Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Gives Life Value?

Utilitarian philosophy is influencing our culture much more than we probably realize.  In a very short nutshell---it is simply the idea that the value of choices, things, people, etc, are deeply tied to their "usefulness".  This is shaped by some evolutionary and naturalistic assumptions that measure choices by the tangible benefit they provide for the "species". 

As this thinking has subtly seeped into our collective conscience we have begun to accept and practice thoughts and behaviors that even 100 years ago would have been generally reprehensible.  As the modernity of the 20th century reached its zenith forced sterilization, abortion, locking mentally challenged people away for their entire lives, etc, began to become acceptable(if "hidden") practices.  If you want some more information just google, "Eugenics". 

You might argue that we aren't acting so brazenly anymore.  When was the last time you heard about someone being forcefully sterilized?  While it might be true that we don't have national programs actively designed to pre-emptively deal with these "unsavory" genetic wastrels, the internal philosophy that gave rise to such policies has become deeply entrenched in the way we approach our valuation of life.

In the past few months we have seen witness to two stories that publicly exhibit this mindest;

29 year old Brittany Maynard is choosing suicide due to receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis.

A mother has publicly stated that she wishes she had aborted her adult son with down syndrome.

Wait wait wait you say!!!!  How can I "judge" their decisions???  I haven't walked in their shoes!  I don't know their struggles!!!

You are right, I do not know either of these hurting women personally.  But if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and, kills its young like a duck......it's a duck. 

What is on clear display in these stories(and the thousands of related ones we DON'T hear about) is that we have accepted a philosophical school of thought that measures value by extremely utilitarian standards.  For Brittany, her life loses value, and therefore, purpose, to continue on, when she reaches a point of no longer being "her".  For the mother of a downs child, her child does not contribute in a material way to her life and her family and so it would have been better to have killed him before he was born. 

Are we forcefully executing people society deems "unworthy"?  No.  But we have bought into a belief that life has a very limited value that it is subjectively evaluated. 

In the case of Brittany some people have argued that she should hold on because beautiful things can happen even at the end.  While this may be true, I think it is accepting the terms of debate established by the subjective morality proponents.  Namely, that life has value when it "accomplishes" something.  It is holding up another false measuring stick that compares and contrasts tangible benefits to tangible costs. 

Either life, and the living of it, has intrinsic and immeasurable value beyond our limited scope of observation, or, life is nothing more than a series of mathematical equations.  Once we as a society accept someone's subjective standard of what makes their life valuable, we have accepted that all of life is subjectively valuable.  And therefore, some life is more valuable than other lives. 

And, if we accept that premise, who is the final arbiter that decides which lives are of greater and more important value than others? 

When we accept the argument that "this" life is worthy to be eliminated, than the standard by which ANY OTHER LIFE can be potentially ended has been established. 

Life is an immeasurably complex, beautiful and eternally imprinted experience that can never be measured by limited contemporary standards.

This mother thinks she should have killed this son..........

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