find happiness on earth, or is he doomed to frustration and despair? Does man have the power of choice, the power to choose his goals and to achieve them, the power to direct the course of his life—or is he the helpless plaything of forces beyond his control, which determine his fate? Is man, by nature, to be valued as good, or to be despised as evil? These are metaphysical questions, but the answers to them determine the kind of ethics men will accept and practice; the answers are the link between metaphysics and ethics. And although metaphysics as such is not a normative science, the answers to this category of questions assume, in man’s mind, the function of metaphysical value-judgments, since they form the foundation of all of his moral values.

 

Consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly, man knows that he needs a comprehensive view of existence to integrate his values, to choose his goals, to plan his future, to maintain the unity and coherence of his life—and that his metaphysical value-judgments are involved in every moment of his life, in his every choice, decision and action.

 

 

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If you prefer, we can substitute one for the other.  For what reason should one continue to live?

 

 

 

The existence of the faculty of reason gives rise to choice, but says nothing about what choices should be made.

What a person should do depends upon what is.  "A code of values accepted by choice is a code of morality."  I'd suggest you study The Objectivist Ethics.  The values and virtues defined by Objectivism are based upon the choice to live.  One should continue to live to achieve the values one has chosen to further one's life and achieve one's happiness.

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From Ayn Rand's The Virtue of Selfishness;

 

"Epistemologically, the concept of “value” is genetically dependent upon and derived from the antecedent concept of “life.” To speak of “value” as apart from “life” is worse than a contradiction in terms. “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible.”"

 

When someone asks you whether one ought to live, they are presupposing that this choice of life vs. death is tied to gaining or keeping some value. By the very nature of asking such a question they are referring to a value for some entity that is living. Whenever there is choice there is a value to be chosen. 

 

So then it is simple, the only way to gain values is to be alive, that is why one ought to choose to live.

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So then it is simple, the only way to gain values is to be alive, that is why one ought to choose to live.

I don't know where you're getting the second part from. The quote says that value can't be separate life. It doesn't say anything about whether you should choose life. Think of it this way: by what standard would you judge that life is something you should pursue? There is literally no reason to pick life over death except by some kind of preference. Rand's argument is basically that there is only a choice between existence and nonexistence. The only reason she gives to pick one is that you have values to live for already, or as a baby it derives from pleasure/pain sensation.

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Eiuol,

 

By the way, I might be falling into the trap of thinking about this in a rationalistic fashion (A therefore B therefore C....).

 

It is not by preference, at least a rational person can't think of the choice as a preference. Taking a second to think about any choice assumes you are thinking in terms of value according to some hierarchy and end goal.

 

So given that you are thinking about the choice between life and death, you already have conceded values in whatever context, form, etc. are important, therefore in order to continue to value you must live.

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I don't know where you're getting the second part from. The quote says that value can't be separate life. It doesn't say anything about whether you should choose life. Think of it this way: by what standard would you judge that life is something you should pursue? There is literally no reason to pick life over death except by some kind of preference. Rand's argument is basically that there is only a choice between existence and nonexistence. The only reason she gives to pick one is that you have values to live for already, or as a baby it derives from pleasure/pain sensation.

Your conclusion about what she is saying is subjectivism.  Your argument assumes all of the errors already discussed and presented about why the choice to live is fundamental and objective.  One chooses to live because one acknowledges the facts of reality, as presented by Rand in Galt's speech, that life and death are the only alternative; that one acknowledges one is a a living being who needs to make a choice to live as a man or woman of reason.  It is not that "you have values to live for already" but the fact that any rational values you have depends upon the choice to live.  This grounds ethics in facts: it makes it objective.  You keep repeating that "it doesn't say anything about whether you should choose life" and you keep ignoring the argument that such a question assumes the choice already made.  

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Your conclusion about what she is saying is subjectivism.  Your argument assumes all of the errors already discussed and presented about why the choice to live is fundamental and objective.  One chooses to live because one acknowledges the facts of reality, as presented by Rand in Galt's speech, that life and death are the only alternative; that one acknowledges one is a a living being who needs to make a choice to live as a man or woman of reason. 

Right, but it's a naturalistic fallacy to say that therefore you should choose life. Is-ought type of fallacy. So, by what standard would you suggest to choose life with?

Edited by Eiuol
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I don't think thought is uncontrollable.  What I'm trying to figure out is whether or not morality is objective.

 

And I think the way I got to my inference was by misunderstanding your bullet points.  Maybe I can clarify by asking this: Is every instance of human thought an example of moral evaluation? If not, what can a human think about that doesn't involve moral evaluation?

No, e.g., mathematics.

 

Okay, so how do we get from those facts to objective morality? ...

Objective morality is ethics derived from facts of nature.  It identifies what is correct (factual) and proper (appropriate) to self-preservation.  That which is correct and proper is good; that which is incorrect and improper is bad.  This knowledge establishes an ethical benchmark for ones own actions and ones interaction with others.

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As others have hinted: the question is illegitimate.

 

Here is an excellent explanation of that answer from Craig Biddle of "The Objective Standard".

 

At 01:40, Biddle says, "unless you choose to live," asserting that there's a choice to live made prior to the need for values.  If that's the case, how should the decision to live be described?  If arbitrary is the wrong word, what's the right one?

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At 01:40, Biddle says, "unless you choose to live," asserting that there's a choice to live made prior to the need for values.  If that's the case, how should the decision to live be described?  If arbitrary is the wrong word, what's the right one?

Free Will

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/freewill/

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