Socrates once said in his Apology that “The unexamined life is not worth living ”(Apology). Stating that a life without knowledge, understanding, or context is one that has no value. This means that everyone who questions their own actions is inputting more value into their own life. Those who think about questions, who question anything are simultaneously applying value into their life. Likewise, when we apply a dollar value to a diseased life, their shouldn’t be someone who is worth $0.00, for that would mean that in their life they were not regarded as a person, but as an object. So the question of assigning value to a life can be essentially answered by the amount of contemplation that person has done in their life, but this answer isn’t practical. As a result, I have divided the value into three aspects, each component will be measured individually and the final “score” will be an overall report of how much that person’s life is worth.
The first category is how much the person valued the life of others, how empathic they were overall. For example the terrorist hijackers of 9/11 have less value than the parents of Audrie Pott’s as the terrorists regarded their ideals to a higher value than the lives of the passengers, and the parents regard the life of their daughter higher than their own reputation (Sulek). The second category is the effect on others that the deceased had while they were alive. To further examine the same comparison, Audrie Pott’s life would be worth less than the terrorists responsible for the September 11th attacks as the attacks produced a more drastic
consequence, increased airport security, occupations in the Middle East, War on Terrorism, etc. than the suicide of Audrie Pott (Sulek). The last category is the potential revenue that the family of the deceased would be deprived from if not for the fiscal compensation they receive from an organization or those held accountable. Allow me to state here that I am not valuing the life of someone on an emotional level, as this is not applicable, nor am I saying that these categories will affect the amount of money that the family receives.
This is merely a way to organize the data from somebody’s life to measure the impact they had on the lives of others, in order to have a legible representation of that person’s value. I am also not proposing that this is their exact value, as that would demote the person to descend from the universal godlike nature that every human has within them down to words on a page against their will. To conclude, I do believe that we must assign value to someone’s life based on the amount of reasons or arguments that can be used to further give value to that person’s life.
The amount of money that someone made within their lifetime is used to sustain their lifestyle when they are alive and to fulfill their desires. To further use this logic, the family that is directly affected by the death of the main revenue producer in the household should gain compensation in the event of a sudden cease of income so they may have less worries while they mourn the loved one’s death. This isn’t the value of someone’s life in terms of their personality, but a value of their life’s career, or “net worth” for lack of a better term. When the September 11th victim’s family were receiving their compensation for the maintenance of their lives they interpreted the government funds as a compensation for the governments mistake. However, this was not the intention, one of the many reasons was to allow the family’s to not have to adjust to
a radical change in a short amount of time adding to the fact that their loved one had just died. To ask if “…it’s degrading to presume that money can make a family whole again?”(Ripley) is a mistaken representation of what the 9/11 victim’s fund was aiming to provide. To think that any material object can make a family whole again is wrong, so to ask that question in itself a vacuous attempt at asking critical questions. Even from the “cold calculus”(Ripley) that is made to determine how much someone is worth, there is also one formal truth to be concluded from this method of assigning value to someone, no one is worth the nightmarish $0.00, everyone, albeit slowly, will get an amount of money to, hopefully, sustain their lives.
Another category is the affect the person’s actions had on others. This includes if there were programs bestowed in their honor, if a great conflict was ended in their honor, etc. Essentially if the celebrity status that the person had was either born or transitioned into their afterlife in the form of celebration. For example, the terrorists of The September 11th attacks are valued more than the average man in that their deaths were the cause for a drastic and radical war against terrorism that affects the world even today.
Had Pearl Harbor never had happened, September 11, 2001 would surely have been deemed “A day that will go down in infamy..” as the consequences of the attacks have caused changes in the economy, national security and even cultural changes as well. This being one way we measure their lives, another is the amount of involvement the person, or group of people had in their community. The people in The World Trade Center weren’t just active within the community of Manhattan, but were essentially a subcommunity, one that was populated with companies, around 430 from 28 countries (List of World Trade Center Tenants) each providing a different product from Government services, to personal finances.
Consequentially, it would be that the victims who perished in the towers are all valued on par as those who died on Pearl Harbor, or the Germanic ambush in the Teutoburg Forest on Roman legions during the Roman Conquest of Germania. On a further note, the treatment the person bestowed upon people had for others also becomes a factor in deciding how we value that person’s life. Any soldier who ever lived, no matter how noble, or docile will be lower than volunteers who helped villages in Third World Countries. The boys who caused the preparatory environment inviting Audrie Pott to commit suicide (Sulek) are less valuable than Hamlet when he is questioning whether he should act or not according to his knowledge.
Last but not least, the final category of valuing someone’s life is the way they themselves value their own lives. Rather, how they are perceived to have valued their life. Robin Williams and Audrie Pott’s for example, will “score” lower in this category from their suicides (Sulek) than the passengers who died on Flight 93 during the September 11th attacks. This is a factor since it demonstrates another reason for us to use, a sort of selfadvocacy that the person proposes of their life, such as a biography that documents their achievements.
This is why iconic social figures such as Martin Luther King Jr. stay rigidly fixed in the cultural atmosphere as if they were timeless. From the simple fact that Dr.King valued his life, and the lives of others more, that he would lay down his own life to fulfill his “dream”. Another way we could view this is from the amount of value that the person invests into their ideas, and convictions. For example, the fervor The Westboro Baptist Church demonstrates through picketstands and protest for their beliefs that “God hates Fags” is why they are in our awareness in the first place. The final example we can use is the amount of questioning the person had done throughout their life,
if they were an intellectual or not. Had Audrie Pott given her situation a bit of thought she would’ve come to the conclusion that the very situation she found herself in would, just as everything else, dissipate into her past. Furthermore, those who question life, are building the foundations of Western Civilization as we know it in their minds, for had it not been for the philosopher’s inquiries then the disciplines regarding Mathematics, Science, Psychology would never have been created. Even religions such as Buddhism, with their innate nature of selfreflectiveness would not have been created had it not been for the reflective nature of humans.
In conclusion, all of these aspects I have touched on are all to be combined in one final report to value someone’s life. They are not to be considered individually as that would not only misrepresent the life of the person, but also hinder any true progress in trying to value someone’s life in that this formula would be used incorrectly. Through our legacies from our own actions, determined from our character we create the bits of value that others may pick up on so that they may adequately judge how valuable we were, for a human is not just like a piece of furniture that you value based on it’s utilization or aesthetics, but by their character, and actions. Through their monetary value to be used to maintain their family’s life and to ensure that they may adjust appropriately to the loss of a loved one. The effect that we have on each other is a vital part in determining how the person is to be valued as we must hold them accountable to their actions, be them beneficial or malicious.