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Life as an End in Itself, a Standard, and Ultimate End

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Ifat Glassman
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There is a difference between "The survival of man as an animal that can practice reason, experience enjoyment and achieve happiness is the standard of good/evil" and "The survival of man is the standard of good/evil, and having reason, ability to enjoy etc' are good because they are required for his survival". HUGE difference. The problem is that Ayn Rand builds ethics in the later way, not the former one.

huh? What do you think the survival of "man qua man" means? When Rand defines man as a "rational animal", and she says the survival of "man qua man" is the standard of good, she exactly means that "The survival of man as (i.e. qua) rational animal (i.e. man) is the standard" This is a direct build up of ethics using the former not that latter case as you claim. Experiencing enjoyment, achieving happiness, are all subsumed under the definition "rational animal". She went into great detail on her development of rational animal as man's definition.

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KendallJ is correct. The definition of a sub-concept does not contradict the definition of its super-concept by adding attributes which distinguish it from other sub-concepts of the super-concept. Man is a living organism with physical characteristics, but he also has (among other features) psychological characteristics that not every organism does. In order to survive as man, he must survive in his psychological as well as his physical aspects. To simplify, let's look at only the physical and psychological aspects of man.

Say that A = "physical survival/existence" and B = "psychological survival/existence", and define the concepts thusly:

Organism = ( survival: A )

|

| (sub-conceptual relation)

|

Man = ( survival: AB )

The definition of survival for man includes A and thus, does not contradict the definition of organism which also includes A.

By contrast, let us suppose that another aspect of survival, C, was included in the definition of organism as follows:

Organism = ( survival: AC )

|

| (sub-conceptual relation)

|

Man = ( survival: AB )

That would be a contradiction; in that case, you would be correct that "man" no longer belonged to the concept "organism". But this is not what Rand does. When she speaks of "survival" in the physical sense for all living organisms, she is describing A. She then turns to the more specific concept of man and adds B. This does not create a contradiction. Man must still face the question of existence or non-existence, just as any living organism. For the organism that means A, for man it means AB. But the same root (i.e. starting point for Objectivism) fundamentally applies: it is the alternative of existence vs. non-existence necessitating goals and values.

It is not correct to interpret the definition of organism to encompass "A only", i.e. A and nothing but A. This is not what Rand says: she never says that physical survival is the only type of survival of each organism, but rather the one that all living organisms have in common, leaving open the possibility (as in the case of man) other aspects of existence than physical.

Also, although it is true that man requires his mind to survive physically, it is not true that that is the link that man's mind has to man's standard of value. Man is body and mind. His standard of value is therefore the existence/survival of both aspects, i.e. his survival qua man.

Edited by Seeker
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So now, if man is a concrete under the abstraction "organism", then ethics should apply to man the same way it applies to every organism. "The good is that which furthers the organism's life". If ethics as defined for all organisms contradicts ethics that apply to men, then either man is not an organism, or there is an error in one set of ethics.
Ifat,Your view of Rand's ethics appears to be as follows:

1. All other animals (that have no choice), have mechanisms that act toward preserving their life

2. Humans are animals, but also have choice

3. Humans should act just as the animals who have no choice

This breaks down because it completely ignores choice. If man is unique among animals, why cannot he choose what actions to take? And if he can choose, why not do something other than that which furthers his life. The ability to choose is man's uniqueness. If lions ate meat, and no other animals did, then one would not say: all other animals eat leaves, the lion is an animal, therefore the lion should eat leaves too. So, how can one do this in the case of man? Why should man do something by choice just because all other animals do so without having any choice?

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If Rand had meant that life as survival was the standard of value, then her exact quote directly contradicts her later statements about man's life as the standard of value. If life as survival is the standard of value, then surviving by force and not reason must also be good since it results in survival, i.e. surviving as an animal must also be the good.

We know that survival by force is specifically evil, and here you have an example where survival as an animal is specifically used in a derogatory context.

Rand explains well what is the standard of ethics for man. It is not the survival as a mimicking animal, or a thug, but of a rational, productive man. No problem here. The problem is on what she bases ethics. Why is survival as a mimicking animal bad? why is the attempt to survive in the way animals do bad?

No choice is open to an organism in this issue: that which is required for it's survival is determined by it's nature, by the kind of entity it is.

...

