Death, Objectivist-Style

 Posted by on 14 June 2002 at 4:08 pm  Uncategorized
Jun 142002

Also very much worth reading in this month’s Navigator is In the Same Room with the Dying Light, in which Charles Tomlinson talks about facing his own imminent death. (Tomlinson is the author of A View from My Stump, a “delightful set of essays and stories [on] one man’s place in the natural world.”)

Tomlinson’s personal commentary on death is partially in response to an excellent article by Richard Speer on the Objectivist perspective on death and dying entitled The Dying of the Light published a few issues back. The article featured some excellent commentary on death from some leading Objectivists. One of the more insightful comments was, predictably, from David Kelley:

I think of death from two different perspectives that are not always easy to integrate… From one perspective, life and death are opposites, posing an alternative we face on an ongoing basis. This is a familiar perspective to Objectivists because our entire moral code is based on this alternative. From this perspective, we see death as a disvalue, a threat we confront in the form of the risk of illness or accidents that can kill us. If you value life, death represents the ultimate failure. From another perspective, however, death is a part of life. We all know we will die at some point, no matter how rational, productive, virtuous, or fortunate we are. In this sense, death cannot be considered a failure, unless and until we discover some way to extend the lifespan indefinitely. Most people, Objectivist or not, seem to integrate these two aspects of death perfectly well in a practical sense. We try to avoid dying before our time by minimizing risks [Perspective #1], but we also prepare for the time we know is coming [Perspective #2]. The harder task is integration at the emotional level. How can the love of life that is so characteristic of Rand’s heroes, and that we seek to cultivate in ourselves, accommodate the acceptance of death as an inevitable fact?

The only surprising opinions in article were the silly wishful thinking from some prominent Objectivists on the subject of an afterlife. I suppose that it is natural to want more life. I certainly do. But that’s no reason to abandon rational principles.

Update: Due to serious philosophic and moral objections, I am no longer associated with The Objectivist Center in any way, shape, or form. My reasons why can be found on my web page on The Many False Friends of Objectivism.

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