Saturday, October 08, 2005

Pro-Choice, Pro-Assisted Suicide, the Meaning of Life

I think the meaning of life is you find your own meaning. I'm sure that's no great revelation, but there it is. I don't have the overarching goals of a deity hanging over my head, so the way I look at it, everyone is born, they have biological imperatives, emotional needs, genetic predispositions, learned preferences, familial obligations, societal expectations... Everyone, either individually or as a group, strives towards his or her own goals and what makes him or her happy. I refer to this motivator and these factors as the basis for social/societal evolution.

Largely, I believe in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It is also known that the population growth rate in well developed countries is far less than that of less developed countries. I think these two things are linked by things like education and access to various entertainment. So as a person's baser needs are fulfilled and any obligations or expectations are met (love/belonging/esteem), he or she might turn to hobbies or self-betterment instead (being needs). In a well developed country, this would be far more likely, and so that's why I think places like America, Japan, and Europe would all see population declines if it weren't for immigration.

Abortion and assisted suicide are things that affect society and population (and the affected people, on a personal level, of course). On one hand, abortion does not give new life a choice in the matter, but in my view, new life isn't necessary. It isn't necessary in the sense that human civilization does not depend on the birth of another child to survive. With assisted suicide, clearly the person has a choice in the matter, but it is now society's (those that are opposed) intent to take that away. (Quite hypocritical, but that's for another time.) But again, human civilization is not dependent on the life of a single person, sci-fi movies aside.

To value human life is one of the basic tenets (if not the basic tenet) of morality (probably all of them, but I'm no expert). Specifically regarding assisted suicide, I believe it is more moral to aid someone in pain. Regarding abortion, I don't think I would ever, but that is my decision. Another person with a different set of circumstances (physical/emotional needs, societal expectations) may choose differently. It is my position that human life, per se, has no value; no more than any other form of life, anyway. It is what is done with that life, the ability of a person to fulfill his or her goals and ambitions that gives life value; that gives life meaning.

As society evolves, the ability to provide its members with the means to meet their higher needs, the needs of being, should be emphasized. It's ironic then that I think that two of the means might be for the cessation of being. The happiness a single person is probably not terribly important to society as a whole, but denying that person the ability to achieve happiness is a matter for all people. It is in my view, then, that it is morally imperative to allow individuals the freedom of choice governing their own life.

14 comments:

Biggs said...

Hello. You commented on my blog recently and I have responded to that (http://bbiggs.blogspot.com/).

I have a few questions for you and I realize that these could be taken the wrong way; know that these are honest questions, I am not asking them to pick some sort of fight. I am simply curious.

You keep refering to morality; where is your basis for it? Where does morality come from?

And you say that "To value human life is one of the basic tenets (if not the basic tenet) of morality..." but then you go on to say "It is my position that human life, per se, has no value; no more than any other form of life, anyway."

"It is what is done with that life, the ability of a person to fulfill his or her goals and ambitions that gives life value; that gives life meaning." So, the meaning of life is derived from the fulfilling person's goals? And what gives those value and meaning?

lem said...

You left out my favorite argument for assisted suicide. We love and respect our pets enough to put them to sleep when their quality of life declines, but we (society) are unwilling to show the same respect to family and friends out of our own selfish desires.

Gabe said...

Well, I won't take any offense if you won't :) For what it's worth, I'm not out to offend anybody.

What is my basis for morality? That's a very good question. It seems that a lot of religious people find non-religious people offputting because religious people tend to (I'm not saying you, but in general this is what I've seen) think that if a person has no religion, that person can have no moral code.

So then, what do I base my moral code on? It's pretty much the same thing that any person bases their moral code on, which is family, society, and self. Pretty much all I've had in direct training regarding this topic was an ethics class in college, and from that, I can tell you there are a lot of theories on morality, from which this post derives (in part, if not in whole).

