Thursday, 25 April 2019

Nothing noble about sacrifice

Since so many have used the word today, let's define it:

Nothing noble about that. 

Let's examine it:
Sacrifice” is the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue. Thus, altruism gauges a man’s virtue by the degree to which he surrenders, renounces or betrays his values (since help to a stranger or an enemy is regarded as more virtuous, less “selfish,” than help to those one loves). The rational principle of conduct is the exact opposite: always act in accordance with the hierarchy of your values, and never sacrifice a greater value to a lesser one.
And further:
“Sacrifice” does not mean the rejection of the worthless, but of the precious.
“Sacrifice” does not mean the rejection of the evil for the sake of the good, but of the good for the sake of the evil. “Sacrifice” is the surrender of that which you value in favor of that which you don’t.
    If you exchange a penny for a dollar, it is not a sacrifice; if you exchange a dollar for a penny, it is. If you achieve the career you wanted, after years of struggle, it is not a sacrifice; if you then renounce it for the sake of a rival, it is. If you own a bottle of milk and give it to your starving child, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to your neighbour’s child and let your own die, it is.
    If you give money to help a friend, it is not a sacrifice; if you give it to a worthless stranger, it is. If you give your friend a sum you can afford, it is not a sacrifice; if you give him money at the cost of your own discomfort, it is only a partial virtue, according to this sort of moral standard; if you give him money at the cost of disaster to yourself—that is the virtue of sacrifice in full.
    If you renounce all personal desires and dedicate your life to those you love, you do not achieve full virtue [by this moral standard]: you still retain a value of your own, which is your love. If you devote your life to random strangers, it is an act of greater virtue. If you devote your life to serving men you hate—[by this depraved moral standard] that is the greatest of the virtues you can practice.
    A sacrifice is the surrender of a value. Full sacrifice is full surrender of all values.
There is nothing, nothing at all, that is noble about that.

Does that mean you should never fight at all? Never fight for those you love? No:
Concern for the welfare of those one loves is a rational part of one’s selfish interests. If a man who is passionately in love with his wife spends a fortune to cure her of a dangerous illness, it would be absurd to claim that he does it as a “sacrifice” for her sake, not his own, and that it makes no difference to him, personally and selfishly, whether she lives or dies.
    Any action that a man undertakes for the benefit of those he loves is not a sacrifice if, in the hierarchy of his values, in the total context of the choices open to him, it achieves that which is of greatest personal (and rational) importance to him. In the above example, his wife’s survival is of greater value to the husband than anything else that his money could buy, it is of greatest importance to his own happiness and, therefore, his action is not a sacrifice.
    But suppose he let her die in order to spend his money on saving the lives of ten other women, none of whom meant anything to him—as the ethics of altruism would require. That would be a sacrifice. Here the difference between Objectivism and altruism can be seen most clearly: if sacrifice is the moral principle of action, then that husband should sacrifice his wife for the sake of ten other women. What distinguishes the wife from the ten others? Nothing but her value to the husband who has to make the choice—nothing but the fact that his happiness requires her survival.
    The Objectivist ethics would tell him: your highest moral purpose is the achievement of your own happiness, your money is yours, use it to save your wife, that is your moral right and your rational, moral choice.
Fighting for your values, fighting for those you love, these are acts of integrity. Not of sacrifice.

We may honour a man acting in support of his values, even at the risk of his life. We should neither honour, nor call it, a sacrifice.


Because honouring their memory demands it. That's a question of our integrity.

And there is a practical reason:
It stands to reason that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.
Such people exist in every age. 

They called men to war in 1914 in the name of, says one historian, "an altruistic willingness to sacrifice oneself for the cause of righteousness." They call people now, Great Leaders of every description seeking sacrifice to a "higher cause" -- to the State, to the Climate, to any Great Cause selected by the Great Leaders, expunging the sin of selfishness in their answer to the call of "Duty."

But as a great writer once observed: "Under a morality of sacrifice, the first value you sacrifice is morality itself."

There is nothing noble about sacrifice. 

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