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Why Do You Have To Lead A "happy" Life?

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Felix
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This thread made me remember something I have wondered about for a long time now: How does the need for "living a happy life" follow from the need for survival? If you lead a miserable life, you're still alive. Your life may suck, but you still have it. If the basic and fundamental choice of a living being is existence and nonexistence, (as Ayn Rand began her logical chain), where does happiness come in? As long as you eat and sleep, you stay alive. Nothing more is mandatory. As long as you have learned to collect berries and hunt down an animal once in a while, that's pretty much all you need for basic survival. And even if you live the happiest and healthiest life possible for a human being, you still die in the end, making the fundamental choice somehow flawed. It is just a matter of time. You don't choose staying alive in an absolute sense, because in the end you die. You choose to stay alive for another while. And at some point you don't have any choice. You will die no matter what.
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How does the need for "living a happy life" follow from the need for survival? If you lead a miserable life, you're still alive. Your life may suck, but you still have it. If the basic and fundamental choice of a living being is existence and nonexistence, (as Ayn Rand began her logical chain), where does happiness come in? As long as you eat and sleep, you stay alive. Nothing more is mandatory. As long as you have learned to collect berries and hunt down an animal once in a while, that's pretty much all you need for basic survival.

This goes back to a point I made in the is/ought thread: you are equivocating on what it means to live. Life isn't static -- it's a constant process of action moving in one of two directions: toward greater health, vitality, efficacy; or toward sickness, impairment, death.

You say as long as you eat and sleep you stay alive. This flies in the face of common sense. Do homeless people, who rarely die of hunger, survive as long as those who aren't homeless? Do people who live in the west live longer than people in the third world? Does modern man live longer than hunter/gatherers?

Think of it this way. Do we say of people who live paycheck to paycheck that they are meeting the requirements of financial health, since they can pay all their bills? Or do we say that they are in desperate need of savings and investments? There are always unexpected events: lost jobs, car accidents, Acts of God, etc., etc., etc. If financial health is the standard, then we must do more than meet our immediate financial needs. And if life is the standard, we must do more than what is required not to drop dead at that moment.

But what? Well, that's what ethics is for. Ethics identifies the course of action a man must follow in order to achieve optimal functioning. When a man pursues this course, when he achieves a code of rational values, happiness is the result. What is the survival value of happiness? It is "the emotional payment for successful action and an incentive to continue acting."

And even if you live the happiest and healthiest life possible for a human being, you still die in the end, making the fundamental choice somehow flawed. It is just a matter of time. You don't choose staying alive in an absolute sense, because in the end you die. You choose to stay alive for another while. And at some point you don't have any choice. You will die no matter what.

The flip answer to your question is: fine, then don't choose to live. But you do raise a legitimate question, which is, what does the choice to live really consist of? Interestingly, Rand's answer is tied directly to your previous question: "In psychological terms, the issue of man's survival does not confront his consciousness as an issue of 'life or death,' but as an issue of 'happiness or suffering.' Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the warning signal of failure, of death. Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man's body is an indicator of his body's welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death -- so the emotional mechanism of man's consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering" (VOS 30).

In my view, we experience the choice to live psychologically as the choice to pursue values. I don't usually think to myself, "I want to live." Rather that's implicit in my choice to pursue the things that will make me happy. I determine what those things are based on the factual requirements of man's life.

Seen in this light, your problem disappears. So long as I have the ability to pursue and achieve values, I will. It doesn't matter that at some point, I won't be able to. Moreover, my choice isn't a choice to live "right now." Rather, it is a choice to live so long as value-pursuit is possible to me.

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The thread title contains an invalid supposition: that there is such a thing as "pure existence", rather than "existence as something". It's filling in that latter blank that leads you to happiness. You can exist forever as a collection of particles, in one form or another, but that isn't what you're working for (indeed, there isn't anything you can do about the fact that your constituent stuff will persist).

