Rebirth of Reason

Sense of Life

Kids and the "Pre-moral" Choice to Live
by Ed Thompson

I was babysitting my niece's daughter today, and when "Mommy" (my niece) got home, she mentioned to little Miali (who's just beginning her third year of life) that it was going to be time for a nap soon. The look on Miali's face turned into one of sheer terror -- I am not overstating this case, it was a look of sheer terror. Looking in desperation -- and through now watery-eyes -- little Miali begged and pleaded with her mother: "Please Mommy, no nap!"

What was it that little Miali had valued so much, when she begged and pleaded to be allowed to stay awake for that hour (instead of napping)? She valued life. Conscious life. To be in touch with the world that she exists in -- that was what she wanted most of all. At this time, I noticed how Miali's desire to remain conscious in the world is not something confined to her alone. I, myself, have often daydreamed about finding a "cure" for sleep -- in effect giving myself, and others, an extra third of conscious life on this planet.

Then I began to think about the Objectivist concept of a "pre-moral" choice to live. Objectivists (and others) have often argued that the choice to live is, in itself, pre-moral. The reasoning goes that, if you haven't chosen to live as a human, then morality doesn't apply to you ("morality" is for folks who want to live well, as a human being). This has always troubled me. It always seemed that there was a little too much abstract thought, and a little too little concrete evidence.

In a quip, Ronald Reagan once said that he noticed that everyone who was for abortion rights had already been born, and while his line of reasoning was illegitimate -- I thought to apply it to the "pre-moral choice to live" debate. Apparently, everyone arguing about the "pre-moral" choice to live has already "chosen" to live. Is this inconsequential? Heck, apparently, everyone currently existing -- has "chosen" to live! More to the point, everyone ever known -- has "chosen" to live!

Is it inconsequential that there is not even a single example of a 'beginning moral agent' chosing NOT to live?

In OPAR (p 212) Peikoff notes:

The commitment to remain in the realm of that which is is precisely what cannot be debated; because all debate (and all validation) takes place within that realm and rests on that commitment. About every concrete within the universe and about every human evaluation of these, one can in some context ask questions or demand proofs.

In regard to the sum of reality as such, however, there is nothing to do but to grasp: it is--and then, if the fundamental alternative confronts one, bow one's head in a silent "amen," amounting to the words: "This is where I shall fight to stay." That, in effect, is what plants and animals (and rational men) do. It is why they act and what they act for.

So, when little Miali pleaded with her mother, she was fighting to stay conscious in the rich world of existence -- something ALL humans, originally, do. So much for the "pre-moral" choice to live.

Peikoff, L. (1991). Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. New York, NY: Meridian
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