Man cannot survive, like an animals, by acting on the range of the moment. ... If he 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 of a lifetime. No sensations, percepts, urges or "instincts" can do it; only a mind can.

Such is the meaning of the definition: that which is required for man's survival qua man. It does not mean the momentary physical survival of a mindless brute... It does not mean the momentary survival of a crawling aggregate of muscle who is willing to accept every term...

...

Man cannot survive as anything but man. He can abandon his means of survival, his mind, he can turn himself into a subhuman creature and he can turn his life into a brief span of agony... But he cannot succeed, as a subhuman, in achieving anything but the subhuman...

(bold emphasis mine)

The reason why survival qua man is good, is that this is the only way possible for man to stay alive. Man must survive qua man not because that is the good, but because there is no other choice if man wants to stay alive.

This is what Ayn Rand is showing: that in order to stay alive, man must become what it is.

If I understand you Kendall, you say that "life" was always meant as "life of a certain organism". So when Rand said "that which furthers life is the standard of good" she actually meant "that which furthers life of the organism qua it's nature is the standard of good". And when she talked about how plants, animals and man must achieve their food, she was only doing that because she described something that was true for all organisms.

That just ain't true. She always talked about how an organism's nature serves it's physical survival. Never about how an organism's nature serves it's survival qua itself. Read the quotes about what is the only way man can survive: the end result is always the physical state of existence: She never attempts to show that being rational is the good because rational is man's nature. Rather, she shows that being rational is good because this is man's means of survival.

You say that the standard of good is the survival of an organism qua it's nature, and that this has been intended all along. That the good is surviving while being what the organism is. But observe what happens when you apply this principle: Being what it is, is good automatically: if a man is born without a leg, it is automatically the good to be what nature designed for it to be. That is the logical conclusion from saying that the good is automatically surviving qua what you were born as. It also means, that since the standard of good is survival qua what you were born as, that man would be immoral in attempting to upgrade their brain. I mean, sure, it will improve their ability to survive: but too bad that they will no longer be human. The consequence of your principle: a contradiction between one's two ultimate values: being itself and surviving, because not always is an organism's nature designed to keep it alive, or to do so in the best way possible.

To sum up Rand's reasoning:

The good is that which furthers man's survival, which can only be done by being a man (which has to be achieved by choice).

Then, she comes up with this:

The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value - and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.

I see no logical link between the first half of the article and this statement. The last one statement is not based.

She first establishes that rationality (or living by man's nature) is good because it is man's means of survival. Then she upgrades rationality a bit to make is the standard of good and evil. ???

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Ifat,Your view of Rand's ethics appears to be as follows:

1. All other animals (that have no choice), have mechanisms that act toward preserving their life

2. Humans are animals, but also have choice

3. Humans should act just as the animals who have no choice

Bahhh!! no no! B) of course not!

No, I don't think that this is Rand's view of ethics. This is not the problem I am pointing at.

I think that to begin with, Rand made a statement about all living things: not about most, or some. Man IS included in the initial statement about the standard of good for all organisms.

Just to make where I am coming from clear: I am not saying that the standard of good/evil for man should be physical survival. I think that the purpose of man's life should be happiness, and that a good man is a heroic being, using his's mind to it's full capacity. I'm just saying: something is wrong in the reasoning that leads to the formulation of ethics in Objectivism (in this article).

This breaks down because it completely ignores choice. If man is unique among animals, why cannot he choose what actions to take? And if he can choose, why not do something other than that which furthers his life. The ability to choose is man's uniqueness. If lions ate meat, and no other animals did, then one would not say: all other animals eat leaves, the lion is an animal, therefore the lion should eat leaves too. So, how can one do this in the case of man? Why should man do something by choice just because all other animals do so without having any choice?

Again, the problem here is that you are assuming that Rand means MOST animals in the statement "The standard of good is that which furthers an organism's life" (when life is physical existence, like she defined and demonstrated throughout the article). But she did not mean MOST animals, she meant ALL: this was a general statement which is true for all living things, not for most.

Edit: fixed my answer to match your question.

Edited by ifatart
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hmm. somehow we are not quite connecting. Thanks however for being patient, and giving my post and honest read, which I can tell you have done. B)

That just ain't true. She always talked about how an organism's nature serves it's physical survival. Never about how an organism's nature serves it's survival qua itself. Read the quotes about what is the only way man can survive: the end result is always the physical state of existence: She never attempts to show that being rational is the good because rational is man's nature. Rather, she shows that being rational is good because this is man's means of survival.

