Ed Hudgins

Choosing Life, by David Kelley

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Clip 3 is very interesting. The implication is that we are (by evolutionary means) wired for some kind of religious belief or experience.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Near the end Ramachandran uses the word spandrel.

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Clip 3 is very interesting. The implication is that we are (by evolutionary means) wired for some kind of religious belief or experience.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Actually, this is just 'soft' science - there is much of the mind operations which most tend to forget in its fundamentals, that is, to make coherent sense of the world about oneself... why? because, by nature every living organism must, to be survivable, be an integrated being... this cannot be stated enough, and the implications of this to the mind gains a different interpretation of what is passed off as 'valid' religious experiences... and, in the same way, passing off defensive mechanizations designed to 'safeguard' the rationality of the individual - delusions if need be, to keep as much as possible a semblance of integration in the worldview kept by the individual... that is why much caveat must be given this illusion of a 'hardwiring' of such in the individual... there is no question the person experienced something - which is interpreted as that religious experience... but what is experienced is just the mind's ability to formulate a sense of coherency to what otherwise remains a powerful but unexplained occurrence, one which otherwise might engage an affront to the rationality of the sane part of the person's consciousness...

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'Religion' may thought of as primitive science and 'science' may be thought of as modern religion. Religion attempts to explain things but does not subject itself to experiments, falsification, etc. Science tries to reduce the assumptions (beliefs) to a minimum and change them when the facts no longer support them.

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More on Choice to Think (6/17/06)

In Rand’s 1957 exposition of her ethics in Galt’s Speech, she writes that for man “to remain alive, he must act, and before he can act, he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch—or build a cyclotron—without a knowledge of his aim and the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think” (AS 1012).

She continues: “But to think is an act of choice.” The key to human nature “is the fact that man is a being of volitional consciousness. Reason does not work automatically; thinking is not a mechanical process; the connections of logic are not made by instinct.”

A few pages later, she remarks that “all work is creative work if done by a thinking mind, and no work is creative if done by a blank who repeats in uncritical stupor a routine he has learned from others” (1020).

The quotation from Rand in my first paragraph is expressed in the generic mode of Man. It is descriptive of the overall condition of the species. The quotation in my third paragraph is expressed in the personal mode of each listener’s possibilities. This personal mode is descriptive in the range of human possibilities it poses, but it is also normative. It harkens back to the preceding generic mode of Man and denigrates individual human life not rising to the creative requirements for Man overall.

Taking theses three quotations together, Rand seems to say she is reserving the term thinking for levels of human cognition requiring purposeful creativity.* I surely agree with Merlin’s picture of us as having natural desires to think.* Furthermore, thinking can become a habitual proclivity, in the sense Rand portrayed in her story “The Simplest Thing in the World” and in the premature “retirement” she composes for the character Dagny in AS.

To some limited extent, also, our thinking skills can become automatic. Practice at catching, scaling, and frying fish makes less the deliberate thought needed to accomplish the bitty steps. Practice at proof in high school geometry does not seem to make it any less deliberate, although it does make us faster in generating a proof (one not memorized). Reduction in deliberateness or easiness in thinking does not abolish, we should notice, its substantial willfulness and creativity.

Let me return to the implication for Rand’s moral theory of our having a habitual proclivity to think. Does maturing so as to have the habitual proclivity to think abolish the choice: to think or not to think? It certainly seems to make the not-to-think option deeply inaccessible for such a person. Which thinking remains a perpetual life-and-death matter for such a person, until a caretaker who is other takes over. On the other hand, for generic Man, there remains the standing choice: to be really thinking or to be wiped out by nature.

To choose to think would seem to remain a central moral precept, undisturbed by the fact that many people develop into chronic thinkers. (In one of Rand’s entrances onto the Johnny Carson Show, he greeted her by remarking “you seem so happy tonight,” to which she replied, “yes, I am chronically happy.”) Many people chronically have that moral trait, and I suggest we can continue to regard it as a moral trait even though these people cannot readily choose to lose it.

