Objectivist MetaEthics: Five

By Jimmy Wales

Date: Fri, 21 Apr 1995 18:31:42 -0400

From: Jimmy -Jimbo- Wales jwales@indiana.edu

To: ASP-Disc lsanger@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu

Subject: Re: life as the standard of value

Thus, no answer has yet been given:

Why should we use life as a standard of value?

Fundamentally, living entities face a single alternative: existence or non-existence. The continued existence of a living entity requires a specific course of action, a course which will sustain the organism. If an organism does not pursue that course of action, it will die. Inanimate objects do not face any alternative. It is only to a living entity that things can be beneficial or harmful. "It is only the concept of 'Life' that makes the concept of 'Value' possible." (Rand, somewhere, I'm quoting from memory here.)

I'm sure you see the potential for confusion in a question of the form "Why _should_ we use X as our standard for what we _should_ do?" There is a real danger of a circular argument, and I hope that I don't upset you when I accuse you of hoping that people will fall into that trap! Wasn't that the purpose of the question? Weren't you hoping that people would answer "Gasp! But life is just GOOD!"?

My response is: what do you mean by "should"? If you mean "ought" then you'll have to specify what standard you are using to judge what one ought to do. If you answer anything other than "life" I will argue that you are (as outlined above) actually acting on the premise of death. Death requires nothing for its support or maintenance. It is permantant, irreversible, stable, still. Death does not need a moral code. There isn't anything that dead people ought to do. Asking why one ought to use life as the standard of value is an instance of the "stolen concept fallacy."

You can choose life, in which case there is an objective need for a moral code which will guide you in the furtherance of your life. Or you can choose death, in which case you've opted out of the moral game altogether.

In such a case, you do not _need_ a rational ethics; the nearest razorblade will do.




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