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Physical Self Improvement

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Objectivism is a philosophy, as we all should know. Philosophy is primarily meant for the improvement of ones mind, it is the "pursuit of wisdom" (m-w dictionary) by definition.

I admit that I am relatively new to the concept of Objectivism, but I have yet to find information about the importance of physical self improvement. I feel it can only help for an Objectivist to be at least above average and prepared in all fields of life, not just the mind.

Not only does staying healthy and fit prolong ones life, the most important thing we possess, but it can also be a means of achieving ones goals (with the assistance of reason and logic of course). i.e if you are in a position where you need to be seen as a leader, physical appearance can be a tremendous help in gaining respect, as long as you have the mental capabilities to fill that particular position. It also plays a big role in first impressions, which is an impression not easily forgotten.

Appearance (which consists of clothing, body language, and physique) can intimidate, inspire, comfort, or even anger people if you wished. All of which you can use to your advantage.

These are just a few points I wished to touch upon. I hope I'm not repeating well known points and beating the snot out of them with redundancy, or looking like a fool from lack of Objectivist knowledge. Again, I am new but very much enjoy learning (especially learning about this philosophy I seem to agree so much with, called Objectivism). Does anyone else have anything they would like to elaborate on, add, or debunk? Or are you too busy running to the gym to whip yourself into shape after reading this life changing post? :P

Thank you

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I admit that I am relatively new to the concept of Objectivism, but I have yet to find information about the importance of physical self improvement. I feel it can only help for an Objectivist to be at least above average and prepared in all fields of life, not just the mind.

Hello, Ehre :(

I have to agree with you in believing physical fitness/improvement should be an important area for Objectivists. If one's life is one's ultimate value, then physical improvements should be of value regardless of whatever else one chooses to live for.

For me, it's all about independence. If I drive a car, I want to know at least a little bit about how it works. Otherwise, when it breaks down, I'm reliant on the work and principles of some mechanic! I don't necessarily need to know how to build a car from scratch, but I'd at least want to understand basic funtionality and how to perform simple maintenance. I suppose how much one should learn in such fields is an individual choice, but I too feel everyone should have some knowledge.

This all reminds me of uber-man Francisco :P

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Hi guys,

The Greeks believed that to achieve a higher philosophical level of thinking, you had to be well kept physically as well as mentally. After studying, they would spend time exercising in the gymnasium, where they sometimes even continued their studies by discussing politics and other abstract ideas. It's this mind-body relationship that they believed was the way to achieve their optimal mental limits. Since recent studies have shown that in fact there is a relationship between physical activity and mental processes, the Greeks instincts couldn't have been more correct. Plasticity is the refining and recreation of synaptic connections in your brain, caused by actively taking part in any type of activity, whether it be crossword puzzles, playing a game of football, or throwing forty pound weights around in the gym. On a nuclear level, the structure of your brain physically changes as a result. Ultimately, this change causes the flow of information in your brain to become greater, resulting in an overall better you. It's all in good time.

Edited by Jon P

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Does anyone else have anything they would like to elaborate on, add, or debunk? Or are you too busy running to the gym to whip yourself into shape after reading this life changing post? :P

Thank you

I think you're definitely on the right track. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to the gymnasium!

Okay, j/k, I only go once a week. But there's a reason for that: turns out recovery time is longer than we thought.

But to answer your question, yes, I greatly value my personal fitness. Mens sana in corpore sano!

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I just got back from the gym myself. I wonder that the brain, with all it's complicated capillaries, etc, needs to be flushed daily with exercise in order to work properly and get enough circulation. I have no idea if this is true and am not a doctor. From experience, I know that exercise matched to your interests and body type can be a great asset to the intellect and to a complete life. It makes sense if you consider how the mind developed in a much more active setting than we are used to today.

Nietzsche praises Caesar for his constant exercise and understanding of its importance for thinking. Objectivist Andrew Bernstein, author of The Capitalist Manifesto, has also made this point, advocating hiking and running. I wish I could give you the site but there was a club in New York called the "Swoop Troop" which was formed to promote Objectivist exercise, or something like that. I noticed this last year, so it probably still exists.