Many other people develop a habit of religious faith, around which and in accordance with they organize their lives. Faith in the sense of an act of suspending critical reason does seem to be a perpetual matter of choice. In faith of this genre, one is choosing not to really think. It seems to me that even though one is deeply invested in the method and content of such religious faith, it is possible for one to pause and directly turn one’s heart and mind to expanding one’s sphere of reason and accepting the natural world of one’s senses full weight. In such a case, one could be choosing to think—to let reason go everywhere—and this could have grand results for one’s life and one’s understanding of one’s life and world.


Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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More on Choice to Think (6/17/06)

[...] Many other people develop a habit of religious faith, around which and in accordance with they organize their lives. Faith in the sense of an act of suspending critical reason does seem to be a perpetual matter of choice. In faith of this genre, one is choosing not to really think. It seems to me that even though one is deeply invested in the method and content of such religious faith, it is possible for one to pause and directly turn one’s heart and mind to expanding one’s sphere of reason and accepting the natural world of one’s senses [with] full weight. In such a case, one could be choosing to think — to let reason go everywhere — and this could have grand results for one’s life and one’s understanding of one’s life and world.


A quite perceptive piece, with all of it resonating, but especially this last. Upon reading this, I immediately thought of my own mother as an exemplar of this trait of "expanding one's sphere."

She worked in Christian education for much of her professional life, and was a joyous and civilizing influence on thousands of pre-teen kids (before I was born) and preschoolers (as I saw as an early teenager first-hand). She was "deeply invested in method and content" for how she carried out such faith, though not in terms of theology, except for simplified moral teachings.

When I had a change of philosophic base — Rand's doing, though the framework had been building for years — as a freshman in college, to a non-theist outlook, she was dismayed that I was no longer a Christian. Yet she could appreciate and welcome the importance of my thinking such issues out for myself. To me, that lack of rejection was indeed a "grand result."

She genuinely tried to understand what I communicated about Objectivist viewpoints. Apropos of her career, I still have her underlined copy of "The Comprachicos" in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, where she affirmed a host of Rand's insights in the margins.

To the end of her life, she was open to whatever could give her new insights, from the better-framed PBS and cable programming to her participation in book-review groups. I know this not only from conversation, but also from reams of perceptive notes she scribbled on any paper she had to hand. (Many words of it in her Gregg shorthand *sigh*, so I didn't save most of it.)

She kept choosing to "expand her sphere of reason," despite being a nominal Christian to her final days. Toward the end, my parents didn't attend "their" (or any) church very much, mostly from how those around them jettisoned the ethical positives of Christian culture. Yet they also had become tired of unreasoned doctrine ... and even some that was better reasoned.

Mother spent the last few months frequently trying to read, before ovarian cancer claimed her, a booklet from a theologian who had impressed her nearly fifty years earlier, Leslie Weatherhead's "Will of God." She admired his style of writing, but — as I knew, for she lacked the nuances of understanding theodicy and similar matters — she eventually gave up on following his arguments. He gave few clues as to why she suffered.

The higher reasoning escaped her, and she never gave up her broader framework of faith, but what she practiced was an intense respect for her own curiosity and a profound respect for the power of reason. In her own life, and in those of her husband and sons.

She did little more than see and utterly enjoy the movie of The Fountainhead, but she was more productively Objectivist in real-world terms than many I've seen in forums such as this over the past 30 years.

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I can't say I agree with this. I can observe animals making choices all the time, like a cat deciding whether to attack or not. If this is what is called "free will" then I don't see how he can say animals don't have it. I can see maybe like life forms without a nervous system, like bacteria, maybe but not higher life-forms.

We have cats, too, so I agree with you on this. I see it all the time. Stimulus-response is not enough to explain their behavior. They even turn down food to go outside.

However, David Kelley has an essay on free will. He finds volition in the choice of what to focus on, what to think about.

Personally, I place great weight on the ideas of Julian Jaynes. We probably did not have a sense of self before the invention of writing. That, too, is arguable, when you consider the animals who can recognize themselves in a mirror, other apes, of course, but elephants and porpoises, as well. The thing is, though, do they worry about it? Do they argue whether or not they are like us or us like them on the basis of essential characteristics?

