In this work, I will analyze what gives value to life. Of course, we can approach the question from different conceptions of life, such as from a personal, social, religious, or even ethical point of view.
We should begin speaking about the value of life itself; this concept is almost always intimately related to the sanctity of life.
According to Dworkin R. 1993 (cited in Belshaw C., p.20-21), the value depends on its utility; when it is something that provides us with skills to achieve something higher, then we say that it has instrumental value.
We can also see issues in life that have intrinsic values; these are not related to the utility or the contribution they can provide us with but are more closely related to the fact that we can appreciate their value, for example, seeing a magnificent building. We see its intrinsic value of it because of the beauty of its architecture.
We might also see value as subjectively based on how much value something has to another person; we know that my brother's car is precious and subjectively valuable because he loves it.
If we look at Dworkin and the sacred value of human life in the classical ethical conception, it is widely believed. In some cases, it is manifested at the level of intuition that human life has an intrinsic or sacred value, whatever its form, fetus, baby, child, adult, or old person. On the other hand, it should be appreciated that Dworkin distinguishes between the three ways in which value is shaped: instrumental, i.e. the value of the good is based on its utility, which means that it can contribute to people achieving something of interest to them; subjective, which is when the object is valuable simply because someone wants it; or intrinsic, which includes everything that has neither instrumental value nor subjective value, because it is not contingent on what people may want, what they need or what they want. The latter are worthy of defense because they are essential in themselves since they have an intrinsic quality that justifies recognition by others. After arguing that human existence has a sacred value, that is, a genuine intrinsic value, Dworkin goes on to argue that other kinds of life, and even certain goods, also have intrinsic value. While people engage in constructing or obtaining objects that bring us value, either because we need them or because we like them, some achievements are valued not precisely because they fulfill some desire or interest but rather because they are valuable.
According to Dworkin, we can also differentiate between two groups of intrinsically essential objects, namely those that have increasing intrinsic value and those that are considered sacred or untouchable. Concerning the first type of thing, the more you own something, the better it is. According to the second assumption, this value is due to the mere existence of the object, with no connection to the quantity possessed.
For Dworkin, life has no increasing value but is regarded as sacred.
The arguments against abortion, i.e., the biological conception of the human being, start from the idea that the fetus is a being with a life endowed with a sanctity proper to the innocent human being. Therefore, to end certain practices, such as termination of pregnancy or euthanasia, is tantamount to accepting the sacred value of human life. Dworkin considers that denouncing the termination of pregnancy based on the notion of the sacredness of life is an independent argument.
Like Dworkin, the intrinsic value of a work of art, would not life also have an intrinsic value? There is no inconsistency in denying that, under such a circumstance, such works would have some value because the value of a painting we find precisely from a unique and unrepeatable experience but insisting on the purely intrinsic character of that value because it depends on the natural desire of a creature to experience such an experience. Consequently, if no other person could admire a certain artistic creation that had an intrinsic value, that was singular and could not be repeated, it would not be possible to sustain the value of that creation either. On the other hand, in a situation in which there were people with a will but no one wished to submit to the experiment provided by a given work of art endowed with an intrinsic value, that work would retain that value by virtue of this dynamic process of creation that has given rise to it.
Consequently, there is an existing cognitive relationship on the part of the persons in charge of analyzing and appreciating the intrinsically valuable work of art. The work of art would not cease to be valuable by itself if there were no one to love, appreciate or enjoy it, but rather, if there were no one either, who would override the ability to appreciate the creative project from which it came, it could not have that intrinsic value.
Within the evaluation of a given constructive process of a thing, there is a link of an objective character with the participating persons since, in a universe in which persons do not exist, it cannot be affirmed of anything or organism that has value by itself. From Dworkin's approach, intrinsic value is tantamount to holding that recognizing value is an autonomous element of personal qualifications according to individual interests and preferences, which means that the conception of value itself is not subjectivist. For example, the intrinsic value of a piece of art supposes the knowledge of a particular process, project, or task of value generation, which would not be possible if there were no longer human beings in the world. In other words, it is not the experience that the person voluntarily has that oversees establishing the intrinsic value, but the appreciation of a specific creative or evolutionary procedure that was based on the materialization of human contributions. If there is an objective evaluation based on the verification of natural or human processes of creativity, even if this is independent of what people in general like, desire or need, there is a link between the subject and the product.
