Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

the question of why should I choose life

Rate this topic


LoBagola
 Share

Recommended Posts

Yes, it's a decision made using free will (which is the only way one can make a decision), but what is the motivation for the decision?  Is there a reason to choose one way or the other, is it arbitrary, or should it be described some other way?

 

There are many reasons to choose one way or another, and one may survive arbitrary choices as well, so I can only offer that there's no rational moral absolute in the form of, "thou shalt live".  Choosing to live only expresses a momentary preference to avoid the alternative; momentary in that a preference for the alternative may follow anytime.  Self-preservation depends on consistently choosing to live every moment of ones life, so one might describe a long term choice to live as a commitment to self-preservation.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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?

Morality is not necessarily objective.  For example Ayn Rand both classified altruism as a morality and showed it was not objective.  A morality that satisfies an epistemological requirement to be objective can be constructed and Ayn Rand claims to have done so.  Ayn Rand linked moral oughts to biological life and her judgement about the essential mode of human survival, reasoning.   .

 

It is not the case that every instance of human thought is moral evaluation, but every thought can be subjected to moral judgement (not a recommended use of one's time).  When you ask what does not involve moral evaluation, I don't know what you mean by 'involve' and how indirect involvement can be before you count it or not.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, it's a decision made using free will (which is the only way one can make a decision), but what is the motivation for the decision?  Is there a reason to choose one way or the other, is it arbitrary, or should it be described some other way?

 

The motivation for the decision is the world and everything in it, and the desire to remain within it.  To use an example provided by Rand, in Atlas Shrugged the character Cheryl Taggart held values and knew how to value but reached the conclusion that the world was corrupt and that the James Taggart's would always have the upper hand.  She committed suicide rather than conform to that kind of world.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the earlier linked video, Biddle argues that choosing to live is what gives rise to values.  If that's true, then the choice itself is necessarily both considered and made prior to having values.  And that values-less consideration and decision is something I can think of only one word to describe: arbitrary.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Prior to having values, conceptually explicit values, mom and dad made sure you were fed, brushed your teeth, and went to bed at a reasonable hour. At some point along the way, you decided you like pizza, ice-cream and cake, and the sensations you experience when you spun around as fast as you could until you lost your balance. What made you decide you liked candy or whatever your favorite edibles might have been?

It's not like you popped out of the womb and declared arbitrarily: "I choose to live." If you're like most newborns, the doctor probably had to suction your mouth before you started to breath on your own.

 

As Mr. Biddle pointed out prior to explaining why it is an illegitiment question, it is at its essence an illegitiment question.

Edited by dream_weaver
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, it's a decision made using free will (which is the only way one can make a decision), but what is the motivation for the decision?  Is there a reason to choose one way or the other, is it arbitrary, or should it be described some other way?

It should be described some other way.

 

This problem is very much like demanding a justification to be logical.  Why shouldn't we contradict ourselves and leap to non sequitor conclusions?  There is no response to this that can remain within the realm of logic and the formal arrangement of words and also avoid being circular.   We should be logical because it serves an ulterior end, something outside of logic, namely it serves the practical end of remaining alive and prospering.  That stuff works.

 

No formal logical argument can be given to remain alive or prosper because that would form another circular argument once we take up again the issue of why be logical.

 

The choice to live is a philosophic primary, meaning it is a starting point, it is not derived from prior reasons or analyzable into parts.

 

Knowledge needs to be justified.  The choice to live is not knowledge, and justification does not apply to it.

 

Tara Smith describes the choice to live as prerational and distinguishes that from arbitrary in her book "Viable Values" page 108:

 

The fact that the choice to live is prerational does not mean that it is arbitrary in the derogatory sense so familiar in philosophy.  A decision is arbitrary when it is "derived from mere opinion or preference; not based on the nature of things".  This is a defect, however, only where rationality is appropriate.  The fundamental choice to live precedes the possibility of being rational.  Since we have no higher value or standards by which to rationally evaluate the choice to live, we have no basis on which to criticize the choice as insufficiently rational.

Edited by Grames
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Analyzing the morality of the choice to live doesn't work because you have to use rationality to do it (for example, "it's illogical to make that decision without moral values"), and rationality also presupposes the choice to live.   By the same token, analyzing the rationality of the choice to live doesn't work because you have to imply a moral evaluation to do it (for example, "it's bad to be arbitrary"), and moral evaluations also presuppose the choice to live.

 

Both the applicability of morality and the applicability of rationality presuppose the choice to live, and these two ideas run interference for each other.