As for where morality comes from, you'll have to forgive me as it's been at least 4 years since I've had that class. If you're really curious, as a starting point, I'd recommend some articles: 1, 2, and . And if you read all those, you're a better man than I ;)

You didn't say it in the form of a question, but I sense that you find my statement that morality is traditionally based on valuing human life and then saying that human life has no intrinsic value as contradictory. Basically, what I'm saying is that the quantity of human life is a very poor indicator of quality of human life.

Then you ask, "So, the meaning of life is derived from the fulfilling person's goals? And what gives those value and meaning?" Regarding the first, yes, that is what I am, at least in part, putting forth. Note that I said, "the ability of a person to fulfill..." This is important because this links with another point of mine, which was that a society must provide a person with means.

Regarding the next question, I'm not sure what you're asking. Are you asking what gives a person's goals value and meaning? Clearly, that depends on the individual. Recall, the first thing I said was, "the meaning of life is you find your own meaning".

Gabe said...

Well said, lem...

On an unrelated note, I've already deleted my above comment once because of that unclosed tag, and previewing it the second time showed for sure that it was closed, so I don't know.

rational ahmand said...

"I think the meaning of life is you find your own meaning." That pretty much hits the nail on the head. There is no meaning (or purpose) of life beyond what we arbitrarily assign to it.

And people should be allowed to be euthanized whenever they feel they are living below their minimal standards of continued existence. For animals, you are considered cruel unless you do put them down "humanely." Yet, if you do the same for a suffering person, you can be convicted of murder or manslaughter. This is stupid, especially when looking at different situations -- we see where it's not only morally permissable to kill someone to relieve their suffering, but also superogatory to do so! (The movie, Million Dollar Baby is a good example.)

Princess said...

I don't know much about this sight cause I heard of it through a talk show. All I know is that depression is a mental illness that can be successfully treated with the right medications. If you are like me and don't have medical insureance you can check with your local health department and they can assist you futher for getting treatment. Now as your view on life and it's purpose, that is an indevidual choise. I believe life is what you make it, if you choose to wollo in your our self pitty and compair human life to a sick animals or whatever, to me that is just an easy cop out of reality not immortallity. Life is tuff now a days but in your worst day if you look you can always find good. For instance I suffer from panic disorder, deppretion, high blood pressure, acid reflux, and fibrocyctic diseace. I'm only 26 and some days my phycical pain and emotion pain seems unbarable. Then I stop take a look around me take a deep breath and relax. I realize that everything is not perfect nor is it suppose to be but if you make the best of the time you have here on this earth,you'll see there is a posative side just as there is a negative. It is not our place to question our true purpose only God knows that, so just relax like i said and leave the decition making to him, he loves us all and wants the best for us all. "Just a thought"
I wish you all the best and hope you find happiness!! And God {Through pray!!}

Gabe said...

Princess... certainly everyone is entitled to their own view of the world and right and wrong. For you, a regimen of drugs, psychotherapy, and a reliance on religion seems to do the trick.

For others, however, the answer may not be so forthcoming. If, for example, drugs weren't effective, then what? What if psychotherapy did not bring about rapid change or any change whatsoever (i am no expert in psychotherapy). What if a person cannot find solace in religion?

Do it anyway?

As for "compair human life to a sick animals or whatever, to me that is just an easy cop out of reality not immortallity", I think you're saying comparing human life to anima life is somehow naive or ignorant of reality? I really don't catch your meaning. What that has to do with "immortallity" is further a mystery. I suppose that might be some reference to your religion's promise of eterna life? If so, even if your religion did turn out to be right, what does that have to do with the mortal plane? Does your god not grant passes for the needy and suffering?

"It is not our place to question our true purpose only God knows that, so just relax like i said and leave the decition making to him, he loves us all and wants the best for us all." Well, you may be satisfied with this, but there are those of us who are not. Forbidding thought seems to be very counterproductive. To me, it's tantamount to the most grievous immorality.

Anyway, I too hope you find happiness, through whatever means you may possess, so long as it does not prohibit another's happiness.

Gabe said...

Princess, in case you're reading, regarding my previous post, the only thing I mean by it is that not all people have your point of view, and that that what works for you might not work for others.

Good luck with your recovery.

Anonymous said...