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The flip answer to your question is: fine, then don't choose to live. But you do raise a legitimate question, which is, what does the choice to live really consist of? Interestingly, Rand's answer is tied directly to your previous question: "In psychological terms, the issue of man's survival does not confront his consciousness as an issue of 'life or death,' but as an issue of 'happiness or suffering.' Happiness is the successful state of life, suffering is the warning signal of failure, of death. Just as the pleasure-pain mechanism of man's body is an indicator of his body's welfare or injury, a barometer of its basic alternative, life or death -- so the emotional mechanism of man's consciousness is geared to perform the same function, as a barometer that registers the same alternative by means of two basic emotions: joy or suffering" (VOS 30).

This is my point. I think it is the other way around. I'm not happy to be able to stay alive. I stay alive to be able to be happy. Why should I choose not to live? I would choose not to live if happy life (which is the real standard) was no longer possible to me. Just like John Galt said he would commit suicide the moment they caught Dagny, because a happy life would no longer be possible to him. So the standard is not life with the meaning of survival but life with the meaning of "happy life". If John Galt's standard was life (i.e. survival) he would not commit suicide. Never. Because if your ultimate value is life, it's the most stupid thing to do. But if your most precious value is a happy life, then it makes perfect sense.

So, to sum it all up again: Ayn Rand turned the whole thing upside down, I think: Survival is a value inferior to happy life. It is mandatory, but not sufficient. Therefore a happy life is the fundamental value and survival is derivative.

You even said it yourself:

I don't usually think to myself, "I want to live." Rather that's implicit in my choice to pursue the things that will make me happy. I determine what those things are based on the factual requirements of man's life.

This is just what I'm saying. You choose rationally to increase the overall long term happiness in your life and this includes (to maximise the happy time) taking care of survival, too. The choice to live is implicit in the choice to live happily.

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Felix,

I'm not going to spend the time writing a lengthy response if you won't even read "The Objectivist Ethics." There Ayn Rand discusses in detail the relationship between happiness and life. Her point isn't that we pursue happiness in order to live -- it's that life and happiness are two perspectives on the same issue: the achievement of life-sustaining values.

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The thread title contains an invalid supposition: that there is such a thing as "pure existence", rather than "existence as something". It's filling in that latter blank that leads you to happiness. You can exist forever as a collection of particles, in one form or another, but that isn't what you're working for (indeed, there isn't anything you can do about the fact that your constituent stuff will persist).

By existence I mean existence in a sense of mere survival, which is the fundamental choice according to the premise that you only choose existence or non-existence. You live as a human being. You don't use all you can, but you are still alive. You are not dead. That's what I want to say. My initial post clearly defined the terms.

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By existence I mean existence in a sense of mere survival, which is the fundamental choice according to the premise that you only choose existence or non-existence. You live as a human being. You don't use all you can, but you are still alive. You are not dead. That's what I want to say. My initial post clearly defined the terms.

To live as a human being MEANS to live a "happy life", because if you are successfully living as a man you WILL be happy. Humans cannot survive by the method of animals or plants. You have set the terms in a way that Objectivists don't use them and are attempting to argue from that standpoint: it doesn't work.

Say you're a primitive human loose in nature with no one to help you. What do you need to survive? Food, shelter, maybe some clothes to protect you from the elements. Nothing in nature tells you how to acquire them.

So, what do you do? If you've chosen to live, you start looking around at reality. You find a bush with some berries on it. Food? Possibly. You eat some. They are poisonous; you feel ill, you are unhappy at this development. You recover, you look around a little better this time, find some other berries. You think, and then try only one . . . it tastes good, it doesn't make you ill, so you collect a bunch and eat them. You've successfully found food . . . you feel happy; you have pursued a goal and accomplished it.

Happiness is a result of living successfully, it is not seperable from the fact of living successfully. If you can no longer be happy (which can happen) then you cannot live successfully; it is like taking the spark plugs out of a motor. No matter what you do, the engine won't start.

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So, to sum it all up again: Ayn Rand turned the whole thing upside down, I think: Survival is a value inferior to happy life. It is mandatory, but not sufficient. Therefore a happy life is the fundamental value and survival is derivative.
Please quote the passage, including page number, where Miss Rand "turned the whole thing upside down."
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To live as a human being MEANS to live a "happy life", because if you are successfully living as a man you WILL be happy. Humans cannot survive by the method of animals or plants. You have set the terms in a way that Objectivists don't use them and are attempting to argue from that standpoint: it doesn't work.