Edited by unskinned

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Philosophy is primarily meant for the improvement of ones mind, it is the "pursuit of wisdom" (m-w dictionary) by definition.

No, philosophy is primarily for answering basic questions which, once answered, will help us get on with life -- if the philosophy holds life as a standard of action.

I admit that I am relatively new to the concept of Objectivism, but [...]

The word "Objectivism" is a proper name, identifying a particular thing (a set of a certain kind of ideas formulated and integrated by a certain person, Ayn Rand). Objectivism is not a word labeling a concept. A particular philosophy cannot be a concept, which is a mental integration of two or more units of a thing. (If you are new to Objectivism, I strongly recommend studying closely Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, at least the original essay at the beginning of the second edition.)

I have yet to find information about the importance of physical self improvement. I feel it can only help for an Objectivist to be at least above average and prepared in all fields of life, not just the mind.

You won't find information in Objectivism, which is the philosophy Ayn Rand created, about phyisiology or any other specialized sciences such as the health sciences. Philosophy sets the foundation for the specialized sciences, and that includes the "arts" of living healthily -- dental hygiene, exercise, and nutrition.

How much a particular person values exercise is largely optional, depending on that person's hierarchy of personal values and his knowledge about what is best to do. There is no philosophical prescription for phyiscal health, partly because individuals vary widely (but philosophy produces principles that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times).

I personally hold careful nutrition (a "gatherer's diet," for me) and regular moderate exercise (walking, light weight lifting, stretching for me, at 61) to be very important personal values as means to an end and (sometimes) as a pleasurable end in themselves, that is, leisure.

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I don't think you look like a fool, and I'm hopeful that you are here to learn.

I would not argue based on my values that physical condition and fitness are unimportant. However, one must keep in mind that there is no intrinsic value to physical fitness that says it "should" be important to everyone, or even how important is "should" be to everyone. One's physical shape and appearance are subject to values and context like anything else.

There's more to life than simply staying alive as long as one physically can.

With that in mind, does everything you do involve efforts to improve the length of you life from a physical standpoint? Or, are there things you do that come with some risk to your life, but that make the life you have more enjoyable?

Other questions that may be asked of you in this thread or things you might wish to consider;

How do YOU define physical fitness?

How does one objectively determine if they have reached a level of "above average" physical fitness?

How much a particular person values exercise is largely optional, depending on that person's hierarchy of personal values and his knowledge about what is best to do. There is no philosophical prescription for phyiscal health, partly because individuals vary widely (but philosophy produces principles that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times).

Burgess, you said more clearly what I was posting at almost the same time.

GMTA?

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GMTA?

In good humor, I can say I don't know what this acronym means.

PNMA! (Please, no more acronyms!)

[A few minutes later: Oh, now I get it -- Great Minds Think Alike. Yes, but some more slowly than others apparently, at least in dealing with acronyms.]

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I definitely agree with you. As you'll soon find out while reading objectivism, we believe there is no mind body separation, and that the mind and body are inextricably linked. On that same note I've personally noticed that my attitude is linked to my health. Since I quit smoking and started running regularly (took a break in HS while focusing on school) I feel like a completely different person (not to sound like an info-mercial here). There's something so glorious about setting your mind to a task whether it's learning a martial art or running a marathon that is refreshing and life affirming.

And of course being fit prolongs your life, makes it a happier one thanks to endorphins, and lets you achieve higher goals (ie sexual partners).

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No, philosophy is primarily for answering basic questions which, once answered, will help us get on with life -- if the philosophy holds life as a standard of action.
(BurgessLau)

You just flat out denied my definition of the word "philosophy", even when quoted from the dictionary. Then gave it your own meaning, which I in no way disagree with, but it is pretty much what I said with a slight add-on at the end for it to pertain more specifically to Objectivism. I stated that philosophy is the improvement of ones mind. Well, if philosophy answers basic questions, is that not an improvement of the mind?

