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FreEMan

Disease- Metaphysical or Manmade?

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From OPAR: "Metaphysically given facts are reality. As such, they are not subject ot anyone's appraisal; they must be accepted without evaluation" (Peikoff 25).

I have two questions:

1) Can metaphysically given facts be evaluated, from the perspective of man? E.g is it valid to say that a natural disaster is bad, i.e bad for humans?

2) Are diseases to be regarded as metaphysically given facts, or to be regarded as manmade phenomena? Obviously some conditions are exclusively manmade, such as genetically engineered viruses, etc. Perhaps preventable diseases are similarily classifiable.

But what about long-term diseases, for which perhaps treatment exists but no cure? (e.g. asthma, diabetes, etc.) Is it rational for a person to regard such a disease as bad, or is the rational thing to do accept such a disease as metaphysically given (i.e. without condemnation) ?

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It is moral to combat diseases because they hamper (and in many cases, end) human life. This is analagous to finding ways to prevent destructive forest fires or prevent rock slides. A disease is metaphysically given because it 'is because it must be (Peikoff, OPAR).' A particular disease may be a metaphysical given, but people do have the ability to change what causes that disease. The only attempt at violating the metaphysically given, in this case, would be to try to cure the disease without changing its cause.

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FreEMan, this is an excellent set of questions.

I wonder: How much more of OPAR have you read so far? I ask only because Dr. Peikoff will answer your question (and he does so exceptionally well, in my opinion). Here's a hint: watch for the term objective value judgments, which appears about halfway through the book.

Also note that the first words of the next chapter read: "Metaphysics, in the Objectivist viewpoint, is a highly delimited subject. In essence, it identifies only the fact of existence (along with the corollaries of this fact). The subject does not study particular existents or undertake to guide men in the achievement of that goal." And on Page 30 he writes, in part: "In due course, we will...study the inner and the outer, value and fact, the moral and the practical."

I do understand your confusion, though, so jumping ahead a bit, let me say that Objectivism most definitely holds that facts are open to human evaluation, but in a different sense from the quotes about metaphysics that you refer to above.

A natural disaster is definitely bad for the particular people who are caught up in it; but it is not an act of aggression nor an act of evil "designed" to destroy men. It simply exists. No one and no thing is to blame; it is metaphysically given. In that sense, the fact of its coming into existence is not to be evaluated as "evil" or "malevolent".

How we actually proceed to evaluate that fact involves, not an evaluation of the quality of reality per se, but an evaluation of our relationship to reality, ie, what it means for our life. It becomes, not an issue of how reality exists, but an issue of what we're going to do about it.

For example, we can build a dam to prevent a recurrence of a disastrous flood, but even here, note that we cannot ignore the axioms of existence and identity (ie., rebel against reality) else the dam would not be possible. As Sir Francis Bacon once said, "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." And as Leonard Peikoff further makes clear:

"Respect for reality does not guarantee success in every endeavor; the refusal to evade or rewrite facts does not make one infallible or omnipotent. But such respect is a necessary condition of successful action, and it does guarantee that, if one fails in some undertaking, he will not harbor a metaphysical grudge as a result." (Page 28)

In other words, as a memorable old man once said to me when I was a kid, "Never get mad at inanimate things."

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Ok I understand the answer to my first question now after reading more of OPAR. We evaluate a relationship to reality (consciousness and reality interacting) rather than reality in itself (which is the metaphysically given).

I'm still not sure about my second question though.

How is the 'long-term disease' such as asthma different from a natural disaster such as a tornado?

I think that the fundamental difference between a long-term disease and a natural disaster is that of duration, i.e "long-term" versus the short-term existence of disasters. If natural disasters were not strictly delimited phenomena, we would all be dead or be unable to formulate long-range plans. In contrast, to paraphrase John Galt, disease is like a "permanent scar across one's view of existence" affecting all aspects of an afflicted person's life.

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I think you need to continue to read OPAR, Pieknoff answers this too... when evaluating the goodness of something in reality there is one fundamental question. To give you a hint think of the one choice we make before all others and then compare that to what a natural distater and ashma.

-- NAS

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