I have set the terms in the way that I understand them. Existence in opposition to non-existence means mere survival. It doesn't mean happy existence. Most people existing today are not very happy. Still, they exist.

Either you say that the goal is existence as such or it is happy existence. I completely agree that happy existence is the goal. But I don't see why Objectivists can make the huge leap of claiming that existence in opposition to non-existence, i.e. existence as such, means happy existence. Happiness is an additional criterion that is not automatically given. This was the problem I had and it was the title of my thread.

So would someone please explain this to me:

You can live a miserable mediocre life. Most people do. And they obviously exist. Just go to the mall. They are there. Lots of them. They meet the criterion of existence. What they don't meet is the criterion of happiness. If existence as such (i.e. in opposition to non-existence) is the goal, they are successful. But they are not happy. If John Galt commits suicide, he obviously becomes non-existent. For what reason, if the standard is existence? You cannot say: I value life over all other things, therefore I commit suicide. It's nonsense. So somewhere along the line you must make the argument that existence as such means happy existence, but there is lots of proof of the opposite everytime you go for a walk to the mall.

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You live as a human being.
To live as a human being MEANS to live a "happy life" (that is blatantly copied from Jennifer's reply). Live means more than morgue avoidance (that is blatantly copied from Tara Smith's Viable Values). These miserable people who you refer to are dying, not living. If you want to chose death, you can reach your goal quickly or slowly -- chosing slow painful death isn't chosing life.

BTW, going to the mall to enjoy life and yes, even spend money on yourself, is not a sign that these people have chosen a miserable, mediocre life, and living in a dank, unlit loft writing suidical existentialist poetry is not a sign that a person has chosen a joyful excellent life.

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I'd like to say that I agree with what DPW has written and add one more point: (which was implicit in what he wrote, I think)

Consciousness also posesses identity just like everything else. Your mind requires happiness in order to function and you require a functioning mind in order to survive. It's all connected no matter how you slice it.

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Felix,

You are not considering the other type of life: a spiritual life. One's life is composed of their physical as well as mental/spiritual health. A human being cannot have one w/o the other. For example: Kira Argounova was physically alive in the USSR, but she knew that she was spiritually dead.

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Please quote the passage, including page number, where Miss Rand "turned the whole thing upside down."

Okay, here are some: (Bold type is done by me to emphasise the point)

It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of life that make the concept of value possible.

Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival.

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics-the standard by which one judges what is good or evil-is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.

If he is to succeed at the task of survival, if his actions are not to be aimed at his own destruction, man has to choose his course, his goals, his values in the context and terms of a lifetime.

Clearly Rand sees the goal of life in survival, i.e. life as an end in itself.

Why do you live? To live. Period.

The mistaken link is made here:

And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself, -the kind that makes one think: "This is worth living for" what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.

The very fact that there is something that is worth living for (How can you state this clearer???) makes life (survival) serve this purpose and it does not affirm that life is an end in itself but that pure happiness is.

Her premise is that as long as you live for your survival, you are happy. So happiness is the natural result of survival.

Happiness is possible to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.

And what does a rational man live by? He lives by reason. What is reason?

For man, the basic means of survival is reason.

So, you work for your survival day in and day out. This is supposed to make you happy. And I don't think so. This is a prescription for misery. Working day in and day out. Rest only to work more later on. Eat, not to gain pleasure from it, but to optimize nutritious value, so you live long enough to work even longer. And all this as an end in itself. This is the problem I have with Objectivist Ethics. It makes you a workaholic and drives you into brutal self-condemnation for every distraction from that path. And all this in the name of your love of life.

If you truly lived by the Galt quote above, you wouldn't take a vacation, not go out with friends, not post in this forum, not smoke, never eat fast food, never find a lover, never have sex, never go to the movies, you would only work all day and every distraction made would lead to eternal brutal self-condemnation. Is this ethical? It's not better than Kant.

I mean, what's all this work good for? It's worthless, if you don't take time just to enjoy it.