A particular philosophy cannot be a concept
(BurgessLau)

BurgessLau, I agree that a particular philosophy cannot be a concept. But, I was not calling Objectivism a concept, I was stating the fact that I am new to the concept or general ideas taught in Ayn Rand's philosophy: Objectivism. To also comment on your statement later in that paragraph, I plan on reading and studying not only Ayn Rand's Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, but the rest of her work. Until I begin with that, reading and searching around this site seems to be teaching me a great deal.

You won't find information in Objectivism [. . .]about phyisiology or any other specialized sciences such as the health sciences.
(BurgessLau)

You are very clear in making the point that philosophy doesn't and shouldn't cover the importance of physical improvement, because its importance is based on everyones individual values. But it couldn't hurt for it to be brought up in a public Objectivist forum. It doesn't need to be taught philosophically, but it can still be touched upon so the reader can take in and evaluate it's importance in helping him/her protect or achieve that which they value.

Objectivism holds the betterment of an individuals life very high. As RationalCop brought up, one may enjoy and value doing a particular activity that will shorten or endanger his/her life; and that doesn't make it wrong. I know I personally very much enjoy such activities, I love to live on the edge sometimes just for the adrenaline rush, but usually a certain level of physical fitness is needed to keep you on the edge and not plummeting off of it. It may be as extreme as bulking up to be the strongest man in the world, or just wanting to get the blood pumping faster to keep your brain healthy (Idea taken from unskinned's post), but staying physically healthy and fit in one way or another can play a part (no matter how small) in guarding, strengthening, or obtaining that which you value.

Other questions that may be asked of you in this thread or things you might wish to consider;

How do YOU define physical fitness?

How does one objectively determine if they have reached a level of "above average" physical fitness?

(RationalCop)

To me, physical fitness is anything that improves the body, helping bring it to a level you value, or to a level that will help you obtain that which you value (weights, running, diet, hiking, climbing, etc. . .).

How does one objectively determine if they have reached a level of "above average" physical fitness? You can't claim a certain level of physical fitness to be the "average" for everybody. It all depends on the individual. Some may be naturally more flexible, some might have stronger biceps, some may have no legs. I feel being above average in something is valuing and putting effort towards its improvement. Most people I know tend to do nothing to help themselves physically, they may say they do, but little to no action is taken: this is average. Below average would seem almost as if they were trying to harm themselves from lack of care for their physical health.

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(BurgessLau)

You just flat out denied my definition of the word "philosophy", even when quoted from the dictionary. Then gave it your own meaning, which I in no way disagree with, but it is pretty much what I said with a slight add-on at the end for it to pertain more specifically to Objectivism. I stated that philosophy is the improvement of ones mind. Well, if philosophy answers basic questions, is that not an improvement of the mind?

While Burgess is certainly capable of answering for himself, I thought I might add my thoughts on this.

You will find that frequently on this site, you will be asked to provide a definition to a word or phrase. Providing a dictionary definition may not suffice. Dictionary definitions do not always relay objective meanings to words. Frequently they relay definitions in the form of a popular usage of a word, rather than an objective meaning. Saying that his definition has been taylored to pertain more specifically to Objectivism means that it has been identified to what reality reflects.

Also, while basic questions may improve one's mind, not all ways to improve one's mind involve answering basic questions. Therefore, your definition is overly broad, whereas Burgess' definition provides a more clear and specific definition of the word. Would you agree that in order to effectively communicate, words should be defined as specifically as possible?

To me, physical fitness is anything that improves the body, helping bring it to a level you value, or to a level that will help you obtain that which you value
I feel being above average in something is valuing and putting effort towards its improvement. Most people I know tend to do nothing to help themselves physically, they may say they do, but little to no action is taken: this is average.

My question is, why bring the concept of average or above average into the equation? This infers an unnecessary comparison and confuses the issue. Wouldn't it be clearer to say;

I think it would be helpful for people to maintain a state of physical conditioning sufficient to achieve one's values and goals. By physical conditioning I'm referring strength, agility, dexterity and cardiovascular ability.

That avoids the unnecessary comparison to other people's state of physical condition.