Whatever our roots -- from the fact that blood is sea water -- there is a lacuna, a hiatus, between human and non-human ... and I am not sure that all "featherless bipeds" are "volitional creatures."

Michael, are you talking about Julian Jaynes' theory presented in "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"? It is a description of a moment in human evolution.

Edited by Mary Lee Harsha

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A few words about the choice to live....

To speak of a choice to live is curious, in a way. We obviously don't have a choice about being born, so that is not what is being referred to here. We are speaking instead of the choice to continue living.

In most cases we don't make a conscious decision to live. The instinct of self-preservation (or whatever one wishes to call it) is so strong that the desire to live is our natural default setting. We rarely think of it except when we believe our lives are in danger or when we contemplate suicide. In normal circumstances, to say that I choose to live is like saying that I choose not to destroy my computer. True, I could choose to destroy my computer, but the thought never occurs to me so long as it continues to function properly.

Murray Rothbard once said that every living person shows a "demonstrated preference" for life, because if someone really preferred death over life, he would be dead. Only in this sense (again, in normal circumstances) can we say that people choose to live.

George,

I think Rand takes choice to think to be an occasion of choice to live. Choice to avoid thinking about important factors in one’s character and life is fairly straightforward in its impact on one’s life. Peter Keating is the chronic thought-avoider in that arena. More remotely, any sustained production of thought not for the sake of disrespecting innocent human life (and earth-life more generally?) would count as tuned to the promotion of life, even where the potential pathways to that future promotion are presently unknown.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Some further thoughts on choice to live:

OL Dec. 2009 – A, B

Boydstun

[Guyau wrote in 1885:] “There are two kinds of pleasure. At one time pleasure corresponds with a particular and superficial form of activity (the pleasure of eating, drinking, etc.); at another time it is connected with the very root of that activity (the pleasure of living, of willing, of thinking, etc.). In the one case, it is purely a pleasure of the senses; in the other, it is more deeply vital, more independent of exterior objects—it is one with the very consciousness of life” (S 77).

Rand writes that her morality of reason “is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live” (AS 1018). The traction she gets in constructing definite broad values and virtues for human life comes from the specific constitution of Man and his Life which is raised as standard for life-affording correct values and virtues. In other words, the traction she gets is in the specific identity of human being per se, including all the conditional relations bearing on human life as well as the possibility that humans can power down and stop making life-affording values operative in themselves. All along the days one is chugging away with those values and virtues functioning in one’s machinery, one is affirming life. But there can come times when one has lost greatly loved persons or projects or one has badly lost some treasured abilities, or one is in great pain. For these times, I appreciate especially that Rand had written “and a single choice: to live” and not “and a single choice: to be happy.” One may no longer remember what happiness was, but one may still see what life is. You may still be able to think on continuance of your self, of your world with you alone in it; and those underlying, basis pleasures, noted by Guyau, may idle you along. In a while, you may choose life anew. –$

Pleasure encourages one to life and is a constituent of happiness. However, to be living and still conscious is not necessarily to retain happiness with one’s life or even in one’s core self. Then too, one might come into a condition of suffering in which pleasure and enjoyment are not feasible. These are potential situations for humans.

If the concept of pleasure were stretched to include complex feelings such as respect or esteem, then “pleasure” might be almost enough resource for continuing one’s life come into tremendous trouble. One might be thoroughly unhappy and depressed. One might then find few enjoyments and few pleasures in the usual, narrow sense of the word pleasure. Yet one might retain a bald desire for something future to value, to esteem. One might retain a respect for the possibility of being one who values and know that value is here, among the living.

Respect for the possibility of being one who values is not, however, a conviction that one is able to be such a person any further. With that conviction totally lost, the look back to one’s values and valuing that had been might be one’s final personal touch with value.

The deceased have their value-role, to be sure. Their job is to inspire the living. Still, value is here. –$

. . .