I see the synthesis of these two statements. I see no difference between the first bold statement and the 2nd. However, realize that rationality is only one aspect of man's nature. It is not exhaustive. It is the essential. Rand tied the essential to man's survival, not all aspects of his nature. She did this because it is his means of survival, and it is also the thing the makes him unique. These are tied together. The fact that he has volition, and rationality (his uniqueness) is also the reason he must exercise this faculty for his survival.

You say that the standard of good is the survival of an organism qua it's nature, and that this has been intended all along. That the good is surviving while being what the organism is. But observe what happens when you apply this principle: Being what it is, is good automatically: if a man is born without a leg, it is automatically the good to be what nature designed for it to be. That is the logical conclusion from saying that the good is automatically surviving qua what you were born as. It also means, that since the standard of good is survival qua what you were born as, that man would be immoral in attempting to upgrade their brain. I mean, sure, it will improve their ability to survive: but too bad that they will no longer be human. The consequence of your principle: a contradiction between one's two ultimate values: being itself and surviving, because not always is an organism's nature designed to keep it alive, or to do so in the best way possible.

You have confused nature, with an exhaustive catalog of man's characteristics. Man has all sorts of aspects to his nature. He has eyes, ears, hands, feet, legs, etc. One can modify or lose any of these and still be a man, and still survive as a man. If man were to lose his essential however, his rationality, he would lose his means of survival. If he were to lose the ability to act freely upon his rationality, he would lose his means of survival. If he were to augment his brain but not lose his rationality, then he is still living qua man. In fact this is what learning is. I am augmenting the contents and function of my brain by integrating new information into it. However, this does not destroy the rational faculty, in fact it is through the use of the rational faculty that man augments his knowledge apparatus. Only if I destroy this essential have I destroyed my means of survival, have I destroyed the means to live qua man. The essential characteristic is not his brain, it is his rational faculty. I see no conflict of value as a result in your choice. If his modification improves, and does not destroy his rational faculty, then all such modifications are not "against his nature".

Let's go back to the Rand quote that you had trouble with:

The Objectivist ethics holds man's life as the standard of value - and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man.
and then the Seeker quote of Rand

Man's survival qua man means the terms, methods, conditions, and goals required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his lifespan - in all those aspects of existence which are open to his choice."

and I have to leave so I'll come back to this.

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Seeker: I think your last post was just genius. The best, most coherent explanation I have ever read. But I believe I have challenged it by showing what the principle of "surviving qua an organism's nature" is self contradictory, because in fact it assums two ultimate values instead of one.

BUT... I think that if we adjust the definition of "life" or the use of the word in the statement "That which furthers an organism's life is the standard of good", we can, perhaps, solve the problem.

Can you define what is "man's life" then? Tell me what AB is, explicitly. And what is "life" for a lion. Identify AL, please.

And explain to me why B and L are a part of an organism's "life" rather than any other characteristic of a man or a lion in these examples.

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Again, the problem here is that you are assuming that Rand means MOST animals in the statement "The standard of good is that which furthers an organism's life" (when life is physical existence, like she defined and demonstrated throughout the article). But she did not mean MOST animals, she meant ALL: this was a general statement which is true for all living things, not for most.

Ifat,

I think Rand means ALL animals (a sub set of organism) and I think she is 100% right.

First, don't ever forget that "good" is a value judgment. Only rational beings are capable of judging. An animal does not act for its own good, it acts automatically in ways determined by its biology (through evolution). Evolution is not about individual organisms, the traits that are "successful" are basically those that permit plentiful reproduction. Not incidentally, survival is one of the most important ones. While evolution certainly has made living organisms develop towards survival and reproduction, that does not mean that those are both the "ultimate values" or "ultimate goals" for individual organisms.

Since animals can't choose, and since their "programming" does not have their own life as the ultimate end, such things as black widows exist in nature.

When we judge whether something is good for a specific animal, by what standard do we do it? The standard of that animal's life. This follows from the fact that nothing can be good or bad if the animal is dead. The essential alternative, for the animal as for us, is existence or non-existence. The standard is the same. That is the mistake you make here:

It is bad for an animal to be castrated, it is bad if all living being have lost the ability to reproduce.