 

I have to think about this some more, but it seems like a great argument.  Thanks.  I'll post in this thread again if I think of more questions.

Edited by bkildahl
Link to comment
Share on other sites

In the earlier linked video, Biddle argues that choosing to live is what gives rise to values.  If that's true, then the choice itself is necessarily both considered and made prior to having values.  And that values-less consideration and decision is something I can think of only one word to describe: arbitrary.

If you're going to make such an unfounded assertion, it would be nice if you could at least offer some argument to justify it to the readers, lest you be dismissed out of hand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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?

I'm not sure what you mean by a "naturalistic fallacy."  Where did I state that my argument leads to choosing life?  I don't understand what your second sentence is being applied to.  I've stated above that there is a difference between "choosing life" and the "choice to live."  One "chooses life" because one wants to achieve values.  I'd suggest you read or reread Rand's presentation in The Objectivism Ethics and digest how she leads up to the presentation of her morality.  I don't think I can be more precise than she.  The choice to live is just another way of saying "I am a living organism."  The identification of that fact leads to the issue of what one ought to do.  Facts lead to values.  Values are facts considered from the perspective of a living organism.  

 

You keep asking these questions without any reference to anything in Rand's theory or its justification, as if all you have to do is just spout questions for others to answer, which you don't consider, and then assert your skepticism as being self-evident.  You need to think about Objectivism more seriously.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

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?

The decision to live is best described as pre-ethical, or meta-ethical.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Analyzing the morality of the choice to live doesn't work because you have to use rationality to do it (for example, "it's illogical to make that decision without moral values"), and rationality also presupposes the choice to live.   By the same token, analyzing the rationality of the choice to live doesn't work because you have to imply a moral evaluation to do it (for example, "it's bad to be arbitrary"), and moral evaluations also presuppose the choice to live.

 

Both the applicability of morality and the applicability of rationality presuppose the choice to live, and these two ideas run interference for each other.

 

I have to think about this some more, but it seems like a great argument.  Thanks.  I'll post in this thread again if I think of more questions.

Besides just asking questions, it would be nice if you demonstrated an understanding of what the Objectivist position of the argument was.  It is quite apparent that your questions originate from your lack of understanding. Your assertion that morality and rationality interfere with each other is absurd.  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The decision to live is best described as pre-ethical, or meta-ethical.  

There is no such a thing as pre-ethical decision. All decisions are choices and all choices are ethical. There is also no such a thing as a choice to live. Living is a precondition of all choices. Man can only choose to die and according to circumstances it could be moral or immoral choice. But in any case such a choice is within the realm of morality.

Edited by Leonid
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is no such a thing as pre-ethical decision. All decisions are choices and all choices are ethical. There is also no such a thing as a choice to live. Living is a precondition of all choices. Man can only choose to die and according to circumstances it could be moral or immoral choice. But in any case such a choice is within the realm of morality.

This is not correct.  Rand clearly organized her ethics around the two premises of the nature of man and the choice to live.

 

Quotes from the Lexicon website

 

Life or death is man’s only fundamental alternative. To live is his basic act of choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course.

 

From Galt's speech:

The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.

 

From OPAR pp 212-213

The distinctively Objectivist viewpoint here, let me repeat,  is not that life is a precondition of other values—not that one must remain alive in order to act. This idea is a truism, not a philosophy.
Objectivism says that remaining alive is the goal of values and of all proper action.

 

 

Goal are chosen, and the 'choice of the goal of remaining alive' is in other words the 'choice to live'.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

This is not correct.  Rand clearly organized her ethics around the two premises of the nature of man and the choice to live.

 

Quotes from the Lexicon website

 

Life or death is man’s only fundamental alternative. To live is his basic act of choice. If he chooses to live, a rational ethics will tell him what principles of action are required to implement his choice. If he does not choose to live, nature will take its course.

 

From Galt's speech:

The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.

 

From OPAR pp 212-213

 

Goal are chosen, and the 'choice of the goal of remaining alive' is in other words the 'choice to live'.

 

I'm familiar with these quotes and with this point of view. However I thinks that they require some clarification. First of all, it's quite clear, that Rand refers not to choice to live but to the choice to maintain life-that is, to take certain course of action in order to carry on living, otherwise nature will take its course.

 

" But the choice to live itself is not subject to moral deliberation; it precedes and set context for moral deliberation"-she wrote in AS pg 1018.