In Fountainhead loyalty to reason had been a virtue alongside virtues such as integrity and independence. In Atlas loyalty to truth in all things by reason, which is termed rationality, is the premier virtue. And the choice to think becomes the life-or-death choice underlying all the life-or-death virtues of Rand’s full system: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, and pride (see also Wright 2009, 258–62, 265–70). “That which you call your soul or spirit is your consciousness, and that which you call ‘free will’ is your mind’s freedom to think or not, the only will you have, your only freedom, the choice that controls all the choices you make and determines your life and character” (AS 1017; see further a, b, c).

The mind’s grasp of reality at the level required for human survival is not an automatic, physically determined process like sensory perception (AS 1012–13, 1041). Furthermore, the human mind has some fundamental freedom to orient itself to reality or to obscure reality by evasion (or to revolt outright against reason and reality, as with Toohey). It has some power of self-deception. Rand’s Galt says: “‘It is not mere death that the morality of sacrifice holds out to you as an ideal, but death by slow torture’. / ‘Do not remind me that it pertains only to life on this earth. I am concerned with no other. Neither are you’” (emphasis added; cf. Nietzsche in Pippin 2010, 85–104).

. . .

In Rand’s characterization of life, every aspect of being alive, including growth, “involves a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action” (ITOE 81, 24–25).

For every living species, growth is a necessity of survival. Life is motion, a process of self-sustaining action that an organism must carry on in order to remain in existence. . . .

An animal’s capacity for development ends at physical maturity and thereafter its growth consists of the action necessary to maintain itself at a fixed level; after reaching maturity, it does not, to any significant extent, continue to grow in efficacy . . . . But man’s capacity for development does not end at physical maturity . . . . His ability to think, to learn, to discover new and better ways of dealing with reality, to expand the range of his efficacy, to grow intellectually, is an open door to a road that has no end.

When man discovered how to make fire to keep himself warm, his need for thought and effort was not ended; . . . when he moved his life expectancy . . . his need of thought and effort was not ended . . . .

Every achievement of man is a value in itself, but it is also a stepping-stone to greater achievements and values. Life is growth . . . . Every step upward opens to man a wider range of action and achievement—and creates the need for that achievement. . . . Survival demands constant growth and creativeness.

Constant growth is, further, a psychological need of man. (Branden 1963, 121–22)

. . .

Allan Gotthelf (Chapter 2)

Tibor Machan

Douglas Rasmussen

Tara Smith’s Viable Values (2000), Chapter 4, subsections on pages 104–11, are titled:

Is Life a Value or Is Life the Source of Value?

How Does a Person Choose Life?

Is the Choice of Life Justified?

Does the Choice to Live Undermine the Objectivity of Value?

Irfan Khawaja wrote in his Objectivity essay “A Perfectionist-Egoist Theory of the Good” in a Note:

Can we be said to choose our ultimate value? Or is its (eventual) practical necessity not dependent on its being chosen? I do not have [as of 1997] a fully satisfactory answer, but the most defensible view seems to me Rand’s conception of a primary volitional choice to value.

“An ultimate value is that final goal or end to which all lesser goals are the means—and it sets the standard by which all lesser goals are evaluated. . . . It is only an ultimate goal, an end in itself, that makes the existence of values possible. . . . Life is the only phenomenon that is an end in itself” (OE 17). “It is only the concept of ‘Life’ that makes the concept of ‘Value’ possible” (AS 1013). “No, you do not have to live; it is your basic act of choice; but if you choose to live, you must live as a man” (AS 1015; cf. Nozick 1981, 555–70). “Man has been called a rational being, but rationality is a matter of choice—and the alternative his nature offers him is: rational being or suicidal animal. Man has to be man—by choice; he has to hold his life as a value—by choice”(AS 1013). “My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live” (AS 1018).

On this view, the practical necessity of an ultimate value is dependent on the valuer’s choosing it as ultimate. But it does not follow from this that the valuer can arbitrarily choose anything and make that an ultimate value (à la Sartre), nor does it follow that the agent necessarily chooses the ultimate value under the description of its being the de re ultimate value of a member of the species Homo sapiens sapiens.