I have a cat. He was castrated at 1 year of age without ever reproducing. For that cat, castration was good. Had he not been castrated he would not have been living at my home, would not have been fed and cared for medically and most likely would already be dead on the streets instead of a healthy 15 years old. You see, cats don't have chosen goals of their own. The only standard by which it makes any sense for us to judge good an evil for them is their own life. If you say "it would be better for him to be dead and have offspring" one has only to answer "how can it be better for him if he no longer exists?". Sure, it can be said "it is better for the species' survival if its members are not castrated". By stipulating a specific end (perpetuating the species) value judgments are possible. But when you say "is good for the cat", the standard is its life - no other is possible.

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Bahhh!! no no! :lol: of course not!

No, I don't think that this is Rand's view of ethics. This is not the problem I am pointing at.

I think that to begin with, Rand made a statement about all living things: not about most, or some. Man IS included in the initial statement about the standard of good for all organisms.

...

Again, the problem here is that you are assuming that Rand means MOST animals ... she meant ALL

Fair enough; I got the quantifier wrong. So, was Rand saying this then:
  1. All animals act toward preserving their life
  2. Man is an animal
  3. Therefore man must act toward preserving his life

Do you think that is Rand's argument? Note, I'm not asking whether she would agree with this, but whether it was her argument, her proof? (i.e., She might agree with this because it is proven by something else; but, that's not what I'm asking.)

I assume you'll say NO, that was not Rand's argument, because statement #1 is the one that has to be proven, the other two are trivial, why would we bother with those.

Do you agree with me, that the above three statements do NOT represent Rand's proof of the Objectivist ethics?

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Seeker: I think your last post was just genius. The best, most coherent explanation I have ever read. But I believe I have challenged it by showing what the principle of "surviving qua an organism's nature" is self contradictory, because in fact it assums two ultimate values instead of one.

BUT... I think that if we adjust the definition of "life" or the use of the word in the statement "That which furthers an organism's life is the standard of good", we can, perhaps, solve the problem.

Can you define what is "man's life" then? Tell me what AB is, explicitly. And what is "life" for a lion. Identify AL, please.

And explain to me why B and L are a part of an organism's "life" rather than any other characteristic of a man or a lion in these examples.

Thank you. As my next answer ventures beyond the scope of my expertise, it is apt to not be genius, but I will do my best.

Man is defined as a rational animal. From this I would say that A is man's body and B is his rational mind. Thus "man's life" is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action where "self" refers to AB. As to your question about whether this is self-contradictory, in respect to man the question becomes an empirical one of understanding the nature, features, and characteristics of man's rational mind to see whether such a contradiction exists. For example, one aspect of man's mind is psychological. "The Psychology of Pleasure", VoS p. 71 (paperback) states that "pleasure, for man, is not a luxury, but a profound psychological need" and goes on to examine this aspect of man's mind. This is saying: experiencing psychological pleasure is a virtue because it is essential to man's psyche such that his rational mind cannot survive without it. There is no contradiction between this aspect of man's mind and his physical survival, if man chooses his values correctly. So far I do not see a contradiction between A and B that would mean that two ultimate values existed. For man, there is but one: the survival of AB, i.e. man's survival qua man.

Edited by Seeker
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To answer your other questions: not all aspects of an organism's survival are included in its standard of value, but only those it requires to undertake its process of self-sustaining and self-generated action (i.e. it's life). This is not merely physical in the case of man but also includes his mind. It does not, for example, include his appendix.

In the case of a lion, the only non-physical attribute required for it to sustain its life (that I am aware of - again, not my field of expertise) is its survival instinct. So that's what L would be, A being its body, and the lion's standard of value would be the survival of AL.

Edited by Seeker
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So, was Rand saying this then:
  1. All animals act toward preserving their life
  2. Man is an animal
  3. Therefore man must act toward preserving his life

Do you think that is Rand's argument? Note, I'm not asking whether she would agree with this, but whether it was her

Not quite. She says:

  1. Existence or non-existence is a constant choice for all living things.
  2. To exist is the good, to perish is the bad, for all living things: this is the standard of good/evil for all organisms.
  3. All animals act toward preserving their life: life is an end in itself: such is the nature of life. Plants and animals perform the motions required for their survival automatically; man does not. Man has a choice. Therefor:
  4. Man has to live qua man and to plan for the long term (including taking risks in the short term) to preserve his life in the long term, if he wishes to survive. The only way to survive is by being man: therefor rationality, productiveness, etc' are good and necessary.
  5. And then: The standard of good for man is man's life, or the survival of man qua man.