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Would you agree that in order to effectively communicate, words should be defined as specifically as possible?
(RationalCop)

I fully agree. As I fully agree with BurgessLau's definition (which I stated), and think his is better. I probably should have been more specific and given a definition that pertained more to Objectivism specifically, that's not where I disagree with him. My original goal was just to give an overall definition of philosophy. My problem with BurgessLau's statment was that he flat said "no", which makes it seem like he totally disagrees with my definition of philosophy, and the dictionaries definition of philosophy. He could have called my definition "overly broad" (as you did) and I would have apologized.

I think it would be helpful for people to maintain a state of physical conditioning sufficient to achieve one's values and goals. By physical conditioning I'm referring strength, agility, dexterity and cardiovascular ability.

That avoids the unnecessary comparison to other people's state of physical condition.

(RationalCop)

You are right, I made the means to my point more complicated then needed. Thank you for bringing that up, then clarifying.

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My problem with BurgessLau's statment was that he flat said "no", which makes it seem like he totally disagrees with my definition of philosophy, and the dictionaries definition of philosophy. He could have called my definition "overly broad" (as you did) and I would have apologized.

I think he did "totally disagree" with your definition, and the one provided by the dictionary. If he does disagree with it, shouldn't he say so if he intends to engage in the conversation? The question then becomes, can he support why he disagrees with it? In fact, he did, and you agreed. My saying that it was "overly broad" was still the same as saying it was wrong. To use baseball as an example in comparison to definitions, either the runner touched the base, or he didn't. There's no, "well he was close to touching the base, so let's give him credit". One small epistemological error can invalidate the whole definition.

I would offer the advice that it's not worth taking that personally, as though he were trying to offend you. Many folks on here are very direct, and matter of factly in the way they discuss things (and that can certainly apply to me at times). This typically indicates a neutral attitude as opposed to one which is trying to be offensive. That a person chooses not to flower up their wording should not necessarily be taken as an insult or an attempt to offend. Knowing Burgess in as much as I do, he's not demonstrated himself in the past to be an offensive person.

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Knowing Burgess in as much as I do, he's not demonstrated himself in the past to be an offensive person.

I would second that evaluation. Burgess is extremely direct, which I find very refreshing. Given that communication is limited to text, where you don't hear a person's tone, this can be confusing. I would strongly suggest that unless you have reason to think otherwise, you should take Burgess completely literally.

Then, hopefully, you will see that he means no offense at all. In fact, he is one of the most helpful and wise people around. :)

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If he does disagree with it, shouldn't he say so if he intends to engage in the conversation?
(RationalCop)

Yes.

I was thinking BurgessLau's definition was the same as mine, but with a small addition on the end; so, he was just clarifying. I didn't notice that our definitions actually had different meanings, so it seemed wrong to see the word "no" when referring to mine. Now it is clear to me that he was disagreeing, and rightfully so. I was putting too much faith in the dictionaries definition (hmmm, It's funny to see the word "faith" there), when the Objectivist definition can be completely different. My mistake.

[. . .] hopefully, you will see that he means no offense at all. In fact, he is one of the most helpful and wise people around.
(Inspector)

I take no offense to anything BurgessLau, or anyone else, has said. I feel the exact opposite, actually. I really appreciate all of you reading and responding to what I have written. It is making me think deeper into the subject, and teaching me a lot. I apologize if it seemed as if I was taking offense, then in turn, retaliating with my responses. That is not what I intended.

I respect what BurgessLau has to say. I have read many eye-opening posts by him. I am particularly looking forward to observing the "Reason Vs. Faith" thread, as the debate unfolds.

:)

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How much a particular person values exercise is largely optional, depending on that person's hierarchy of personal values and his knowledge about what is best to do. There is no philosophical prescription for phyiscal health, partly because individuals vary widely (but philosophy produces principles that apply to everyone, everywhere, at all times).

However, one must keep in mind that there is no intrinsic value to physical fitness that says it "should" be important to everyone, or even how important is "should" be to everyone. One's physical shape and appearance are subject to values and context like anything else.

I have to disagree somewhat. I think physical fitness should be important to everyone, especially Objectivists.

I think we all agree that how much a person should work toward fitness and which aspects of fitness are most important are largely up to the individual.