The existence of a human being has its own value from the moment of conception, which is the beginning of his biological existence, even if during that period he does not experience feelings, hobbies, actions, or knowledge. From this point of view, the termination of pregnancy is an immoral act since it offends against the intrinsic value of life or, in other words, it offends against the sacredness of the human being through any stage or mode of life. The concept of the sacred, although well known, can consider a generally misunderstood concept since the word sacred is said to have an obligatory theistic meaning to the extent that what we mean to say it's about human life, what it is sacred, and non-animal for example. (Singer 2002, cited in Belshaw C. 2014, p.18). This interpretation is mistaken, and the term sacred can be understood not only in a religious sense but also in a secular way. Thus, to state that the value of human life has a sacred character is not the same as saying that such a thought is closely related to the concept of divine nature. This idea of the sacredness of the human being may be a consequence of the consideration of the evolution that allowed the birth of the species, which confers and guarantees itself an inviolable character.
Another completely different approach to whether its life has value is this concept by which we should start with procreation itself and see if it has any value or if it is perhaps a starting error or if it could be improved under some interpretations or conditions. To do this, we should look at Benatar's arguments. Benatar's thesis is mostly based on identifying natalist and pro-natalist arguments and the concept that it is better never to come into existence (cited in Belshaw C. 2014, p.180). The strategy I will use to contradict Benatar's position will be mainly among other arguments to identify the ant-natalist and pro-natalist arguments.
Benatar teaches the two reasons that support his ant-natalist position in the sense of considering that being born is always wrong; it is a philanthropic reason, which he deals with in detail. By means of this ant-natalist argument, we can ask ourselves: Is it wrong to reproduce? According to the philosopher, bringing a person to life is always serious harm to that person, and employing this same argument, he argues that it is also always serious harm to the rest of the people. The main objective of this paper will be to defend the thesis of this philosopher, that is, to defend a radical position that a priori seems wrong.
We could start by trying to distinguish the extent of intrinsic rights that a given organism has, as well as how harmful it is to harm it. It is not right to cause intentional harm to anything. However, we can justify cutting down some trees because they allow us to obtain the comfort that we have and the pain that the trees experience we consider worthy. The origin of this legitimization lies in our feelings. Of course, this hypothesis is complex (and it is even more apparent if we talk about animals, for example), but the fact is that roughly speaking, it can be said that the development of humanity explains the way we behave toward other living beings, but how can it be justified?
The value of life is something deeply connected with religions in terms of an inner value within any form of life that needs to be respected. It can be argued that the ability to speak gives us a higher value, but this argument is feeble because marine mammals have a sophisticated way of communicating. It is also very easy to imagine someone who can speak but does not know the true meaning of his words, and so the speaker we have will lose what makes language an essentially great thing. Moreover, speech is not intelligence itself but a faculty of handling the vocal cords linked precisely with intelligence. This brings us to a very complex issue, according to which some monkeys would have to be apt for conversation thanks to their vocal cords and score higher on IQ tests than some members of our species. Yet, they cannot converse, even if certain members learn sign language.
We do not know what it is exactly about consciousness, but we believe that human beings are special beings or that they possess a special form of consciousness. However, if we agree that the capacity for something we do not even understand makes a person better than a dog, for example, we are in a very fragile territory. In this respect, Singer P. cited in Balshaw C., 2014, p- 31) says that when we are giving value to human life over animal life, for example, we are becoming guilty of 'speciesism'.
We can also focus on the issue from an emotional level as well as the capacity to interpret the fact of experiencing feelings. This aspect is closely linked to the ability to experience feelings of pleasure and pain, although it seems to me to be a more complex character. Moreover, I consider it the most vital element, given the shortcomings of Intelligence and convincing contradictions. It enables us to show compassion to virtually every species on the planet. It also has a sense of transference: While an ostrich does not feel sad because of its death, we do feel sorry for its death and, therefore, we give value to the ostrich's life. Also, we can tie this argument with the 'Deprivation view', in which death is something wrong because it deprives us of something good (cited in Belshaw C. 2014, p.63). However, we are not talking about absolute value but the value we infuse into life because of our morals.
