The Choice to Live

An important point in Objectivist ethics is that it hinges on a pre-moral choice to live or not. We can discuss how you should act to pursue your life as the ultimate standard, but that depends on whether you choose to live at all. If living is not what you're aiming for, then it makes no sense to say you should do this or that. You have to choose life first.

We talked about how man is a being of volitional nature. In ethics, this is of enormous importance. If we lived our lives in an automatic way, we wouldn't need a guide for our actions. We would just act based on whatever standard was build-in. It's because of our volitional nature that we have to select a guide. Since we have free will, we can actually choose anything we want. We can choose to live by a code of values that destroys our lives, instead of promotes it.

This element of free will not only affects how we pursue our lives, but it affects a more fundamental question. Do we choose to live our lives in the first place. Since life is a process of self-generated action, our volitional nature requires us to choose to generate that action. Without that choice, the Objectivist morality is meaningless. For instance, we say you should be productive and seek values. But if you don't choose to live, no values are necessary. We say you should be rational so you can pick your values intelligently, and pursue them effectively. But again, none of that is necessary if you don't choose life.

It is the fundamental choice that makes all other choices possible and meaningful. That's why it's called a pre-moral choice. Without that choice to live in the first place, the realm of morality is meaningless. Consequently, it doesn't make sense to try to judge that choice as being moral or immoral. It precedes morality.

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