Monday, January 03, 2022

Arsenic, old lace, and the value of life

 Suppose you were asked by a skeptical person why you value human life. Not happiness, or quality of life, just life itself. Why do you believe that we ought to preserve life even if in doing so we decrease the overall balance of pleasure over pain. 

I once knew a thoroughgoing skeptic about the value of life. He considered the old women who killed their boarders in Arsenic and Old Lace to by public benefactors. When asked "Well, based on your argument, why shouldn't I just kill you now?" He replied "It would be OK so long as you could do it painlessly."

I suppose someone could question this position's sincerity through an exercise of one's Second Amendment rights. But I am not sure this argument works. 


Kevin said...

It's been a very long time since I saw that movie, but I don't remember the deceased requesting deceasement. If this skeptic believes involuntary death to be a public service, he should probably be kept away from any and all forms of power.

One Brow said...

I certainly agree with Kevin here.

Ultimately, there needs to be an arbitrary starting point with what we value; it's not turtles all the way down. Whether we look to some putative exterior revelation or our internal moral compass, we rely on something. Almost all of us have an internal need to live and thrive.