The Value Of Life
Have you ever been asked a question with such an obvious answer, that you just want to shout it at the person who asked you, and scold them for asking such a stupid question? I am sure we have all had one of these moments, and this essay is a more tame response to what, at first glance, seems to be one of those questions. The question is, does life have value? Now you might be thinking, “Come on people, that’s like asking if water is wet!”. You might be right about that if you don’t think too hard, but this is a much deeper question. Sure life is definitely valuable, but how do we measure that value? Is every life equally valuable or are certain people more value than others? If all life is worth the same amount, what amount is it. Although life is obviously valuable, there really is no way to ascertain that value due to the insane amount of variables.
Although anyone would agree that life is valuable, there is no unanimously agreed on method to actually calculate this value. However, it is still necessary to calculate this value as there must be a limit to how much we are willing to compensate families for their losses. Ike Brannon agrees with this assertion in his essay What is a life worth.
“Because society has limited resources that it can spend on health and safety improvements, it should obtain the greatest benefit for each dollar spent, and ascertaining an appropriate value is necessary to that effort.” (Brannon 60). Brannon states that society has a limited supply of resources, and we should only spend an amount that will benefit us, even in the case of a human life. The problem is, there are many methods to calculate this amount, but none of them are completely agreed upon. Some of them take into account a person’s income, and others may calculate using a the relative danger of a person’s job. There are too many algorithms used by too many organisations so if become s impossible to actually answer the question of how much a life is truly worth.
In stark contrast to the views expressed by Brannon, Kenneth Feinberg believes that all lives are equal and to calculate their value based on income is discrimination and unethical. He states this in his article What is the value of a human life?
“Courtrooms, judges, lawyers and juries are not the answer when it comes to public compensation. I have resolved my personal conflict and have learned a valuable lesson at the same time. I believe that public compensation should avoid financial distinctions which only fuel the hurt and grief of the survivors. I believe all lives should be treated the same.” (Feinberg 85). Feinberg is basically stating the opposite of Ike Brannon’s opinion. He believes that all lives are of equal value regardless of economic standing. However, people who agree with this stance need to ask themselves one question. Would you pay the same amount to save a random homeless person or a close friend of yours? Obviously, the vast majority of people would be willing to give up more money to save a friend’s life. This means that different lives are worth different amounts to different people. It would be difficult to argue that a random homeless person’s life is worth the same amount as that of the President of United States.
Another angle to the question of “Is life valuable?” is whether is is worth it to continue living a life full of pain and suffering. This question is addressed in Hamlet’s soliloquy. But that the dread of something after death, “The undiscovered country, from whose bourn border No traveler returns, puzzles the will, 25 And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all, And thus the native hue of resolution natural color Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, 30 And enterprise of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry” (Shakespeare 66). Here, Hamlet asserts that it is better to live with suffering because at least you know you’re alive. There is no way to know what will happen to you post-mortem, so it is much more advantageous to just stick with what you know. I only partly agree with this statement. It is advantageous to continue living through suffering not because death is uncertain but because it is enough to simply be alive for me. It is better to feel sadness and pain than to feel nothing at all. Dead people little more than inanimate objects. They no longer function as living things. I want to avoid being that for as long as I possibly can. Even if life is filled with pain and suffering.
Life is valuable no matter how you slice it. However that value is different for different people. Some believe that the value of life should be measured by income, and others believe every life is worth an equal amount. I believe the value of a life should be measured by a person’s contributions to society. Your life is worth what you have done to help out your fellow human being. And, it is more advantageous to continue living as long as you possibly can even if you are experiencing pain and suffering because no matter what, you are still alive and able to feel these things. Life always has value, there is just no objective way to figure it out.