epistemologue Posted November 16, 2016 Report Share Posted November 16, 2016 (edited) A negative concept identifies the negation of another concept, its object, on which it logically depends. Negative concepts refer only to an absence of the specific object, not to the presence of anything else - they are merely the logical negation of the object, not the assertion of the existence of some other object. To assert the existence of a negative thing, as a different kind of existent, is a fallacy of the Reification of the Zero, a variant of the fallacy of the Stolen Concept. The concept "nothing" does not assert the existence of something called "nothing" - there is no such thing as "nothing" in and of itself, only the absence of a thing (the word literally means no-thing). The concept "non-existence" does not assert the existence of a "non-thing" - there is no such thing as "non-existence" in and of itself, only the absence of a thing in existence. In the same way, the concept "evil" depends on the concept "good". Evil is a negative concept indicating the logical negation of the good. The concept "evil" does not assert the existence of a "non-good", there is no such thing as an "evil" in and of itself, only the absence or contradiction of a good.1 Pain and fear are innate capacities to alert us that something is wrong, that there is a potential threat to our life and our pursuit of the good, but they do not by themselves offer us any positive value to seek. Pleasure tells us what is good, what is right, but pain can only tell us that something is wrong - it cannot tell us what is good or right.2 Rationally we can identify pain and suffering as a contradiction to the good, as a negative and an impediment, but innately pain simply does not offer us any pleasure, that is, it is a zero. It do not offer us the presence of any incentive to seek, so it cannot logically be the source of any conceptual values, nor can it be the fuel that makes us function.3 Man is by nature faced with a fundamental alternative: identity or non-identity, existence or non-existence – life or death. The concept of value, of "good or evil", is not an arbitrary human invention, but rather is based on a metaphysical fact, on an unalterable condition of man's existence: his life. The ultimate value, the final goal or end to which all lesser goals are means, is man's life. His life is his standard of value: that which furthers his life is the good, and that which threatens it is the evil.4 The choice to live is therefore the most basic moral choice that one faces.5 Only in life do we have any possibility of acting to seek the good or to enjoy happiness. Death offers no possibility of action or enjoyment. Moral action means to act for one's own rational self-interest, but there are no interests to seek in death. Only life can offer us a positive incentive. Death, like pain, cannot offer any positive incentive, but rather it is a zero. Suicide is the act of sacrificing life for death. Suicide is the sacrifice of the good for the sake of a zero. But it cannot be in one's self-interest to destroy one's self. One cannot rationally or morally act to end their life. Quote To the extent to which a man is rational, life is the premise directing his actions. To the extent to which he is irrational, the premise directing his actions is death. ... Man's life is the standard of morality, but your own life is its purpose. If existence on earth is your goal, you must choose your actions and values by the standard of that which is proper to man--for the purpose of preserving, fulfilling and enjoying the irreplaceable value which is your life. Since life requires a specific course of action, any other course will destroy it- A being who does not hold his own life as the motive and goal of his actions, is acting on the motive and standard of death. Such a being is a metaphysical monstrosity, struggling to oppose, negate and contradict the fact of his own existence, running blindly amuck on a trail of destruction, capable of nothing but pain. ... The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live. John Galt Atlas Shrugged Observe the contradiction present in Piekoff's "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand" (aka. OPAR): Quote The same principle applies in regard to evaluation. Here, too, reality is the starting point, and one cannot engage in debates about why one should prefer it—to nothing. Nor can one ask for some more basic value the pursuit of which validates the decision to remain in reality. The commitment to remain in the realm of that which is is precisely what cannot be debated; because all debate (and all validation) takes place within that realm and rests on that commitment. About every concrete within the universe and about every human evaluation of these, one can in some context ask questions or demand proofs. In regard to the sum of reality as such, however, there is nothing to do but grasp: it is—and then, if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay." and later, Quote Suicide is justified when man's life, owing to circumstances outside of a person's control, is no longer possible; an example might be a person with a painful terminal illness, or a prisoner in a concentration camp who sees no chance of escape. In cases such as these, suicide is not necessarily a philosophic rejection of life or of reality. On the contrary, it may very well be their tragic reaffirmation. Self-destruction in such contexts may amount to the tortured cry: "Man's life means so much to me that I will not settle for anything less. I will not accept a living death as a substitute." On the one hand he says the commitment to life is essentially axiomatic, and that there's no basis for questioning it, and on the other hand that suicide is justified if you're suffering and your condition seems hopeless. This is an apparent