There is a switch between the standard of good for all living things, and the standard of good for man.

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Not quite. She says:
  1. Existence or non-existence is a constant choice for all living things.
  2. To exist is the good, to perish is the bad, for all living things: this is the standard of good/evil for all organisms.
  3. All animals act toward preserving their life: life is an end in itself: such is the nature of life. Plants and animals perform the motions required for their survival automatically; man does not. Man has a choice. Therefore:
  4. Man has to live qua man and to plan for the long term (including taking risks in the short term) to preserve his life in the long term, if he wishes to survive. The only way to survive is by being man: therefor rationality, productiveness, etc' are good and necessary.
  5. And then: The standard of good for man is man's life, or the survival of man qua man.

There is a switch between the standard of good for all living things, and the standard of good for man.

I don't understand the "therefore". How does #4 follow from #1, 2 and 3? If #4 is implied by #1, #2 and #3, then it is already assumed rather than proven. Then, (particularly in #2) we're begging the question of what is good for man.
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There is a switch between the standard of good for all living things, and the standard of good for man.

If X is the living entity in question, going from a standard of value 'A' (where X = "living organism") to a standard of value 'AB' (where X = "man") is not a switch in regards to the abstract way in which the "standard of value" is defined, namely "X's life". What is being switched is the X to which it refers (the concept "man" instead of "living organism"), but that is not a "switch" in regards to the definition of "standard of value" ...

I'm not seeing the switch. Where is the switch?

Edited by Seeker
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Hi, I'm new to the forum and have tried to understand Rands ethical argument for some time to no avail, mostly for reasons dicussed in this thread thus I find this discussion very interesting.

Say that A = "physical survival/existence" and B = "psychological survival/existence", and define the concepts thusly:

Organism = ( survival: A )

|

| (sub-conceptual relation)

|

Man = ( survival: AB )

If life/death is mutually exclusive and jointly exhaustive ways to be then you would have a problem because death would be

Organism = ( death: not A )

|

| (sub-conceptual relation)

|

Man = ( death: not A )

You could not have:

Man = ( death: A not B ) (that's a contradiction according to your own argument)

Thus survival (or life) for man have to be

Man = (survival): not death = not (not A) = A)

Anyway, I see two ways to read Rands meta ethical argument:

1) If we interpret the words existence, non-existence, life, death, remaining alive, survive etc. literally, Rands meta ethical argument seems to entail a criteria for ethics along the lines of life expectancy maximization. We can then proceed to work out the ethics from this criteria. An action is rational to the degree it increases our life expectancy. "Qua man" is the method by which we best accomplish the goal of prolonging our literal existence. The problem is that this goal is just absurd.

2) If we interpret her argument to say that a non-volitional organism is programmed to survive "qua that particular organism" and that man has to choose to survive "qua man" (that is, he should not, as in 1, take into account his nature according to maximize his literal survival, instead he should survive as nature "meant" him to survive, which might include killing himself), then it seems like she is saying no more than that becuse man has a specific nature there is a proper way for him to behave, which is just to rephrase what morality is, the proper way of behaving. That doesen't give us a criteria for what is proper, but that is what we expected the meta ethical argument to establish. In other words, all ethical question "is this behaviour moral?" can be rephrased as "is this behaviour consistent with survival qua man?", but since the meta ethical argument does not establish a criteria for what it is to "survive qua man" we have not advanced our position. Also, to establish what it is to survive qua man by reference to what is rational would be circular because whether something is rational depends on whether it is in accordance with "surviving qua man". Given this line of reasoning I can't quite see why Rand is using the terms existence, non-existence, life, death, remaining alive, survive etc. when she could just as well have said that to be moral is to live according to ones nature?

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Man = ( death: A not B ) (that's a contradiction according to your own argument)

I think you misunderstood my notation. By AB I mean the conjunction "A AND B", the logical negation of which is the disjunction "not A OR not B" - meaning that if man were to lose either his body or his mind, he would cease to live as man (because man's method of survival entails both mind and body). You seem to have presented it as a conjunction "A AND not B", which is a logical error.

