Objectivist MetaEthics: Seven
By Jimmy Wales
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 1995 21:58:16 -0400
From: Jimmy -Jimbo- Wales email@example.com
To: ASP-Disc firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Re: life as the standard of value
I'm only going to respond to part of this one. The rest of it I've answered before so many times that I fear I will begin to bore the other readers of the group.
> 2. Other standards of value besides life and death are possible. Life
> and death are not the only two things in the universe. Thus, for
> instance, it would be possible to take pleasure as a standard of value
> (hedonism). Or, one could have several values: pleasure, knowledge,
> beauty, freedom, etc.
As a technical point, I think that a complete system of morality (by which I mean, a set of principles that in principle gives a complete ordering over alternatives) can have only one ultimate value. What I mean by this is that if you have more than one supposed ultimate value, say beauty and knowledge, they could very well come into conflict, and you'd have to use something else to resolve the conflict between them. It is difficult to show (and I don't have an airtight deductive proof - yet - so don't ask) but I think that it is most plausible that only a system with a single ultimate value can avoid this problem.
> 4. Why don't inanimate objects face alternatives?
Well, the most simple answer is that inanimate objects don't "face" anything. For a more detailed answer, you might want to read Harry Binswanger's _The Biological Basis of Teleological Concepts_. There is an ongoing chapter-by-chapter discussion of this book going on at the listserv group AYN-TECH@IUBVM.UCS.INDIANA.EDU, and you could order the archives from the listserv.
There are of course borderline cases, entities for which it is difficult to decide if they are alive or not.
> 5. Why should living things continue to live?
As I have pointed out repeatedly, on my theory, this is a potentially invalid question! For plants, there is no question of conscious awareness and so no "should" can come into the picture at all. It is only for a being with a volitional question that ANY question of ought can come into play. Additionally, no real oughts are possible for those who have chosen death; death requires nothing for its maintenance.
> All you have given as an argument is, essentially, this: If an organism
> does not act in a certain way, it will cease to live. Ergo, the organism
> should take its life as a standard of value.
If this was all that I had said, then I wouldn't know whom to suppose the greater fool, you for still sitting here arguing with me, or me for thinking that an argument like that would convince you! (with apologies to Guanilo.)
I have said many times that if you do not choose to live, then you do not have a need for ethics at all. That is a _crucial_ point.
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