 

That would mean that choice to live, like choice to die cannot be morally evaluated. If so, how one can claim that choice to live is a moral choice? How we can morally evaluate all these who didn't choose to live-suicide bombers, for example? The point is , as I mentioned before, that there is no choice to live. Life is metaphysically given to man. Man can only choose to die. In the context of grown and fully developed man such a choice would mean an abnegation of the value of life, which he already learned. He knows from his first-hand objective experience that life is good, but substitutes this standard by some other non-objective standard; in other words he commits atrocious sacrifice and evades an enormous body of first-hand knowledge. Such an act cannot be beyond the realm of ethics, it should be morally deplorable. Only new-born infant who doesn't know the value of life, doesn't really make any choices could be " beyond good and evil"

Edited by Leonid
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm familiar with these quotes and with this point of view. However I thinks that they require some clarification. First of all, it's quite clear, that Rand refers not to choice to live but to the choice to maintain life-that is, to take certain course of action in order to carry on living, otherwise nature will take its course.

 

" But the choice to live itself is not subject to moral deliberation; it precedes and set context for moral deliberation"-she wrote in AS pg 1018.

 

That would mean that choice to live, like choice to die cannot be morally evaluated. If so, how one can claim that choice to live is a moral choice? How we can morally evaluate all these who didn't choose to live-suicide bombers, for example? The point is , as I mentioned before, that there is no choice to live. Life is metaphysically given to man. Man can only choose to die. In the context of grown and fully developed man such a choice would mean an abnegation of the value of life, which he already learned. He knows from his first-hand objective experience that life is good, but substitutes this standard by some other non-objective standard; in other words he commits atrocious sacrifice and evades an enormous body of first-hand knowledge. Such an act cannot be beyond the realm of ethics, it should be morally deplorable. Only new-born infant who doesn't know the value of life, doesn't really make any choices could be " beyond good and evil"

 

Perhaps what is meta-ethical is the "adoption" of life as the moral standard.  After which point all decisions regarding neglecting necessaries for life (choosing to do nothing and die... not choosing to live) are thus moral.  So the "choice to do things resulting in living or dying" are moral choices once the standard of life is chosen?

 

Can a third person evaluate the choices of another person in connection with "adopting" a morality from the get go?  I.e. Could you, who are not beneficiary or proxy or subject of the candidate moralities an individual, say "Kermit" may adopt, say to Kermit prior to said adoption, "You should adopt morality Y".  Can the decision by Kermit be seen both as "pre-moral" in his context but POST-moral in the context of your evaluation of his choices?  After all, YOU have a moral standard even though HE does not.

Edited by StrictlyLogical
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The life is a process of making choices and choices are based on the standard of value. Therefore man has no choice about adoption this or other kind of morality. Without it he would be in the position of new-born infant, unable to make a simplest conscious choice. The only question is which kind of morality one accepts? Life is an objective standard of value. One may accept or reject it as one may reject the law of gravity and with the same consequences. 

Edited by Leonid
Link to comment
Share on other sites

That would mean that choice to live, like choice to die cannot be morally evaluated. If so, how one can claim that choice to live is a moral choice? How we can morally evaluate all these who didn't choose to live-suicide bombers, for example? The point is , as I mentioned before, that there is no choice to live. Life is metaphysically given to man.

 

This misses important aspects of Objectivist ethics as Rand presented it.

 

  • Biological life as in the blood and breath is a metaphysical given to man, but not life as man qua man in the phrase Rand resorts to many times to refer to the life proper to man.
  • Morality is primarily for your own benefit.  It is your own choice to live that is prerational and premoral.  Of course you can judge others who do not choose to live as bad for your own life and avoid them, if you yourself have adopted your own life as your standard of morality.

 

edit:

Also, it is a contradiction to claim there is no choice to live and then give the example of suicide bombers as a problem, when clearly they chose not to live either as man qua man or as a body.

Edited by Grames
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is no such a thing as pre-ethical decision. All decisions are choices and all choices are ethical. There is also no such a thing as a choice to live. Living is a precondition of all choices. Man can only choose to die and according to circumstances it could be moral or immoral choice. But in any case such a choice is within the realm of morality.

This is clearly false.  Man is a volitional being and the choice to think or not is logically prior to ethics.  Rand's ethics is not about staying alive as a human entity, moving through life on a perceptual level, nor is it about simply finding food and putting it in your mouth to stay alive.  To live as a conceptual being requires choice.  To live as a moral being requires choice.  Such choices cannot be within the moral code that acknowledges these facts.  They are pre-ethical.  Knowledge of how to live and how to think as a rational being is not automatic and must be chosen.  