Edited by Seeker
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1) If we interpret the words existence, non-existence, life, death, remaining alive, survive etc. literally, Rands meta ethical argument seems to entail a criteria for ethics along the lines of life expectancy maximization. We can then proceed to work out the ethics from this criteria. An action is rational to the degree it increases our life expectancy. "Qua man" is the method by which we best accomplish the goal of prolonging our literal existence. The problem is that this goal is just absurd.

Why do you think it's absurd? When you die, reality disappears for you. So by using your literal existence as the standard, you are using reality (as a whole) as the standard, which is objective.

What would be absurd would be using the bible or personal feelings.

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On the issue of reproduction, I take it that according to Objectivism, having children is only good to the extent that it further's one's own life. To the extent that man is biologically (and in a sense psychologically) "wired" to reproduce (i.e. has no choice in the matter), this is akin to the need to eat - and just as we would not say that an organism's physical need to take risks to acquire food contradicts its standard of value, i.e. its physical existence, similarly we would not say that taking risks to reproduce implies a contradiction. On the other hand, to the extent that having children is elective (psychologically, to the extent that one does not need to have children), doing so would be good only to the extent that it furthered one's own survival in some other non-elective way, such as the offspring producing goods and services that one needs.

Values are necessary not only because there are some things about which alternatives exist, but also because there are some things about which alternatives do not exist. When we speak of a living being's nature, we are referring to this latter aspect of reality. Thus, to live according to one's nature means to live according to reality which is given: there is no other reality to choose. That is not a contradiction.

Edited by Seeker
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I think you misunderstood my notation. By AB I mean the conjunction "A AND B", the logical negation of which is the disjunction "not A OR not B" - meaning that if man were to lose either his body or his mind, he would cease to live as man (because man's method of survival entails both mind and body). You seem to have presented it as a conjunction "A AND not B", which is a logical error.

Yes I missunderstood you, but I still have problems with the approach. An organism is alive when A is fullfilled. Z is a human and an organism, Z fullfills A but not B. Is Z dead or alive? It seemes then as if we have to introduce life and death on different levels here, that is, Z is dead on the level of humans, but alive on a more basic level.

I belive there is some truth to this when we are talking about humans with very serious brain damage and the like, but in the current discussion I think it spawns a great deal of problems. If we want to derive the morality from a criteria of life that is so constructed as to lend existence only to moral persons then Hitler might have been dead on the human level but alive as an organism. On the other hand, starting a world war does require skills that no organism beside humans posesses, thus he must have been alive as a human. Now I belive life is a biological concept and there is simply not any biological basis for claiming that Hitler was not a alive while he ruined the world. He was a human being, he existed, remaind alive and sustained his existence between 1889-1945.

When you die, reality disappears for you. So by using your literal existence as the standard, you are using reality (as a whole) as the standard, which is objective.

I don't quite follow that argument. It is true that reality disappears when we die, but from that fact alone you cannot conclude that man should stay alive as long as possible. If you could live 150 years lying in bed with a coupule of machines attached to different orifices, would that be objectively preferable to say 75 years of actively building an empire?

Edited by Freddy
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I belive there is some truth to this when we are talking about humans with very serious brain damage and the like, but in the current discussion I think it spawns a great deal of problems. If we want to derive the morality from a criteria of life that is so constructed as to lend existence only to moral persons then Hitler might have been dead on the human level but alive as an organism. On the other hand, starting a world war does require skills that no organism beside humans posesses, thus he must have been alive as a human. Now I belive life is a biological concept and there is simply not any biological basis for claiming that Hitler was not a alive while he ruined the world. He was a human being, he existed, remaind alive and sustained his existence between 1889-1945.

The standard of value for Hitler was his long-range survival, to which the people he murdered could have contributed in a rational society had they been allowed to live. Had Hitler been acting rationally, he would not have not murdered them because doing so ultimately reduced his own life in every aspect to which human beings contribute by the free exchange of values. Those who initiate the use of force to gain value in the short term ultimately lose value.

Edited by Seeker
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I don't quite follow that argument. It is true that reality disappears when we die, but from that fact alone you cannot conclude that man should stay alive as long as possible. If you could live 150 years lying in bed with a coupule of machines attached to different orifices, would that be objectively preferable to say 75 years of actively building an empire?

But you would never be faced with that decision: there's no way to see the future and know when you'll die. And because we can't see the future, we must decide on principle. And in principle, the best life for a human being is productivity, rationality etc.

