( Five minute read)
A profoundly ethical issue.
“What makes a life worth living?” “What is a life worth? ” are both questions that nobody can answer and should perhaps remain unanswered.
These questions once came pre-answered—by culture, by religion, by tradition—but these days, because of capitalism we each have to ask and answer for ourselves, with an answer not in poetic words or any words but an answer in pounds and pence or dollars and cents.
The “real question today is not when human life begins, but, what is the value of human life?”
The task of valuing life has many competing truths with no simple answer.
“Price tags are being continuously placed on our lives. If we care about equity, we need to ensure that the science behind these estimates is not oversold and that fairness is always a consideration when cost-benefit analysis is performed.”
Howard Steven Friedman
Valuing some lives more than others seems logical and natural to many of us.
We value human life in a way that assumes we possess a sacred something.
Aristotle concluded that we should value human life, due to our inherent capacity for reason.
So what reasons can we give for calling human life valuable?
The question’s complexity resides in the fact that how we arrive at a price tag on human life says a great deal about our priorities. A lot of the value we attribute to human life comes from religion. However, when you remove religion, what philosophical arguments are left?
This is were it gets tricky.
The philosopher’s job is not to accept the assumed inheritance of our forebears.
Do we determine the value of a human life based on the value we place on our lives in private decisions, and do we accept policy choices that puts future generations at risk.
Do we continue to value human life, especially above and beyond animals? If you value rationality, why is that? And does rationality, alone, bestow value on a human life?
How should we proceed?
We teach each generation that human life is valuable beyond all else.
.Is this good enough today?
Government officials are supposed to put numbers on the pros and cons of these questions but how to assess the value of a human life in financial terms is riddled with conundrum based on our behaviour which has no common denominators to adjust our assessment of a life’s value based on its quality or the probability of death?
How much should we pay today to prevent an event that would result in the loss of ten billion human lives in 50 years? Climate Change.
So, how much is a life worth?
It seems so inhumane to put a monetary value our modern sentiments tell us that costs should not dictate life-and-death decisions. But those modern sentiments do not fit our modern experience.
We know that not all lives are valued by society equally.
Over the past four centuries, generations of black people have asked the question: What is a black life worth?
The summation of historical facts and statistical data clearly shows that the prices of black bodies in America are worth more imprisoned, enslaved, and dead than educated.
Here in Europe depending on all sorts of assumptions arisen by the Covid pandemic and now the war in the Ukraine there are a lots of conversations (right now) that seem to pit economics against life and health.
The result is the cost of living is mounting day on day while its value is descending but don’t worry your value is being look after by the invisible hand of the market run algorithms is giving your value the finger.
Unfortunately GDP distribution issue are now surfacing, like where is the GDP growth actually coming from? Who’s losing income? Does it increase equity in society?
How much a person is willing to accept to risk their own life – Climate change.
In the end the answer is my life is worth everything to me.
How much money do you get for losing a limb? It depends on where you live.
Foot note . What’s wrong with killing people?
Abortion kills babies, and its advocates are loudly telling us the value they place on human life.
The idea is that we can best understand what life is worth by first understanding what death means.
All human comments appreciate. All abuse and like clicks chucked in the bin.