On Rand’s view, human action depends for its existence on metaphysical freedom. Qua organism, any human agent’s existence depends on that agent’s initiating goal-directed action. The existence of goal-directed action implies the existence of some terminus. Hence, qua existing, every agent acts for goals, and qua goal-directed, every agent’s action has some unified terminus. Now, a volition, on Rand’s view, is the primary or basic act that activates the agent’s rational capacities (and thereby brings about action); action must be volitional to count as human action in the unqualified sense. So qua human agent, an agent’s goal-directed action must be free (and thereby rational). Rational action requires a natural terminus, an ultimate value—and only an ultimate value makes rational action possible. So the primary choice practically necessitates a terminus that can in fact make rational goal-directed action possible on its behalf. Since the de re terminus of human action qua human is survival qua human, every human agent, qua rational, has overriding reason to make his chosen terminus coincide with his de re terminus: survival qua human. So the ultimate value is obligatory for any agent engaged in goal-directed action—but not for one who simply defaults on the task of engaging in such action altogether. (See also OPAR 55–72).

. . . . I thank Allan Gotthelf and Roderick Long for helpful discussion on this issue. (V1N5 133–34)

Edited by Stephen Boydstun

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More on Choice to Think (6/17/06)

[...] Many other people develop a habit of religious faith, around which and in accordance with they organize their lives. Faith in the sense of an act of suspending critical reason does seem to be a perpetual matter of choice. In faith of this genre, one is choosing not to really think. It seems to me that even though one is deeply invested in the method and content of such religious faith, it is possible for one to pause and directly turn one’s heart and mind to expanding one’s sphere of reason and accepting the natural world of one’s senses [with] full weight. In such a case, one could be choosing to think — to let reason go everywhere — and this could have grand results for one’s life and one’s understanding of one’s life and world.


A quite perceptive piece, with all of it resonating, but especially this last. Upon reading this, I immediately thought of my own mother as an exemplar of this trait of "expanding one's sphere."

She worked in Christian education for much of her professional life, and was a joyous and civilizing influence on thousands of pre-teen kids (before I was born) and preschoolers (as I saw as an early teenager first-hand). She was "deeply invested in method and content" for how she carried out such faith, though not in terms of theology, except for simplified moral teachings.

When I had a change of philosophic base — Rand's doing, though the framework had been building for years — as a freshman in college, to a non-theist outlook, she was dismayed that I was no longer a Christian. Yet she could appreciate and welcome the importance of my thinking such issues out for myself. To me, that lack of rejection was indeed a "grand result."

She genuinely tried to understand what I communicated about Objectivist viewpoints. Apropos of her career, I still have her underlined copy of "The Comprachicos" in The New Left: The Anti-Industrial Revolution, where she affirmed a host of Rand's insights in the margins.

To the end of her life, she was open to whatever could give her new insights, from the better-framed PBS and cable programming to her participation in book-review groups. I know this not only from conversation, but also from reams of perceptive notes she scribbled on any paper she had to hand. (Many words of it in her Gregg shorthand *sigh*, so I didn't save most of it.)

She kept choosing to "expand her sphere of reason," despite being a nominal Christian to her final days. Toward the end, my parents didn't attend "their" (or any) church very much, mostly from how those around them jettisoned the ethical positives of Christian culture. Yet they also had become tired of unreasoned doctrine ... and even some that was better reasoned.

Mother spent the last few months frequently trying to read, before ovarian cancer claimed her, a booklet from a theologian who had impressed her nearly fifty years earlier, Leslie Weatherhead's "Will of God." She admired his style of writing, but — as I knew, for she lacked the nuances of understanding theodicy and similar matters — she eventually gave up on following his arguments. He gave few clues as to why she suffered.

The higher reasoning escaped her, and she never gave up her broader framework of faith, but what she practiced was an intense respect for her own curiosity and a profound respect for the power of reason. In her own life, and in those of her husband and sons.

She did little more than see and utterly enjoy the movie of The Fountainhead, but she was more productively Objectivist in real-world terms than many I've seen in forums such as this over the past 30 years.