But I would also add that, excluding rather exceptional cases, greater cardiovascular endurance is almost always beneficial, and increased strength is desirable to everyone, or at least those that value life ultimately. The question would not be whether increased physical fitness is a worthwhile goal, but whether there is something more worthwhile to be pursued at the given moment; I don't think that detracts from Ehre's point, though.

By "above average," I'm assuming Ehre means better than that of the people he's seen or better than minimal survival standards, since I don't think he meant to base standards of fitness on what someone else is doing.

If there are some standards in nutrition that apply to everyone (e.g. you must eat in order to survive, don't eat poison,) then it seems plausible that there are some standards in physical fitness that should apply to everyone.

Okay, j/k, I only go once a week. But there's a reason for that: turns out recovery time is longer than we thought.

Mike Mentzer would be proud of you :) I've thought about working out less frequently, but I tend to go pretty frequently as long as my body's not tired and I'm not lazy.

What kind of rep ranges do you use for your plan (low reps?)

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I have to disagree somewhat. I think physical fitness should be important to everyone, especially Objectivists.

You can disagree if you want. Until you prove that it has intrinsic value to everyone, I'll maintain my position of context and values. Thus far, you have failed to do that.

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You can disagree if you want. Until you prove that it has intrinsic value to everyone, I'll maintain my position of context and values. Thus far, you have failed to do that.

Life should be important to everyone, and life requires physical fitness? :thumbsup:

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Life should be important to everyone, and life requires physical fitness? :thumbsup:

Nope, try again. I worked in a nursing home for three years. I saw many, many people who were alive and reasonably well mentally who were not physically fit, and did not exercise. Then I saw some who were alive, and not so well, and they didn't exercise either. Many of them still held life as important. Others did not, because their pitiful existence consisted of great physical pain, very little mental stimulation, and very little, if any, ability to change either of those circumstances (except by dying). You are applying your values to concepts, and saying that everyone else should share your values. It doesn't work that way.

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I have to disagree somewhat. I think physical fitness should be important to everyone

Perhaps you should clarify:

Do you think physical fitness should be important to absolutely everyone... completely regardless of their circumstances or do you mean just about everyone, because after all everyone has a body?

This is an important distinction and, I think, the source of the confusion here.

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Perhaps you should clarify:

Do you think physical fitness should be important to absolutely everyone... completely regardless of their circumstances or do you mean just about everyone, because after all everyone has a body?

This is an important distinction and, I think, the source of the confusion here.

I just wanted to mention that I read a study somewhere that showed physical exercise does not improve mortality rate. Meaning you will not live longer than you are expected to, no matter how much you exercise, and that should please a lot of people who don't generally like getting active. The story concluded that they don't intend to dissuade people from exercising and still encourage those who don't exercise, to exercise. Don't remember where I read the story, but do remember making a mental note that it was a reliable source. Personally, part of me disagreed with the story, but I suppose if you eat healthy enough, and you don't smoke, then it makes sense that you can retain your health without having any problems.

p.s. do I really have to find all those boxes and replace them with apostrophes every time I do an edit?

Edited by Jon P

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Life should be important to everyone, and life requires physical fitness? :thumbsup:

This is true. However, while some people require exercise to maintain sufficient physical fitness to stay alive, others do not. Still others may no longer value living because their is no happiness possible to them, and for them failing to obtain sufficient exercise (if needed) would not be immoral.

However, just because someone in a nursing home says they value life doesn't mean they actually value life. People lie to themselves all the time, which results in them lying to other people, even while thinking themselves they are being totally sincere.

If someone is of a physical condition that requires exercise in order to continue living, and they don't do it -- I don't care what declarations come out of their mouth. They either do not value living or know subconsciously that happiness is not possible to them.

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Nope, try again. I worked in a nursing home for three years. I saw many, many people who were alive and reasonably well mentally who were not physically fit, and did not exercise. Then I saw some who were alive, and not so well, and they didn't exercise either. Many of them still held life as important. Others did not, because their pitiful existence consisted of great physical pain, very little mental stimulation, and very little, if any, ability to change either of those circumstances (except by dying). You are applying your values to concepts, and saying that everyone else should share your values. It doesn't work that way.

