A Journal for Western Man

 

Valuing Short-Term Pleasure Over Life:

The Culture of Abortion, Euthanasia, and

Self-Inflicted Harm

G. Stolyarov II

(Originally Published on GrasstopsUSA.com)

Issue XCVII- April 23, 2007

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Eden against the Colossus

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A Rational Cosmology

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Statement of Policy

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           This article is not about those who theoretically support the a woman’s “right” to have an abortion or a person’s “right” to be killed by a physician—but rather about those who actually engage in these activities. The former may be misguided and wrong in their views, but many of them are perfectly respectable in their personal lives. With the latter, however, the first striking question that comes to mind is: what went so dramatically wrong?

            Why does it even occur to many pregnant women to consider the termination of the little life growing inside them—a being that is clearly conscious, as demonstrated by numerous ultrasound images, and a creature that, absent the unlikely miscarriage or bodily malfunction, will with certainty become a healthy infant? Some will say, “But it’s not a human person until it’s born!”—but this, in the face of the empirical evidence to the contrary, becomes a mere post-rationalization of the act, not a logical way of arriving at its justice.  Those who wished to justify slavery and the Holocaust also sought to construe the people being enslaved and killed as something less than fully human—but this was not their reason for owning slaves or exterminating millions of Jews.

            Why, for that matter, would a person choose to favor his own death—not to save another’s life, not to advance a worthy cause, but merely stop what he considers great pain? Why do many treat the “right to die” as an essential human prerogative, displacing the right to life in priority? What is this seldom explicitly expressed phantom idea that leads so many people today to flout the sacred and inalienable value of their own lives and the lives of others? What leads such persons to sacrifice their own continued existence and be willing to toss aside the lives of others so lightly? This is not a question of whether they have a right to do so (though I firmly believe they do not), but why they would even want to do so.

            The culprit, I contend, is the valuation of short-term sensory pleasure above everything else. Most women who have abortions do not do so because they were raped or because they fear being financially unable to support the child. Only about 1 percent of women who have abortions do so as a response to rape. Many more cite economic reasons, but they are not legitimately in a position to do so.

A couple of upper-middle-class teenagers who engaged in casual intercourse without considering the consequences can support a child with the resources at their disposal. This issue is not one of ability, but of will. Both the boy and the girl were seeking pure sensory pleasure when they engaged in casual intercourse; neither of them were seeking a child—but they neglected the laws of biology that led the girl to conceive one. The girl’s male partner could have considered the possibility of his actions leading to a pregnancy, controlled his urges, and abstained from intercourse—but he let his momentary impulses get the better of him. His actions led to the girl’s conception, but now he is powerless to do anything to even save the life they resulted in. By law, he is not allowed to insist that the girl carry her pregnancy to its logical, natural conclusion.

Now the girl wants an abortion; she seeks to flout biological and moral laws, irrespective of whose burgeoning life must be tossed aside to do so. It is true that children are expensive, and that raising them properly is a hefty responsibility that might impede career plans and other desires. But did the risk of this happening ever enter into the minds of the couple as they were making their initial choice of pleasures? If they truly wanted to become dedicated to their careers or to wait a few more years before starting a family, would not the most prudent choice have been to abstain from intercourse until then? Simple reflection can yield these insights; the fact that neither of them engaged in that reflection means that they were not truly serious about pursuing long-term happiness.

What they were really seeking was short-term gratification of carnal desires—and the possible consequences did not even enter their consideration. After the fact of the pregnancy, the girl now wants the consequences annulled, irrespective of how much damage this causes and to whom. Were abortion illegal and not readily accessible, the couple would have had to think twice before engaging in intercourse in the first place; they would have known the kinds of commitments they would have needed to undertake in the event of pregnancy. But with things as they stand, the girl can go on irresponsibly seeking sensory pleasure at tremendous cost—and no one can oppose her. This is why “abortion rights” advocates insist that no one—not the girl’s parents, not her partner, not her closest friends—ought to be allowed to have a say in her abortion decision. “Abortion rights” are about her freedom to appease her urges—in spite of all moral conscience and the welfare of those around her.

It is not just the lives of others that some people are willing to toss aside to gratify short-term sensory desires; many are similarly willing to discard their own. The person who chooses to die rather than live with pain, inconvenience, or even “indignity” or “depression”—however broadly defined—is a prime instance of this mentality. For him, the essence of life is mere sensory pleasure, and, when he is denied—physically or psychologically—the opportunity to experience this pleasure, life for him ceases to be worth living. He does not consider that there might be other reasons to live: out of commitment to a purpose, the wish to accomplish important things, the desire to enrich others’ lives, or a more sophisticated, intellectual joy that can detach itself from physical sensation. He does not think that there might be cases where enduring pain—great pain, even—is a mark of tremendous strength of character and resolve. He does not believe that some of the greatest things in life often require a person to undergo stress, inconvenience, frustration, and more—all of them more than compensated for afterward.  

Sensory pleasure—properly gotten—is no vice and can enrich life, but it is not all there is, and it is not primarily why a person would choose to live. Life is often painful, disturbing, and inconvenient; nobody and nothing guarantees us a perfect world and a happy, unclouded existence. But this is no reason to reject anybody’s life; in fact, it is a reason to keep struggling for innocent human lives, in whatever forms and at whatever stages they occur. Only with such struggle—the struggle to raise a good human being, even in tough circumstances—the struggle against death, disease, and emotional turmoil—the struggle to nurture and cultivate one’s surroundings—can a person truly be fulfilled in the highest sense. Embracing short-term pleasure over everything else is only an abdication of this intensely human quest.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent philosophical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician, composer, contributor to Enter Stage Right, Le Quebecois Libre,  Rebirth of Reason, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Senior Writer for The Liberal Institute, and Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator, a magazine championing the principles of reason, rights, and progress. Mr. Stolyarov also publishes his articles on Helium.com and Associated Content to assist the spread of rational ideas. His newest science fiction novel is Eden against the Colossus. His latest non-fiction treatise is A Rational Cosmology. Mr. Stolyarov can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA’s Statement of Policy.

Click here to return to TRA's Issue XCVII Index.

Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's new comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, at http://www.geocities.com/rational_argumentator/rc.html.