Thursday, December 3, 2020

Valuing Lives, Valuing Persons

In metaethics, there can seem to be a focus on providing people high quality of life. There is talk of lives worth living, lives barely worth living, and lives not worth living. This can be seen, for instance, in discussion of the Repugnant Conclusion.

Some people live lives of suffering and despair, lives which might be considered to be of poor quality. As altruists, we want to end all such lives.

The most expedient way to end a poor life is through death. The other way is through improving it until it is no longer poor. People living poor quality lives don't always have the choice to improve their lives, but they generally have the choice to end their lives.

But many of them do not, and live through their poor quality lives for a long time. Why do they live these inferior lives? One reason might be that they value themselves, and the only way they can exist is to live some kind of life, and a poor life is all that is available.

We can value persons for their qualities, not just as streams of experiences, or as series of experienced states of affairs. We can even value people purely for themselves, apart from any specific qualities. Value can reside in persons, and qualities of persons, and not just in experiences.

When life is at all unbearable, you pay a tax to keep living. If the unbearability is too great, you are tempted to die rather than pay the seemingly unaffordable tax. Having a higher quality of life keeps us away from such self-disvaluing.

Adversity is a part of life, but in the far enough future, may not be. Currently, we value ourselves by paying for our own lives. Can we really value ourselves without adversity, which makes us pay? It seems that it is possible to value things after having paid the price, but maybe not before. Maybe we will have to keep some adversity, or unbearability, in our experiential diet. Or we will have to figure out a way for us to truly value ourselves without paying for ourselves.

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