Steve, what you see is a product of a fundamentalist attitude toward uncertainty. Indeed, instead uncertainty should be handled directly to separate things that are truly unpredictable from what is unknown. To put all of your energies into a sparse, axiomatic, philosophical system is to rob yourself of the data of studying things directly with no preconceived conceit of certainty. Also, we have to deal with incomplete or muddled information every day. Better to do that and accept that we sometimes have to act and grow without knowing what we need to know in the confidence that knowledge will come later if we ask the right questions.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson

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[...] The higher reasoning escaped [my mother], and she never gave up her broader framework of faith, but what she practiced was an intense respect for her own curiosity and a profound respect for the power of reason. In her own life, and in those of her husband and sons.

She did little more than see and utterly enjoy the movie of The Fountainhead, but she was more productively Objectivist in real-world terms than many I've seen in forums such as this over the past 30 years.

Steve, what you see is a product of a fundamentalist attitude toward uncertainty. [...]

I'm presuming that Jim refers here to my last allusion, about Objectivists who talk about the productive life more than actually practicing it.

If so, yes, it's a dismissal of, or assertion of mastery over, uncertainty that is true of all fundamentalists, including Objectivist ones. One that makes many people want to even avoid their presence.

Including my own presence, too often, in the time at college when I was a Randroid. Fortunately, that lasted only about a year and a half, and abated quickly enough to avoid pushing away too much of the potential growth from my college experience.

Indeed, instead uncertainty should be handled directly to separate things that are truly unpredictable from what is unknown. To put all of your energies into a sparse, axiomatic, philosophical system is to rob yourself of the data of studying things directly with no preconceived conceit of certainty.

Or, that is, an attempt at a philosophic system. Rand oversold both the "philosophy" and the "system" in regard to her own thoughts.

This applies not only in epistemology but also in esthetics, as to preconceived conceits of what one will like or find worthwhile. I cut back on even looking at entire realms, centuries' worth, of visual, aural, and dramatic art. My college years pulled me away from this Randroidist tendency even by means of art that I detested.

I gained a lot, for example, from studying Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" in a course on the dramatic portrayal of comedy. Not because it is anything less than pretentious claptrap, which was evident at the time. But because the acclaim for it, up to and including Beckett's receiving the Nobel Prize for literature, alerted me as to what I should remember: Much of the literate world thinks this is worthwhile. You have to identify exactly why, if you can, so you aren't taken in by their mistakes.

Yet the main benefit of breaking past the "axiomatic" limits was in finding and thrilling to beautiful, profound, fascinating art that didn't fit a yoke of preconceptions. I've heard Objectivists denounce Woody Allen's "Manhattan," van Gogh's "Starry Night," Miles Davis's jazz riffs, and "Hamlet." All stellar works of art that I came to treasure. I'm glad I avoided those faulty road maps.

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,

Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

Also, we have to deal with incomplete or muddled information every day. Better to do that and accept that we sometimes have to act and grow without knowing what we need to know in the confidence that knowledge will come later if we ask the right questions.

One of the clearest, pithiest, and most accessible descriptions of a genuinely practical attitude, toward creating a sane personal epistemology, that I've ever read. (True of Jim's whole reply, but especially of this last part.) Kudos!

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. . .

Some further thoughts on choice to live:

. . .

One of the links Stephen provided includes a quotation from my paper "Objectivity and the Proof of Egosim."

A more extended quotation, relevant to the choice to live, is based on my response to three papers in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies:

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

The Meaning of “The Choice to Live”

The three papers focus on the status of “the choice to live” as the foundational principle of the Objectivist ethics. That seems reasonable since, as a novelist, Rand (1957, 936) stated that the Objectivist ethics “is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live.” But as Nathaniel Branden (1998) has argued, that statement is “highly foreshortened” and requires analysis by scholars to make its meaning clear. Branden also relates a conversation he had with John Hospers in which Hospers said he doesn’t remember making the choice to live. Those comments illustrate the need to reformulate the “choice to live” so that its meaning is clear and so that it can support philosophical analysis.

What do people who are actually living life choose? They choose mental and physical actions that are constitutive of life. In light of those real world choices, a better philosopher’s formulation of the foundational principle is that the Objectivist ethics is contained in the voluntary acceptance and use of the principle of “hold[ing] [one’s] . . . own life as the motive and goal of [one’s] . . . action” (Rand 1957, 932).