This is my interpretation of "The Objectivist Ethics". I see it as purposefully geared against happiness but aimed at working for a long long time with nothing to gain from it but the empty promise that this is supposed to make you happy "in the long run". Why search for happiness in the short run?

To take "whatever makes one happy" as a guide to action means: to be guided by nothing but one's emotional whims. Emotions are not tools of cognition; ...

And then this:

To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man's highest moral purpose.

That is my problem. I can only hope it is based on a BIG mistake.

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Felix, you seem to be suffering from a form of the mind/body dichotomy. The key to getting out of it is to realize that having happiness doesn't mean you are detracting from the mechanical aspects of staying alive. The one doesn't hurt the other; in fact it greatly helps it. Miss Rand isn't suggesting that you live an unhappy life!

It's all integrated felix! You need to be happy to stay alive/to be happy/to stay alive/to be happy/to... well, you get the point. They're inseperable because of the nature of man.

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Felix, I think you misunderstand a few things here. Ayn Rand says that happiness is only possible through rational action. Correct me if I am wrong, but Ayn Rand does not say that 'rational action' is only working ones ass off, never taking a break, never having time for leisure. What she means by rational action is not neccasirely constant hard work, but the actions that are conductive to a happy life. '

These actions might include working x hours a day at a job, but you can be sure that it is not rational, to work oneself to death at any job, no matter how much you might normally enjoy it, at no matter what pay rate you were offered. Not taking time off for work for other things that are required for happiness, such as taking time to enjoy a movie, or just sitting and taking a break in order to put things into perspective.

NOT taking time off work (more than is physically required) would be really irrational, it would be insane. Look at all of the people in Japan whom work crazy hours all the time, they are not happy, there bodies are terribly stressed, their minds are drained from overwork, they cannot think straight due to exhausation. Not just physical exhausation but mental exhausation.

As much as one might value work, ones job cannot be ones only value. And happiness cannot be acheived by dedication to a singel value, but a certain number of other values.

To be happy requires that you do from time to time stop to rest, to enjoy other things. To celebrate what you have, to attempt to fulfill other non-directly work related goals, such as say raising a family, or being with loved friends or family members, for example.

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Felix - You are missing the fact that man's survival qua man is the goal. Moreover, to exist as a rational man, as opposed to a simple swamp animal (for example, an R.O.U.S.), capable of achieving just enough subsistence for avoiding death to propagate the species.

I also reiterate JMeganSnow's words to say that happiness is what you experience when you live successfully as a man: utilizing your rational faculty, and confronting reality - in full, to achieve objectively defined values.

Most people are miserable not because they are failing at survival qua survival, but because they are failing at survival qua man. They either refuse to use, or have given up on the power of their minds long ago, and have since become the subjects of shopping-mall study.

Again, life is the ultimate value, but that is life as a rational man. When you are living as a rational being, actualizing the potential unique to man by nature, practicing your virtues and achieving values, you experience happiness.

In discussing this subject, the attempt to extricate survival from survival as man is an error. For someone who is unhappy, but is still "surviving" as such, it can be said that that person is not (fully) living as rational man.

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It is only a living organism that faces a constant alternative: the issue of life or death. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. If an organism fails in that action, it dies; its chemical elements remain, but its life goes out of existence. It is only the concept of life that make the concept of value possible.

(Ayn Rand, VOS, page 24)

Ethics is an objective, metaphysical necessity of man's survival.

(Ayn Rand, VOS, page 25)

The standard of value of the Objectivist ethics-the standard by which one judges what is good or evil-is man's life, or: that which is required for man's survival qua man.

(Ayn Rand, VOS, page 26)

If he is to succeed at the task of survival, if his actions are not to be aimed at his own destruction, man has to choose his course, his goals, his values in the context and terms of a lifetime.

Clearly Rand sees the goal of life in survival, i.e. life as an end in itself.

Why do you live? To live. Period.

No. You are confusing the standard of morality with its purpose.

As Miss Rand makes clear beginning on page 27 of VOS, the standard of morality, i.e. the standard by which we judge the good, is man's life qua man. That means we judge values by the standard of what is required for the survival of a rational being. However, the purpose of morality is the achievement of one's own happiness, which is accomplished by achieving values consistent with the requirements of a rational being.