Does it? The fact that some of these people weren't (subjectively?) physically fit but were alive and presumably content doesn't in and of itself mean that life doesn't require at least some degree of physical fitness.

I'm not saying that people should value the "high" degree of physical fitness I aspire to; I'm saying that people must value, at the least, some minimal standard of physical fitness in order to exist. Of course some people don't have to maintain some minimal standard of fitness because they choose (or have no alternative) to depending on others for their existence, but I don't particularly consider those sterling examples of "life." I would certainly say that if one depends on oneself for the necessities of existence, physical fitness is requisite.

Perhaps you should clarify:

Do you think physical fitness should be important to absolutely everyone... completely regardless of their circumstances or do you mean just about everyone, because after all everyone has a body?

This is an important distinction and, I think, the source of the confusion here.

Probably.

I'm not 100% percent sure of the difference, but I think I'm a bit more in the second category. I don't think it should be regardless of circumstance - people may simply find other things more important than physical fitness, though fitness still be important itself.

But I also do think it should be important to everyone (who values life) because life requires at least a minimal standard of health and physical fitness directly corresponds to one's capacity to act to gain/keep things.

I just wanted to mention that I read a study somewhere that showed physical exercise does not improve mortality rate. Meaning you will not live longer than you are expected to, no matter how much you exercise, and that should please a lot of people who don't generally like getting active.

I'm no scientist (yet,) but I have to disagree with that too.

I don't know much about editing, sorry :(

This is true. However, while some people require exercise to maintain sufficient physical fitness to stay alive, others do not. Still others may no longer value living because their is no happiness possible to them, and for them failing to obtain sufficient exercise (if needed) would not be immoral.

If someone is of a physical condition that requires exercise in order to continue living, and they don't do it -- I don't care what declarations come out of their mouth. They either do not value living or know subconsciously that happiness is not possible to them. - (emphasis Hunter's)

I agree that some people can maintain a strong level of fitness by their daily activities - but whether it's intentional or not, they're still attaining that fitness through their efforts. And I note the suicidal exception.

The bolded sentences probably put the point better than I have :)

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This is true. However, while some people require exercise to maintain sufficient physical fitness to stay alive, others do not. Still others may no longer value living because their is no happiness possible to them, and for them failing to obtain sufficient exercise (if needed) would not be immoral.

Physical fitness, exercise, and indeed life, do NOT have intrinsic value. To suggest otherwise is to say that a concept, thing or action has value IN AND OF ITSELF, external to the mind and experience of an individual. Value is in fact derived from those very things, the experience and the mind of the individual AND an objective realization of reality. If value exists external of the individual, and his/her mind, then the same value for that concept, thing or action exists FOR EVERYONE. As an example, if life has intrinsic value, any given individual's life would have a particular or specific value to EVERYONE ELSE. This is clearly false.

However, just because someone in a nursing home says they value life doesn't mean they actually value life. People lie to themselves all the time, which results in them lying to other people, even while thinking themselves they are being totally sincere.

OTOH, some of them were very sincere and DID value life. The fact that some people practice evasion does not mean they all do. But if you want to provide specific names and evidence of those people who were evading, I'm willing to listen. If you chose not to accept my example as evidence, because it is empirically based, that is clearly your prerogative.

If someone is of a physical condition that requires exercise in order to continue living, and they don't do it -- I don't care what declarations come out of their mouth. They either do not value living or know subconsciously that happiness is not possible to them.
Or, they have other values that represent a higher value or priority to them. Or, there are contexts that preclude them from pursuing that value, regardless of their age or desire for life. Fortunately, your apathy does not establish reality in the form of presenting only two alternatives.

Tara Smith puts it this way in Viable Values;

Because no external evidence warrants claims of intrinsic value, such claims ultimately rest on the advocate's tastes. In place of objective evidence, intrinsic value cognoscenti are armed with confidence that they know it when they see it. The assignment of intrinsic value rests, fundamentally, on the fact that a person or persons firmly believe that something has it.

p. 77 of Viable Values, Chapter 3 - Intrinsic Value: A False Foundation

[Edit - Correction of page number in reference - RC]

Edited by RationalCop

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