contradiction. But Peikoff is not the pope, OPAR is not the Bible, and Ayn Rand is not God. It's possible that this is merely a contradiction. OPAR is not inerrant. Finding such a contradiction does not fundamentally break the philosophy of Objectivism, either. On the contrary, the fundamental moral conviction of the Objectivist philosophy is that life is the ultimate standard. This defense of suicide is inconsistent with the basic moral premises of the philosophy. The mistake here is derivative, not fundamental. The philosophy as a whole is sound; only the position on suicide is not. I submit to you that this position on suicide is a contradiction to the fundamental moral philosophy of Objectivism. If you disagree, let's hear your arguments. I'll start by responding to Peikoff's argument for suicide: can suicide be an "affirmation" of life if it's impossible to achieve happiness? Suicide cannot be an affirmation of life - it's the deliberate choice to destroy life. You cannot affirm your life by destroying it. As long as you are alive, and you are conscious to think and act, then you can either choose to act in the best interest of your life and happiness, no matter how tragically hopeless the situation may seem, or you can choose to sacrifice your best interest for something lesser. Suicide is the sacrifice of all possible interest. Death is non-existence, it knowably has no value at all - it is a zero. You cannot seek values in death. To act on the assumption that happiness is impossible would not be an affirmation of a happy life - that would be in fact be the most damning denial you could make. In such a tragic situation where happiness seems impossible, the way to affirm your life is to continue to seek your happiness despite the tragedy and hopelessness of the situation. In Peikoff's own words: Quote if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay." That is an affirmation of life. Footnotes: (1) Quote You who are worshippers of the zero—you have never discovered that achieving life is not the equivalent of avoiding death. Joy is not 'the absence of pain,' intelligence is not 'the absence of stupidity,' light is not 'the absence of darkness,' an entity is not 'the absence of a nonentity.' Building is not done by abstaining from demolition; centuries of sitting and waiting in such abstinence will not raise one single girder for you to abstain from demolishing--and now you can no longer say to me, the builder: 'Produce, and feed us in exchange for our not destroying your production.' I am answering in the name of all your victims: Perish with and in your own void. Existence is not a negation of negatives. Evil, not value, is an absence and a negation, evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from. us. Perish, because we have learned that a zero cannot hold a mortgage over life. John Galt Atlas Shrugged (2) Quote The physical sensation of pleasure is a signal indicating that the organism is pursuing the right course of action. The physical sensation of pain is a warning signal of danger, indicating that the organism is pursuing the wrong course of action, that something is impairing the proper function of its body, which requires action to correct it. The best illustration of this can be seen in the rare, freak cases of children who are born without the capacity to experience physical pain; such children do not survive for long; they have no means of discovering what an injure them, no warning signals, and thus a minor cut can develop into a deadly infection, or a major illness can remain undetected until it is too late to fight it. - The Objectivist Ethics, Ayn Rand (3) Quote 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. ... But to help a man who has no virtues, to help him on the ground of his suffering as such, to accept his faults, his need, as a claim - is to accept the mortgage of a zero on your values. ... It's not that I don't suffer, it's that I know the unimportance of suffering, I know that pain is to be fought and thrown aside, not to be accepted as part of one's soul and as a permanent scar across one's view of existence. John Galt Atlas Shrugged Quote "I'm not capable of suffering completely. I never have. It goes only down to a certain point and then it stops. As long as there is that untouched point, it's not really pain. "Where does it stop?" "Where I can think of nothing and feel nothing except that I designed that temple. I built it. Nothing else can seem very important." Howard Roark and Dominique Francon The Fountainhead Quote She survived it. She was able to survive it, because she did not believe in suffering. She faced with astonished indignation the ugly fact of feeling pain, and refused to let it matter. Suffering was a senseless accident, it was not part of life as she saw it. She would not allow pain to become important. She had no name for the kind of resistance she offered, for the emotion from which the resistance came; but the words that stood as its equivalent in her mind were: It does not count - it is not to be taken seriously. She knew these were the words, even in the moments when there was nothing left within her but screaming and she wished she could lose the faculty of consciousness so that it would not tell her that what could not be true was true. Not to be taken seriously - an immovable certainty within her kept repeating - pain and ugliness are never to be taken seriously. Atlas Shrugged (4) See "The Objectivist Ethics", in "The Virtue of Selfishness" by Ayn Rand (5) Quote This, in every hour and every issue, is your basic moral choice: thinking or non-thinking, existence or non-existence, A or non-A, entity or zero. John Galt Atlas Shrugged Edited November 16, 2016 by epistemologue Harrison Danneskjold 1 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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