She then goes on to say, still on page 27:

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man -- in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.(Emphasis added)

How can you possibly read the above and then state that Miss Rand advocates survival, any kind of survival, even survival in misery, as the goal of ethics?

The mistaken link is made here:

(Ayn Rand, VOS, page 32)

And when one experiences the kind of pure happiness that is an end in itself, -the kind that makes one think: "This is worth living for" what one is greeting and affirming in emotional terms is the metaphysical fact that life is an end in itself.

What "mistaken link"?

The very fact that there is something that is worth living for (How can you state this clearer???) makes life (survival) serve this purpose and it does not affirm that life is an end in itself but that pure happiness is.

Her premise is that as long as you live for your survival, you are happy. So happiness is the natural result of survival.

No, her premise is that as long as the values you choose are rational, their achievement will make you happy. If you choose irrational values, you may be able to survive, but you will not achieve happiness.

(John Galt, VOS, page 32)

Happiness is possible to a rational man, the man who desires nothing but rational goals, seeks nothing but rational values and finds his joy in nothing but rational actions.

And what does a rational man live by? He lives by reason. What is reason?

(Ayn Rand, VOS, page 23)

For man, the basic means of survival is reason.

So, you work for your survival day in and day out.

No, you work to achieve your values, and -- provided they are rational values -- their achievment will make you happy.

This is supposed to make you happy. And I don't think so. This is a prescription for misery. Working day in and day out. Rest only to work more later on. Eat, not to gain pleasure from it, but to optimize nutritious value, so you live long enough to work even longer. And all this as an end in itself. This is the problem I have with Objectivist Ethics. It makes you a workaholic and drives you into brutal self-condemnation for every distraction from that path. And all this in the name of your love of life.
The problem you have with the Objectivist ethics is based on a selective reading of it, ignoring the distinction between standard and purpose.

Miss Rand makes it abundantly clear that the purpose of morality is the achievement of one's own happiness.

If you truly lived by the Galt quote above, you wouldn't take a vacation, not go out with friends, not post in this forum, not smoke, never eat fast food, never find a lover, never have sex, never go to the movies, you would only work all day and every distraction made would lead to eternal brutal self-condemnation. Is this ethical? It's not better than Kant.
That is a preposterous non-sequitur and a blatant distortion of Objectivism. Every thing you list can properly be a value to be enjoyed by a rational man.

This is my interpretation of "The Objectivist Ethics". I see it as purposefully geared against happiness but aimed at working for a long long time with nothing to gain from it but the empty promise that this is supposed to make you happy "in the long run". Why search for happiness in the short run?
If you see the Objectivist ethics as "purposefully geared against happiness", you have not grasped the first thing about it.
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So, you work for your survival day in and day out. This is supposed to make you happy. And I don't think so. This is a prescription for misery. Working day in and day out. Rest only to work more later on. Eat, not to gain pleasure from it, but to optimize nutritious value, so you live long enough to work even longer. And all this as an end in itself. This is the problem I have with Objectivist Ethics. It makes you a workaholic and drives you into brutal self-condemnation for every distraction from that path. And all this in the name of your love of life.
Consider the human body.

Your arteries and veins can be in good condition, allowing the blood to flow where it has to flow. Or you could have an embolism, completely stopping blood flow. These are two extremes but there are also different stages of arteriosclerosis.

Your eyes can be in perfect condition allowing you to see everything both near and far. Or you could be blind, not seeing anything. Again, these are extremes and there are many intermediary states requiring you to wear glasses, for example.

Your bones can be in good condition or very fragile and again there are many different stages in between.

Now consider the human mind.

You can have a very active mind which has a lot of knowledge about everything relevant to the individual's survival and much more. Or you can have a passive, ignorant mind filled with irrelevant non-sense (or filled with nothing at all). These are extremes, there are many intermediary stages.

In all of these examples some part of you can exist in a wide variety of stages or conditions. It is not an issue of white or black but there are many shades of gray. What is better for survival, a dark gray or a light gray? Is it better for survival to have a mild form of arteriosclerosis or a strong form? Is it better for survival to know a little about the things that matter for survival or is it better to know a little more? Is it better for survival to own $200 or $4000?