There is no basis for alleging that such choices are within an ethical system for you are then trapped with no basis for living by one or another ethical system, except possibly duty which was the reasoning given by other systems prior to Rand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This misses important aspects of Objectivist ethics as Rand presented it.

 

  • Biological life as in the blood and breath is a metaphysical given to man, but not life as man qua man in the phrase Rand resorts to many times to refer to the life proper to man.
  • Morality is primarily for your own benefit.  It is your own choice to live that is prerational and premoral.  Of course you can judge others who do not choose to live as bad for your own life and avoid them, if you yourself have adopted your own life as your standard of morality.

 

edit:

Also, it is a contradiction to claim there is no choice to live and then give the example of suicide bombers as a problem, when clearly they chose not to live either as man qua man or as a body.

Clearly Rand referred to biological existence when she said that man has to act in order to sustain his life, or nature will take it course. The meaning is that only action could be moral, inaction is outside of  the realm of morality. However this is not always a case. The decision not to act could be moral decision as well for the reasons I described above.Moreover, in order to maintain his physical existence man has to act qua man, that simply follows from the law of identity. He cannot act as a plant.

 

  “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.” 

 

Therefore if man chooses to be a suicidal animal it is an immoral choice.

 

Since reason is man’s basic means of survival, that which is proper to the life of a rational being is the good; that which negates, opposes or destroys it is the evil" (VOS, 23)

 

No matter what man qua man does or chooses he cannot escape morality. Suicide bombers are immoral exactly because their choice of standard of value is death, not life. And precisely the fact that they destroy their own life makes them as such. 

Edited by Leonid
Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is clearly false.  Man is a volitional being and the choice to think or not is logically prior to ethics.  Rand's ethics is not about staying alive as a human entity, moving through life on a perceptual level, nor is it about simply finding food and putting it in your mouth to stay alive.  To live as a conceptual being requires choice.  To live as a moral being requires choice.  Such choices cannot be within the moral code that acknowledges these facts.  They are pre-ethical.  Knowledge of how to live and how to think as a rational being is not automatic and must be chosen.  

There is no basis for alleging that such choices are within an ethical system for you are then trapped with no basis for living by one or another ethical system, except possibly duty which was the reasoning given by other systems prior to Rand.

No choice is possible without standard of value. If I choose A over B it is because I prefer A in according to my value system. If there is no value system than there is no choice, just a random pick. One chooses to think because he understands that such a choice is beneficial to his course of life. Therefore such a choice like any other choice pertains to the realm of morality. As Ayn Rand mentioned in Playboy interview ".Morality pertains only to the sphere of man’s free will—only to those actions which are open to his choice."

Moreover man always operates on conceptual level, he cannot live by perception alone. Man without conceptual faculty is not a healthy animal but a cripple human. Initially trough pain-pleasure mechanism and later on by conceptualization of his own  experience man learns that his life is valuable and at least implicitly makes it his standard of value. When he explicitly denies and betrays his own knowledge for sake of some non-objective value system, he commits an act of moral obscenity.  

Edited by Leonid
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You keep asking these questions without any reference to anything in Rand's theory or its justification, as if all you have to do is just spout questions for others to answer, which you don't consider, and then assert your skepticism as being self-evident.  You need to think about Objectivism more seriously.

I kind of lost interest in posting further since Grames was articulating thoughts that were like mine, so I had no particular reason to post. But plelase don't say that I should think about Objectvism "more" seriously, implying that I'm not taking it completely seriously. There's no reason for that. Indeed I was asking questions without reference to anything Rand said, that doesn't make it skepticism. I ask a question because I think the only way to even discuss a choice to life having a "should" along with it is to answer that question. I also like Socratic-style discussion, so I ask questions without answering them. It was just getting at how why you "should" choose life doesn't make sense. I should've said "prerational and premoral" though. Also, choosing to live is the same as choosing life. Choosing to live, the process, is the same as choosing life, which to be part of your condition is also a process. It is not possible to say you choose life without also chosing to live. The only issue seems to be that you find my statements to be subjective in nature, but neither subjectivity nor objectivity applies to choosing life!

" 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."