- - - - - - - - - - - - -

The full paper is available here.

The paper goes on to argue that "The reformulated form of the 'choice to live' allows for more meaningful analysis as well as the possibility of proof."

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I can't claim to give the depth of analysis presented above but I think I can share some of my own thoughts.

I've always regarded the choice to live as kind of subconscious. All other choices made presuppose it; if you're choosing to wake up, get a bowl of cereal etc. in the morning then presumably on some level you have decided to actually participate in the process of living. If you just sit down and do nothing, given time, you'll die.

The choice to live is kind of like an axiom in that respect; all other choices presuppose it to the point where people so rarely see the choice. The choice to live, like the axiom of existence, is taken for granted to the point where people lose sight of it and don't see all its implications etc.

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Choosing Life

by David Kelley

In case you missed it, now posted on the TAS website is the essay on "Choosing Life" by David Kelley, TAS founder and chairman. This is based on a Summer Seminar talk from some years ago.

The entire Objectivist morality, Ayn Rand said, stems from the choice to live. But at the heart of this issue is the question of whether life is a value because one chooses it or whether one chooses life because it is a value. In his essay, Kelley illuminates the role of this choice in the moral philosophy of Objectivism and in our actual lives as individuals.

http://www.atlassoci...108-Choose.aspx

Does one choose to live or does one choose actions that do not lead to their immediate demise or demise in the short term?

My notion of choices means choosing specific things are actions. "To live" sounds too general to be an action.

Ba'al Chatzaf

Edited by BaalChatzaf

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.

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I can't claim to give the depth of analysis presented above but I think I can share some of my own thoughts.

I've always regarded the choice to live as kind of subconscious. All other choices made presuppose it; if you're choosing to wake up, get a bowl of cereal etc. in the morning then presumably on some level you have decided to actually participate in the process of living. If you just sit down and do nothing, given time, you'll die.

The choice to live is kind of like an axiom in that respect; all other choices presuppose it to the point where people so rarely see the choice. The choice to live, like the axiom of existence, is taken for granted to the point where people lose sight of it and don't see all its implications etc.

I agree with this. It's not "if you want to live, you should do x, y, and z," but "SINCE you want to live, you should do x, y, and z." (The idea being that (a) doing x, y, and z are necessary to the accomplishment of living, and (b) you have already obviously chosen to live, and you just need guidance in doing it optimally and consistently, rather than hit or miss.)

Both are conditional (or hypothetical) imperatives (rather than categorical "just because" imperatives). But the former is called a *problematic* conditional, while the latter is called an *assertoric* conditional. I think Roderick Long is the first writer in the libertarian-Objectivist milieu who explicitly made this point. (I don't recall if it was in a piece for Reason Papers, or somewhere else.) Douglas Rasmussen picked up on it in one or two of his essays in The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies during the 2000s.

Even people who pursue what we would regard as a very "anti-life" course have to do whatever is necessary to stay alive long enough to carry out their suicidal and/or homicidal projects. So, yes, it *is* like an axiom of human action, and no one can escape it. Even in the act of attempting to escape it (i.e., by committing suicide), one has to live long enough to do it.

REB

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"My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists---and in a single choice: to live. . . . To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason---Purpose---Self-Esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge---Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve---Self-Esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living." --Ayn Rand (AS 1018)

"If you have understood how sacrilegious it is to rebel against life . . . then, fortunately, you have understood something else as well: the futility, fallacy, absurdity, deceitfulness of a rebellion like this. A condemnation of life on the part of the living is, in the end, only the symptom of a certain type of life, and has no bearing on the question of whether or not the condemnation is justified. Even to raise the problem of the value of life, you would need to be both outside life and as familiar with life as someone, anyone, everyone who has ever lived: this is enough to tell us that the problem is inaccessible to us. When we talk about values we are under the inspiration, under the optic, of life: life itself forces us to posit values, life itself evaluates through us, when we posit values." --Friedrich Nietzsche (TI 5, translation of Judith Norman)

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L'chayim!!!

!!לחיים!!

To Life!  Without it there are no choices.

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