When you are talking about the alternative or life or death you are talking about the alternative between black and non-black but you are omitting all the differences between the various non-blacks, the various shades of gray. You can exist in a very dark shade of gray but for how long? How resilient are you to unexpected events? How resilient are you to cope with unemployment if you only own $200? Can you enjoy sports if you have fragile bones? Can you enjoy a ride in a roller-coaster if you have a weak heart? Different shades of gray make a hell of a difference to your ability to survive.

If you truly lived by the Galt quote above, you wouldn't take a vacation, not go out with friends, not post in this forum, not smoke, never eat fast food, never find a lover, never have sex, never go to the movies, you would only work all day and every distraction made would lead to eternal brutal self-condemnation. Is this ethical? It's not better than Kant.
Do you remember times in your life when you were depressed? In such a state you don't get much joy out of life and you don't have much of a will to continue your life. Do you remember times in your life when you were utterly happy, thoroughly enjoy life and think that this should go on indefinitely? Joy and suffering are not irrelevant to survival. The more joy you experience the more you consider your life worth living, worth all of the effort it takes. For humans, survival is material but it is not exclusively material. The mind is not merely a machine playing around with words. It makes choices that lead to actions that either bring you closer to the "white" I wrote about earlier or to the "black". Going to the movies or taking a vacation is not a time-out from survival, it is survival.
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First of all, I want to thank you all for your help. It took quite a time till I wrote this post. But it did for a reason. First, I took some time off, then I read "The Objectivist Ethics" again. Then I read DPWs posts. Then I reread this thread.

I think, Inspector found something out right after I posted my wild attack. That my answer has something to do with a mind/body dichotomy. And it does. If I understood this correctly, Ayn Rand equates valuing life with attaining happiness according to rational values and I see a fundamental difference. I think, that sometimes you have to choose between futhering your life or your happiness. I see both values as separate. If I saw both as the same thing, as DPW mentioned, I would have no problem. It would disappear. He also correctly saw the relation to the is-ought and masturbation post.

My problem is still that (and that is why I initially posted this in the Immortal Robot thread), even if I were immortal, I think I would still have values. And that my primary value would still be happiness. My actions would have no effect on my survival, but they would still be valuable because they made me happy. For the same reason I still don't understand Galt's suicide-remark. I see happiness and survival as distinct values. It may well be that happiness serves survival most of the time. But it doesn't do so always. If I choose less healthy food because it makes living worthwhile then I have sacrificed the value of life to the value of happiness.

This is a long way of saying: I still don't get it.

Sorry.

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This is from "Essentials of Objectivism" on the ARI website (http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=objectivism_essentials)

Ethics

"Reason is man's only proper judge of values and his only proper guide to action. The proper standard of ethics is: man's survival qua man—i.e., that which is required by man's nature for his survival as a rational being (not his momentary physical survival as a mindless brute). Rationality is man's basic virtue, and his three fundamental values are: reason, purpose, self-esteem. Man—every man—is an end in himself, not a means to the ends of others; he must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself; he must work for his rational self-interest, with the achievement of his own happiness as the highest moral purpose of his life." Thus Objectivism rejects any form of altruism—the claim that morality consists in living for others or for society

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My problem is still that (and that is why I initially posted this in the Immortal Robot thread), even if I were immortal, I think I would still have values. And that my primary value would still be happiness. My actions would have no effect on my survival, but they would still be valuable because they made me happy.

Okay, but even ignoring the point that you wouldn't have emotions or sensations were it not for the life or death alternative, how would you judge what would make you happy? How would you determine which values to pursue?

For the same reason I still don't understand Galt's suicide-remark. I see happiness and survival as distinct values. It may well be that happiness serves survival most of the time. But it doesn't do so always. If I choose less healthy food because it makes living worthwhile then I have sacrificed the value of life to the value of happiness.

I don't know if you subscribe to Axiomatic, but I will be addressing this very question in our November issue. I think you'll find it helpful.

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I don't know if you subscribe to Axiomatic, but I will be addressing this very question in our November issue. I think you'll find it helpful.

Yes, in fact I must have been one of your first subscribers. :lol:

I look forward to it. It's an important question.