Dear People,
Maybe instead of talking with one another about suicide you should go to your nearest church and pray!!!! God will answer your prayers and help you through whatever struggle life throws your way!!! God Bless!!

Gabe said...

Good grief, where did you people come from?? Did some Christian talk show ("I don't know much about this sight cause I heard of it through a talk show.") really point you here?

Either way, yes, if religion works for you, look to religion. However, it doesn't work for everybody, as not everyone believes in a religion, and even if they did, they don't necessarily follow it blindly or without reason.

I'd be more than happy to discuss any such topic with either of you, but simply saying "leave it in God's hands" has been addressed, and nothing further seems to be added to the conversation.

angie said...

I just finished reading several blogs and sites about suicide. It's really interesting, how every one of us, from the young to the old, the pretty to ugly, moms and dads to sons and daughters, we all have at some point thought of suicide in our own lives. It has touched all of us personally, maybe we have a friend who took their own life, or we have failed attempts ourselves. I would like to say that even though I tried it when I was young, (15), and am now 32, I sometimes still get depressed. I got thyroid cancer four years ago, and that was hard, and my marriage was on the rocks. I think I seriously would've done it, had I not had to wonderful children, little girls, who I didn't want to abandon. It just too personal of a choice for people to judge you on. I took Lexapro, and made it through my dark times, but not all of us can do that. My friend who killed himself, I hope that when I die, I see him on the other side. I am a Christian, but I don't feel like God will banish you to hell forever if you just can't take it anymore. God loves us and wants us happy, and I know that George just couldn't go another day. He tried for years, and he just wasn't able to do it anymore. I know he's better where he is now. I am just rambling on, but my point was, everyone has thought about it in the low times at one point at least, and what if you actually did it? What if after you did it, you were judged as harshly as your judging others? If you are touting about God's Hands, shouldn't you let Him be the only judge? Thanks.

Gabe said...

angie... I'm sorry if you think I'm judging anyone ("What if after you did it, you were judged as harshly as your judging others? If you are touting about God's Hands, shouldn't you let Him be the only judge?"). What I'm actually trying to say is just the opposite: that people should be allowed to live their own lives as they see fit.

It sounds like you were contemplating suicide for purely external reasons, while it's not clear why your friend George committed suicide. Clinical depression, for which I assume you were prescribed lexapro, is also a chemical imbalance, right?

The thing I don't understand about depression is the thought processes that go with it. Would you mind telling me what kind of thoughts either you or your friend had that classified you as "depressed"? Obviously suicidal thoughts, but what I'm asking is more along the lines of are these thoughts like a crisis of philosophy, of identity, of purpose? Doubts about religion? Breakdown of social structure? Disconnect with society/friends?

Thanks

Angie said...

Gabe,
I am sorry if I made it sound like I was talking about YOU specifically. I was trying to say in general, to those who posted to go to church, or let it all be in God's hands, that I felt they were being judgemental.
In answer to your question, about my own depression. When I was diagnosed with cancer, I didn't have health insurance. So, my first appt, through the testing, ultra-sounds, bloodwork, surgery, etc. was all out of pocket. That is a hardship on a family. Thousands of dollars later, and a second diagnosis, all of that came to a head. I thought, wow, maybe I should do this, to avoid my bills getting even higher, etc. The cancer had come back twice, was third time a charm? So, YES, it was all external. Taking Lexapro helped me through that difficult time. I was angry all of the time, and went to the Dr. thinking I needed anger management...never realizing that my being irate all of the time was actually a symptom of depression.
As far as my friend George goes. I can't say that I know all that was in his mind. He was so unhappy all of the time. It didn't matter if it was a bright, cheerful day, if he did well in an activity, if he was in a realationship. He was always blue. He was on meds for about 5 years before he swallowed the entire bottle one night before going to bed......

Gabe said...

angie... Sorry about George. I think situations like his are the most curious for me. It's not to seem morbid. I think it's important.

As far as the churchgoers go, I don't know if they were being judgemental. Certainly narrow in perspective, though.

At any rate, good luck with everything. I don't know if I could've made it through everything you did.