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But you would never be faced with that decision: there's no way to see the future and know when you'll die. And because we can't see the future, we must decide on principle. And in principle, the best life for a human being is productivity, rationality etc.

If all people (let us say 10000000) who had been attached to the machine had survived 150 years, why should you doubt the performance of the machine with reference to moral principles?

The standard of value for Hitler was his long-range survival, to which the people he murdered could have contributed in a rational society had they been allowed to live. Had Hitler been acting rationally, he would not have not murdered them because doing so ultimately reduced his own life in every aspect to which human beings contribute by the free exchange of values. Those who initiate the use of force to gain value in the short term ultimately lose value.

I think you missed my point, there are two possible ways to derive a moral criteria from Rands meta ethical argument.

1) Life span maximazation with qua man as a method taking into account the human nature for this goal.

2) Survival qua man, where survival qua man is the goal, not because it renders the longest possible life but because it is "human".

If you choose the second approach you have to define what it is to be alive for a human being in such a way that your moral conclusions follow. I tried to point out some problems that follows from this if you want to frame the ethics in the language Rand used (existence, non existence , life, death etc.)

Let's say life for a human is AB where A is the physical existence (+ a working conciousness) and B are those extra features that make a human person alive. Lifespan maximazation would be to maximze A, which could include lying 150 years in a bed attached to a life expectanxy maximizer. Now, Hitler was in state A but not in AB. Was he dead or alive? Well he was dead on the level of humans according to your argument. The fundamenatal alternative is that the alternative A or not A or the alternative A or AB? These are the kind of questions that are spawned by the latter approach.

Also, approach 2 is non responsive to the very question we wanted the meta ethical argument to answer, how do we know what is moral? If we took approach 1 we could work this question out in a scientific manner given the criteria, if we choose approach 2 we are left with a philosofic question (what is it to be human?) that seems to be just as difficult as the original question, actually it seems to be the very same question rephrased.

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If all people (let us say 10000000) who had been attached to the machine had survived 150 years, why should you doubt the performance of the machine with reference to moral principles?

10000000 people on life extending machines? I don't know that world, what their principles would be and what it would cause them to doubt. Since it's your fantasy, you will have to tell us.

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  1. Existence or non-existence is a constant choice for all living things.
  2. To exist is the good, to perish is the bad, for all living things: this is the standard of good/evil for all organisms.
  3. All animals act toward preserving their life: life is an end in itself: such is the nature of life. Plants and animals perform the motions required for their survival automatically; man does not. Man has a choice. Therefor:
  4. Man has to live qua man and to plan for the long term (including taking risks in the short term) to preserve his life in the long term, if he wishes to survive. The only way to survive is by being man: therefor rationality, productiveness, etc' are good and necessary.
  5. And then: The standard of good for man is man's life, or the survival of man qua man.

There is a switch between the standard of good for all living things, and the standard of good for man.

The problem in my understanding was of the concept "life", or "existence". The problem was back there in #1.

Or to say it in a way that relates to Dave Odden's words: Life DO mean "something fancy".

I think that there is no internal contradiction once one realizes that "existence" or "life" do not mean merely something physical.

Not for animals, and not for humans. "Existence means both physical existence and spiritual one, to the extent the organism experiences anything "spiritual". For some animals it is just sensations, for others it's sensations+percepts, and for humans sensations+percepts+concepts. And "The existence" of an animal does not merely mean it's state of having active bodily processes, but also to have active spiritual experiences.

I should give credit to Felix who recognized the root of the problem back on page 2 (or so), and to Seeker (and possibly Kendall, I'm not sure) who showed that the spiritual existence is part of what "existence" means for all organisms (not just humans).

Now that raises a few new crucial questions: What is the relation between an animals "spiritual experience" and it's "life" (according to Rand's definition")? In what way is a spiritual experience part of a "process of self-sustaining action"?

And still, what is "man's life"? Can anyone give a precise definition for this sub-abstraction, or to describe the concept (pithily as possible please). What is the relation between happiness and life? Is happiness part of "life" or a result of living, or "fulfilment of "life""?

After we finish with this part I'm going to go back to the old problems I raised at the beginning of this thread.

And BTW, if anyone needs a devil's advocate for hire... I'm now accepting offers :thumbsup: , and I consider this thread my business card/commercial.

Edited by ifatart
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