Okay, but even ignoring the point that you wouldn't have emotions or sensations were it not for the life or death alternative, how would you judge what would make you happy? How would you determine which values to pursue?

I think that my value structure will not change. What you intended to say, I suppose, was that all my values would lose meaning. But I don't think so. I don't follow my happiness for survival reasons. To me this is an end in itself and survival is just a means to attain it. The reason that good living is fun is already built into the pain-pleasure mechanism I have as a human being. If I took an immortality pill this would not change. I would still avoid pain and seek pleasure. And because I still had a working mind, I would try to maximise pleasure in the long run. I would still respect other people's right to their lives and its maintenance even though my life would not end. I don't see how any of this would change. I would still have the character I already have. I would just be immortal. I'd just have more time to enjoy my life.

I think the key question to solve this issue once and for all is:Why would John Galt commit suicide? This is at the core of what puzzles me. How can he hold that survival and happiness are just two ways to look at the same coin? If you commit suicide, you sacrifice survival to happiness. I guess that if I understood this, I'd finally get it. At least I hope so.

Thanks for your help,

Felix.

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I think the key question to solve this issue once and for all is:Why would John Galt commit suicide?
Here is the context of Galt's suicide remark. Dagny has found his residence and gone to see him, not realizing she is being followed. Galt explains to her that his captors will arrive at any moment, and she must act as his worst enemy. Here is his explanation:

"If they get the slightest suspicion of what we are to each other, they will have you on a torture rack -- I mean, physical torture -- before my eyes in less than a week. I am not going to wait for that. At the first mention of a threat to you, I will kill myself and stop them right there."

"I don't have to tell you, that if I do it, it will not be an act of self-sacrifice. I do not care to live on their terms, I do not care to obey them and I do not care to see you enduring a drawn-out murder. There will be no values for me to seek after that -- and I do not care to exist without values." (AS, page 1013)

Essentially Galt is saying that if man's life, i.e. the life of a rational, value-seeking being, is no longer a possibility, he does not wish to live as anything else.

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Here is the context of Galt's suicide remark. Dagny has found his residence and gone to see him, not realizing she is being followed. Galt explains to her that his captors will arrive at any moment, and she must act as his worst enemy. Here is his explanation:

"If they get the slightest suspicion of what we are to each other, they will have you on a torture rack -- I mean, physical torture -- before my eyes in less than a week. I am not going to wait for that. At the first mention of a threat to you, I will kill myself and stop them right there."

"I don't have to tell you, that if I do it, it will not be an act of self-sacrifice. I do not care to live on their terms, I do not care to obey them and I do not care to see you enduring a drawn-out murder. There will be no values for me to seek after that -- and I do not care to exist without values." (AS, page 1013)

Essentially Galt is saying that if man's life, i.e. the life of a rational, value-seeking being, is no longer a possibility, he does not wish to live as anything else.

Thanks for posting this. I think it is very interesting that he says: "I do not care to exist without values." This clearly shows that existence as such is without significance to him. So this "survival and existence" means a life in which happiness (i.e. value pursuit) is possible.

And this is the contradiction I see. I still hold that it doesn't. It's two different things. There are two definitions for survival: One is survival no matter what, and the other is happiness. Objectivist ethics ignores the difference between these and claims they are the same. And I still don't see any reason whatsoever for this. I really try. But no matter how I look at it, it doesn't make any sense to me. I think, I'll read 'The Objectivist Ethics' yet another time and think a bit more. I suspect that it has something to do with this integrated view of man, that man is mind and body at once.

Unfortunately, this leads me to something else:

Even if Dagny is killed, Galt still has his body and his mind. He'll be horribly miserable. But he'll still be alive and he'll still have a working mind. He won't go completely nuts. Maybe he'll even find someone else. He won't lead the ultimate life he lived before. But if anything apart from perfection is not worth living, we'd all have to commit suicide.

It looks like you don't take your survival as an absolute and live a life (as I described in my post before) as the guy without vacation and fast food. Instead you take a happy life as an absolute and commit suicide if it doesn't reach perfection, which is even stranger.

This just became more complicated, I think.

Edited by Felix
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