Should You Want To Live?

Should you want to live? Read that again. Should you want to live? It's not an obvious question. It's a fishy question.

For Ayn Rand, the purpose of morality is enjoyment, long-range, i.e. life.

The whole problem of morality is that we often want to do things that are bad for that goal. Moral thinking helps us discover the ideas and the courses of action that further our interest, as opposed to our immediate pleasure or satisfaction.

If you don't want to live, then, according to Objectivism, moral arguments are irrelevant, because you've given up what moral argumentation appeals to: the desire for durable joy. The choice to live is pre-moral. Morality is about how to live. Choose to live—to pursue happiness—then we can talk about morality.

Some think that because "man's life" is the standard of morality in Objectivism, bare survival is all that Objectivist morality involves. They hold that any desire for happiness above bare survival, according to Objectivism, is morally superfluous. They claim that Ayn Rand didn't provide a moral defense of the desire for happiness.

Some hear the above argument and attempt to provide a moral defense of the desire to be happy, seeking to prove the survival value of happiness. They say things like: "Being very sad can kill you. Being happy can keep you alive, and therefore wanting happiness is morally good."

This is a severe error.  The error is in seeking any justification at all for one's desire to be happy. The desire for happiness needs no justification. Happiness is an end in itself. Morality serves it, not the other way around.

There is no moral defense of the desire to be happy because the desire to be happy is the entire reason for moral action.

(To clarify: while the enjoyment of life is the goal of morality, it's life itself, i.e. being alive for the sake of enjoyment that is the standard of morality. Objectivist morality seeks smart ways to enjoy yourself. Hedonism isn't smart.)

Ayn Rand did not provide a moral defense of the desire for happiness. None is possible or necessary.

To put it plainly: Your happiness needs no moral permission. Stop looking for such permission. Don't question the morality of your happiness. Instead, get on with pursuing it, using the best technology built for doing so: objective morality.

The question in the title of this essay is invalid. Ignore it. Instead, ask yourself "Do I want to live?" and if the answer is "yes", then act accordingly.

If the answer is "no", then I really don't have any advice for you. But please do me a favor. Before you commit suicide (or do something worse), please ask yourself why you bothered reading this essay.


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