This is where I see a naturalistic fallacy. First off, there is implication that if you don't choose to live in the exact way Rand prescribed then you're not really living. If you didn't intend that, fine, but it's plainly true that people have been choosing to live for millenia without even implicitly acknowledging that life and death are the only alternatives. Then it seems to me you're trying to make a normative statement that there are good reasons to choose life as your ethical standard. That is, because you are alive, you *should* pick life. That's a naturalistic fallacy where the fact that you are alive makes it right or moral to live, but you can't just say something is good because it's natural or you already exist. The thing is, all you can do is describe the ways life is chosen, otherwise you'll always hit the naturalistic fallacy and Hume's is-ought "problem".

Edited by Eiuol
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I kind of lost interest in posting further since Grames was articulating thoughts that were like mine, so I had no particular reason to post. But plelase don't say that I should think about Objectvism "more" seriously, implying that I'm not taking it completely seriously. There's no reason for that. Indeed I was asking questions without reference to anything Rand said, that doesn't make it skepticism. I ask a question because I think the only way to even discuss a choice to life having a "should" along with it is to answer that question. I also like Socratic-style discussion, so I ask questions without answering them. It was just getting at how why you "should" choose life doesn't make sense. I should've said "prerational and premoral" though. Also, choosing to live is the same as choosing life. Choosing to live, the process, is the same as choosing life, which to be part of your condition is also a process. It is not possible to say you choose life without also chosing to live. The only issue seems to be that you find my statements to be subjective in nature, but neither subjectivity nor objectivity applies to choosing life!

" 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."

This is where I see a naturalistic fallacy. First off, there is implication that if you don't choose to live in the exact way Rand prescribed then you're not really living. If you didn't intend that, fine, but it's plainly true that people have been choosing to live for millenia without even implicitly acknowledging that life and death are the only alternatives.

Considering that altruism, self-sacrifice and religious duty have been the moral codes that have guided mankind for thousands of years, I'm wondering what alternative to Rand's ideas you were affirming as pro-life of rational man. People have only partially chosen to live rationally, and it was not consistently or explicitly identified or implemented.

 

Then it seems to me you're trying to make a normative statement that there are good reasons to choose life as your ethical standard. That is, because you are alive, you *should* pick life. That's a naturalistic fallacy where the fact that you are alive makes it right or moral to live, but you can't just say something is good because it's natural or you already exist. The thing is, all you can do is describe the ways life is chosen, otherwise you'll always hit the naturalistic fallacy and Hume's is-ought "problem".

I reject Hume's version of the is-ought problem. Rand's identification solves it. But I'm not going to get into that debate since you are unable or unwilling to acknowledge or discuss Rand's formulation of how to approach ethics. You can continue on your Socratic method, but I think I've had enough of it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I reject Hume's version of the is-ought problem. Rand's identification solves it. But I'm not going to get into that debate since you are unable or unwilling to acknowledge or discuss Rand's formulation of how to approach ethics. You can continue on your Socratic method, but I think I've had enough of it.

Not sure why you think that I'm not acknowledging Rand's approach to ethics. By the way, Rand doesn't really solve the is-ought problem, it's just that the is-ought problem isn't a problem for ethics like Rand's. Any functionalist ethics like Rand's gets around Hume's "problem". Basically you can't get an ought just by saying an is. Saying you are alive doesn't mean you should choose life and anything else is immoral. My overall point is that choosing to live or not is itself not a choice that is immoral or moral; the choice is premoral and can't be evaluated in moral terms, although there are moral implications (i.e. if you choose to live, then morality is how to accomplish that).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

After skimming through the most recent replies, I noticed the following forum provided quote at the bottom of the page:

 

"There is no escape from the fact that men have to make choices; so long as men have to make choices, there is no escape from moral values; so long as moral values are at stake, no moral neutrality is possible. To abstain from condemning a torturer, is to become an accessory to the torture and murder of his victims." ~ Ayn Rand

 

The reference to torture, or any particular, is less important than the underlying premise, i.e., that ethics is inherent to choice.  There's always a good or bad choice to be made, and what follows either validates or refutes that decision.  Volitional creatures are moral animals, and their lives depend on behavior that is correct and proper according to their nature.  That being said, it doesn't necessarily follow that the good are rewarded with longevity; mortality is fickle, e.g., 'the good die young'.  When I say lives depend on ethical behavior, I mean in order to flourish.  That is the ethical benchmark to look for; ones well being, which is what I take, "the pursuit of happiness" to mean.

 

Choosing life in the context of already being alive, is somewhat redundant and uncertain in terms of mortality...  Isn't it more effectual to choose to flourish?

Edited by Devil's Advocate
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...