Human beings are currently very committed to their state of health; however, their conception of health is conditioned by the cultural environment. It should be noted that today's culture is characterized by the concern for technology because of the progress it offers for the salvation of numerous lives, the effectiveness of which makes it possible to bring great benefit to society. On the other hand, the moralism of Christians has questions that force us to reflect, should it be applied to all people equally, or will there be a favored treatment?
The views against natalism or the concerns linked to procreative beneficence. Derek Parfit, in his book 'Reasons and Persons (1986) (cited in Balshaw C., 2014, p.108), gives us an example of a (14-year-old girl) thinking about having the happiest children possible is a genuine concern about procreative beneficence.
The debate about natalism is often intense in investigating what truly gives value to life. We could expose two types of anti-natalism, one which holds that it is sometimes wrong to have children, and another, more radical, which asserts that it is always wrong to have children. Some conditions are so critical that they hold that it is morally wrong to have offspring. Some conditions are so harmful that it would be morally unacceptable to bring such a life into the world. Now when a couple decides to have children, and if a choice is possible, there is an essential ethical motive when deciding and choosing the one who is expected to have the best guarantees of quality of life, based on the maximum existing information, which is the most adequate, or at least not the worst, concerning other children.
Savulescu (2001) states in his article 'Procreative beneficence: why we should select the best children' the following: married couples or parents should choose their offspring based on the data available to them, and among all those possible, according to the principles to achieve the best quality of life or, at least, the best life than the others. The criteria should be used in cases where the parents use the in vitro fertilization technique. As Savulescu (2001) points out, the couple can currently ensure the selection of embryos with the highest genetic potential. For this selection to be carried out properly, independent genes directly related to diseases must also be considered, as they are crucial for an optimal life outcome. According to Savulescu (2001), such an informed choice is an ethical justification.
Benatar's approach in this regard is a straightforward consequence of the theory of utilitarianism. Since pleasure is considered a good thing while pain represents evil, the only convenient way to eliminate harm is the disappearance of conscious life. Since sentient organisms will constantly be subjected to painful situations, it is impossible to live without feeling pain. One reason is that new human beings should not be brought to life because of the suffering they will experience. There are many motives for this, one of the most important being the pain and suffering inherent in being human, so it is wrong to create new lives. Indeed, there are also good things. However, the concern is whether all the good outweighs the suffering of what is terrible. Often people forget about the bad things in life. There is abundant psychological evidence that people overestimate their quality of life to the maximum and believe that it is better than it is. In addition, another of the most frequent errors is that they think about the future without realizing the enormous pain that they will surely suffer at the end of their life cycle. Now, to affirm that any individual is better off not having been born is a contradiction of logic. For if no being exists before conception, it cannot be affirmed that no one can be 'better off without being born' since no one exists before being begotten and obtaining the faculty of being able to perceive.
On the other hand, Dworkin admits that each object, life, or creation has an intrinsic value that needs to be appreciated by others to keep it. So, this could be a good starting point to admit the value of life, which could be sacred for some, and intrinsic for others, but almost everyone recognizes it. The debate is not so much about what gives life value or if life has value itself, it should be more about which kind of value life has depended on the approach we are taking to this question if it is a philosophic, biological, religious, medical or any other kind of approach to the question.
Therefore, it is a logical contradiction to affirm that one is better off not having been born since no person could be good, better, worse, or happy without existing. This reasoning of the philosopher David Benatar gives us with its contradictions the best answer to conclude by arguing that life has value and that, although it may be redundant, the most outstanding value of life is the value of living it. Through life`s experiences, we acquire value more than the intrinsic value that we have since birth and this acquired value get through experiences can be also a very precious value in the life of others, understanding them, persons, animals, or the world itself. Just taking care of others, planting a tree, helping our neighbors, or any other actions, intentions, or lived experiences are providing value to life and making it worth living as a constant source of value for our lives and the lives of others.